The waters off North Carolina’s Outer Banks, known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, are home to more than 2,000 ships that have gone down in the past 485 years, some felled by German torpedoes. It’s the greatest density of wrecks in U.S. waters, many of which succumbed to the violent collision of the northern Labrador and southern Gulf currents. But the best dive sites lie in surprisingly calm, clear water and at depths accessible to anyone with a basic PADI certification, including the top dive in the area, the U-352, a 218-foot German sub sunk in battle by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Icarus in 1942. “It’s a wild environment,” Captain Johnny Pieno says of Hatteras-based Outer Banks Diving. “You can picture the people walking the decks and your compass won’t work because you’re in a metallic environment. Until a few years ago we were still finding human bones out there.”
Meet your dive boat on the docks of Morehead City, North Carolina, and then motor 25 miles out to sea. Once anchored, drop over the side and into the abyss — no reef top or sloping shore to guide you, just the anchor line fading into the empty fathoms between you and the wreck. Once at the bottom, you may have to divide your attention between the wreck and the abundant sharks patrolling the site. The crystal-blue water is often swarming with five- to 12-foot sand tiger sharks and schools of bait fish so thick, they often blot out your view. “In North Carolina, you can see anything at any time,” Pieno says. “The wreck is the reef, so all the wildlife comes to the wrecks: manta rays, whale sharks, even great whites — we’ve seen it all out there.”
Info & Outfitters
Getting There: Morehead City is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Raleigh, N.C.
Dive Masters: Olympus Dive Center’s two-tank dives start at $130 per person.
When to Go: Try to avoid hurricane season, from June to November.
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