If you’re fed up with wandering in old towns and museums, perhaps you need a bit more alternative sightseeing. For example, to discover the secrets of the Baltic Sea. Wreck diving, which is still in season, gives you a chance to see for yourself. We also have an option for those who don't want to get wet.
There's plenty of treasure in the Baltic Sea. Tragic events of the Second World War, which affected our region badly, left us with multitude of war ‘souvenirs’ lying at the bottom of the sea. There are over a hundred wrecks, most of them remain ‘inaccessible to tourists’ though. However, the Maritime Office in Gdynia in cooperation with the National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk prepared a special offer for those who prefer the deep sea to museums. A list of wrecks officially accessible to underwater tourism was compiled. This type of tourism is quite popular – every year, over 6 thousand divers go underwater in Poland.
In 2006, there were only 20 wrecks accessible to underwater tourists on the list. Now, the list is twice as long. Expeditions to 40 wrecks following a simplified procedure are organised – divers are only obliged to report leaving the port for the purpose of diving. According to experts, with the popularisation of the ‘alternative sightseeing’, divers care more about our cultural heritage, in this case – the wrecks. Therefore, the Maritime Office in Gdynia is working on the registration of more objects. Also the ones at shallow depths, accessible to divers with basic diving certification.
To go wreck diving, divers are obliged to have at least the basic certification. The entry-level certification is Open Water Diver. It is used by PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and allows a diver to dive in open water to 18 metres. Some really interesting wrecks can be found at this depth, for example, a Russian submarine chaser, Groźny (11 m) or Delfin (13 m) – a minesweeper of the British Navy, sailing under the flag of the Polish Navy from 1948, sunk in the 1950s. To obtain the certificate, one must complete a one-week training course which costs about PLN 1450.
To be allowed to dive at about 30–40 metres, the next level is required – Advanced Open Water Diver (PADI), also known as Deep Diver. ‘It's still about recreational diving, which doesn't involve decompression,’ says Krzysztof Wnorowski from Diving Centre Tryton in Gdańsk. With such a certification, we may dive in one of the most interesting objects in our sea. Munin, located at the depth of 32 m, is a German warship converted from a fishing trawler.
The last level of expertise is trimix diving – below 40 m. But take your time.
‘Is diving an extreme sport?’
‘I wouldn't call it a sport. There's little effort in it, it's more about discovering new spaces,’ says Krzysztof Wnorowski.
The most desired objects are the ones sunk at the greatest depths, which require more experience. A troopship Franken (70 m) is such a challenge. Put into operation in 1943, the ship was used to provide cruisers with fuel, ammunition and food. It was bombed in 1945. There are also fascinating wrecks covered by the diving ban. They include MS Wilhelm Gustloff, a former flag passenger ship of the Nazi leisure organisation KdF, incorporated into the Kriegsmarine, sunk in tragic circumstances.
There is one more attraction – on land, for a change – for the fans of forgotten stories. It's the Cultural Park in Rzucewo near Puck. Since the 19th century, it has been an important archaeological port of the Baltic Sea. In 1894, traces of prehistoric fishing settlement from the late Stone Age were discovered there. Today, tourists visiting the park can see how primeval inhabitants of the Puck Bay and its neighbourhood lived, see real everyday objects from these times as well as a reconstruction of the settlements.
Do you still think that history is boring?
- Sources: Maritime Office in Gdynia, National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk, Diving Centre
- Photo T.Stachura
- Tryton, www.wrakibaltyku.pl