A bit of history…

Over the centuries, since man discovered navigation, millions of boats and planes have gone down in the oceans, as well as in lakes and rivers. A wreck can be a boat, a submarine, an aircraft, an abandoned vehicle that is unable to float, potentially carrying cargo, and that no longer has an owner. UNESCO estimates that there are approximately 3 million wrecks resting at the bottom, with 100 to 150,000 under French jurisdiction. Even today, there are probably thousands of treasures down there in the form of gold, silver and other more or less precious metals, with new discoveries being made on a regular basis…


Ecosystems in their own right…

Wrecks form ecosystems where a very great deal of biological diversity can be seen. Once a wreck is at the bottom of the ocean, nature quickly asserts its rights and new life begins moving in. Algae and coral develop on wrecks, and fish hide inside them. As such, these wrecks are therefore very popular sites for divers.
Sitting on the seabed, wrecks are the guardians of our past, and they contain part of our history. They all have a tale to tell, and diving down there to see them enables us to uncover their mysteries: why is it there, where does it come from, how did it sink, who sailed on it? Some wrecks still contain treasures waiting to be found, much to the joy of treasure hunters. Wrecks also enable us to explore areas that are usually inaccessible to most people. You can explore the engine rooms, the bridge, the holds, passageways and stairwells… Because of their stories, there's often a special atmosphere during wreck dives.





If you want to do it, get trained!

Most wrecks today are still unknown, with many of them being inaccessible or requiring extreme means in order to reach them. Only 1% of the upper layer of ocean depths is accessible to recreational scuba divers, but this is certainly enough for several lifetimes of exploration, and it provides access to a great number of wrecks.
To access them, you'll need training that is offered by most diving schools. These training courses are intended to prepare you for the specific features of wreck diving, since a wreck can be very unstable given its form, its state of decomposition or the bottom on which it's resting.
All of this should be borne in mind before approaching the wreck. For example, if a wreck is resting on one of its sides, it's best to dive on the other side, since if it falls, you'll be on the right side. The insides of wrecks can be very narrow, and sometimes with sharp edges or unstable bits. You therefore have to have perfect buoyancy control, and not touch anything! Also, sediment can quickly reduce the visibility to nothing, which means that very slow and fluid movements are needed so as not to stir anything up, using a "frog kick" finning technique is usually best. You also have to be careful, and not go into areas where turning around might be difficult.
Finally, check your orientation, and consider using a line as you penetrate the wreck. If the wreck is made of metal, this can cause havoc with magnetic navigation tools. Care is also needed in areas with a ceiling that can trap the air released by divers, thereby creating air pockets that can damage the materials and make the structure unstable.



For more safety...

In addition to your usual dive equipment, you should also have:
- a compass
- a line and reel
- one and even two lamps
- a knife
- a spare mask


There are regulations for wrecks as well!

Before planning a wreck dive, some information is needed. The best thing to do is to contact a local club. Some wrecks may be prohibited because they're too dangerous, or structurally unstable, or because of their cargo…, some might be of great historical value, or prior authorisation may be required.
In many other countries, wrecks and their contents are protected and cannot be raised without authorisation, and only treasures found in international waters can be kept. In France, it's necessary to contact the DRASSM (sub-aquatic and underwater archaeological research department). Bear in mind that all maritime discoveries belong to the State if they no longer have an owner, but the State rewards the discoverers. According to the 1995 law on maritime trade: "all shipwrecks of cargo vessels remain the property of their former operator or shipowner : each object removed from the wreck must be returned to its owner." In case of a discovery, a declaration must imperatively be made to the DRASSM within 48 hours of the wreck's discovery!

Enjoy your diving!


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                    Julian, retail assistant at Decathlon in Saint-Brieuc

                    I’m 26 years old. I'm an adviser in the nautical department of the Decathlon in Saint-Brieuc. I've been diving for about 5 years. Passion and training helped me to overcome my fear of the water and to become a lifeguard, amateur freediver and PADI Divemaster in scuba diving.

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