Long-time Zegrahm leader, Susan Langley, is the State Underwater Archaeologist for the Maryland Historic Trust. She is a dive safety officer for the state of Maryland and is a master scuba diver trainer through PADI. Susan teaches classes and seminars on marine archaeology, and recently had a project recognized by President Obama! (View the Mallows Bay-Potomac River section for more details.)
Clearly an expert in underwater archaeology, we asked Susan for her top five best cultural dive sites in the world. Here’s what she had to say:
- Susan’s Favorite Dive Site: Chuuk Lagoon, Federated States of Micronesia
Chuuk Lagoon, in my opinion, is definitely the best dive site in the world; its fame stems from its role as Japan’s Pacific stronghold in World War II. Operation Hailstone, a three-day attack in 1944, sent 12 small warships, 32 merchant vessels, and hundreds of aircraft to the bottom of the ocean. The passage of time over the last 70 years has seen the ships become vibrant reefs, bringing life from tragedy. The best part? The vessels are perfect for all levels of diving expertise and interests! One can swim the entire length of the interior of Fujikawa Maru , searching for colorful corals and denizens, or viewing artifacts and divers’ personal tributes. On the Rio de Janeiro Maru, cases of sake remain stacked in the hold with other undisturbed relics and thriving sea life.
- The Most Remote Dive Site: Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands
Although called Pikinni in Marshallese, the moniker ‘Bikini’ has stuck to one of the most remote, and best, dive sites in the world. The main attractions are the 10 large ships, including the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Saratoga, that were part of Cold War nuclear testing. While the water and wrecks are “cold” in nuclear terms, the land remains too “hot” for permanent habitation. With no local residents fishing, these waters can lead to some fascinating encounters with fearless sea life, including dogtooth tuna, barracuda, and Bluefin trevally.
- The Most Diverse Dive Site: the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba, Egypt
Of the nations bordering these waters, dive opportunities from Sharm el-Sheikh offer the most diversity—but hop in the water anywhere here for terrific color and critters. THE historic dive is the British Merchant Navy S.S. Thistlegorm . Sunk October 6, 1941, this supply ship is chock-a-block full with interesting artifacts, including a railway locomotive that was deck cargo. One of the best sites for all divers, from beginners to experienced.
- The Most Historical Dive Site: U.S.S. Coolidge, Vanuatu
A luxury liner commandeered and converted for service in World War II, the Coolidge struck two mines in the channel into Espiritu Santo in 1942. Salvaged heavily after the war, it remains an interesting and easy dive. There is a memorial to the artillery captain who safely left the vessel, but returned to successfully rescue those in the infirmary, then failed to escape a second time.
- The Best City Under the Sea Dive Site: Kaş/Kecova, Turkey
While diving is not permitted on the remains of the 2nd-century city submerged by an earthquake between the town of Kaş and the island of Kecova, it can easily be seen through clear waters and from glass-bottomed boats. Still one of the best dive sites in the world, the area does have a great deal to offer divers including wrecks of ships and planes, wrecks sunk to create reefs, and an experimental project created by the Underwater Research Society—the Kaş Archaeopark Site has created a reconstruction of the Uluburun Wreck and its cargo. The oldest known shipwreck, the Uluburun is fully laden with a cargo that may have been a gift from widowed Egyptian Queen Nefertiti! She was seeking a new husband to solidify her throne; this alone is worth the journey.
When not discussing the best dive sites in the world, Susan can next be found on our Canal to Cuba expedition.