Scuba diving: the five wrecks to see once in your life

Diving on a wreck is always a moving moment. There are thousands of them in the world, we have selected five of them, which carry within them a piece of our history.

Ghostly, the silhouette takes shape, meter after meter. In the blue, there was nothing when suddenly, a structure is discovered. As if by magic. This moment is always a visual shock. The second a boat, an airplane or a submarine is submerged, it is about to be reborn. Because on its iron and steel carcass, in the smallest of its crevices, an algae, a larva, a juvenile fish will come to rush in, develop and find a precious refuge sheltered from predators.

Inside, schools of fish will take up residence, often hidden in the recesses of the ceilings. Moray eels, conger eels will sneak into the passageways. Nudibranchs will settle there, the flora will flourish there, soft coral and gorgonians will unroll their corollas to feed in the tropical currents. Diving on a wreck means enjoying the moment, the beauty of the site, its colors. Then, back on land, we immerse ourselves in archives and history books.

SS President Coolidge, in Vanuatu

The story : in the salons, men in tuxedos smoked cigars, while in luxurious boudoirs illuminated by crystal chandeliers, women dressed in long dresses chatted peacefully. Requisitioned during the Second World War, this luxury liner, 199 meters long, accustomed to the San Francisco-Asia route, was converted by the US government into a troop transport. On October 26, 1942, as he was leaving to refuel Guadalcanal with the country’s only stock of quinine on board, he jumped on two mines while approaching the island of Espiritu Santo. The captain grounds the steamer on the shore and the 5340 men are evacuated. For the morale of the American public, Roosevelt affirms that the mines are Japanese whereas they are American.

The pavement : accessible from the beach, the wreck is lying on its side, between -25 and -73 m. Most impressive ? The huge holds filled with jeeps and tanks (-40m) stacked on top of each other, guns and in the infirmary, syringes. Visit of the bridges, cabins, the Captain’s bathroom, the engine room, the swimming pool (-57m). Allow between 10 and 50 dives to appreciate this colossus.

Go : with the Ultramarina agency, Pacific specialist, who takes care of flights, accommodation and dives.

But also ? The Vanuatu archipelago offers multiple opportunities for hiking on volcanoes, discovering local culture and ecosystems.

The Rainbow Warrior, off the North Island, New Zealand

The story : on July 10, 1985, the Action department of the DGSE (General Directorate for External Security) undertook to sabotage the Rainbow Warrior, a former trawler used by Greenpeace to disrupt nuclear tests in French Polynesia, in the port of Auckland. The death of photographer Fernando Pereira, the imprisonment of French spies and the lies of the Mitterrand government belong to the political history of our country.

The pavement : on December 12, 1987, on a site chosen by the Maoris, in Paihia, 200 km north of Auckland, the 40-meter boat, which had become unusable, was voluntarily sunk off the Cavalli Islands during a moving ceremony. It rests at a depth of 27 meters in cold, greenish water. The rainbow that decorated the bow has gradually lost its colors. But a new rainbow is born: corals and anemones interweaving colorful sponges. Fish, sea slugs, moray eels, tubeworms offer him a second and peaceful multicolored existence. To project yourself there, a virtual visit is offered on the site.

Go : New Zealand on the map and Bay of Islands Tourism Office:

But also ? You have to see the memorial dedicated to him. At the top of the Mataa Uri hill stands a stone arch surmounted by the helix.

SEE THE FILE – New Zealand: the travel guide for Figaro

SS Thistlegorm, Egypt

In the holds of the SS Thistlegorm, in the Red Sea. Jean-Louis Danan / Press Photo

The story : she is in the Silent World, Palme d’or at Cannes in 1956 (Malle/Cousteau), with its impressive 120 mm anti-aircraft gun. She is the wreck of the Thistlegorm, which lies on a sandy bottom at a depth of 30 meters. The forward part is quite straight, with two tank wagons and two wagons stowed on the deck, the stern is tilted to port. Between the two is hold No. 4, damaged by German bombs dropped by Heinkel He 111s on October 6, 1941, while this British merchant navy freighter was at the tip of Sinai.

The pavement : do not hesitate to move away from the wreck to better understand its dimensions (126.5 meters) and go see the LMS Stanier Class F8 locomotive resting on the sand (-31 meters) then the propeller before climbing towards the wedges. Filled with BSA M20 and Norton 16H motorcycles, Bedford trucks, Bren Gun Carrier infantry tankettes, MkII tanks, this Ali Baba’s cave is a real museum. The perfect stabilization of the diver is a necessity to avoid stirring up the sediments and impairing visibility. The wreck is inhabited by all the coral fauna and flora of the Red Sea.

Go : Established for more than 30 years in Egypt, French-speaking companies Seafari and Dunes take you there on a diving cruise, from February to November. Rates vary according to the season and the type of boat chosen (standard or luxury).

Our advice: dive with Nitrox, which guarantees less tissue saturation. Avoid peak season as the site can get very crowded.

Truk Lagoon, Micronesia: the cemetery of shipwrecks

No place in the world has as many warships as Chuuk (or Truk) Lagoon, Micronesia. Pascal Kobeh / Le Figaro Magazine

The story : the US revenge response to Pearl Harbor is called Operation Hailstone, with the destruction of the Imperial Japanese Army base, Chuuk Archipelago, Micronesia in heavy bombardment and naval and submarine attacks the February 17 and 18, 1944.

The pavement : 60 buildings, 275 planes destroyed. No other place in the world brings together so many warships: corvettes, freighters, destroyers, trucks, weapons, ammunition, motorcycles, tanks… An indescribable arsenal. The most famous wrecks: Francisco Maru, Nippo Maru, Kensho Maru (freighters), Fujikawa Maru (aircraft transport cargo), Shinkoku Maru (tanker), I-169 (submarine).

Go : with Pacific à la carte.

Our advice: allow at least three weeks to savor as many wrecks as possible. Some are very deep, plan days without diving to avoid decompression sickness. On land, discover the vestiges of the war, visible, although invaded by the luxuriant vegetation.

The U-171 submarine, between Groix and Lorient

The U-171 submarine lies at a depth of 42 meters. Henri-Pierre Lanson Imatec / Press photo

The story : it is called Unterseeboot 171 (U-171). Hit at the front by a floating mine while returning to the port of Lorient on October 9, 1942, this submarine landed on a depth of 42 meters. Stuck inside, 13 men managed to extricate themselves using self-contained breathing apparatus and rise to the surface. A real feat.

The pavement : the dive is done by descending along a cable in cold, greenish water which gives a ghostly appearance to the structures and the 6-meter-high kiosk. Declared a military cemetery in 1999, it is strictly forbidden to enter the interior of the submarine.

Go : Sunday morning (8.45 a.m.) from Larmor-Plage, with Sellor Boating. Such. : 02 97 33 77 78. €39 for an equipped diver. Level III required.

But also ? Pays de Lorient Underwater Museum: Davis Tower. Keroman submarine base.

We would like to thank the writer of this write-up for this awesome material

Scuba diving: the five wrecks to see once in your life