In 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) undertook a closer examination of the wrecks of the German U-boat U-576 and the Nicaraguan freighter SS Bluefields, using glass-domed submersibles. The two historically significant and deep (200m) shipwrecks sank near one another on the continental shelf of North Carolina, USA, during World War II.
While Florida’s eastern coast certainly offers countless popular wreck dives, the Panhandle is an often-overlooked gem. The Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail provides an enjoyable mechanism for divers to experience the history and heritage the Gulf of Mexico has to offer within the realm of wreck diving.
There I was, off the coast of North Carolina at a depth of about 20m (60ft) when the shadowy shape of the WWII wreck Caribsea came into view—but it looked almost as if it was moving! Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a cloud of tiny bait fish completely covering the wreck. As they moved, the ship seemed to move with them; and then, out of the swarm, a massive, tank-like, gray silhouette emerged.
One of the problems with the proverbial bucket list is that whenever you tick a dive trip off the list, it seems that you add at least three more destinations to it. This is exactly what happened to me. I had never considered North Carolina as a dive destination, much less one of the top wreck diving locations in the world.
The waters off the coast of the US state of North Carolina are treacherous. Bad weather, rough seas, heavy current and inlets that are difficult to navigate are common. So why do underwater explorers consider this area to be a world-class dive destination? Because when you do get offshore, it is extraordinary.
Cook commanded the ship from 1768 to 1771 on his famous voyage mapping the uncharted waters of the south Pacific Ocean. The HMS Endeavour sailed around Cape Horn in Africa, and visited Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia. Cook explored Tonga, Easter Island, Norfolk Island, New Caledonia and Vanuatu on his second voyage. He was killed in 1779 during a trip to the Sandwich Islands, now known as Hawaii.
Returning from the pristine reefs of Tobago, I flew over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Aghast, I set out on a journey that would help me illuminate waters of the United States to help people better understand their national treasure. I became the first woman to dive all 50 states at the end of last year.
As divers, we watch underwater documentaries from the BBC, National Geographic and other media with keen interest. Deep water explorations, or photos and video from exotic locales, hold us rapt. How many times have you wished you could sail on one of those research vessels, if only to catch a glimpse of a rarely seen species?