A look at Oriskany artificial reef, a sunken aircraft carrier off the coast of Florida.
THe USS Oriskany was sunk May 17th 2006 just off the coast of Pensacola Florida and its one of 3 aircraft carriers that you can scuba dive to.
Ship dimensions: Length: 888 feet Foot beam: 157 feet Average depth: 35 m / 114.8 ft Max depth: 65 m / 213.3 f
Last year I headed to Florida to do some adventure dives. Being quite an experienced PADI Diver, I decided to go and have a look at the well-known Oriskany Reef, an old aircraft carrier that was deliberately sunk to allow marine life to grow. The Oriskany Reef is the largest artificial reef in the world and a prime diving destination.
The Oriskany Reef lies off the coast of Florida and is not recommended for novice divers, as by US Marine Law, there has to be a minimum of 55 feet navigational clearance from the surface to allow shipping to pass comfortably over it.
Having said that, you do not have dive that deep to get a good view of the wreck. The massive aircraft carrier is an awe-inspiring underwater site, and although it has only been there for a short time, many species of fish and reef organisms have already made it their home.
Today, the Oriskany lies on the seabed in an upright position, giving drivers a perfect view of her beauty and glorious past. Because the Oriskany is an air carrier, the top of the ship is broader than the base, so experts weren't sure in what position it would land. It was a relief when it landed in an upright position.
Although I’m an experienced Wreck Diver, I did not go into the wreck because, honestly, it was an experience by itself to simply observe it from the outside. It was an exhilarating feeling to dive above the massive flight deck – I understood why it’s a national treasure for American divers, and one of the best wreck dives in the world!
I believe that these artificial reefs are going to transform the diving industry as they effectively protect the ocean’s ecosystem. Sadly, many existent reefs around the world are dying because of climate change or because they are damaged by inconsiderate or inexperienced divers. If we want reefs to survive, we need to see more developments in building artificial reefs.
Thanks to environmental conservation efforts, we can continue to enjoy the spectacular array of life that manages to exist in the ocean’s depths. I must admit that I would like to explore the Oriskany reef again, but this time, to penetrate the vessel just to see the varieties of fish that have made into the ship’s innards. Not a deep penetration, but more of a peek inside to see a hanger deck.
For a complete wreck exploration, you’d need technical diving skills and a lot of good expert advice to plan the dive safely. I hope to be able to come back to this wreck within the next two years so to better explore this wreck and enjoy everything that it has to offer.
Best Artificial Reefs Around the World
There are many more impressive wrecks scattered around the world. From my wreck diving trips, the ones that stand out the most are the ones found at Scapa Flow in the Shetland Islands, United Kingdom. The history surrounding these wrecks is also part of their appeal. Dating back to WWII, the Germans scuttled their entire battleship fleet to stop the Allied Forces from taking hold of them. This historical dive site is extremely popular amongst divers, but you have to travel a hell of a long way to get there! Flying cuts down the amount of diving you can do. Plus, most of the dive sites in Scapa Flow are deep dives too, which further reduces the amount of time you can actually stay underwater.
For the time being, I’m diving locally and taking the time to appreciate the beautiful wrecks that rest on our shores. I look forward to diving on more artificial reefs, and while I’m at it, to take photos so to see how these artificial reefs grow in popularity.
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