The Outer Banks, NC is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic due to the large number of ship wrecks that have occurred off shore. The number of ship wrecks is estimated at 3,000 from Corolla to Ocracoke. Bad weather and dangerous shoals have wreaked havoc to ships for centuries. World War II caused as many as 25 more ships to meet their demise as German U-boats patrolled and attacked just off the coast.
There are dives for all levels of experience from beginner to expert. Our local dive shops offer courses to become certified as well as refresher courses to help those who may have become a bit rusty. The diversity and abundance of sea life among these sites makes the Outer Banks a premier diving destination. Our proximity to the gulf stream allows an infusion of tropical fish and species not typically viewed on the eastern US. Common sights include: large rough-tail and southern sting-rays, sand tigers, and huge Atlantic barracuda.
Some dive sites are accessible from the beach but do require the diver to be in good physical condition and able to walk a short distance across the beach with their equipment on (50lbs). Most of the beach dive sites are within 150 yards of the shore. Local dive shops will provide guided tours of these sites.
Local dive shops also provide boat charters to take groups to the popular dive sites. Charter costs and locations vary. No matter where you may be staying on your Outer Banks vacation, there is likely a charter or tour nearby to view the closest ship wreck site. If you have a particular wreck you want to dive; many shops will be happy to arrange it.
Listed below are some of the noteworthy wrecks for diving on the Outer Banks coast.
This diesel powered tanker was torpedoed to its demise by a German U-552 on April 6th or 7th 1942. It sits in 100’ water on the sandy bottom upside down. The bow is intact but the stern has several entrances into her hull.
City of Atlanta
A passenger-freighter, City of Atlanta, was sunk by a torpedo in 1942 by a German U-123. Located north of Diamond Shoals in 90’ of water, divers can still view portions of her mixed cargo like bottled drug products and brass fittings.
This tanker was torpedoed by U-71 in 1942 just south of Diamond Shoals. Loaded with crude oil she was quickly engulfed in flames. All but 11 of the crew was saved by the actions of ABS Oscar Chappell, who sacrificed his own life, to steer the ship so the flames were drawn away from the crew standing on the ships bow.
Another tanker also met its demise in close proximity to the Dixie Arrow only 4 months later. The F.W. Abrams was being led through the fog of Hatteras by a Coast Guard Cutter and lost her escort to end up in an allied minefield. She was rocked by an explosion. The Captain, thinking he was hit by a torpedo, tried to take evasive action, only to steer directly into the minefield. The ship struck two more mines before sinking to the depths. This ship is also in about 90’ water and lies about 6 miles apart from the Dixie Arrow.
The Hesperides lost her way in fog on the voyage from Cuba to Baltimore loaded down with pig iron. She ran aground in Oct 9th 1897. She lies in only 40’ of water which provides a perfect dive on a calm day.
Lost in a gale and fog on December 27, 1904, the small tanker and her crew floundered until the 29th due to the large breakers that made rescue nearly impossible. The crew was saved by the Hatteras Life Saving Station, but the ship was lost and today sits about 40’ of water. It is located only about ½ mile from the Hesperides.
Isle of Iona
This shallow coal fired steam freighter wreck, lies in only 25’ water, just two miles from Hatteras Inlet. It sunk in December 1914 while en-route to Baltimore from Cuba with a load of Iron Ore. The shallow depth of this wreck makes it a good site for snorkelers at slack high tide.
Located near Cape Hatteras in 70’ water, the Kassandra Louloudis was downed by a torpedo on March 17, 1942. She was carrying a supply of British war materials.
Catherine M. Monahan
This 4 masted wooden sailing schooner, with cement cargo, sunk during a storm off Hatteras in 1910. The cement has outlined her hull, and the empty spaces is habitat for tropical fish like, tangs, highhats, wrasses and angelfish. She lies in about 100’ of water.
The Keshena was a tug in the process of salvaging the JA Mawinckel. While the JA Mawinckel was sunk by a torpedo, it drifted into a minefield where the Keshena met her doom. The Keshena is in 90’ water with only the hull and the collapsed decks visible.
This wooden hulled steamer was carrying supplies for Federal troops near the end of the Civil War. On June 4, 1868 she was stranded in fog and got stuck at Diamond Shoals. The ship drifted over the shoals on the 5th or 6th and sunk in 74’ of water. Most of the wooden hull has collapsed but there is scattered debris of the engines and boilers on the site. She is located about 5 miles east of the inlet, near Frisco.
The Proteus, a luxury Liner, was rounding Cape Hatteras without running lights in 1918 to avoid detection during WWI when German subs were prevalent in the area. At the same time, the Standard Oil tanker, Crushing, was in the same location and they collided sinking the Proteus. The Proteus lies in 120’ water, less than 1 mile from the Tarpon.
This German U-Boat was sunk in 1942, rediscovered in 1989, but the location was not publicly revealed until 2003. Located to the north of Diamond Shoals, the conditions can vary from day to day, storms have uncovered most of the wreck after being sanded over for many years. While the site is 110’ to 120’ deep, currents make this a challenging dive for only experienced divers.
This 440’ Steam Freighter was sunk by U-332 in 1942. It was broke into 3 sections from torpedoes and the wreck lies in 90 to 125’ depths. It is located close to the Australia wreck.
This 509’ Texaco Oil Company Tanker that lies in 100’ water off Diamond Shoals is in two sections. It was sunk on March 16, 1942 by the U-332.
The Empire Gem, a British Tanker, was torpedoed by U-66 in a fiery loss of life for 54 crew members when it was only 4 months old. Nearly 70 years later the ship still leaks fuel oil. It lies in 140’ water with decks rising to 110’. Sadly, it is a “gem”, but out of the range for most divers.
This 449’ Tanker was sunk by U boats in 1942 about 23 miles off Hatteras. This wreck while impressive is also out of the range for most divers at 240 fsw.
The Lancing is another Oil Tanker that was lost due to a Torpedo from German U-Boats. It lies at 160 fsw, upside down so the rudder, props and boilers are exposed to divers.
Downed by U-404 on June 24, 1942, this ship was loaded with cargo of sugar when torpedoed and sank in 160’ water. Located about 28 miles from Hatteras, it is a popular entry level technical dive.
This 333’ cargo ship is located 33 miles from Hatteras in 206 fsw. While the site is broken up, it does have artifacts that continue to be recovered by technical divers.
This US Navy sub was sold for scrap in 1956. While under tow, it foundered in a storm off Hatteras to meet its demise in 144’ water with decks at 115’. The site is a popular dive for advanced divers due to it still being intact.
The Huron was a steamer gunship with sail that went down with 98 crewmen on Nov 24, 1877. It is one of the beach dive sites at mile post 11 or 12, located 150 yards offshore at 20’ depth in Nags Head.
This tugboat was lost 150 yards offshore, at mile post 11 about 100 yards north of the Huron. It is about 30 feet from the end of the pier and very close to the Huron.
This Freighter is part of the Triangle Wrecks, located at mile post 7 in Kill Devil Hills. It is approximately 200 yards offshore in 20’ water and remains one of the most popular beach dive sites.
This tanker is among the Triangle Wrecks located in KDH, MP 7. This wreck occurred in December 1927. Later, in 1929, the Carl Gerhard had the unfortunate luck to flounder during a storm and cut the Kyzickes in two.
Diamond Shoals Lightship
The Diamond Shoals Lightship was sunk by the German U-140, during WWI and lays in 180+ feet of water just off the Diamond Shoals.
This steam paddlewheel vessel once served the New York City area. She foundered here, while under tow, in 1895. She lies over 160 feet deep.
The Merak was hauling coal when she was attacked in WW1 by U-140.
Mystery Tower Wreck
This site has not yet been identified with depths from 120 to 145ft.
Another victim of a German torpedo, this tanker sank to the bottom with 10,200 Tons of oil on April, 10th, 1942. She sits in approximately 160’ of water.
This fishing trawler, not yet identified is thought to have sank in the late 1960’s or ‘70’s. She is almost completely intact including many of the nets beside her.
The two tugs and a few barges were intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef. Located Just five miles offshore, in just 65’ of water, they are easy to navigate with lots of wildlife to view.
This Steamer is not always exposed due to the shifting sands and is located on the outer Diamond Shoals.
The Steamer, Wetherby was stranded on the Southwest point of Outer Diamond Shoals in 1883. While sometimes covered by the shifting shoal, the engine, boilers and pieces of the hull are in 25′ to 30′ of water.
The Metropolis was a small 120’ long freighter. She went down in 1878 carrying 500 tons of iron rails and 200 tons of stone and the incurred the loss of 91 lives. It is located in Corolla about 3 miles South of Currituck Beach light. This beach dive is about 100 yards off the beach in about 20’ of water.
This beach dive is located in Kitty Hawk near mile post 2, where the Winks store is located at Eckner St. It is 100 yards offshore in about 20’ of water. While the identity of the wreck is not confirmed, some believe it is the British Steamer Mountaineer. This site can be more difficult to find and it is recommended to dive near high tide to minimize current and visibility issues.
Old Tug Wreck
This wreck is located off the beach about 300 yards south of the Avalon pier at MP5 area. This wreck is located about 75 yards off shore in about 20 to 25’ of water. It is frequently covered by shifting sands as levels at the end of the pier are reported at 15’.
This Wanchese style trawler sunk during a storm in 1982 near Oregon Inlet. It is about 200 yards offshore in about 20’ water laying on its side. Due to the closeness of Oregon Inlet it is strongly impacted by currents and using surface support is strongly recommended.
This Steamer is located about 3 miles south of the Oregon Inlet Bridge across from the Pea Island Visitors center. It is only 100 yards off shore in 20’ water. Sometimes the steam engine protrudes from the water to easily identify the wreck and caused it to be nicknamed the “Boiler Wreck”. It is a good wreck to snorkel.
This ship from WWII Pacific Fleet was sold as scrap and was being towed along with another LST-292. A storm came up and the ships came ashore near Rodanthe, just north of the fishing pier. It is located about 250 yards from the shore and typically has good visibility due to its southern locale.
This is a wooden paddle wheel steamer from the Burnside expedition before the battle of Roanoke Island. It is located about 75 yards offshore in about 15’ of water.
This English Freighter was stranded on the beach in Rodanthe in 1891. Located just south of the pier in 20 to 30 feet of water it is a bit further from the shore and may require a boat for access.
The Outer Banks is a great destination for Scuba diving and Snorkeling enthusiasts as the sheer number of wrecks from north to south make it nearly impossible to see all of them in one visit.
Our world class beaches attract vacationers from all over the world. Contact Eillu for assistance to find a second home, vacation rental or locate property for a permanent home or retirement home. Schedule an appointment to view available properties that meet your criteria while visiting for vacation and find out all that the Outer Banks has to offer.