Wreck, Night and Boat Diving
Types of Diving
If you want to get your feet wet in the sport of scuba diving, you can always hop over to a calm beach or sound and try your hand at snorkeling. This is particularly popular in well-known shell beaches, like Ocracoke Island. A session of snorkeling in the calmer ocean or sound waters around Hatteras or Ocracoke Inlets can yield Whelks, Sand Dollars and maybe even a Scotch Bonnet, the beautiful specimen that is the North Carolina state shell.
If you have already gone snorkeling and are ready to step up to scuba diving, there are a variety of ways to get into the water, and a number of specific types of diving, one of which is just right for you.
Scuba divers are lured to North Carolina for its wreck diving, located miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. The perilous stretch along the southern Outer Banks and beyond is known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" for its treacherous Diamond Shoals and long history of sinking countless ships that dared to enter these waters throughout the centuries.
These ancient shipwrecks that cover the ocean floor are perfect for exploring, and wreck diving is the most popular form of scuba diving off the North Carolina coast.
Besides the prerequisite scuba training and gear, there are some extra things you will want to know so you can have a safe dive along the wrecks:
- Do not go inside a wreck unless you are properly trained and equipped, as it is very easy to get disoriented inside a wreck, and visibility can change from one moment to the next.
- Bring an underwater slate so you can draw an outline of the wreck. This will help you research the history of the wreck or assist you with navigation.
- Carry a dive knife or cutting tool to help you escape from any underwater entanglement.
- Use a dive light to see inside the wreck and bring out the true colors of the wreck's life.
- Find out if there are any laws that apply to scuba diving on the wreck before you go and obey them when diving.
- Do not always trust a compass when wreck diving, as metal on the structure may interfere with the needle's ability to point north.
Have you ever walked around your backyard with a flashlight in the dark? Scuba diving at night is quite similar for even the most experienced divers. Suddenly, a world you thought you knew becomes a lot different when you can see a whole new cast of critters revealed by your dive light.
While it may seem a little scary at first in spite of the familiar surroundings, night diving is also full of adventure and is a great way to see the underwater world in a whole new light, so to speak. Just be sure to keep these tips in mind while you get a few night dives in your log book:
- First, you should practice in a swimming pool, as exploring it with your dive light will help prepare you for an open water night dive. When you venture out, choose a dive site you have seen before. When you know what it looked like in the daytime, you know what to expect after dark. Plus, you will appreciate how diving at night reveals a whole new world on even a familiar reef or wreck.
- Start your adventure at twilight. It is easier to get your scuba equipment on and make your entry while you still have some daylight. As night falls while you are underwater, you will gradually become acclimated to the darkness throughout the scuba dive, instead of plunging into it from the start. You will notice many underwater residents exhibit unique behaviors at twilight, bedding down for the night or positioning themselves for successful nighttime feeding.
- For a really unique experience, you can also consider a night dive just before dawn and watch the underwater world wake up for the day. Early morning on a coral reef can be just as fascinating as twilight, and when you make your ascent while the sun is making its own, there is just no better way to start the day.
Perhaps the easiest diving you will ever do will be from a dive boat. Many dive sites are only accessible by boat. Dive boats come in all shapes and sizes, from small inflatable skiffs to large liveaboard vessels, and everything in between. But no matter the size of the boat or the location of the dive site, a few general tips can be applied to most boat diving adventures:
- Do not take things aboard you do not need. Space is limited on dive boats and typically you will be shoulder to shoulder with other scuba divers during your time on board. There is usually very little room for things that have to stay dry, so limit what you take.
- Pay attention to the briefing. Most boat dives include a dive site orientation before the dive begins. If you are setting up your scuba gear or talking to your friend during the briefing, you are likely to miss important details that will make your dive more enjoyable.
- Ask for help if you need it. The boat crew members walk a fine line between respecting experienced divers and helping out new ones. Sometimes it is hard for them to tell the difference, so if you have a question or need a hand, speak up. Do not expect the crew to anticipate your every need.
- Carefully follow entry and exit instructions. They may be drastically different between destinations, even from dive to dive.