Diving the U-352

Monday, May 23, 2011 14:00 | Filled in NC diving

Conning Tower on U-352

Conning Tower on U-352

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to check off one of the dives that has been on my must-do list.  I’ll have to share that list with you in a separate post.  This one is all about a German submarine.  The U-352 is a submarine that was sunk off the North Carolina Coast near Morehead City by the USCG Icarus on May 9, 1942.  There are not many U-boats that have been sunk in recreational diving limits.  Off the North Carolina Coast, there are three!  The U-352, U-701 and U-85.  The U-352 has more of its structure exposed above the sand and generally has the best diving conditions, making it the most popular one of the three to dive.  Mark, his son Brian, Glenn and I head out late Sunday morning to drive up the coast and make this memorable dive.

 

Discovery Diving,  Beaufort, NC

Discovery Diving, Beaufort, NC

We schedule the dive with Discovery Diving out of Beaufort, NC.  We meet around 10am in Wilmington to carpool for the afternoon charter.  It is a 1 hr 45 minute drive from Wilmington to Beaufort.  We arrive at the dive shop, check in, and head out for a quick bite to eat before the boat arrives from the morning activities.  The weather looks perfect.  It is warm and sunny.  The forecast is for 2-3 foot seas and a light wind.  We are excited when we get back to the shop and see that the boat is back and they are unloading it.  We get our gear out of our vehicles and prepare to start our adventure.

 

Assembling and Checking Our Gear

Assembling and Checking Our Gear

We are on the Captain’s Lady and our captain is Leroy Craytor.  Leroy has been a captain since 1988 and diving for many years.  The Captain’s Lady is a six-pack, which means it is configured to take up to six divers (paid passengers).  The boat has a lot of room for all our gear and comfortable dry seating up front.  We load up the boat and put our gear together before we leave the dock to make sure all our gear is working properly.  Before I forget, a big thanks to Captain Leroy for taking care of us.  He was friendly, offered us snacks while we were on board and shared his experiences with us.

 

Smooth Ride out of Beaufort

Smooth Ride out of Beaufort

Captain Leroy takes us out through the inlet and when we hit the ocean, it is flat with some small waves from the light wind.  The surface conditions could not be better than this.  We have approximately a 90 minute ride out to the site where we discuss what to expect on the dive and enjoy the incredible conditions on the sea.

 

As we get close to the site, we put on our wetsuits and start doing a final check on all our gear.  Glenn scares me for a couple minutes when he tells me that his computer is having problems again.  He keeps pushing buttons until, finally, there is a big grin on his face.  We are ready to get wet!  Captain Leroy takes a few minutes setting the anchor exactly where he wants, hustling back and forth from the anchor line at the bow to the helm.  We are finally set where he wants, near the stern of the wreck.

 

Stern of the U-352

Stern of the U-352

We start splashing into the water with a back roll over the side and down the jon line to the anchor line.  The water is a balmy 77 degrees at the surface and 72 degrees at the bottom.  We slide down the anchor line and get our first glimpse of the U-352.  We pause for a moment excited that we made it here.  The visibility is around 40 feet with a small amount of particulate in the water.  There is a slight current from bow to stern.  I drop to the sand to adjust one of my fins.  This gives me a moment to compose myself and remind myself that I am actually at the U-352, a German U-boat sunk in action during World War II.  Most of the crew was rescued, but up to seven crew members sank with the vessel.

 

Swimming from the Stern of the U-352

Swimming from the Stern of the U-352

I slowly move forward over the wreck, taking pictures as I progress.  I take my time, enjoying the nice conditions.  There are occasional torpedo loading tubes and other openings into the interior of the wreck, but I have decided that I have no desire to penetrate this wreck.  Between the tight silty conditions and the fact that there may be remains still on board, I focus on surveying the form of the submarine.

 

Mark and Brian at the U-352

Mark and Brian at the U-352

I am surprised when I reach the conning tower jutting out of the long tube I have been swimming along.  It solidifies out of the blue mist as I approach it.  Mark and Brian swim by and motion for me to take a picture of them.  I position the two in front of the conning tower and snap several shots, trying to make sure I get one without bubbles covering their faces.  While taking the picture I am reminded that diving is all about sharing experiences and moments.

 

Deck Gun Mount on U-352

Deck Gun Mount on U-352

I swim past the conning tower and immediately see the deck gun mount.  It is worn and the gun is missing, having been blown off by one of the depth charges when it was attacked, but it is still easily recognizable, being one of the larger structures visible.  Glenn swims up to it and playfully simulates that he is firing the non-existent gun out into the water.

 

Bow of the U-352

Bow of the U-352

When I reach the bow of the U-boat, I can see the deck machinery along with the bow planes used to control the U-boat’s depth.  The outer shell of the U-352 has eroded away exposing some of the inner workings of the submarine. In the midst of all this metal, I can make out the forward torpedo tubes which fired upon other ships during the war. I take a look at my dive computer and notice that it is time to turn around and start heading back towards the stern.

 

I let the light current pull me along over the top of the U-boat while I continue taking pictures.  As I approach the gun mount again, I decide to get a little video of this portion of the historic wreck.    It is impossible to mistake this wreck for anything but a U-boat.

 

Headed Home after a Successful Day

Headed Home after a Successful Day

The current continues to pull me along and much too soon, I reach the stern and the decompression limits of my dive.  We slide up the anchor line and take a few parting shots of the wreck. We do our safety stop and slide back up on the dive boat.  We are all excited and chattering with each other about how incredible this dive was.  Unfortunately, the day wears on and we must pick up anchor and head back towards shore.

 

I was told that the U-352 wreck is small and there is not much to see, being a ~200 foot long cigar-shaped mass.  They told me it was a wreck people should dive once just to have the experience of diving a World War II U-boat.  I disagree.  The wreck was exciting.  There is a lot of history sunk here.  I could easily spend more time exploring what this wreck has to offer.  Expect me to be back sometime in the not too distant future enjoying more of what the U-352 is willing to share with me.

 

-Frank

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