The diver’s cutting device is mentioned as “auxiliary accessory” during the sport diving (training) levels. The SCUBA diving marketing is offering us a wide options of tools of various sizes and shapes, made of steel or titanium
Sport Divers tend to attach the cutting device (knife, eezycut, scissors etc) in various places (BCD, body – arms or legs), based on their personal preferences and activity performed.
As Technical Diver, you are performing a different kind of diving, including using of mixed gases & deco obligations or in an overhead environment. Or any combination. And as part of your extended planning, risk assessment should be on your dive preparation planning list. And cutting devices are part of your equipment, by default. Good quality tools!
When performing a dive inside of a wreck (overhead environment: caves, mines, wrecks), or around a wreck, your cutting device plays a very important role in your safety. Lost or handing cables, ropes, fishing lines or fishing nets, even carpets or pieces of furniture may represent a great danger underwater. And even greater when you are obliged to perform a deco stage or you have no clear “physical ceiling” (in an overhead) and you get entangled. And the time is counting down faster! While on the dry land you can easily rich your diving tool in almost any position, no matter where your knife of eezycut tool is placed, underwater is totally a different story.
You’ll be bulky, even in sidemount, sometimes in tight space and therefore, reaching your cutting tool must be easy and with minimum physical and mental stress.
You must be able to access your cutting tools (knife, eezycut, scissor) with both hands. No leg mounted or Rambo style.
Try and follow the KISS principles: Keep It Stupid Simple!
Wrecks are not just a pile of scrapped iron lying on the seabed floor: Wrecks are full of history. War ships that have seen battles, victories or hard moments of surrender, with their own memories and souls of hundreds of sailors fighting on and giving their life to save their beloved ships…
Cargo ships with lots of heavy storms under their keel and even crew still inside their immersed structures.
Historical ships with hundreds of years in their back, real underwater museums are there for our privilege to explore their stories.
Therefore, treat all wrecks with respect.
Dive sites declared graveyards should remain as they are.
Wrecks are made mostly of metal and/or wood. And as any material coming in contact with oxygen (from the water), is oxidizing. Therefore, their status is deteriorating slowly, year by year. Sometimes, violent storms accelerate this process of destruction. Approach wrecks with maximum attention and care. Do not sit on pieces of metal that are obviously fragile (airplane wings, motor vehicles etc). Master your buoyancy. Penetrate the wrecks with absolute maximum caution! Weak or moving parts might become loose and create obstructions on the way out or even catastrophic blockages.
Metal parts of the wrecks can act like sharp knifes if improper approached. Even if artificial wrecks are carefully prepared for diving penetration, as the wreck’s status is changing in time, various metal parts can become dangerous. With wrecks non-artificial sunk, the risk is even greater. As well with the other components inside a wreck: electrical cables, moving parts (doors, hatches, cylinders, barrels).
While wreck penetration, access with great care in the empty spaces inside. Diesel oil and fuel oil might float inside. Gases can accumulate and create unsafe environment for you if inhaled. Keep your diving gear safe too!
Use proper diving techniques and gear for a safe wreck diving penetration. Untrained group of divers are taken daily around the globe to “explore” inside wrecks, for the sake of financial profit of the dive centers or dive guides!
You are in overhead environment and such overhead rules must apply at all times, with no exceptions! Do not trust and blindly follow your dive guide – memories your itinerary, run guidelines, stay inside of your training & gear limits! Be aware of false “light zone” or “false exit” places!
The fact that no serious accidents happened (or not so many) is just because of pure luck.
Artifacts – let them there for the enjoinment of others too. If you have the chance to discover something new, proceed with great care in assesemenet the site and ask for professional advices. Once the site is damages, lost of important information is lost too. As an old recreational diving motto says: touch with your eyes, take memories and leave bubbles (or bubble-less in case of CCR divers ☺).
Very “fresh”, new wreck, sunk by accident or storm… Stay away of any penetration until the wreck is stable as she will be “alive” for long time (means lots of moving and floating objects inside!). Let other more experienced wreck divers to explore the wreck, with proper logistic of course at a proper moment.
Make your homework before departing to any wreck diving activity: collect various weather reports, professional ones preferable and compare them. Have the team in good physical and mental status, with proper diving gear, gases, back up, first aid kits, communication devices (VHF marine radio, mobile phones etc), let family knows your plans, call authorities and exchange the necessary information (Coast Guard), have contacts with hyperbaric center etc.
Do the briefing (and debriefing too) – collect and share valuable and trustable information regarding the dive site (wreck’s status, sea condition, back-up and emergency plans etc). Good idea if a leader (with more experience/higher rank) is established (when the group is not guided under a dive center/dive guide commercial agreement).
I know that all of you love to take your photo/video latest camera and make your friends jealous… Please, refrain of taking those gadgets till you gain enough experience to perfectly control your buoyancy, trim and diving gear. Learn your camera features and buttons on dry land first and later take it to dive. Continuously analyze the ambient around if you can use the camera & lights (including the arm span of the lights) inside the wreck (attention to narrow spaces and obstructions). Backscatters might affect your visual range ahead and around you. Safety first, camera later!
Never be afraid to cancel a dive for whatever reason you have! Is your responsibility for your own health but as well, you are responsible for your team too.
Update on #1 (May 12, 2018):
as reported by Greg Piper (a professional photographer & journalist): “Tragedy in Truk because divers still refuse to act responsibly. The famous wreck of the Fujikawa Maru I’m sad to report, suffered another devastating blow.
The famous aircraft in her cargo hold the “Claude” whose tail used to rise up@out of the wreckage is NO LONGER. A diver who, according to local guides, was sitting on the tail, posing for a photo bound to catapult his career on social media past 1000 followers and 100 likes, broke the tail off the aircraft. 75 years of history, the most photogenic aircraft in the lagoon….GONE. Why? Simply because divers continue to treat this place and these wrecks with utter disregard.”
A question raised up over the time: why regular recreational diver (not trained for overhead environment) are willing to do a wreck penetration, even a light one, but are aware of cave penetration risks therefore they don’t do it? Why wreck is seen as a non-dangerous penetration but cavern, caves & flooded mines – yes?
Is something to do with the basic training & diving education? With the group divers attitude he’s diving with? With social media influence? With his own perspective over the risks assessment?
A penetration in an overhead environment remains a penetration. Does not matter that is cave, cavern, wreck, flooded mine etc. There is a physical barrier (and maybe a virtual barrier too) which does not allow the diver to direct access the surface.
A bad combination of various factors can turn a fun dives into a tragedy: depth, distance of penetration, equipment configuration, gasses used (narcosis & oxygen toxicity), diving techniques (finning, buoyancy and trim), divers skills, penetration space available for moving in-out and around, wreck’s condition [related to other various factors: wreck’s age, depth – water salinity, weather influence (storms, currents, tides etc), diver’s direct influence etc)], wreck familiarization and familiarization with a ship’s construction overall/in general, material of construction (wood, iron etc)… and the list can go on.
Each overhead environment has its own specific factors which must be analyzed and assessed non-stop before and during the dive.
So, remains the question remains in the air: what makes the divers think that a wreck penetration is less dangerous then any other overhead diving environment?
Most of the times, wrongly promoted as “CAVE” markers (only), those little pieces of diving tool are very important for WRECK diving as well, because in fact, are designed for OVERHEAD ENVIRONMENT DIVING!
So, whatever penetration is made, CAVES or WRECKS, the markers are there to be used accordingly, as per your training protocols. Don’t used them without a proper training, this could lead in miscommunication or even fatal accidents of you, your buddy team or other participants in diving activities in that area!
A (vary) basic information about markers can be found here on TDI blog.
As most of you maybe already noticed, cave diving (overhead environment) have a media supremacy over the wreck diving (overhead environment) and this is a unfair misleading information. Maybe this due the fact that some old (and new) diving explorers are doing more cave diving then wreck diving.
Some agencies are classifying cave diving as overhead environment as designated course(s) (TDI, GUE, ANDI, UTD), while wreck diving is called “specialty” (PADI, TDI/SDI) and less “overhead curse”.
But there are training agencies (ANDI, IANTD, SSI, NAUI, UTD) were are dedicated overhead cave & wreck courses. At some other agencies, the “wreck” definition does even not exist in their curriculum (BSAC, CMAS).
But what the divers need to understand is the fact that an overhead environment is there, called “cave” or “wreck” and must be treated with maximum responsibility at all the times.
Each overhead environment is coming with its own particularities, related with specific areas characteristics, periods of the year, degradation over the years, other external (variable) factors. This makes dive planing quite difficult sometimes, with various alternatives & back-up options (especially when talking about exploration). What diving plan and gear configuration apply perfect to one team & dive, might not be so good for other team at the same dive.
Wreck diving must be taken step by step. There is no one single big and overall level to cover everything. The progress in wreck diving must be completed in small and solid steps, based on your background training (OC or CCR, NSR or deco etc). The complexity of wreck diving is way beyond just ticking off another “wreck”…. or a pile of iron.
Wreck diver certification does not automatically qualify as a wreck diver if you don’t have a proper equipment, updated training, good team & support. Stay updated with your skills and knowledge and always, always put safety first.