It's the Ultimate Wreck Expedition, the chance to dive 10 of the world's most celebrated wreck sites, and once again Diver and Full Circle are offering one unbelievably fortunate reader the chance to go for free. That has to be the best diving offer you'll get this year, so read on to find out how to win. And, just in case you don't win, back up by booking up!
ON 10 GREAT SEAS AROUND THE WORLD, ON 10 GREAT REEF SYSTEMS, SIT 10 GREAT WRECK SITES. These are the iconic wrecks, the ones every diver dreams of visiting at least once in a lifetime. Massive cruise liners in Caribbean seas, the largest battleships ever built, merchant vessels slowly being consumed by coral reefs, conservation boats sunk by acts of terrorism, and shells of aircraft and frigates strewn over pristine Pacific reefs in epic battles.
After last year's Full Circle Expedition, which explored the ocean's ultimate encounters, the Full Circle follow-up for 2003 is a globe-circling exploration of the world's greatest shipwrecks and the wildlife that lives on and around them. And the team's adventures will once again be followed in the pages of Diver.
The expedition will give participants the chance to learn how to get the most from the wrecks, including technical diving and penetration techniques, and how to film and photograph their discoveries, with Dan Burton, the renowned underwater cameraman, providing the instruction.
But the team can also embrace members who are content to explore the sites using recreational diving techniques, as most of the wrecks are within the limits of standard no-deco diving.
Led by Monty Halls, the Ultimate Wreck Expedition departs on 6 October and returns on 6 December.
Team-members head first to Scapa Flow for an introduction to technical diving techniques. From there it's on to the Zenobia in Cyprus, to learn how to penetrate wrecks safely. Next they visit Egypt and the Thistlegorm, for a week-long filming and photography seminar. At the end of the Thistlegorm phase, in a rare departure from sea level, they will take a desert safari for two days with the local Bedouin.
Then the action really starts! Next stop is Palau, arguably one of the best dive sites on the planet. Among the 300 rock islands are hundreds of wrecks of WW2 ships and aircraft, as well as caves, caverns, rich reefs and giant cruising pelagics.
The team travels on to Truk Lagoon, an essential stop on any wreck trip, to spend four days diving the wrecks of the Japanese Fourth Fleet at perhaps the most famous wreck site of them all.
Next stop is Vanuatu and the largest accessible wreck in the world, the USS President Coolidge. At 600ft long and over 20,000 tonnes, the Coolidge was one of the last truly opulent vessels to be built. Sunk in WW2 while acting as a troop ship, the Coolidge is now so rich in marine life that it has been declared a national marine sanctuary. Schools of barracuda swirl around the superstructure, sharks patrol the decks, and trevally and grouper occupy the luxurious cabins.
Then it's on to Australia and the Yongala. Sunk on a reef in a cyclone in 1911, the Yongala is renowned as the greatest wildlife wreck dive of all. Giant Queensland grouper, manta rays, sharks and turtles hang out around the wreck, and humpback whales pass through on their annual migrations.
The expedition proceeds to one of the worlds' giant modern shipwrecks - the Lermentov in New Zealand. Sunk in 1986, this cruise-liner is in pristine condition, and the team will be able to enter the bridge, the vast dining rooms, even the bar!
While in New Zealand, participants will also visit the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior, now lying in a white-sided dolphin sanctuary. This site is close to the Poor Knights, and they will explore the islands and also dive the recently sunk NZ Navy frigate the Tui.
The expedition climaxes with a series of dives on the Titanic of the Caribbean - the wreck of the Bianca C in Grenada. The team completes its circumnavigation with its flight back to the UK.
Participation is not cheap - it costs £12,500 for the full 10 weeks, including all travel, accommodation, diving, instruction and specialist kit hire. In addition, team-members can purchase any items of equipment from Northern Diver at trade price.
Alternatively, places are available on a limited basis for certain portions of the trip only. Please visit www.fullcircleexpeditions.com for details, or call the team direct on 0207 731 2745 or 07812 136781 for more information.
You need to be at least a PADI Advanced Open Water/BSAC Sports Diver or equivalent with a minimum of 80 dives under your belt at the time of departure.
Missed the Full Circle last time? All is not lost. Such was the success of the project in 2002, that a repeat expedition will depart this September. Great whites, mantas, dolphins, whales, whale sharks - Full Circle 2003 will experience them all in an action-packed 10 weeks. See website for details.