Paul Gacek's World

North Carolina Wreck Diving


2006 North Carolina Expedition


This years North Carolina expedition continues the traditional one week stay in Morehead City and a one week stay in Hatteras. After a fun trip from Connecticut including the usual Friday afternoon traffic in New York City we reach Delaware to be treated to a pyrotechnic lightning display and downpour. Fortunately this is short lived and we continue on to North Carolina to find a breezy Mother Nature throwing passing storm cells at us.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Island Birds This years adventure includes our usual house - Island Birds - located right on the Atlantic Ocean in Atlantic Beach. Hopefully we won't be able to enjoy all the conveniences of the house because we'll be off diving every day! A visit to Discovery Diving confirms that the weather has been flakey and that small craft advisories are currently posted.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sunday morning dawns and Mother Nature is still misbehaving! Small craft advisories are still posted and it seems all the dive boats are destined to remain at the dock today. Our four year streak of 23 out of 23 days has finally been broken! Here we see the wave action on the beach in front of our house! Mother Nature
Captain Jerry Smith Captain Jerry Smith shares our disappointment at being landlocked today. Captain Jerry who has four years US Naval Service experience, has been a certified diver since 1982, and has been licensed by the US Coast Guard since 1984. Captain Jerry has worked on or around the water for over thirty years and brings this experience to work every day.
Our mate John Smith (yes, son of Captain Jerry Smith!) replaces Justin Merrill who managed to break his arm recently! John will be beginning his junior year at North Carolina State University where he is majoring in aerospace engineering. Mate John Smith
The Living Shipwreck We become tourists and visit the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores which reopened in May after being closed 28 months for renovations. Here we see a 3/4 size replica of the conning tower of the German submarine U-352 along with the associated marine life one might see on the actual wreck.
Creatures of the Indo-Pacific seas, lionfish were first seen in North Carolina waters in the summer of 2000 by scuba divers exploring offshore wrecks. Since then, their numbers have increased dramatically; they are now considered an invasive species that could threaten the survival of native fishes, including many of economic importance to local fisheries. Lionfish

Monday, June 26, 2006

Fun in North Carolina Mother Nature does it to us again! Small craft advisories! We become tourists again and drive 100 miles south to visit the battleship USS North Carolina in Wilmington. Here we see some of the crew showing us that they're still having a good time.
The third North Carolina (BB-55) was laid down in 1937 by the New York Naval Shipyard, launched in 1940 and commissioned at New York in 1941. She completed her shakedown in the Caribbean prior to the Pearl Harbor attack and, after intensive war exercises, entered the Pacific 10 June 1942. Here we see the bell of the second USS North Carolina from 1904. Bell of the original USS North Carolina
View of the North Carolina from the bow The USS North Carolina received 15 battle stars for World War II service, more than any other U.S. battleship during the war. On 29 April 1962 she was dedicated at Wilmington, N.C., as a memorial to North Carolinians of all services killed in World War II. Here we view the six of her nine 16 inch deck guns from the bow.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mother Nature keeps at it! Torrential downpours, 20 - 25 knot winds. lightning, thunder and small craft advisories are the highlights of today's weather. A good day for DVD's and snacks on the sofa. Today's features include "Munich" and "The Pink Panther". Hopefully things will blow through by tomorrow. Mother Nature at her best!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Baitfish obliterate wreck. Wednesday dawns with decreased winds and a hint of sunlight. We pound our way to the German submarine U-352 through 5 - 7 foot swells. The water temperature is 78 at the surface and 74 degrees at the bottom. Here we see a school of baitfish obliterating swarming around the anchor line.
Visibility on the wreck is a respectable 40 feet but a swift current runs along the wreck limiting ones desire to explore. Just forward of our anchor line and aft of the conning tower we see the stern torpedo loading hatch. Stern torpedo loading hatch on U352
View of the North Carolina from the bow Just aft of the conning tower one of the artifact hounds has found an oblong steel hatch which now becomes a group recovery project. The hatch is held in place by twenty eight large brass bolts which must be slowly removed one at a time. Divers take turns removing the bolts using a large collection of tools.
Finally the treasured artifact reaches the surface after the second dive and is displayed for the wonder and amazement of all to behold. Weather conditions have improved and we enjoy a comfortable ride back to the dock. Mother Nature at her best!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Steam engine on the Naeco. Thursday dawns gray and overcast but with better behaved winds. We head south to the Naeco - a tanker torpedoed on March 23, 1942. The Gulf Stream is in as you can tell from the blue hue of the water. Here we see the massive steam engine located at the stern of the wreck.
Visibility is about 60 feet and the water temperature on the wreck is 76 degrees. In previous years one might see a handful of lionfish on the wreck but this year the wreck is covered with them. Here we see one large healthy specimen strutting his wares for us. Lionfish on the Naeco.
Bow anchor of the Papoose hanging upside down. We head north to the tanker Papoose which was torpedoed on March 18, 1942, just five days prior to the Naeco. The wreck sits upside down on a sandy bottom. You can easily see that the Gulf Stream has not swung this far inshore because of the greenish tint of the water. Here we see one of the bow anchors of the Papoose hanging upside down.
Water temperature is 74 degrees and visibility is a more modest 40 feet. Moving slightly off the wreck one sees several large sand tiger sharks silently patrolling the wreck. Here is one specimen who cruises by to see what we are up to. What better way to celebrate your birthday than wreckdiving in North Carolina? Sand tiger shark patrolling the wreck.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Bow of the Cassimir pointed skyward. Friday dawns sunny with flat seas. We head south to the Cassimir - a tanker which sank as the result of a collision on February 26, 1942 with the steamship Lara. The 400 foot wreck lies in 120 feet of water. Here we see a forty foot section of the bow which is broken off from the wreck and points skyward.
We are tied into the wreck amidships. Water temperature ranges from 75 degrees at the bottom to 78 degrees at the surface. Two divers find what appears to be a brass plaque attached to a wooden frame lying in the debris. The find is quickly prepared to a trip to the surface. Mounted plaque found on the Cassimir.
Plaque on the stern of the dive boat. After hauling the trophy on board the marine encrustation is carefully removed. The plaque clearly bears the name of the vessel "Cassimir" but further cleaning and preservation will be required to determine if it is indeed the builder’s plaque.
The group gathers for a final shot to commemorate the 2006 North Carolina adventure before beginning the lengthy journey back to Connecticut. Another adventure filled week on the Outer Banks passes all too quickly! Here's to next year! The 2006 group gathers for a group shot.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Leaving the Cedar Island ferry terminal. Saturday means its time to make our way to Hatteras. We manage to escape Beaufort before Tall Ships 2006 reduces the entire area to a parking lot! However mechanical problems result in the 9:30 AM Ocracoke ferry leaving at 12:00 Noon. Here we see the Cedar Island ferry terminal as we finally depart.
After a two and a quarter hour ferry ride we reach Ocracoke. After a brief stop to visit some friends in town we make the 15 mile drive to the other end of the island for the 40 minute ferry trip to Hatteras. Here we see the Ocracoke lighthouse as we pull into Silver Lake. The Ocracoke Lighthouse.
Some of the new houses near the ferry terminal. After a 30 minute ferry ride across Hatteras Inlet we finally reach Hatteras Village in late afternoon. Each year there are more and more new large houses. Here we see some of the new construction near the ferry terminal.

Sunday, July 2, 2006

A day of rest after several days of diving and driving! We spend the day checking out some of the new additions to the scenery in Hatteras. Here we see Outer Banks Diving's new 65 foot dive boat - the Flying Fish. It certainly looks impressive - can't wait to try it out! Flying Fish.
Margie II Although sea conditions are smooth there seems to be a significant current running on all the wrecks. Here we see the Margie II returning to the Teach's Lair Marina after a successful day of diving.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Time for a periodic visit to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras. Like any project dependant on donations and volunteers it'll be a long time before its finished. However each time we visit more of the construction has been completed and more artifacts are on display. Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
1854 lighthouse fresnel lens. The museum is dedicated to the preservation, advancement and presentation of the maritime history and shipwrecks of North Carolina's Outer Banks. Here we see a portion of the fresnel lens from the 1854 Cape Hatteras Light House.
Among the newer artifacts are an Enigma coding machine recently recovered from the U-85 off Oregon Inlet to the North. German U-boats managed to wreak havoc with eastern Atlantic shipping until the sinking of the U-85 in April of 1942. Here we see the Enigma soaking in a water tank. Enigma coding machine from the U-85.
Cape Hatteras Light Station Of course no visit to the Outer Banks is complete without a visit to the Cape Hatteras Light Station. This light station was moved some 2500 feet in 1999 to rescue it from the encroaching Atlantic. Once again it sits 1700 feet inland like it did when it was originally constructed in 1872.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

What better way to celebrate Independence Day than to go diving. In spite of a cloudy day and a questionable forecast we head south for a trimix dive on the tanker E.M. Clark which was torpedoed by the U-124 on March 18, 1942. Here we see the deck of the tanker looking toward the stern. Deck of the tanker E.M. Clark
Shark patrolling the deck of the Clark. The completely intact hull lies on its port side in 240 feet of water. More holes have appeared in the hull since our last visit several years ago. Swimming toward the stern we come across a healthy sized sand tiger shark checking out the rare intruders into his environment.
Reaching the stern of the wreck we swim to the starboard side of the hull at 200 feet and see one of the two propellers and the rudder turned hard aport apparently in a last ditch effort to evade the fatal torpedo. Another sand tiger shark patrols the wreck. Shark guarding one to the Clark's two propellers.
Hatteras fireworks display. No Independence Day is complete without a fireworks display and Hatteras is no exception. The village manages a very respectable display each year at the ferry terminal. Here we see one of the aerial displays.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

We set off to the south to visit the Proteus but about five miles from the wreck sea conditions worsen so we turn back to the tanker Dixie Arrow which was torpedoed by the U-71 on March 26, 1942. Water temperatures range from 80 degrees on the surface to 75 degrees on the wreck. Here we see the port side of the bow of the Dixie Arrow. Port side of the bow of tghe Dixie Arrow.
Chain locker on the Dixie Arrow. The highest points of the wreck are a portion of the bow rises about 25 feet from the sand at a depth of 90 feet and the boilers and steam engine in the stern of the wreck. The remainder of the ship consists of low lying wreckage. Here we see the anchor chain locker in the bow of the Arrow.
Continuing our tour we swim toward the stern of the wreck some 400 feet from the bow where we reach the power plant of the ship. Here we see two of the Dixie Arrow's three steam boilers with the large steam engine rising between them. Dixie Arrow boilers.
Dixie Arrow steam engine. Finally swimming between the boilers we reach the massive steam engine. The engine rises majestically some 25 feet over the wreck. The wreck continues another 30 feet culminating in the propeller and rudder. Here we view the steam engine from the port side of the wreck.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

We leave the marina under darkening skies and a more dismal forecast. As we pound our way out Hatteras Inlet reports from the fishing boats are that conditions continue to deteriorate as you go off shore. Here we see the doppler radar view of what's in store for us. Outer Banks Doppler Radar.
Storm clouds approach Hatteras. We get out to the sea buoy for Hatteras Inlet and reach the decision not to continue further. As we head back to the marina we see the dark clouds and thundershowers moving in on us. Time for breakfast and a good book. There's always tomorrow!

Friday, July 7, 2006

Small craft advisories in the forecast do not bode well for a day of diving. When we arrive at Teach's Lair marina we see nary an empty slip. Best to defer to the locals who know when to go and when to fold. If the weather were perfect all the time there wouldn't be as many shipwrecks! No empty slips at the marina.
Three hexagenarians. The three hexagenarians get together for a parting shot before we set out on our separate ways. From left to right - Paul Gacek, mate Chris Dillon and Captain Art Kirchner. Wreck diving on the Outer Banks of North Carolina is always an adventure!

Links of Interest

First Week

Seaquest II The Sea Quest II is a 47 ft. Neuville aluminum dive boat. The Captain is Jerry Smith who has four years US Naval Service experience, has been a certified diver since 1982, and has been licensed by the US Coast Guard since 1984. Click on the picture for more information.
Island Birds Island Birds is an ocean front cottage in Atlantic Beach. 5 Bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, 2 half bathrooms, 2 showers, maximum occupancy 13, 1 King, 2 Queens, 7 Twins, central heat/air conditioning, dishwasher, washer/drier, TV, phone, ocean front deck near fishing pier. Click on the picture for more information.
Discovery Diving Discovery Diving Company - Your World Class Warm Water Wreck Diving Headquarters, 414 Orange Street, Beaufort, NC 28516 (252) 728-2265. Our base of diving operations for the week. Click on the picture for more information.
Cape Lookout Data Station CLKN7 Station - Cape Lookout, NC. The National Data Buoy Center provides real time meteorological and oceanographic data. Click on the picture for more information.

Current Weather Conditions at Morehead City, NC

Click here for North Carolina Local Doppler Radar

Second Week

Margie II Captain Art's Atlantic Wreck Diving
The Margie II, under the command of Captain Art Kirchner, offers dive charters out of Teach's Lair Marina in Hatteras Village, NC. Captain Art has been diving for the past thirty years. He is a veteran of the Andrea Doria, the Civil War ironclad Monitor, the Bianca C and many other shipwrecks. Click on the image to go to the Captain Art's Atlantic Wreck Diving web page.
Outer Banks Diving Outer Banks Diving, P.O. Box 453, Hatteras, NC 27943 (252) 986-1056. Captain John and Amy Pieno run the dive shop located at 57540 Highway 12 in Hatteras Village. Full service dive center within walking distance of area restaurants, hotels and businesses. Rentals, air, nitrox, repairs, instruction and underwater camera rentals available.
Diamond Shoals Data Buoy Diamond Shoals Data Buoy. The National Data Buoy Center provides real time meteorological and oceanographic data. Click on the picture for more information.

Current Weather Conditions at Hatteras, NC

Click here for North Carolina Local Doppler Radar


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Last modified on Saturday, July 8, 2006 14:00:58