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As with my other dive course/book reviews I will cover both the book and the course in my review.
Although most courses will lead you to believe that you have to buy the book with the school you are learning with, you can usually buy the book far cheaper (anywhere between around £5-15 depending on what course it is) and get a fairly decent discount on the course (this can be up to £20 for specialty courses!).
The books themselves all follow the same format, which is really useful if you plan to do a fair few courses, and these books are really intuitive. They are not however made of the hardiest material, so make sure you have one of the plastic PADI folders with you if you are using these at a dive site as they will get wet and grubby very easily.
The book has a number of chapters including an introduction to wreck diving, with the usual blurb as to why PADI think you should do the course. The chapter on legal implications of wreck diving is interesting, and anyone thinking seriously about undertaking a lot of wreck diving should pay particular attention to this as the law varies around the world.
There are chapters covering some aspects of wreck diving that you may not really get involved in very heavily such as mapping wrecks, and researching wrecks, however they are still interesting - I myself only go on wreck dives with a guide who knows the wreck well, but it is still interesting to discover the history of a wreck before you dive it.
As is the usual format of these books all of these chapters contain quick test sections that you can complete as you go along, and the two knowledge reviews at the end of the book will quiz you on information from all of these chapters. It can be tempting to go straight to the knowledge reviews and just skim back to pick out the answers, but it is worth remembering that wreck diving can be very hazardous, so don't be lazy and learn what you need to know!
Visually the book is engaging, and contains lots of pictures, and doesn't overload each page with text that you have to read. I would recommend doing this book over a couple of days, and not trying to get it all done in a few hours as you may end up with a headache!
I decided to do this course because I was off on a holiday to Egypt and had booked some diving on the famous SS Thistlegorm. I had already done one wreck dive on my advanced open water course, so I was also able to condense this course slightly by only completing 3 dives instead of the usual 4. Some schools will also offer you a discount in this situation, my did not but did give me a year's free membership to their dive centre (quarry) which was better than nothing.
All courses will differ slightly depending on the school you learn with, but the following will give you a good idea of what you will learn on each dive.
Before each of the dives you will have a pre-dive brief, and go through your knowledge review, and if appropriate do the dive procedures above water before practicing them on a dive.
Your first dive will probably include descending onto a wreck site, swimming around the outside of a wreck identifying potential hazards (probably with a slate if you have one), and maintaining neutral buoyancy whilst doing so. You will also need to identify the ascent point without surfacing.
This dive will be similar to the first, however this time you will be required to map the wreck on your slight, approximating size and identifying both hazards and points of interest. Writing on a slate is always interesting, and the military vehicle I mapped did look rather more like a jellyfish...
You will also need to survey the wreck for potential penetration points.
On your third dive you will begin to use penetration lines, learning how to deploy one using anchor points, and how to retrieve the line again. This will be done on the outside of a wreck using buddy teams. You will also need to swim along the line whilst maintaining contact but without kicking up silt, and whilst holding onto your dive light.
For your final dive you will need to plan and perform a wreck penetration, including determining air supply and limits of penetration (metres into the wreck count towards your allowable depth), and you will practice skills as in previous dives such as maintaining contact with the line but not kicking up any silt, and keeping hold of your dive light.
All that is left then is to get your photo taken looking like a windblown drowned rat, and you're done!!
I would recommend doing this course if you plan to do any wreck diving, although I was guided on my wreck dives in Egypt I did feel more secure having completed the course. Furthermore, if you are planning on completing your Dive Master course then you will need to complete 5 specialty courses, this is one of the ones I would recommend being in your five, as well as deep diver, navigation, enriched air, and dry suit diver.