Downey DuckN.C. Wreck Diving

Moorehead City With Olympus

There are hundreds of shipwrecks off the North Carolina coast due to storms, hurricanes, shallow water, and war. Many people do not realize how many American ships were sunk by German U-boats right off the coast, especially during the spring of 1942. Now these wrecks are a prime dive area.

Olympus Dive Center, in Morehead City, NC, is the facility we always use to dive the wrecks. It is well-run, safety-conscious, and accommodating. You can stay at one of the many nearby motels or at the Olympus Dive Lodge. The largest boat used, the Olympus, is a former oil rig supply boat. It has an enclosed area that can be heated or air-conditioned; the covered dive deck is spacious with lockers underneath the tanks, and there is a sun deck

Diving the wrecks can be more challenging than places like Key Largo or the Bahamas. Because many of the wrecks are 20+ miles off shore, weather can be a factor. Sea conditions can range from dead calm to 6' or more. Some sites are closer to shore, where visibility can be a concern. The various dive boats keep in contact, relaying current sea and visibility conditions; Olympus makes every attempt to put its divers on wrecks with good diving conditions. Sometimes no diving can be done; in those cases you are not charged and can spend the day visiting the aquarium and acting like a tourist. We've also been blown out in the morning but gone out in the afternoon as the weather cleared. Nobody seems to mind putting in the extra hours.

The normal procedure is to arrive at the dive center between 6:00 and 6:30 A.M., fill out waivers and load your gear onto the boat. No equipment is supplied with the package, but you can rent what you need, and you schlep your own gear. Get your first tank set up and your gear organized before the 7:00 A.M. departure. A member of the crew gives a short briefing about the boat, then it's time to relax or nap for the next one to two hours, depending on how far out you're going. The anchor is set on the wreck by hand using underwater communications. Two dives are done each day, on the same site or two different sites, depending on conditions and the divers' wishes. You will not be told how long to stay down--it's up to you to determine your dive profile. If you mess up, there are two spare regulators hanging at 15 ', and 0xygen on board. You'll return to the dock between 2-4 P.M.

When conditions are good the diving is fantastic. Many of the wrecks are intact and penetrable. Storms still uncover treasures that divers bring up. The fish and critters are interesting, with tropicals mixed in with things you've never seen before. The warm Gulf Stream moves close to shore here, hence the mixture of fish types. There's also a good chance to see big stuff, since the wrecks are the only things around; sand-tiger sharks, manta rays, huge sting rays, schools of amberjacks and spade fish, bait fish by the millions, plus whatever else happens to be floating or swimming by. However, this is not diving for beginners--seas can be rough, currents can be strong, depths can by 110+. You need to have good skills and awareness; there's no divemaster babysitting you! It's also possible that after driving 10-12 hours or more, you may never get in the water at all.

But when the diving is good, it's very, very good! It's different and more challenging than your typical Caribbean diving and you get to see neat stuff. What more is there?

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