Before I became a scuba diver, I was an amateur photographer. I would spend my leisure time driving all over the rural countryside taking photos of 'land wrecks' - abandoned buildings, homesteads, vehicles, and my favourite - cemeteries. They all presented a mystery to me - what story would they tell if I could only hear them speak. The history to be gathered from the architecture or in the case of cemeteries the date of death. I have many photo books filled with my shots of 1930's vintage pickup trucks - some virtually intact, others with pieces of their skeleton strewn about the prairie on which they were forgotten.
When I started diving, I was fortunate in that I was able to dive with a very seasoned group of divers and take part relatively early in my dive life on some very beautiful and challenging (for the novice that I was) dives - including wreck sites.
The very first wreck I dove was the GB Church - a ship scuttled as part of the BC Artificial Reef system. This freighter is located just outside of Sydney B.C. and is covered with marine life. I recall when I first descended on this ship how amazing it was to see so much 'stuff' all in one place - schools of fish, crabs, starfish, plumose anenomes and then there was the wreck itself - the history sitting on the ocean bottom. I was hooked!
In February 1996, I experienced my most amazing wreck dive ever! To this day!
In September of 1995, HMCS McKenzie was sunk as another artificial reef in the area of Sydney B.C. This ship is 366 feet long and sits upright on the bottom in approximately 105 feet of water. On a bright, sunny morning, our dive charter tied onto a mooring line and we were given our dive briefing - information about the length, the depth, the access points, the ascent lines, hazards. I took it all in, but, the enormity of the ship I was about to dive down to was lost on me - until I saw her!
I descended the line straining my eyes to see this ship - I mean it was supposed to be so big - why couldn't I see it immediately? Holding onto the descent line - as per our dive briefing, looking all around me - where was it - and then, out of the depths emerged this gorgeous marine green ship. The visibility on this sunny day was amazing, from my descent point at the mast, I could see the wheel house, the deck, the bow. She was truly beautiful - and, because she had only been down about 4 months by that point, clean! There wasn't the coverage of marine life that the GB Church wears as a new gown. Just the lines of this Navy Destroyer. Breathtaking.
That night, aboard our dive charter, we enjoyed a turkey dinner. Our captain then took the carcass of the bird and placed it on the bow of the Mackenzie overnight. The next day we again visited this wreck to see what, if any, critters may have joined the feast on the carcass. In my dive log I noted there were six shrimp, some fist-sized crabs and a couple of star fish - the beginnings of the vast array of residents to be found on this ship in the future.
I still dive wrecks - wherever my dive travels take me I check out the wrecks. I love the history, the marine life and just 'wandering' through the past reflecting on the lives of those who lived and sailed on the vessels now resting on the ocean bottom.
Want to see these beautiful ladies of the sea with me? I have arranged a customized wreck trek of some of the wrecks of B.C., including my introductory ships, take a look at DiveStrong Canada's travel page, and then join us! Who knows, you too may become addicted - not an unpleasant thing, I think.