Posted by: mcjangles | June 18, 2007

Morehead City, NC trip report

Morehead City, NC trip report – 6/1-3 2007

I joined John Cogan and Paul Galligan from NESS on Thursday morning to make the leisurely 8 hour road trip down to Morehead City, NC. We met up with the rest of our crew of 7 at Olympus and prepared for the next few days of diving. A front was moving in so we decided to get the best dives in while we still had good weather. The decision was made to go to the Hutton (formerly known as the Papoose but recently er… re-identified? WDM article). This wreck is outstanding and is one of my favorites of anywhere. It was large tanker that fell victim to German torpedo attack in WWII and now rests nearly turtled in 120 fsw. Dropping down the line with camera in hand I quickly realized this was going to be a great dive as I could see the top of the wreck which comes up to about 90 fsw from the granny line at 20 feet. Hitting the sand I got my camera ready as I waited for Cogan who was right behind me with his new video setup. It was great to just kneel in the sand and look around and really get a feel for the wreck in the 80 feet of visibility that we had. In the distance off the wreck several sand tiger sharks were circling while up ahead I spotted a very large silhouette of what appeared to be a huge grouper. Later on the boat the mate said that this was in fact a goliath grouper that has set up shop on the wreck. Our plan was to head aft and enter the engine room. As we swam along we spotted several lionfish and schools of amberjacks accompanied us. Arriving at the rudder I snapped a couple shots before heading into the wreck.

I ended up going into a different hole than I intended and the entrance was a little tighter than I remembered. Passing a beam I looked up and saw the larger opening I had meant to find. Unknown to me Cogan had had a minor entanglement coming in the smaller opening and we got separated, mostly due to the huge clouds of baitfish inside the wreck. Further in at the boilers I had a perfect shot of sunlight coming into the cathedral like engine room from above and lighting the side of one of the huge boilers but every time the camera was ready the baitfish would come in and block me. The flash my light and try to quickly set up before the bait came back routine was pushing me to the point of screaming through my reg when I starting wondering where the hell Cogan was to chase them away.

I finally decided I was fighting a losing battle and headed out. I met up with Cogan outside the wreck and we turned back towards the tie in but heading out into the sand away from the wreck to photograph the sharks along the way. We also came across a huge stingray pretty far off the wreck just chilling. As we began our ascent I paused at the top of the wreck and get some silhouette shots of the divers above us when I realized you could see the boat 100’ away. Truly an awesome dive, and what an introduction to North Carolina wreck diving for those first timers on board!

For our second dive we headed to the Aeolus, which was a cable layer sunk as an artificial reef. While artificial reef wrecks aren’t really my thing, this turned out to be a pretty cool dive. The visibility was less here and around 40 feet. Again the sand tigers were in full effect. Unfortunately my camera was on the fritz and didn’t really get any good pictures on this dive and spent most of my time fiddling and cursing at the thing. There is a large circular opening in the top of the wreck and into the next deck below where the cable was spooled out of. If you go at the side of the lower deck where the wreck is torn open and look through you can see the light shining down and it looks like a huge cylindrical aquarium with the fish swimming through.

On Saturday the seas had already started to pick from Friday but we still managed to get out to the U-352. This is one of the most popular dives out of Morehead City as there aren’t many places to dive a German U-boat in recreational depths. Hitting the wreck, which sits in 115 fsw, we again had great visibility which was probably at least 60 feet if not more.

For the second dive we were going to hit the Spar which is another artificial reef and only sunk a couple years ago. I have to admit I gave a bit of a sigh of relief as there were 2 other boats already there when we got there and we would have to go somewhere else. Capt Bobby was planning on heading inshore as the weather was picking up and hit the Indra another reef wreck but was happy to oblige our request to dive the Ario (formerly called the Hutton). The Ario is another tanker sunk by U-boat in WWII, but unlike the real Hutton, has been blasted/wire dragged/ and otherwise reduced to a rubble pile. Being inshore the visibility was less at 20 feet and the water temp a little cooler at 73 compared to the 77 on the offshore wrecks. The wreck has a max depth of about 80fsw and I had a blast exploring around this huge wreck and it felt more like being at home on a Jersey wreck. We were tied into the prop shaft near the boilers and seeing the big sand tigers come around the boilers was really a cool sight. Also they would get much closer here since the vis was not as good as the other wrecks. It was a great dive to end the trip!

Here are some more pictures from this trip

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