From German Submarines and their victims, to Aircraft Carriers sunk as Artificial Reefs, North Carolina is renowned for possessing the best wreck diving in the world. Though our weather is challenging, and our visibility is questionable, the coast of North Carolina always promises an adventure. Here we have listed some of the more popular divesites.
Each dive site listed has a “Smiley” rating from 1-5, 5 being the best. The rating is a complicated calculation of subjective impressions received by yours truly. Factors considered include ease of diving, average visibility, and interesting marine life. A lower rating does not mean that it’s a bad site (is there such a thing?) but just one that I wouldn’t do if I had a choice of a better site. The “Smiley” Rating is derived from my saying, “Diving is a smiling sport, if you’re not smiling then you shouldn’t be doing it.”
This list is by no means complete, if you would like to review a dive site please send it to the Webmaster@divingbells.com and it will be added shortly thereafter.
Radio Island -☺☺☺
Radio Island is a rock jetty between Radio Island and Carrot Island by the Beaufort Inlet. It has a maximum depth of 45 feet (assuming you’re burying your depth gauge in the sand. Typical animal life includes toad fish, sea urchins, seahorses, octopi, sea turtles (but I’ve only seen one), sea bass, flounder, eels, sting rays, and a few tropical fish in the late summer. Visibility ranges from 5 inches to 15 feet. The relatively shallow depth and the fact that it is done from shore makes this a popular dive site for checkouts. The only other thing of note is you must dive this site during High Slack tide. See attached sheet for a diagram of the site.
Cape Lookout - ☺☺☺
The rock jetty at Cape Lookout is another excellent dive for new divers. Its shallow depth (20’) makes it a very nice, easy dive. The only potential problem is the strong surge due to its proximity to shore. Visibility ranges from 5 feet to 20 feet. Lots of flounder also make this site an excellent spear fishing experience.
Liberty Ship - ☺☺
The liberty ship is a small ship that was sunk in order to create an artificial reef. Visibility tends to be best at the deck of the ship (15’ to 30’) which is in 40 feet of water, and is relatively murky at the bottom (60 feet). Its proximity to the inlet (3 miles) makes it a popular dive and fishing spot. Typical animal life includes flounder, sea urchins, sea bass, and other boring fish whose names I can’t remember. It’s an excellent dive for the beginning wreck diver but not one of my favorites.
Clifton Moss aka Novelty - ☺☺
Another good dive for the beginning diver is the Clifton Moss. It is comprised of several structures including a bridge section and a small boat (157’ long) called the Novelty. Typical sea life include flounder, sea bass, sea turtles, and I’ve seen one shark. The top of the bridge section is in about 20-30 feet of water while it gets down to about 55’ at the bottom. Visibility ranges from 10’ to 60’, but if you get 20-30’ count yourself lucky.
Indra - ☺☺☺
The Indra is a very large air craft carrier with various swim thrus. It’s a bit further from the inlet meaning that the visibility tends to be better, though is usually in the range of 20’ to 50’. There are two resident Bull Sharks that I’ve only seen once and one of my students once spotted an Octopus. The deck of the ship is again in about 40-50 feet of water while the stern lies in about 70 feet.
West Rock, Big 10, Little 10, Jerry’s Reef - ☺☺☺☺
I’ve grouped these sites together since I don’t want to be too terribly redundant. Depth of these sites is typically in the 60 – 90 foot range. Other than the occasional current, these sites are excellent for spear fishing, photography, or just touring. And you’re only a cheese-whiz-man away from being in the Caribbean. Visibility is usually excellent, with vertical visibility in the 80 foot range and horizontal visibility in the 30-50 foot range. Although since the vertical visibility is so good, the overall impression of your dive is much better. Typical animal life includes: sea turtles, bull sharks, grouper, amberjack, barracuda, tropical fish, lion fish, cobia, sea bass, flounder, and lots of small silver fish whose names I can’t remember.
Caribsea - ☺☺☺☺
I would’ve given this wreck a 5 Smile rating if it weren’t for the fact that the visibility tends to be poor due to its proximity to the shoals. Depth is fairly shallow- 50 to 60 feet and Visibility is usually 20-40 feet. The one thing that makes this wreck stand out is the fact that it is usually covered with Sand Tiger sharks.
The history of this wreck is typical of most of the shipwrecks off the Carolina coast. Under the command of Captain Nicholas Manolis, the Caribsea was torpedoed in March of 1942 by the German U-Boat the U-158 while delivering managanese ore to Norfolk, Virginia. A direct hit sunk the ship in less than 3 minutes giving the crew no time to send a distress signal or lower life rafts. Fortunately the sheer force of the first explosion sent one life raft into the water which was found by a few survivors. 7 men, including the Captain, were all that survived of the 28 man crew.
U-352 - ☺☺☺☺☺
Perhaps the most well known shipwreck of the NC coast is the German submarine the U-352. In 110 feet of water with visibility in the 60’ + range, it is an excellent dive for the experience wreck diver. Though salvage efforts have left the inside pretty well empty, the U-boat is in relatively perfect condition lying in one piece at an approximate 30° angle.
The history of this boat is perhaps the most interesting since it was the first time a German submariner was captured by the U.S. Navy. Mistaking the USCG Icarus as an easy target, the U-boat fired in daylight hours but its torpedo detonated before reaching its target. After sinking the ship, the Icarus repeatedly called to the Navy requesting permission to pick of the surviving crew members who had surfaced. Permission was eventually granted though it was a long time coming. Of the 46 man crew, one died in battle, 13 didn’t make it out of the ship and one died of wounds incurred in the sinking but the rest of the men survived. The U-352 was mistaken later for another submarine and “sunk” again by the HMS Stella Polaris.
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