Beneath the warm, blue waters of North Carolina’s crystal coast lies a variety of exciting wrecks and artificial reefs. Whether you are into German U-boats or their victims, modern vessels or historical sites, you can find it here. No wonder North Carolina is rated as the “Best Wreck Diving In North America” and one of the “Top Five” wreck diving locations in the world. The only type of ship that isn’t sunk in this region is an aircraft carrier, but in terms of numbers, you can log a lifetime of diving hours and not touch them all. In 1968, Duke University cataloged the coastal wrecks of North Carolina and documented 2,000 sites. There are tankers, ocean liners, airplanes, and both an American submarine and a German U-boat. Most of the wrecks met their demise at the hands of hurricanes in the early years, and German U-Boats during World War II.
Best Diving Destinations in North Carolina
Sank August of 1988 as an artificial reef. She lies in 110 feet of water and rises to 90 feet. She is 409 feet long and is a good multilevel dive. In 1996 hurricanes broke this wreck into three pieces. The stern sets upright, amidships she lies on her starboard side and the bow section is collapsing. Many divers feel the storm’s damage has made this an even better dive.
Russian freighter sank between April 3 and May 3, 1942. Reportedly torpedoed and sank by gunfire. She lies in 60 feet of water on the tip of Cape Lookout Shoals. A broken and scattered wreck.
Laying 23 miles east/southeast of the Beaufort inlet, she comes within 90 feet of the surface. She was torpedoed by the U-552 April 9, 1942. Maximum depth is 130fsw.
This 170′ British armed trawler was torpedoed by the German submarine, U-588. A broken and scattered wreck she lies in 100 feet of water.
Caribsea: The bottom of this wreck lies at 90fsw with her remains rising to 45 feet below the surface. She was torpedoed March 11, 1942 by the U-158.
A 390 foot long tanker, she lies in 120 feet of seawater. In his book “SHIPWRECKS; Diving the Graveyard of the Atlantic,” Rod Farb rates her as one of North Carolina’s “Top Five Wreck Dives.” Her stern is intact and she is full of tropical aquatic life. Due to the long boat ride to her, and the occasional presence of strong currents, this is a dive for experienced wreck divers.
City of Houston
Built in 1871, this iron steamship was designed carry passengers and freight between Galveston, Texas and New York. She sank in a storm October 24, 1878 off the tip of Frying Pan shoals. Her broken and scattered remains rest in 90 feet of water. Due to the distance of this site from Morehead City, she is best visited on an “offshore camping trip.”
This artificial reef was sank in 90 feet of water. A harbor tanker, she sits upright and is 170 feet in length.
She was torpedoed by the U-124 March 9, 1942. She lies in 72 feet of water. Depth charged and wire dragged as a hazard to navigation about a year after her demise, the wreckage is scattered over a large area.
Formally a US Navy Landing Craft Repair ship, she was sank August 4, 1992 as part of North Carolina’s artificial reef program. This wreck lies in 65 feet of water and rises to within 35 feet of the surface. This penetrable wreck is excellent for training, photography and night dives.
This tanker was sank by the submarine U-124 on march 23, 1942. Split into two sections by the attack, the stern section is the most popular dive. Setting upright and intact with a maximum depth of 140fsw, the wreckage is covered with beautiful corals, sponges, anemones and is home to a variety other invertabrae and fish. This wreck is considered one of North Carolina’s top five dives by many. Because of the long boat trip and excessive depth this dive is best for experienced offshore wreck divers.
She is a 312 foot freighter resting in 110 feet of water. This ship foundered and sank during a storm January, 1924. She is known as a good lobster wreck and presents many excellent photographic opportunities.
This 406 foot, passenger/cargo, steel screws steamer was sank in a collision with the tankerSS Cushing in August of 1918. The Proteus featured 46 first class staterooms, 30 second class staterooms and 108 berths in steerage. Today her remains lie in 130 feet of water. This wreck is some distance from Morehead so special arrangements need to be made to dive this site.
This tanker was sank during WW II by the U-124 March 19, 1942. The wreck lies upside down in 130 feet of clear, warm water. Her large, flat keel rises to within 85 feet of the surface. In recent years schools of Atlantic Sand Tiger Sharks have been present on this wreck throughout the year. These gentle giants present wonderful photographic opportunities in addition to making this a fascinating dive.
This concrete Liberty ship was sank as part of North Carolina’s artificial reef program. She lies one and a half miles off of Bogue banks and three miles west of Fort Macon. The maximum depth at this site is 60 feet with the top of her deck setting at 30 feet below the surface. This site is frequently used for Open Water training dives.
This 254 former German gunboat Geir was captured and recommissioned as a US Navy ship in WW I. Built in Germany in 1894, she sank as a result of a collision with SS Florida June 21, 1918. Today she rests in 110 feet of water and is still giving up interesting artifacts. In fact an extremely nice porthole was recovered in early Spring, 1997!
This 1879 ton cargo vessel lies in 70 feet of water southwest of Beaufort Inlet. She collided with the partially submerged hull of the W.E. Hutton March 26, 1943. Both vessels were depth charged and wire dragged to prevent further collisions.
This German submarine is unquestionably North Carolina’s most popular wreck dive. On May 9, 1942 she attacked the US Coast Guard cutter Icarus. Her torpedo exploded prematurely, revealing her presence and leading to her demise. Thirteen German sailors lost their lives in the battle. Today the submarine lies in 115 feet of water, upright but listing approximately 40 degrees to starboard. While most of the outer haul has rusted away the pressure hull remains intact. Though the hatches are open divers are well advised to stay outside of her tight, silt filled interior.
When to Visit North Carolina
The North Carolina waters can be dived year round but the weather is very unpredictable so check before you go. As the Gulf Stream winds it way up the Atlantic Coast, it comes very close to the North Carolina Coast just off Moorhead City. Temperatures range from 78 to 82 degrees between March and November, and can be as warm as 72 degrees in February.