SHIPWRECK DIVING  Underwater Navigation
The complete Diver's guide to underwater navigation while Shipwreck Diving




   Capt. Dan Berg's Wreck Valley Collection   


By Capt. Dan Berg

Most wreck dives are done from a boat, anchored above the site. Depending on visibility and currents, it can be at times difficult to find the anchor line once the dive is over. The end result of not returning to the anchor line could be a long surface swim back to the boat or if the diver has exceeded the no decompression limits, a free floating hang. Here are a few helpful hints for navigation around a wreck. First, as with any boat dive, divers should try to start their dive into the current; this will make for an easier swim when returning. If the wreck is intact and the visibility is good, it is often no problem to simply note where you are and return later, but if visibility is limited or if the wreck is scattered over a large area with no distinct reference points, divers can use a tether line reel, clipping one end on or near the anchor while letting line out as they swim to explore the wreckage. This is almost foolproof because as long as the line is not severed, you can easily return to your starting point. Although this is very safe and dependable, this method does have its disadvantages, one of which is the way it limits a diver's investigation to the length of the line, and the same territory must be covered during the second half of the dive. When using this navigational tool, be careful not to let too much line out as you swim. During a visit to the wreck of a German submarine, U-853, last year, I watched in amazement as two self acclaimed good wreck divers let yards and yards of extra nylon line escape from their reel. This line drifted into other divers and tangled up an entire area of the wreck. In fact, it was so bad that the divers could not even use the line to find their way back. Aside from not getting any navigational benefit from their tool, these divers ended up cutting the line and leaving it behind on the site. The line would have stayed their for years causing a nuisance to all if it hadn't been cut and removed by two other divers.

The misuse of the tether line is compounded when you realize that this wreck is intact and upright. Submarines are long and skinny. As long as you take note of where the anchor is set, it's almost impossible not to be able to find it, without a line. Each wreck is different, and each diver's capabilities are different. Use these navigational aides when they are needed, and it will enhance your enjoyment of the sport.

Another commonly used method is the perimeter search in which a diver descends on the anchor line and then swims directly to either side of the wreck. The next step is to take note of a unique feature or characteristic and the relative position, then swim up current while exploring, spear fishing, taking photos or whatever is desired. When you want to return, simply swim down current along the wreck's side until you see the same object or road sign. Lastly, swim towards the center of the wreckage where you should be able to find the anchor.

Other methods include attaching a small strobe light to the anchor line about 20 or 30 feet of the bottom. Divers can then freely explore the wreck as long as they remain in site of the strobe light.

After a while navigation becomes second nature; the more dives you do, the better you become. Also, the more dives you do on each wreck, the better the picture in your head becomes as to the wreck's layout. Pretty soon you will recognize parts of the ship and their location in relationship to other areas of the wreck. After many excursions to the same wreck, you will be able to navigate simply from your own knowledge of the area.

If the anchor happens to come loose or you can't find it, you can use your tether line reel, or Jersey reel as an up line. One way to use the reel is to attach a lift bag to the end and send it to the surface. Be sure that your reel is free spinning, or it may pull out of your hands. The line is then tied to the wreck and cut. This method also provides a surface marker and acts as your own personal anchor line. The second method is to just attach the loose end of the reel to the wreck and un-reel the line as you ascend.

Some shipwrecks are located, in shallow water close to shore. Navigation on these wrecks involves how to find them and how to get back to shore when the dive is over. First of all, whether someone has told you of a wreck or you just stumble in to one, it is a good idea to take note of its location so you can return. You have to pick at least two objects on the shore at approximately 90 degrees and note how they line up with objects behind them. For example, a telephone pole lines up with the right side of a house, and a water tower's right side just touches a building's left corner. You will note how accurate these ranges are by swimming a few feet in each direction and noting how each range changes. From now on, all you have to do is to navigate to those ranges, descend, and the wreck should be found again. The next step is to take a compass course to your shore entry point and after your dive, navigate to it. Be sure to count each fin kick and make a mental note of the total. I have always found it easier to navigate to a wreck underwater. With the reciprocal of the compass course and the number of kick cycles, you may navigate easily out to the site. Depending on any current and your ability to use a compass accurately, you should swim directly to the wreck. If this fails, you can always surface and use the land ranges before descending again.

Many shipwrecks located close enough to shore for beach dives are popular for night dives and lobstering. When you surface above the wreck at night, many times the shoreline with all the street and city lights looks remarkably consistent. The use of a flashing light similar to a road hazard light can vividly mark your exact entry point. This little trick may save a long walk to return to your car.


The Shipwreck Diving E-Book  Instant Downloadable E-Book 

Shipwreck Diving, by Capt. Dan Berg is a complete how to book about the sport of wreck diving. This book is packed with information and heavily illustrated with over 80 sensational color photographs.


Shipwreck Diving ebook
The complete diver's guide to mastering the skills of shipwreck diving.

Buy Now   only $9.95
6 MB instant download, printable  PDF file

Shipwreck Diving is a complete how to ebook about the sport of wreck diving. This downloadable PDF e-book is packed with information and heavily illustrated with over 80 sensational color photographs. Daniel Berg, a noted wreck diver, instructor and author of ten shipwrecks related books, describes all the basics of wreck diving. Topics include everything from equipment modifications, communication, and wreck penetration to artifact preservation. Dan also tells how to navigate on a wreck and be able to return to the anchor line after the dive. Why some divers find more artifacts and explains how to catch lobsters. Shipwreck Diving also covers such diverse topics as shipwreck research, photography, spear fishing and how to use an underwater metal detector. This exciting book tells all the tricks of the trade that until now have only been learned through years of experience. Shipwreck divers of all caliber will find Shipwreck Diving informative, rewarding and entertaining

Check out Capt. Dan's other shipwreck and Diving eBooks



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Copyright Capt. Dan Berg / Aqua Explorers Inc

2745 Cheshire Dr
Baldwin NY 11510


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