Because of its deadly history, the Graveyard of the Atlantic has become a popular locale for scuba divers, and adventurous visitors to the Outer Banks can try their hand at wreck diving for treasures hidden and buried in the Graveyard.
The list of discoveries one can find diving around the numerous wrecks is endless. Many scuba divers are attracted to the Graveyard of the Atlantic simply for photos of the famous shipwrecks that can only be spotted underwater. Other divers are in search of artifacts from the sunken warships such as the recently recovered USS Monitor relics. Still others are drawn by the possibility of lost and abandoned goods, dating back to the blockade runners of the Civil War. And though seldom discovered, the prospect of long buried Spanish gold and pirate "treasure" draws ambitious scuba divers hoping to strike it rich.
From the novice diver to the expert, there are a number of popular wrecks to explore that are conducive to every skill level and ambition.
The Indra is a former landing craft repair ship that was sunk as part of an artificial reef program very recently in 1992. The ship sits upright and is intact in 65 feet of water with the upper decks rising to 35 feet. The wreck is close to shore and is one of the easiest to reach, making it an ideal wreck for beginners and even first time divers.
For intermediate divers who are in search of obtaining some good photographs, the Papoose is an excellent wreck to explore. A tanker that was blown apart by a German U-Boat torpedo in 1942, the Papoose was broken in two pieces and lies upside down in 120 feet of water. This is a popular diver destination because of the groups of sand tiger sharks that flock to this wreck. Relatively indifferent to intruding divers, the swarms of sharks provide some exciting photo opportunities.
For a slightly bigger challenge, divers head to the Huron. The Huron was on its way to Havana, Cuba when it ran aground on the shoals off the coast of Nags Head in 1877. One of the early iron-hulled stem-and-sail ships, the Huron is now a Historic Shipwreck Preserve. Even though it's located in just 20 feet of water, the cold northern currents and heavy surf zone make it an unsafe dive for beginners.
Adventurous divers can also explore the first German submarine that sank in American waters, the U-85, also known as the Wild Boar. Shattered at the ocean floor, this wreck is covered with coral and algae and rests in 100 feet of cool water and strong currents, with visibility of only 30 feet.
Finally, for advanced divers who are not afraid of a challenge, the U-352 is a popular but dangerous wreck. Sunk by the Coast Guard Cutter Icarus in 1942, this German U-Boat lies in 115 feet if water, attracting bait fish hiding from larger predators.
Even if you don't dive, you can still explore the shipwrecks off the North Carolina coast without stepping into the water. Many wrecks are visible from the sandy beaches, depending on the tides. The Laura A. Barnes can be seen off NC Highway 12 at Coquina Beach in Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Just north of Laura A. Barnes, the famous Huron can often be spotted from the Nags Head Fishing Pier in Nags Head. Further south, near the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on Hatteras Island, you will find the Stovepipe Hat wreck, and near Emerald Isle on the Crystal Coast, you can discover the Iron Steamer offshore at the old Iron Steamer Pier location.