The USS New York is the star attraction in Subic’s underwater world. The USS New York was a battle cruiser launched in the USA in 1891. She had a long and illustrious career – including time as a fleet flagship in the North Atlantic – and was once the pride of the US fleet in Asia. When World War II broke out, she was virtually retired. When the Japanese swept the US Marines out of the Philippine territory, the Americans had no choice but to scuttle her as they departed Subic in early 1942.
The USS New York now lies on her port side in 27m of water between Alava Pier and the northern end of Cubi Point runway. A green buoy marks the spot. The 120m-long hull presents excellent opportunities for swim-through.
A standard dive starts at the stern with a slow swim around the propellers and up to the aft gun emplacements then to the vast mess room, down to the bow section for another brief spell inside. There’s abundant marine life in and around the wreck, combined with the clearly defined structure of the vessel, makes it an unforgettable dive.
The El Capitan is another excellent wreck dive. It is a 3,000-ton freighter, about 130m long, that crashed down the mouth of Ilanin Bay, a small and pretty inlet on the east coast of Subic Bay. Visibility is excellent during dry season. The top of the wreck is just 5m below the surface which makes it an easy dive.
The wreck is not in great shape though. The superstructure has disappeared and some 2-cm of ash and sand from the Mt. Pinatubo eruption covered the hull. But this is more than compensated for by the incredible abundance of marine life and an easy swim-through amid shafts of light that beam down through the holes on the sides. Snorkeling is also enjoyed on this site.
The San Quentin is the oldest known wreck in Subic, a wooden gunboat scuttled by the Spanish in 1898 in a futile attempt to block the channel between Grande and Chiquita islands against the invading Americans. It is a popular dive spot not because of its visual impact since there is little left of the hull but because of its historical interest.
It is the closest wreck to the open sea, making it more visible than the wrecks in the inner harbour. Schools of fish near the open sea are also bigger.
An LST is situated between Grande Island and the southern tip of the runway. This landing craft lies 32m deep, sitting upright with its doors open. The average dive is 28-35m. The wreck is visible within 15-30m, slightly deeper than on the other wrecks.
The Oryoku Maru is located 400m off Alava pier. The site is 20m (60ft) deep and visible within 5-15m (15-45ft) depending on the time of the year. The Oryoku Maru was an outboard passenger ship carrying families and 1,600 American prisoners of war when the ship was attacked by an American aircraft. The site has varied marine life due to the shallow depth.
It was flattened by explosives for navigational reasons. This tangled artificial reef is home to all species of shallow water marine life, clown fish, angelfish, spotted sweet lips, lobsters and regular schools of barracuda and jack swimming overhead.
The Seian Maru can be found between the Alava pier and the northern end of the runway. It is a Japanese cargo vessel approximately 30,000 tons sunk by the American Navy in 1945. The Seian Maru lies on its portside at 27m (85ft) deep. As you swim through its cavernous hods, you will encounter species like jack, spotted sweet lip and coral trout. The average dive is at 18m (52ft) up to 24m (75ft) with visibility from 5-15m depending on the tide.
A Patrol Boat can be discovered in Triboa Bay at a depth of 20-25m (60-75ft). Sitting upright, the wreck is a great dive with its vast array of corals and tropical fish. It is visible from 7-13m (20-40ft). There exists a cable from the bow of the ship across the coral reef that allows a diver to finish the dive in 3m (10ft).
An LCU Landing Vessel is also situated in Triboa Bay but closer to the end of the runway and lies on the edge of a reef with its starboard side lower. Depth is 5-20m (25-60ft) with visibility from 10-16m (30-50ft). This is a great dive for an underwater photographer.
The Subic Bay Freeport still maintains its recompression chamber from the U.S. Navy days (24 hours service). The Subic Bay Health and Welfare Dispensary is open 24 hours daily, located at Bldg. 280 on Dewey Avenue (Tel Nos. (63-47) 252-4169/4880/4161).
(Information credit: Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority)
See: Subic Dive Site
also see: Dive Philippines