I only have my Open Water Scuba Diving certification, so I already assumed a deep sea shipwreck dive would be out of the question.
You have to be trained to do that sort of thing and that usually requires an Advance Certification. We asked the woman at the front desk of our hostel if she could book us a dive for tomorrow and if it were possible for us to dive at all. I mean, the weather wasn’t the warmest and it was practically a dead zone here in Paihia—a beautiful dead zone at the least.
While on the phone, the woman cupped her hand over the speaker and asked me “When is the last time you dove?”
“Literally, just a few days ago in Hawaii,” I responded with hope.
It turns out that was enough for me to do a deep sea shipwreck dive, along with having an open water certification of course. Unfortunately, the others weren’t able to do the same dive since they’ve never done this sort of thing before, but still were able to have an introductory course that would coincide with my shipwreck dive. If this is the first thing I am going to do here in New Zealand then I can’t imagine what other amazing stuff we would get into! I knew one day I would do a shipwreck dive but not this soon.
We woke up early in the morning to shabby weather. It was cold, but not terribly cold. At least it wasn’t raining. I’m gonna freeze my ass off. Still, I was pumped and eager to get started. The center of instruction is a place called Paihia Dive. Upon entering, we were welcomed by our soon-to-be dive instructors and prepped for the occasion. One of the instructors, handed me a textbook to read.
“Read that chapter on deep sea diving and fill out this worksheet sometime after the dive is over,” he asked of me.
It was practically like having to do school work again. Read the chapter, answer the questions, and turn it in to the teacher once you’re finished. But in this case, the dive master, Mr. Hoffstetter. The work sheet seemed like a lot but was necessary for the dive, especially since I haven’t trained this far into the diving course yet. Thank God, I dove in Hawaii recently otherwise it would have been a solid two years since my last dive which was in Thailand. It was a good refresher that I didn’t know I needed.
We went off to the back of the dive center and tried on our scuba gear. Since this was gonna be a cold dive, we had extra layers to try on to help insulate our internal body heat. The air temperature was still brisk but the instructors informed us that once we’re in the water, we wouldn’t think about the cold anymore. That was comforting to hear because it was freakin cold outside! Remember that ‘cold’ is one of my weaknesses while traveling that I’m working on conquering.
The boat ride into the Bay of Islands was quite ecstatic. Just hundreds of small, densely shaped islands in the distance stood as our backdrop. We were joined by four other divers: three Germans and a woman from Greenland. On an interesting note, I’ve never met anyone from Greenland before, so sure enough on the boat ride to our dive spot, I questioned her like crazy about her home country since I knew nothing about it. Greenland is near the top of my list of countries I need to visit.
While one of the instructors schooled the others about the basics of diving, Greenland and I geared up for our deepwater adventure.
It was only the two of us and our instructor which worked out perfect. Less divers meant less time waiting around in the water which meant more oxygen in our tanks. The instructor warned us since we would be about 28 meters deep, we would consume oxygen faster than normal. He told us at most we would be down there 20-25 minutes tops.
Deep Sea Shipwreck Dive
I straddle leaped into the water and Greenland right after.
“Follow the rope all the way down to the ship,” said the dive master. While Greenland was busy adjusting, I grabbed onto the rope, released the air from my BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) and down I went into the refrigerating depths of the bay. 28 meters (nearly 100 feet) is pretty deep, so I thought it would take a while to get there, but it barely took a minute. The deeper I sank, the easier it was to see the amazing shipwreck at the bottom. What a sight it was! A huge ship that was blown up for the sole purpose of scuba diving. It’s called the Cathedral. The ship was decayed and teaming with wildlife, coral, and other sea oddities that you would imagine to grow on a sunken ship over years of time. I was down there on the ships deck alone, waiting…waiting…all while consuming precious oxygen.
Where the heck is Greenland??
I looked up to see the dive master trying to relax Greenland near the surface.
She better get her shit together.
I went over my SPG (Submersible Pressure Gauge). The dive master was right, oxygen depletes waaaaay faster at these depths and temperatures. Time is wasting!
Eventually she came down while I was in the midst of fidgeting with my GoPro that unexpectedly read “ERROR” in big bold, horrible caps across the small LCD screen. I let out a flurry of bubbles and a jarbled “NOOOOOOOOOO!” from my regulator. Out of all the times I needed my GoPro, this was the time I needed it most. But not to worry, the dive master told us prior that he would be down there taking footage with his fancy underwater camera that he’d be happy to share with us. The master fiddled with his camera, then swam over to show me his screen that also read “ERROR” in those same nasty, frustrating caps. There’s no sense in fussing anymore. At least I could enjoy the dive and this massive shipwreck.
We swam around the corridor and the upper deck down to the bridge where a big red fish nicknamed “Captain Snappy” resides. It’s his territory now, so we were sure not to disturb the captain. It’s too bad I couldn’t get any footage to share with you all. I fiddled with my GoPro once more and changed the settings. Instead of recording in 4k, I switched it to 1080 mode to see if it made a difference. And it certainly did! I was now able to capture some of the shipwreck.
The dive didn’t last long at all. It felt like only a few minutes. We barely scraped the surface of the ship before our SPG’s entered the red zone. I blame Greenland. So up we went a few meters to do our safety stop before we approached the surface. That dive. That dive solidified the notion of scuba diving being my favorite activity to partake in while traveling. Seeing a ship on the water is one thing, but to explore it underwater is a complete game changer. Greenland apologized for her lack of finesse getting under the water. She costed us a solid ten minutes of exploration but whatever. She was nice at least.
<h2>The Intro Dive</h2>
When I returned to the boat I found Chelsey, Mike, and Ryan snorkeling nearby as they waited for their introductory dive. I was actually able to join them in what was a personally amusing dive. Remember, none of these guys have ever dove before. Save for Mike who’s tried once I think. Ryan wasn’t used to wearing flippers and Chelsey has never worn a snorkel. I couldn’t believe it! So I joined them and just like I imagined, it was a bit of a circus.
Underwater, I looked behind me at one point and saw Chelsey magically floating up to the surface, Ryan uncontrollably tumbling around to the left and Mike somewhere off distracted to the right, with Hofstetter in the middle trying to regroup them all. It was actually pretty funny to see. Over time, they found their groove…mostly. Ryan couldn’t control his buoyancy under water and was practically escorted through the whole dive by another instructor. I don’t think he paid any mind though.
We ended the 12-meter deep dive swimming back to the boat. Two new successful dives under my belt, but nothing compares to that shipwreck. I definitely wanna do more just as deep! As for my friends, they enjoyed themselves and would actually dive again in the future.
*For anyone interested in a deep sea dive, normally an Advance PADI Certification is required but I was able to do so with an Open Water PADI Certification with the condition that I have done a dive fairly recently. Upon completion of the deep water dive, I earned a certificate stating I completed the Deep Water Adventure Course which was stapled to my Diver’s Logbook as proof. Even if I don’t get my Advance Certification soon, the Adventure Certificate should prove helpful if I ever wish to do another deep dive again.
We went back to Paihia and chilled out for the rest of the day. I don’t know what it is about the water but whenever I get out of it, I instantly wanna nap. But before I could rest, we had to decide where we shall go next. Should we continue north? Should we stay in Paihia? Should we head southbound? I suggested to the others that we go to a place called Rotorua. It’s an environmentally unique region just a few hours south where geothermal pools spout toxic fumes and volcanic hotspots fill the cracks in the land. They all concurred that we needed to go there.
Rotorua here we come!