When people think of Alaska, they think of a lot of things: sled dogs, huge mountains, the Northern Lights, and igloos all come to mind. But what many don’t realize is how unique some of the scuba diving is in the cold water’s of the North Pacific. It is a truly great place to dive, albeit with it’s own specific challenges.
First of all, the scenery in Alaska is absolutely incredible, and scuba diving highlights that even more. It’s a surreal experience to sit at the back of a boat and look up at a thousand foot cliff, and then to step into the water and follow that sheer cliff down as it disappears into the darkness of the water is truly humbling. The scenery and scope of the nature in Alaska is only reaffirmed below the water, with gigantic rock features, massive underwater volcanoes, and staggering, flat fields of grey stone, punctuated by immense boulders. Alaska is one of those places that makes you feel small, and scuba diving only serves to reaffirm that sentiment.
Alaska also has great wreck diving, if you know where to look. Between the massive fleets of bush planes (Alaska has more pilots than any other state), the innumerable fishing boats, the overall high volume of sea traffic, and the strategic importance of Alaska during the Cold War and World War Two, Alaska has it’s fair share of sunken attractions for divers.
Directly off the dock in one of the main diving cities, Whittier, in only 30 feet of water, lays a 12-seater plane that crashed during takeoff. The passengers survived, but the plane sunk beneath the waves and remains a popular attraction. Follow the current out a little bit farther, and you’ll stumble across a decommissioned sea mine, floating at it’s original depth with it’s original anchor. A twenty minute boat ride from the dock in Seward, another popular scuba destination, is an old cannery boat that was stranded on a sand bar. The boat began to stink so badly that the smell was intolerable for miles around, so it was drug out into 40 feet of water and sunk. Today, it offers a great chance to work on your wreck diving, as it’s open enough to navigate it’s interior.
The diving in Alaska is exceptionally uncrowded. Most people who come to the state are there for fishing or sightseeing, which leaves one of the most diverse aquatic ecosystems in North America relatively untouched by other divers. Only on the rarest of occasions will two boats anchor at the same dive site, and even then, they are usually from the same company. This is in addition to the fact that the vegetation and wildlife of Alaska’s oceans is vibrant and plentiful, and makes for a very relaxed, enjoyable experience, in spite of the cold water.
All this in mind, if you ever find yourself in the Last Frontier, and you feel the need to do something that very few people will ever get a chance to do, pull out your phone, look up a dive shop, and stop in and see what they have to say. After all, how many people get to say they went scuba diving in Alaska?