Underwater Great Wall of China

Beijing, China

Ambiance Fresh water Wall

The Great wall of China, most have seen it and walked on it, but a handful have dived on it. Construction started in the Qing dynasty, it still stands tall 5000 years later and is a landmark of China. Most of what we see when we go to the "Great wall" was built in the Ming Dynasty, nick named "Ming Great wall", designed for one reason and that was to keep the enemy out.

When we heard part of the great wall was underwater we immediately wanted to go dive it, our dream came true when we headed to Beijing for CDEX. With a few million people visiting the great wall yearly only a few have dived the great wall!

Why is the Great Wall underwater?

In 1981 to resolve water shortages in Tian Jin the Chinese government flooded an area where the Great Wall ran, it now lays at 5-35meters where most of it sits at a max depth of 20meters.

To get to the dive site you have to take a small boat for 40minutes from the pier, where you cross the lake which is protected by surrounding mountains, breaking the calm flat waters. Peaceful but exciting! You start off from one of the support blocks for the Great Wall where it drops into the water, like an X marking the spot. From the surface it looks beautiful when you look up against the white wall which is contrasted against a blue sky.

The first 3-5meters the visibility wasn't so good due to the algae taking a liking to the warm waters and in need of the sun, below this point the visibility starts to get better up until about 20meters when the temperature had dropped to 11C, with a temperature at 7C below that! We followed the broken wall west from the surface to about 16meters where it abruptly stops in the sand like muddy bottom, looking both north and south we choose to go north first, after about 3 minutes the underwater landscape levels out so we turn around and head south.

After another 3 minutes we check our depth and air. This time the water was a brisk 11C so we decided to ascend a few meters in to a warm thermocline, swimming now east. We were thinking "did we miss the once in a life time chance?" "what did we do wrong?.. we followed the plan to a T!". A few more fin kicks and all of a sudden both of us see this huge silhouette about 6 meters tall in front of us. So slowly head over both not wanting to say to the other in case it was our imagination creating this shadow due to low visibility!

Now almost 3 meters from the black shadow we were pointing like a mad man to each other.. before us lays the submerged great wall of china! With sounds of cheers radiating from us underwater we shake hands forgetting about the brisk water.

Swimming along the wall filming we came across a big hole in the wall, it was a gate to a tower! awesome, one at a time we swin through this short corridor being very careful not to touch the wall or kick up the mud to come out the other side, where we find 2 of the other members of our group hovering. with a few more swim throughs and tunnels we come across the other divers in the group, everyone had an amazing dive! and this was only dive 1 of 2!

The second day we did the 2nd dive where we expected part of the Great Wall to be - but without any promises that we would see anything, we swim along planning to go up to a maximum of 35meters but at 20 meters the water was already 11C, both shying away from the dark deep cold areas we go up to 16meters to warm up in the thermo climbs.

We encountered bricks from the great wall, we keep swimming along, all of a sudden we find this huge wall on our left, swimming along a bit more we find an old building where 3 sides were still standing, with a slight disagreement on what we found,  we thought we found 2 cooking stoves, that could also be 2 squat toilets side by side. it was either a luxury bathroom or a short kitchen!

The underwater sights were so moving, seeing this huge wall still standing even after being underwater for the last 30+ years which also defended against the enemy thousands of years prior!

Dive type: Boat/Shore diving
Bottom: Mud / Slope
Visibility: 3-5m
Maximum depth: 20-22meters for the great wall
Current: little
Season: All year but with a drysuit in the winter
Level: *Advanced Openwater Divers experienced in night and buoyancy
Highlight: Underwater Great Wall of China

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