Atlantic Coast

Previous studies of shipwrecks in the United Kingdom and the Red Sea have shown that such artificial reefs often create new and different types of habitat than natural reefs.

Fish thrive on WWII shipwrecks

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.

Sand Tiger Sharks of North Carolina

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.

Graveyard of the Atlantic: Wrecks of North Carolina's Outer Banks

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.

North Carolina: Wrecks & Sharks

Sand tiger shark on wreck of the Atlas. Image by Olga Torrey

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.

HM Bark Endeavour replica in Cooktown

Wreckage of HMS Endeavour located

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.

Florida Keys

City of Washington wreck, Florida Keys, USA. Photo by Lawson Wood.

Statistics show that more Americans dive in the US state of Florida than any other place on the planet, but when you consider what is on offer, it is hardly surprising. The state’s government has been instrumental in sinking some of the world’s largest (so-called) artificial reefs, but there are also freshwater pools, caves and caverns with a constant warm water temperature all year-round, which certainly appeals to winter divers.

Goliath Groupers

Goliath grouper, or Epinephelus itajara, are the subject of strong opinions and divided emotions. Divers love to see these mammoth fish; underwater hunters denounce them as competitors, or covet them as outsized trophies; fishermen are just itching for a policy change that allows harvest; and regulatory bodies seem constantly poised to rescind long-term protection in favor of short-term exploitation.