Wreck diving is one of the most fun and exciting forms of diving. It lets you get up close and personal with a huge assortment of different marine species whilst also exploring the remains of manmade vessels that have been left to turn into spectacular underwater reefs. The majority of wrecks that are left intact are a considerable distance from the shore. There they allow many species of pelagic fish and common reef fish to boom in population due to the reduced number of fisherman. You won’t see barracuda this close on a shore dive.
The USS Oriskany (o-risk-ini) wreck is a perfect example of why this specialty form of diving is so popular. With an initial depth of twenty metres and a maximum depth of over eighty metres, there is plenty for the advanced diver and all the way up to the serious Tec diver to enjoy. Sitting off the coast of the Florida town of Pensacola the wreck was sunk in 2006 for diving and as an artificial reef.
A USA flag adorns the top of the wreck making for great photo opportunities before you descend further down to explore the bridge and multiple swim throughs which the ships top section has to offer. Weaving your way deeper you can see large pieces of the wreck which have been dislodged due to storms and age. They sit strewn around the flight deck and with a visibility of over 30 metres it makes for a great view.
Dropping down onto the flight deck at 45 metres allows you to see the full layout and imagine what it must have been like back when jets covered her deck. One unusual surprise is the abundance of lion fish present on the wreck. During Hurricane Katrina in 2005 a handful of these Australian natives escaped from an aquarium and now plague the Gulf of Mexico.
Unless you’re doing a highly prepared technical dive your time on the flight deck is short. Looking back up as you ascend is a site not to be missed; with an imposing shape you can imagine how threatening the ship looked to those that opposed her. Weaving back through the various swim throughs and across overgrown ladders and railings you can swim through what were once com rooms and command centres and imagine what the officers up top must once have seen.
The usually calm water of the Gulf of Mexico make the safety/decompression stops a breeze. Giant jellyfish the size of your face propel themselves with ease through the water whilst barracuda sidle alongside to have a better look at the large creature invading their territory.
The Oriskany really is a dive for the bucket list and is often spoken about as one of the world’s most epic wreck dives. If you’re thinking about getting into technical diving but don’t know where it will lead or how much use you will get out of it, set yourself a goal of doing an Oriskany Tec dive and you won’t look back. With the best of the dive between 40 and 60 metres this wreck was sunken to favour the Tec head divers. All the training to get there can pay off in just a single dive on this behemoth. So go get Tec!