Jul 19, 2016
5 East Coast Dive Spots To Visit This Summer
The “Graveyard of the Atlantic” stretches from Wilmington to the Outer Banks and is home to some of the most harrowing shipwrecks in history. For those who enjoy scuba diving, the North Carolina coast is an exceptional place to dive. This is where the warm water from the Gulf Stream mix with the cold water from the north, leading to the treacherous weather. It is also where Edward Teach a.k.a. Blackbeard sailed the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Here, in the Graveyard of the Atlantic are five impressive dive sites worth checking out!
1. Frying Pan Shoals Tower
Fish: Sea Bass, Cobia, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Giant African Pompano, and Spiny Lobster
Depth: ~40ft at the shallowest point
Summer Water Temperature: 60-70 degrees
The Frying Pan Shoals line the southern boundary of the graveyard of the Atlantic. Here the Frying Pan Tower was built in the 1960s and then restored in 2010. The tower was used as a light tower to warn ships of the reef below when it was originally constructed. Now the tower is open to anglers and divers looking for a unique getaway. Under the surface you can see spiny lobsters, mahi mahi, wahoo and other species. The temperatures usually stay in the mid 60s during the summer. There can be strong currents this far off shore, so diving the Frying Pan Shoals is recommended for experienced divers only. It is also a premier spearfishing location for those who are interested.
2. Hyde Markham
Fish: Grouper, Amberjack, Mackerel, Rays, Eels, Barracudas, Sand Sharks, Tiger Sharks, and Nurse Sharks
Summer Water Temperature: 80 degrees
18 miles off the coast of Wrightsville Beach.. you can find the Hyde, a 215ft Army Corps dredge from the Vietnam War. This is a good dive spot for beginners because it is close to shore, visibility is great, and currents are minimal. There is generally about 30-50ft of visibility but some days are top to bottom. Summer water temperatures are often in the low 80s. The Hyde is a great place to see sharks, rays, eels, and barracudas. Plant life around the wreck includes soft corals and colorful sponges. Get used to sharks before diving this wreck!
3. Liberty Ship
Fish: Sheephead, Spadefish, Sea Bass, Flounder
Summer Water Temperature: 70-80 degrees
Four miles south of the Beaufort Inlet, where the Queen Anne’s Revenge was found in 1996 you can also find the 411ft Liberty Ship. The actual name of this vessel was Theodore Parker, and it was sunk in 1974 as an artificial reef after it ran into a mine on its way from England to New York during WWII. It was repaired before its sinking and now you can dive down 60 feet to see it in its entirety. This is a beginner dive, but should be done with caution because visibility can be as low as 15ft.
Fish: Schools, Tiger Sharks, Manta Rays, and Jewfish
Summer Water Temperature: 70–80 degrees
Papoose was torpedoed in 1942 enroute to Rhode Island to pick up fuel. It rests upside down 36 miles off the coast of Cape Lookout. Here in the middle of the Graveyard of the Atlantic you can see manta rays, jewfish and tiger sharks. The ship is 90ft below water, so this is a dive only for the experienced. Water temperatures can reach the high 70s because of the warm, clear Gulf Stream waters that funnel up from the south.
Fish: Tiger Sharks, Barracudas, Amberjacks, Grouper, Small Tropical Fish
Summer Water Temperature: 75-80 degrees
The Aeolus is a testimony to the power of nature in the Graveyard of the Atlantic. This 400ft cable repair ship was purposely sunk in 1988 as an artificial reef. It stayed intact buried in 20ft of sand until 1996 when Hurricane Fran tore it to shreds underwater. The Boat is now in three large sections with many pieces thrown around it. It’s home to sharks, amberjacks, barracudas, as well as schools of small tropical fish. Even though there is often up to 70ft of visibility, it’s described as a “dark” wreck because divers realize the haunting threat of a pirate attack or German U-boat torpedo is nothing compared to the vicious wrath of a Hurricane.
Only certified SCUBA divers should attempt these dives. For those who live in the Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach areas, try heading over to Aquatic Safaris or Scuba Now to being your journey! These dives will open your eyes to the reasons why the coast of North Carolina is named the Graveyard of the Atlantic.