To say that diving in North Carolina offers a unique experience is an understatement akin to saying the Grand Canyon is larger than a bread box. In a relatively limited area it has some of the best of what diving is all about.
Most of the wrecks date from World War II, sunk in numerous ways, mostly from German U-boats (submarines). In one of those ironic twists where the hunter becomes the hunted, a U-boat is one of the most popular wrecks that brings divers from around the world. To be honest, the idea of diving a sub, at least in this instance, is better than actually diving it. From what I have seen, many people who dive it leave somewhat disappointed, myself included. The reasons for that are simple: the exterior of a sub is minimalist by design, everything is on the inside, and this wreck does not readily invite penetration since it is tight and silty (bad combination) with numerous entanglement hazards. Much of the outer hull has rusted away and it does not much resemble a submarine anymore.
|Moorehead City, North Carolina, USA
|Beginner to Advance
Having said that, the sub was the ONLY disappointment about all of North Carolina diving, everything else exceeded expectations by an order of magnitude. Due to its location the gulf stream flows just off shore, meaning although dives are done miles out into the ocean, water temperatures are in the 70 degree area for most of the summer. Ditch the drysuit and get out the 3mm wetsuit – you can be forgiven for thinking you’re in the Bahamas, it’s that warm. That warm water makes for easy diving and prolific marine life. I was not prepared for the colorful critters and the absolute abundance of life. When our captain briefed us in a truly enjoyable southern drawl saying, “When you get down you may not be able to see the wreck, it’s usually covered in fish but you can drop just below them and you’ll see the wreck just fine,” I was entirely certain he was kidding. He wasn’t.
As if wrecks of every shape and size, along with myriad fish species were not enough there is another major item which draws divers to this spectacular region: sand tiger sharks. The Australian name for this species seems much more appropriate – ragged tooth shark, because they have more teeth than can fit in their mouths, making them look entirely sinister and dangerous. It was difficult to tell how many sharks were on the few wrecks they elect to congregate around due to the way they swim in and out of your range of visibility, but a conservative estimate would say 30-50 on a wreck like the Schurz, ensuring you’re not about to fall asleep on that dive. Check out http://www.nc-wreckdiving.com/shipwrecks.html for a list of North Carolina wrecks.