North Carolina Diving – What Does That Mean?

Saturday, May 14, 2011 16:37 | Filled in NC diving

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Tropical Diving in Saba

Diving off the coast of North Carolina is not what you typically think of when someone tells you that they scuba dive.  Usually, I think of those wonderful locations in the tropics where the water is crystal clear and the life is right there, just under the water.  I can see the pictures on the covers of those travel magazines and images of those great James Bond movies in my head.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that picture and I love diving in those kinds of places.

 

But around here, the water ranges from 60 degrees Farenheit in the spring to 80 in the summer/early fall.  Visibility will be from 3 feet to 80+ feet.  It usually takes from 30 minutes to 2 1/2 hours on a boat to get to a dive site.  Our dives can be as shallow as 40 feet but are more typically around 80-120 feet deep.  So, what makes the diving off the North Carolina coast so special?

 

For me, I can break down my answer into two parts.  First, there are the destinations.  There are the artificial reef wrecks such as the Alexander Ramsey Liberty ship and the USACOE Hyde.  There’s the John D. Gill which was sunk by a U-Boat in 1942 as was the Esso Nashville.  There are many ships that succumbed to the conditions out there, such as the Normannia and the City of Houston freighter which sank in 1878.  This area is nicknamed ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’ for a reason.  There is a lot of history out there.

 

Megalodon tooth

Megalodon tooth found off NC

It is always nice to dive these wrecks and to experience a part of history.  It is not hard to imagine the ships when they were in their prime or to visualize what happened for it to lay on the bottom in the way that it does.  Occasionally, there is still the opportunity to retrieve an artifact from these wrecks, whether it be a piece of china, silverware, tiles from the galley or even a brass porthole.  These can be nice reminders of the dive and something to start a conversation when your friends see them displayed.

 

Then, there are all the limestone ledges that crop up.  These formed from ancient shallow seas that were perfect for many animals resulting in a large number of fossils including whales, porpoises, and multiple types of sharks, including the massive Megalodon.  I have found dozens of Megalodon teeth as well as tiger shark, great white, and mako teeth in addition to countless whale ribs, vertebrae and even a crocodile tooth.  I always wondered what it would be like to put a Megalodon tooth like the one shown on a chain and wear it like Flavor Flav does his clock.

 

Lobster

Caribbean spiny lobster

And while the dead and extinct things that we find are very exciting, there are a lot of live animals to appreciate as well.  Sand tiger sharks abound in these waters during the warmer days.  They range in size from 4 feet to 10+ feet in length.  Luckily for divers, they are not aggressive at all.  The North Carolina coast gets the best of both worlds, being in temperate waters, but having the Gulf Stream come so close, bringing the tropical waters.  Spearfishing is very popular around here, with large flounder, hogfish, cobia, mackerel, and other species.  I personally like to grab a lobster once in a while.  We get Caribbean spiny lobsters similar to what you find down south, but for some reason they get much larger around here.  And they still are quite tasty!

 

Well, thats the first reason to dive the North Carolina coast.  The second reason is the adventure and challenge.  I am not an adrenaline junkie that BASE jumps or has a desire to bungee jump.  In fact, I have no interest in jumping out of an airplane.  Scuba diving takes discipline, planning and proper execution to be successful and safe.  Conditions around North Carolina requires one to be ready to deal with less than desirable scenarios.  Waves could be 1-2 feet,but are 4 ft or larger on occasion, making the boat ride much rougher and your dive preparation that much harder.  Visibility is never known until you are at the dive site, and strong currents are always a possibility.  When diving to deeper depths like many of the dives around here, you need to become much more aware of your dive profile.  You need to know how much air you expect to consume at the expected depth and what your no decompression limits are for the dive.  Monitoring these variables is critical during your dive.  But, nothing is more satisfying than a successful dive which executes according to your dive plan.

 

It is hard to find a reason NOT to like diving around here.  If you are a certified diver, but just never tried diving around here, this summer is your chance to experience what the North Carolina coast has to offer.  Take a scuba refresher or ask for a dive guide to show you around the site.  If you are not certified, there are dozens of reasons why you should get your ‘C-Card’ and experience what you have been missing.

 

-Frank

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