Learn Inside This Shipwreck’s Underwater Oasis
“The Oosterdiep dive is one of the island’s best because of just how much there is to see,” says Jenny Lu. Built in 1957 in the Netherlands, MV Oosterdiep drifted aground on a shoal in 1990. After a salvage yard stripped it clean, the ship was deliberately sunk upright northwest of Meads Bay, where it’s since housed a fascinating collection of underwater creatures. “To reach the wreck, you go down a natural reef dotted with beautiful coral and sea fans, then swim along the sandy bottom,” Jenny explains.
Near the wreckage, the first thing you’ll notice is a colony of dark garden eels—hundreds of them, in fact—rising out of the sand like eerie-looking stalks of grass. These eels live mostly anchored in the sea floor, even when they emerge to feed. “As soon as you see them from a short distance, get out your camera or GoPro and start taking those videos,” Jenny advises. “These eels burrow into the sand lightning-fast and disappear when they feel like they could be in danger.”
The ship itself is a wildly popular gathering place for aquatic life—thanks to cleaning stations swarming with diligent Pederson cleaner shrimp, banded coral shrimp, and arrow crabs. “If you’re not familiar with the term, cleaning stations are where special small fish or shrimp pick off and eat bacteria, parasites, and dead skin from bigger fish,” Jenny explains. Meanwhile, as you’re swimming past a colorful blur of blue tang, snappers, and Atlantic spadefish, keep your eyes peeled for even more sea critters. Centipede-like bearded fireworms crawl around the Oosterdiep, lazy green sea turtles take naps near its hull, spiny lobsters rest deep inside the wreckage, and enormous stingrays bury themselves in sand. Nearby lies a sunken car where the occasional moray eel hides too—simply another sign that although these rusting, rotting hulks of metal lie 75 feet deep in the ocean, they are far from lifeless.