Diving the Wrecks in North Carolina Part 1

As i signed up for this trip which involved diving shipwrecks and with sharks i knew my point and shoot wasn’t going to enough. I had to upgrade my Underwater Camera rig, so after talking to Hal, Hollywood Divers, i bought a used Canon T1i with Sea and Sea housing. I bought two YS-110 alpha strobes for it and was ready for the trip in terms of having a nice dslr setup.

I did a few test dives with my camera rig and i was totally comfortable diving with it. The only worry for me was how to carry everything while flying and whether TSA would give me a hard time taking everything as a carry on, there was no way i was going to check in my camera gear. I didn’t take my canister light for this trip because of the same reason and having tried it along with my dslr i wasn’t using the light much anyway. I thought about shipping the canister light but i decided against it.

It was going to be a long day since my flight left at 6 am.Ii decided to take an evening nap and not sleep the entire night and it worked perfectly for me.

Got to the airport at 4am and after checking in my bags to my pleasant surprise i breezed through security, they didn’t check my baggage or ask me any questions about the camera stuff i was carrying. I was mainly worried about the strobes but i had no problems.

The flights were on time, i met with Jim at RDU airport and then we rented the car on our way to Atlantic Beach, NC. Lost our way early on but managed to reach the beach house around 10 pm. It was time to hit the sack but not before i assembled my camera rig for tomorrow.

The house was really nice with each of us getting a bedroom of their own, Hal had already done some groceries for us and the whole setup was great.

Day 1:

Woke up around 6am, got ready and we reached the dive shop by 7.15. It was very different setup than what we are used to in california.

The boats didn’t have a compressor or a galley on board so we had to bring our own lunch and also carry separate tank for each dive so 3 tanks in all. We went to the shop, picked the tanks, analyzed them, and loaded them on the boat. All of us were diving nitrox but then we had 80 cu ft aluminum tanks, it would have been nice to have atleast 100 ct ft or steel tanks.

Since the weather was great with very little wind and swell we decided to head out for the wreck of U-352. Our Captain Terry was an awesome guy with loads of knowledge of the history of the wrecks and knew everything about them. it was a joy to be in his company for the entire trip.

I had gotten my 7mm suit and it had a nice tear around the neck which would allowed water to flow freely in and out of the suit, luckily for me the water wasn’t that cold so i guessed it shouldn’t be a problem.

Dive 1: U352

After couple of hours of boat ride we got to the wreck of U-352. Me and Hal buddied up and were the first ones to hit the water, as expected the water was flowing freely through my suit and i was not as warm as i had hoped to be. I knew i had to prevent this flow of water from my suit for the subsequent dives and wearing a hood was the answer.

The wreck lies in 115 ft of water and the top part is in about 80-90 ft, it is certainly a deep dive and we were diving aluminum 80’s and it played on my mind.

It is a beautiful wreck and the viz was about 40-50 ft which helped, i didn’t venture too far from the anchor since i knew that i was going through the air more faster than normal and it would be a short dive for me.

U-352 Wreck

I was staying on the top of the wreck in 90-100 ft taking pictures of the conning tower mainly and then on the other side of the wreck i came across a sand tiger shark just chilling at the bottom.

I couldn’t resist and wanted to get to the same level as the shark to take its picture against the sub, i hit 115 ft and as soon as i got closer the shark swam away. It was 30% mix os i was also getting close to MOD but in that instant who thinks about all that, stupid shark 😀

Shark at Bottom

Going down to 115 ft really made me suck up the air faster and It was time for me to end my dive, i came up little disappointed that i couldn’t spend more time on the wreck but still it was a really good dive.

Dive 2: USCGC Spar

Our next dive was going to be on the wreck of Spar which was sunk as part of the North Carolina Artificial Reef program and i was looking forward to it since this wreck is a popular hangout for sand tigers. It not uncommon to see 10-15 sand tigers at any given time.

As soon as we descended, i was dissappointed since the viz wasn’t that great on the wreck and there was little bit of current going too. there was no possibility of finding too many sharks on this wreck today. I took one lap around and then mainly hung by the stern of the wreck and was taking pics of the jelly fish.

there were lot of jellies in the water and i was playing with settings on my camera trying to take their pics, there were couple of sharks on the port side of the wreck but they were in little deeper water and i wasn’t doing that good on my air consumption so i decided not to go chasing after them.

Jelly Fish

I was sad by the fact that on the wreck which is a shark heaven i was mainly taking pics of the jelly fishes but with the viz being 10-15 ft there wasn’t much of choice. I wasn’t too impressed with the pics of the jellies but it being my first attempt i thought it was ok.

Dive 3: USS Indra

We then moved to the wreck of USS Indra for the final dive and the conditions on this wreck were lot better than Spar. This was a shallow wreck so i wanted to do a longer dive and get my air consumption to normal. I wasn’t really happy by the way i was consuming air so quickly on the first two dives, quickly here being a relative term.

We got down on this wreck and i could immediately see that there was lot of potential to penetrate it and i couldn’t help myself :-). there were a few huge amberjacks hunting and it was nice to see them in action and little did i know that there would a lot more on future dives.

I pretty much swam the whole length of the wreck and didn’t get to the sand level because i really wanted to do a long dive on this one, i had to get that confidence back so to say that it was possible for me do longer dives on a 80 cu ft tank.

After doing couple of penetrations though the alleys of this wreck i mainly was hovering around the top deck which is also the highest point and taking pictures. Though didn’t get too many good ones but it was really nice to end the day doing a long 50 min dive. On this dive i also decided to put on the hood which helped me in keeping warm, the tear in my wetsuit was still causing all the water to rush in albeit a lot less than earlier.

Going through Wreck of Indra

In the evening we headed to this seafood place for dinner and all i could eat is french fries and baked patato, i just loaded up on all those carbs. The dive boats out there in NC don’t have a galley so we had to take our own food and water, the water they had on board had some really funky taste to it. We went grocery shopping and got more stuff for sandwiches so that we would be better prepared for the second day. We ran out of all our food and water on the first day.

I was really surprised to find some veggie burgers, didn’t really expect them to be there in the south but there was lot of other organic/health foods at the store which was a pleasant surprise.

Day 2:

Since we had decided to make sandwiches for lunch, everyone woke up and made their own stuff for lunch. We got to the dive shop and went through the same routine of loading the boat, analyzing the tanks etc and then headed out to sea. The conditions were great, it was lake atlantic and we couldn’t ask for better weather. It was little bit windy but we weren’t complaining because the serene seas.

Dive 4: Atlas

The first dive was going to be the wreck of Atlas and it was probably one of the best dives of the trip. As soon as we descended there was so much life on the wreck, schools of bait fish, some other fish, gorgonians and some shark action too. The deck of the wreck was covered with gorgonians and it made for some pretty pictures. I tried get closer to some of the sharks but they weren’t happy about it and just swam away from me.

Gorgonians and Fish

There was a gorgonian wrapped by a brittle star and i tried to take a pic with it being in focus and the rest of the background little blurred, i thought i did a good job of it but in hindsight it didn’t come out as good as i had expected it to be. i should have gotten lot closer to the brittle star and adjusted the focus points on my camera. I also saw a shark swimming above me so it was time to try to get the traditional silhoutte shot but the shark was little far away from me and the bright sun shining affected the pic too, i wasn’t happy with the pic but my friends seem to like it so i am not complaining.

Shark Silhouette

I was back in business in terms of my air consumption and was really happy about it, there were huge bait balls closer to the wreck and it was cool to see sharks breaking them away. the sharks weren’t chasing them or anything but just as they swam through them the bait ball would disperse.

The structure on the wreck was also covered by cool stuff and it was little hard for me to do justice to the beauty of the wreck. I tried my best to take some good pictures and did manage to get couple of good ones with which i was happy.

Dive 5: Caribsea

We then moved to the wreck of caribsea which was again a beautiful wreck with lots of sharks, this was the shark action i was expecting on the wreck of spar. As soon as we dropped on the wreck, we saw a huge school of amber jacks going after the bait fish, there were about 40-50 of them. On the wreck there were quite a few sharks and i did manage to get quite close to them. they didn’t like it but they didn’t make it obvious and gave me silent treatment by swimming away from me. 🙂

I cornered them in the wrecks and that made me come really closer but the problem was silt, inside the broken wreckage it was silted so the water wasn’t nearly as clear as it was outside the wreck so i couldn’t get any awesome shots but after cropping some of the pics they came out decent. One of the sharks had a big fish hook still lodged in it and it was really sad to see that. i wish there was something i could do and take it out but its a shark that we are talking about here so its best to let nature run its course.

Shark with Hook

I came to the port side of the wreck and in the sand there were few black sea bass, i aroused their curiosity and they wanted to check me out. Initially there was one and then there were three. They were happily posing for me and i had a nice time taking their pics.

Curious Black Sea Bass

i had gotten one of the cheapo batteries from ebay for my camera and today i was using it since i didn’t get enough time to recharge my original one. I was disappointed on how long the battery lasted and i knew it would run out sometime on the next dive.

Dive 6: Nancy Lee

For our final dive of the day we decided to dive wreck of nancy lee which is not too far from the shore. since it is closer to the shore the viz is not always good out there and hence it is one of the wrecks which isn’t dove often but it has a lot of life which is great. As we descended, we were greeted by this awesome clear blue water with viz of 60-80 ft. It was great but the sad part wass that the wreck itself was covered in water which was murky and the viz was barely 2-3 ft.

It was a really weird experience because as we got on the wreck the viz was almost zero and then if we ascended 3-4 ft higher, we had this clear water with 60-80 ft of viz. As expected my camera battery died half way through the dive, i was too lazy to replace it earlier since i had to take the camera out and remove the locking piece on the bottom too. Didn’t want to risk any flooding by trying to open it on the boat.

There were quite a few sharks on the wreck and it was a creepy/fun experience to have sharks swimming around us when the visibility is only 2-3 ft, all of sudden you turn around and whoa there was a 6-8 ft long shark swimming couple of feet away.

Big Female Shark

if these sharks were even little bit aggressive then it wouldn’t be a wise choice to do this dive but the sand tigers are like pissed off girlfriends giving you silent treatment, they will do their own thing, swim around you but if you try to get to closer they just ignore you and swim away. But definitely better since they don’t bite 😉

Since the viz wasn’t great on the wreck, i decided to hang in the clear blue water column which had schools of bait fish, lots of spade fish. too bad my camera battery died but still i had a good time watching those fishes.

Part 2

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