ANDI Wreck Diving Course – Penetration Dive Photos

 Following the confined water skills training, the ANDI Level 2 ‘Techniques of Wreck Diving course gets real!  We conduct three actual wreck penetration dives of increasing complexity, during which students are able to apply the knowledge and techniques they have learned.

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Wreck student, Alex, enjoys his first full penetration dive upon the El Capitan (USS Majaba) wreck. A perfect, and very benign, training location for foundational wreck penetration skills.

Students apply proper reel-handling, guideline laying and team skills to enable safe progress into one of the Subic Bay wrecks.  They conduct penetrations following external (non-penetration) dives to assess conditions, survey the wreck structure and identify suitable access points.

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Alex completes his primary tie-off outside of the wreck. The initial guideline tie-off should always be placed in open-water.

The ANDI level 2 ‘Techniques of Wreck Diving course is penetration focused and equivalent of a Cavern Diver course with respect to the scope of skills provided and penetration allowed.  The course also introduced redundant breathing system use.  Most divers opt to complete training in double cylinders or sidemount.  Single cylinder with a ‘pony’ cylinder is also permitted.

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A secondary tie-off is placed shortly after penetration. The guideline must be laid with exit in mind – experience helps the diver consider a strategy of laying line to facilitate swift and uncomplicated exit.

Wreck students learn to properly lay guideline, using tie-offs and placements, along with emergency drills such as; lost guideline, lost buddy, entanglement, air-sharing egress and operating in zero visibility.

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Tension must be maintained on the guideline at all times, without excessive force that course cause the line to become severed against sharp objects and rusted metal on the wreck structure

Having completed a wide scope of skills and contingency drills, the wreck student is able to safely mitigate known risks they might encounter in the wreck.  Safety also relies upon the selection of safe penetration routes and the self-discipline to remain within recommended wreck diving limits until further, higher-level, wreck training is completed.

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The mantra taught to technical wreck divers is: “Slow is smooth, Smooth is Fast”

Wreck diving isn’t just about techniques and equipment… there is an ‘art’ to it… and that must be developed through progressive development of experience.  There is no substitute for doing real penetration dives.

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Proper tie-offs are swift to place and remove, yet retain tension on the line and prevent loose guideline causing entanglements

Wreck diving courses vary considerably in scope and focus.  Most wreck specialty courses, in reality, provide nothing more than a very basic introduction to the concept of diving on wrecks, rather than providing the full spectrum of critical skills and protocols needed for diving in wrecks.  Wreck penetration is a complex and hazardous activity and demands specialist training at an advanced level.

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In addition to laying guideline, the advanced wreck diver is heavily task-loaded with all of the other critical requirements demanding upon their attention; especially retaining situational awareness of time, depth, gas, deco and their team.

Wreck penetration demands specialist equipment and very specific configurations.  For a penetration-focused wreck diving course, the diver should consider redundant breathing gas. Isolated-manifold doubles is a common choice, but sidemount rigs are gaining increasing popularity in the wreck diving community.  The diver needs effective lighting, with a strong, focused-beam, primary light and several rugged and reliable back-up torches.  Laying guideline requires a primary reel of adequate length for the penetrations undertaken, along with 1-2 safety finger-spools in case of emergency.

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Air pocket in the USS Majaba – divers should not assume that air pockets contain breathable gas

Many of the hazards associated with wreck penetration diving also feature in other overhead environments, such as cave/cavern diving.  However, the significance of those hazards can vary greatly between different environments and do require dedicated environment-specific training. Training in one environment does not ensure safety in another.

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Restrictions are a major factor when considering a penetration route. Passing through restrictions requires training and equipment well beyond that usual in recreational wreck training courses

Passing through restrictions exponentially increases the risk and complexity of wreck penetration dives. Basic recreational wreck diving courses normally recommend that divers should not pass through any restrictions – due to the difficulties arising from sharing air through confined areas when using ‘regular’ scuba equipment with a 36-40″ alternate air source hose.  Using redundant gas supplies and equipping with a ‘long-hose’ (7’/2m) allows air-sharing passage through smaller spaces in single file.  However, wreck divers still need to exercise extreme caution when passing through restricted and confined areas – as they present a much higher risk of entanglement/entrapment and can prevent timely assistance from a team-mate.  Self-reliance (within a team, or solo) is a key concept for higher level wreck divers.

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Wreck penetrations will be dark and often in confined spaces. The diver should progressively develop their psychological toughness to operate in such environments. Stress leading to panic is a game-ender inside wrecks

Effective wreck diving training should place an emphasis upon stress management.  Panic is a killer in the overhead environment; and most divers will experience elevated stress when operating inside a dark and/or confined environment.  Many novice divers find shipwreck penetration to be intimidating.  Gaining experience to progressively increase personal comfort zones helps prevent divers going beyond their threshold and diving in a stressed mental state.  In addition, familiarity training with a ‘black mask’ helps develop self-confidence in the diver’s ability to exit the wreck without vision using the guideline.

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Proper training, equipment, skills and attitude allow wreck divers to mitigate the increased risks present when penetrating the overhead environment

Techniques of Wreck Diving Course Info

The ANDI Level 2 Techniques of Wreck Diving course takes 3-5 days, depending upon whether the student requires introductory training in double-tank configuration equipment and/or level-2 nitrox training.  Exemplary foundational dive skills, such as; buoyancy, propulsion, trim, team skills and situational awareness, are also a pre-requisite and supplementary/preparatory training can be provided if improvement is needed.

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For more details on the Techniques of Wreck Diving course, please see the info page or contact me directly.

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