New Hanover Diving Locations
Diving along the New Hanover Beaches
The Cape Fear region of southeastern North Carolina is one of the most famous locations on the East Coast for shipwrecks, but surprisingly, lightly dived. Located between the Labrador and Gulf Stream currents, it is a transition point for temperate and tropical marine life which leads to incredible diversity. Typical of all North Carolina dive sites, this region features an abundance of wrecks. Rough seas, U-boats and the artificial reef program have provided the area with numerous dive sites ranging from an 85' tug boat to a 523' tanker.
But, wrecks are not the only thing that can be explored here, as the area also features dive ledges. Ledges are small walls ranging from 5-20' high which are beacons for marine life. But of course, the shipwrecks that the North Carolina coastline are known for are always the most popular dive sites. While the Cape Fear area has a wide variety of wrecks to choose from, there are a few distinguishable favorites among local dive companies.
- Gill (WR 4): The tanker the John D. Gill was torpedoed on March 12, 1942 by the German U-Boat the U-158. She sank in 90' of water about 22 miles from Carolina Beach Inlet. It is only 60' to the deck of the wreck, making this a good dive for beginning wreck divers and any diver wanting the longer bottom times a shallower dive provides. Experts have attested that the tropical marine life on the ship is fantastic. Among the many species at the site are slipper lobsters, moray eels, blue angelfish, butterflyfish, anemones, corals, and sponges. Barracudas can be seen on just about any dive, and occasionally a sand tiger shark or two may be present. Amberjacks are often in the vicinity of the wreck, while sea turtles, manta rays, and mackerels are less common. The corals, sponges, seafans, and sea whips make the Gill a naturalist's paradise.
- Frying Pan Tower: This is a fabulous dive. One of the patriarchs of diving in North Carolina called this "the best, least-dived site in North Carolina." The depth at the Tower is only about 45' to the bottom, and the abundance and variety of fish on the site is unparalleled. It is a long boat ride, but the ride from Carolina Beach is the shortest available to the Tower, other than perhaps from Southport. The tower itself is an interesting attraction as well, and perfect for photos.
- Cassimir: This has been called one of the top five dives off the North Carolina Coast, and it is easy to see why. This wreck sits further offshore than any of the other wrecks that divers regularly visit, and has an abundance of tropical life. In February 1942, she was a tanker carrying a load of molasses from the Carribean to Maryland when she was sunk by a collision with another vessel. (Both vessels were running quiet and fast to avoid U-Boats.) This is a large one at 401' long, 5,030 tons.
- Esso Nashville: This is considered one of the prettiest of wrecks, in terms of marine life present at the site, and one of the most interesting, because of the access into the voluminous bow.
- Normania: The Normania is far enough offshore to attract very interesting sea life, including Lionfish. Sitting at 110-115' deep, the wreck is a 312', 2,600 ton freighter that foundered and went down in January 1924, and most of the structure is collapsing on itself. Divers have claimed to have spotted seen some of the biggest lobster they have ever seen on this wreck.