The Truth About Wreck Diving

Subic Bay is one of the best places in the world to dive shipwrecks. While many locations brag about having two or three wrecks within an hour’s boat ride, Subic Bay has a dozen within a half hour. Divers from all over the world come to our dive center just to dive our wrecks. Sadly, we sometimes hear of divers saying, “Nothing there at Subic for me, I do not want to go inside a wreck” or “I don’t dive there, it is just wrecks”. Another interesting but misguided comment is “The wrecks are artificial reefs, I want a real one”. Divers who have experienced our wreck dive sites, would shake their heads and remark how wrong the comments are.

Penetration Dives Are Not Required

The majority of the dive sites at Subic Bay, but not all, are wrecks. Many of our visiting divers love exploring the

A wide variety of marine life has made the LCU their home

A wide variety of marine life has made the LCU their home

different sections inside some wrecks. However, penetration dives requires special training. The training you receive in the wreck diver course. While a penetration dive may be a highlight of a trip for some divers, the majority of divers coming to Subic Bay for the wrecks never go inside. Less than 10% of the recreational dives at Subic Bay involved going inside of a wreck. Some of our wrecks do not even have areas that can be penetrated.
Those who enjoy the penetration dives are often fascinated about the ships themselves. Visiting the engine room, bridge or galley draws them into imagining what it may have been like fifty, seventy even more than a hundred years ago when these wrecks were afloat. More divers are interested in the marine life that the ships attract, and that is best from the outside.

Artificial Reefs Are Misnamed

Coral cover every inch of the old Spanish gunship

Coral cover every inch of the  Spanish gunship San Quentin

We often hear the term “artificial reef” used, often in conjunction with the purpose of establishing or repairing a reef. Many times the programs involved cleaning and sinking an old ship. The purpose of these projects are to provide places that can be homes for marine life that can be found around reefs. These man made objects might start out “artificial”, however, they do not stay that way. A short time after being put into place, marine life moves in, establishing their “apartments” in what ever space they feel comfortable. In time, coral larvae that are floating around will settle on the “artificial” surface and grow. Eventually it will start spreading, starting a new coral colony. Rest assured, there is nothing artificial about this process. The process is the same as with the building of any other reef. Many times a reef that is started on the hull of a shipwreck will grow faster and more dense than other nearby coral gardens. The reason for this is that as the sea breaks down the metal in the ship nutrients are released that help the coral grow. After decades, the reef has molded itself around the shape of the wreck creating magnificent displays of color and bountiful marine life. The San Quentin is a Spanish Gunboat scuttled in 1898. Today her boilers are the only portion that can readily be seen as man made. You have to know what to look for to recognize other portions of that ship.

A Reef With A Personality

USS New York ACR-2 Subic Bay

Step back into history as you dive the hull of the USS New York

If you ask a sailor about their ship, they will often reply as if talking of a living thing. A presence that has a soul. Many a wreck diver will tell you that when diving a ship that was sunk as an artificial reef, it just a hull. The soul has been striped away. Our ship wreck dive sites end up at the bottom of the bay not by choice but as an act of war or the force of mother nature. Many divers say they can feel the presence of the ship as they dive it. Our ships have a range of personalities and histories. One ship was a movie star and the private yacht of Sam Goldwyn of MGM, she was also a spy. Another was the Flagship of the fleet that captured Cuba from Spain in the Spanish American War. Many of the ships have both a bright and a dark side to their histories. As you dive along the decks and hulls of our different wrecks you get to enjoy the beautiful corals and see the marine life that have replaced the men who used to call the ships home. Reach out and connect with the ships past while enjoy its “now”

Who Should Dive Subic Bay?

So for the question of who would enjoy the wrecks of Subic Bay?

  • Wreck diving specialist who wish to penetrate a number of significant ships
  • Divers who enjoy a touch of history
  • Divers who marvel at Mother Nature overwhelming the crafts of mankind
  • Divers who want a unique coral reef
  • Divers who want a balance vacation of diving and other tourism activities.
  • Non-divers who want to learn to dive or to try a “discover diving” program

About the Author: Charles W. Davis

Charles W Davis Jr. is the author of the “Subic Bay Travel and Dive Guide”, the most referenced source of information on the wrecks of Subic Bay. He is also the author of six other diving and travel books and has ghosted written a number of other books. A Freelance writer attracting clients from his own website and working on the Eance website as “Travel & Scuba Diving Specialist Have WIFI, Will Travel”. He has been the weekly feature writer for the web portal, since May 2013 and is a feature writer for Navis Yachts, Design and Lifestyle Magazine.