Hang around Oahu divers for even a few minutes, and you'll probably hear somebody bring up "the Y-O."
No, this isn't a hip, new island way of saying, "Yo" - they're talking about the YO-257, a U.S. Navy yard oiler lying right off Diamond Head State Park near Waikiki, and arguably the best wreck dive in the 50th state.
Given the nearness of Pearl Harbor and the history surrounding the famous "Day of Infamy" attack, it's tempting to think that the YO-257 went down under fire from Japanese dive bombers. Certainly its age is correct - it was built in Puget Sound in the 1940s, created because the Navy needed a vessel capable of carrying 200,000 gallons of fuel to the ships of the Pacific Fleet.
But the YO-257 never succumbed to bombers. It was sunk by a submarine
A civilian submarine.
After a long and unremarkable naval career, the YO-257 was purchased by Atlantis Submarines Hawaii, cleaned, safed and placed on the ocean floor at 100 feet in 1989 to provide a focal point for the company's extremely popular Waikiki submarine tours.
Oahu divers were direct beneficiaries of this act. Although the island's waters are steeped in history, and several genuine lost-in-wartime wrecks lie on the bottom surrounding the island, only one (that of a Corsair fighter bomber) is accessible to divers. The rest are either off-limits (such as the naval vessels in Pearl Harbor) or - like a recently discovered Japanese mini-submarine - too deep.
YO-257, on the other hand, is not only accessible, it also offers a picture-perfect swim-through on the stern, sort of a "wreck penetration" for those not trained in shipwreck penetration. Better still, 12 years ago, Atlantis placed a second ship, the San Pedro, less than 50 yards away. The two can often be done on a single dive.
So enjoy. But be sure to wave "thank you" when the submarine passes by.
PADI Dive Center Waikiki Diving (waikikidiving.com) is located just minutes from most Waikiki hotels. They have been diving the area nonstop for nearly three decades. PADI Five-Star Gold Palm Instructional Dive Center Dive Oahu (diveoahu.com) does a wreck and a reef every morning (and two reef dives every afternoon). Outrigger Reef on the Beach (outriggerreef.com), part of the prestigious family of Outrigger hotels, combines the hospitality of a cool towel at reception with the 21st-century efficiency of free high-speed Internet and free long distance to the mainland, all in a beautifully renovated property. For more information, visit the Oahu Visitors Bureau (visit-oahu.com) and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (gohawaii.com).