May 30, 2011 - Sand Tiger Shark Invasion!

More images and video for this blog at my web site Evolution Underwater Imaging  Mikes' Blog 5/30/2011

In the last nine days my crew and I have run nine full day charters and four half day charters on the "Midnight Express" with the Olympus Dive Center.  It was a great stretch with some stellar diving but today we have a day off for some well needed rest and to catch you all up on the details of the week.

I love Chuck Taylors and now divers are sporting them.
First off I wanted to say thanks to the Sea Gypsies dive club from New York City for spending the better part of the week diving with us.  We had great weather and dive conditions and hit a wide range of wrecks from the Hutton (a.k.a Papoose) to the USS Schurz and the Atlas Tanker.  The Sea Gypsies did a good job of covering all the main wreck sites including the obligatory trip to the U352.

Renata with a perpetual smile and thumbs up.
The wreck of the Hutton aka Papoose lies 36nm due south of Morehead City and is one of the longest runs that we will do on a regular day charter.  If the weather cooperates it usually takes upwards of two hours to get out there but when the dive conditions are good (and they were) then it is well worth the effort.  Generally speaking the further you venture south and in to the Atlantic Ocean the closer you come to the Gulf Stream waters that move up the East Coast of the US from the warm clear tropical waters of the Caribbean and the South Atlantic.  On occasions the visibility on the Hutton can exceed 100 feet.  On this day however the viz was a pleasant 50-60 feet.  As captain of the "Midnight Express" I have to sit atop and wait for all the divers to return and tell me how great a dive it was before I can slap a tank on and head down for a looksie.  The benefit is if you listen carefully you can ascertain where all the hot spots are on the wreck.  Once all the 'Gypsies' returned safely and told me what they saw and where they saw it, I donned my gear and grabbed my underwater housing containing a Nikon D300 with a 12-24mm Nikkor Lens and headed to the bottom.  

Sand Tiger Shark along the keel of the wreck of the
Hutton aka Papoose. (new)
The first thing that became apparent to me was the multitudes of Groupers who looked like they have fed well over the winter. Fat and large they were.  I was not interested in photographing them though because all too often they are very hard to approach due to them watching a few of there not so smart buddies wind up on the end of a spear shaft.  So I turned my attention to the Sand Tigers who as usual were very cooperative.  I managed to get off a few good shots but due to the deeper depths my bottom time ran out and it was time to head up.  I was hoping to spot a Sea Turtle or a Giant Southern Stingray but unfortunately not today.  All in all a very good dive though.

Can you find a shark in this photo? (new)
One of the best dives of the week in my humblest of opinions was the USS Schurz.  The visibility was easily 60+ feet on the bottom with a plethora of marine life. We even had a half a dozen Sand Tigers wandering around the wreck which is not unusual but rare to have that many on this site.  The swarms of bait fish twirling around and undulating back and forth was mesmerizing. No matter how wonderful a photo you take of this phenomenon it does no justice as to seeing it live with your own two eyes. A note of highlight on this dive was the numerous juvenile Lionfish inhabiting most of the wreck.  Last year we saw a significant drop off in them most likely due to the cold winter but it would seem as though they are starting to move back in.  I will be writing a blog on Lionfish later on in the week so stay tuned for more on that topic.

Towards the end of the week the 'Gypsies' had hit many of the highlight wreck sites so I offered to take them to a wreck that we do not visit frequently, the Atlas Tanker.  The Atlas lies on the Eastern side of Lookout Shoals of the Outer Banks of NC and was sunk by a U-Boat in WWII.  The visibility of the water has a tendency to be green and brown colored. The haze that is created leaves the wreckage with a ghostly feeling.  Over the years many divers swear that the Atlas is a haunted wreck.  Take this eerie setting and add dozens of Sand Tiger Sharks to it and then you now have a formula for one heck of an adrenaline pumping dive.  You will be swimming along the wreck and slowly a 8-10 foot dark shadow with teeth emerges from the haze and then another one passes by you from behind and then another from underneath and others from all directions.  For some this dive is a thrill seekers dream while for others it is just down right creepy nightmare.  As for myself, I will dive with these enigmatic critters in any condition.
An underwater video system by
Home Depot.

I had heard from another dive boat captain in the area that the wreck had about 40 feet of visibility with many sharks milling about but this report was over a week old.  The conditions change on that wreck sometimes over night and the viz could have dropped to less than 10 feet.  On the other hand it could have remained the same or better yet improved.  Due to the wind and weather patterns we had experienced all week I decided to give it a shot and the 'Sea Gypsies' were up for some excitement.  We headed through the shallow slot of Lookout Shoals and proceeded over to the Atlas.  As we approached the Atlas I didn't have to tell my mate, Mike to abort tying up to the wreck with the anchor if the conditions were not optimal.  Last year he jumped in on the Atlas to tie in and couldn't see his fins on his feet a few feet away.  That dive was scrubbed.  He later indicated that he felt like there was something watching him from the outer limits of the mirky water.

Mats trying to count the sharks in his head after the dive.
This time however Mike jumped in and tied up in the matter of a minute or so and radioed up to me that the visibility was at least 40 feet on the bottom and 50-70 feet above the upper parts of the wreck and there were Sand Tigers everywhere!  "Gideeup, I said to myself.  I knew we were going to have some fun. After delivering the great news to the divers getting them in the water in a timely fashion was easy enough. Pretty soon the deck was clear and it was time to sit watch and wait for the divers to return.

One by one they came back.  "Oh my God" said one.  Holy @!$*", said another.  I have never seen so many sharks" was a common statement.  After about the seventh or eight diver returned with numerous superlatives I couldn't get them back on the boat quickly enough so I could hop in and check out the scenery below.  Soon I was popping my regulator in my mouth and hopping over the side with camera in hand.  Sure enough there were dozens of sharks in your view at any given time on any given section of the wreck.  I quickly started shooting trying to get a single image that described the multitudes of sharks swimming about but was having poor luck due to the slight haze in the water. I was just too far away from the subjects to get that shot clearly.  So I returned to the boat to discover that unanimously all divers wanted to stay for another dive on the Atlas.  No problem.  I would be happy to oblige.

Sand Tiger Shark up close and personal.
After everyone completed there second dive I jump back in for a short 10 minute dive and shoot some video to which I thought might do some justice to the magnitude of sharks in the water.  I will let the video I shot speak for itself.  You can see it here at this link at my web site:


Let me not forget to mention that the Sharks were not the only component of the underwater menagerie on the wreck this day.  There was a school of angry looking bluefish darting in and out looking for a meal while another school of Amberjacks kept circling me with what seemed like a Mona Lisa smiles on there faces.  Hyper active Spanish Mackerel by the dozens occasionally swam in causing sheer panic amongst the bottom of the food chain dwellers of the wreck, the swarms of tiny bait fish.  It really was a wonder to look at this amazing underwater ecosystem at work.  I was pleased and grateful that Mother Nature sent in clear waters to the Atlas so we could have a look at it.  Once we left the Atlas that day I suspected that with this news it would be only a matter of days before we would return and we did just that.
The Sea Gypsies of NYC.

For most, Friday was the last day of diving for the Sea Gypsies.  They were a great bunch of safe and easy going divers who were very easy to please.  Everyone at Olympus looks forward to there return especially myself.  Say hello to the Big Apple for me and if you could, mail me a dozen everything bagels from 'Murray's Bagels' in the Village and in exchange I will take you back to the Atlas on your next visit.

Only a few of the many Sand Tiger Sharks on the
wreck of the Atlas Tanker. (new)
Memorial Day Weekend
On Saturday and Sunday, the Midnight was chartered by a group from Dive Inn Watersports from Michigan.  These die hard divers road tripped more than 800 miles to dive the coast of North Carolina for only two days of diving. The pressure was on to deliver some world class dives to these folks in short window of opportunity.  Understandably, there primary goal was to see the U-352 so I happily took them out there on the first morning.  The ride was an unusually long one due to a system of squalls that had to be circumnavigated on the way out.  After about two hours we managed to get anchored up on the sub and although the conditions were not rough they certainly weren't calm either.  Many were feeling the effect of sea sickness and wanted to get in the water as soon as possible and that they did.  The visibility on the Sub was about 30-40 feet which is ample to get a feel for this historically rich wreck site.  Once all divers had there fill of the U-352 it was time to give them a glimpse of the USCG Cutter Spar with the hopes of seeing a few sharks.  The wind and seas began to calm down and some on board began to get there sea legs back and enjoy the day to the fullest.  The conditions on the Spar were great with 40 foot of viz and maybe 70 degrees on the bottom.  There were some sharks on the wreck but not as many as the norm.  All seemed to have a very pleasant dive regardless of the number of sharks present.
A sunny and calm surface interval.

On Sunday, as predicted, rumor of the stupendous dive two days prior began to spread to the gang from Michigan and sure enough I was on course for the Atlas with a big 'shark' eating grin on my face.  In short, the first dive went very much the same with numerous sharks and marine life going to and fro around the wreck.  One of the first divers from Michigan returning from dive number one was still on the ladder when he shouted "Be green, save fuel and lets dive the Atlas again for a second".  All concurred with this fella and I certainly did not argue either.  I would be happy to stay.  So we did a second dive with the horde of Sand Tigers and all their cohorts with continued excitement by all participants.  On the ride home I was hoping that the long journey from Michigan for the Dive Inn Watersports crowd was worth it for them.  I suspected that it was. The U-352, Spar and the Atlas delivered some great conditions and hopefully some memorable dives for all of them.  We hope to see you all back again soon.

Beautiful sea fans are found on
the Atlas Tanker. (new) 
Close up of Carcharias Taurus. (new)

The Dive Inn crowd gearing up for a dive.

Lastly let me thank the rest of the divers who chartered with the "Midnight Express" this past week who did not get mentioned especially the guys from ECU who offered me there lunch without hesitation (I did not accept of course), the gentleman from the USCG station in Elizabeth City and all the others.  We hope to see you and your friends back here soon.

A calm day at sea = happy divers.
More smiles on the surface interval.

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If you would like to dive with us in North Carolina please contact and get the latest schedule, rates and condition reports.

Also please visit my web site to see a complete portfolio of my photography and documentary films plus additonal images shot this past week.

Stay tuned for more blogs to come.

Happy Diving!

May 24, 2011 - The Season Gets Kicking

The dive season at Olympus Dive Center ( is thoroughly underway with plenty of outstanding days upon the ocean and below it.  This past four days has been a very busy one for me on the "Midnight Express" with five dive charters in four days.  The weather has been very cooperative and the dive conditions favorable.  I will have to admit that my mind, body and soul are still acclimating to the early to rise hour of 0445 for me and the long days on the water.  Don't get me wrong though I love what I do but that doesn't make me any less weary at the end of the day.
The 'Midnight Express'.
Mike the dive mate preparing to set the hook.

Over the weekend we had a variety of divers jumping from the side of the boat to dive the Wrecks of North Carolina including a couple of guys from our very own Coast Guard station at Fort Macon, NC.  Some people may complain about the Coast Guard and all the rules and regulations that they impose upon us but I for one always feel better behind the wheel knowing that they are out there to help me in a time of need.  I hope to see more of the Coast Guard on our dive excursions in the future.  "Semper Paratus"! 
One of the USCG's finest.
In addition a small group of four divers journeyed all the way from the Great White North of Ottawa, Canada to check out the world class diving here in the USA.  They were a great spirited bunch who were the types to never let anything get under there skin including a chronically leaky dry suit.  Thumbs up Adam!  Thanks for giving us a try and see you next year.
The Canadian Gang and Neptune himself.
Don't let me forget a bunch of divemaster candidates from Eastern Carolina University that rounded out the activities with there power of positive diving.  As usual it is a pleasure to have out with us the next generation of young divers with 'attitude' on board the "Midnight Express".  As one of the ECU group was quoted saying immediately after the dive "we are some SCUBA diving bad asses".  Go Pirates!
'Bad Ass Divers'.
Don't leave your fins out on the deck with this bunch.
Some of the wrecks frequented over the last several days were the famous U352 german sub sank in WWII and the USCG Cutter 'Spar'.  Conditions on both locations had to have been easily 50 feet of visibility with the water temperature creeping up to the low seventies top to bottom.  Sand Tiger Sharks were aplenty as usual on the 'Spar' and the U352 did not disappoint the first time divers visiting her either.  I managed to get in the water for a dive on the 'Spar' the other day and squeeze off a few pics of my favorite Sand Tigers.  This being the first time in months in the water with my camera it was a great feeling to finally return to the water with my camera in hand and do what I love the most.  Considering I was a little rusty I was pleasantly pleased with the results.  I hope you are as well.
The U352 in all her glory (stock).
Sand Tiger Shark on the Spar.  (new)

Sand Tiger Shark on the Spar. (new)

Sand Tiger Shark on the Spar. (new)

Sand Tiger Shark on the Spar. (new)

On Sunday we were very fortunate to experience a rare and extremely calm day offshore with barely a ripple in the water.  The photo below is evidence that diving in the Atlantic Ocean can be calm and serene.  Someone asked me "would you be bored if it were like this every day?"  I answered, "never".
Surface interval on "Lake Atlantic".
Sorry for such a short blog but the hour is getting late for me and I have to rise early again for another go at it tomorrow.  I have a group of avid dive junkies visiting us from NYC.  The dive club, Sea Gypsies is here all week and tomorrow we plan on hitting either the Hutton, aka Papoose or the Atlas Tanker to see ever more Sand Tiger Sharks.  Stay tuned for more on the Sea Gypsies as the week continues.  There here till Friday.  

If you have been out diving with me this past four days please excuse me for not mentioning you    in this blog.  I'll make it up to you.

Please visit to see my complete portfolio of work.

Happy Diving!


May 8, 2011 - Baggin' Some Bugs!

Saturday May 8, 2011 - Baggin' Some Bugs!

Welcome to my second blog of the 2011 season where I will be writing a few stories and showing some photos from this past weekend of diving with Olympus Dive Center (visit  Please refer to my previous blog and visit this link to learn more about myself:

The season here is only just getting warmed up and business is not yet at full speed.  Since there was not enough passengers to fill both dive boats, the "Olympus" and the "Midnight Express", it was decided to utilize the "Midnight" on Saturday and the "Olympus" on Sunday.  Normally, I'm the captain of the "Midnight Express" with Olympus Dive Center but my boss, Capt Robert Purifoy, commandeered 'my' vessel on Saturday for the days charter.  I was facing either the prospect of sitting behind my desk on a beautiful day at my computer editing photos, writing blogs and marketing my work or joining the "Midnight" for a day of diving.  It was a no brainer decision.  I sucked up my pride and accepted my demotion from captain to relief deck hand for the day so I could get out on the ocean and do a bit of diving.  Alas the sacrifices we make!  
The "Midnight Express" and Olympus Dive Center.
"Bud" and the "Olympus"
Once in a while we at Olympus try to schedule specialty dives.  The dives this weekend were pre scheduled as lobster and spearfishing charters.  On Saturday the plan was to deviate from diving the wrecks that are the popular draw here and head south to some of the ledges that line the seafloor.  Despite what many people might think, the ocean floor is more than just silt and mud.  There are plenty of rock ledges scattered all up and down the coast line that have prolific marine life that inhabit them.  The ledges range in height from a few feet up to 15 feet off the bottom and if you head further enough offshore Spiny Lobsters can be found hiding within the crevices.  With the right weather and sea conditions diving for Spiny's on the ledges is tons of fun not to mention a delicious meal that can be had for those who are lucky to bag one.

The "Midnight" left the dock with Capt Robert at the helm as scheduled at 0630 AM to start the long trek to the dive locations.  As we proceeded south towards our waypoint the gentle northern wind we experienced in shore became stiffer and stiffer the further we ventured offshore causing the seas to build gradually.  It did not help matters that a large ground swell coming from the south only turned the sea in to a Maytag washer machine.  It was deemed by Capt Robert that diving the ledges today was not going to happen and in the name of comfort and safety the "Midnight" turned off and chose dive locations near shore where they would be protected on the lee of of land.  The wreck of the Ario, AKA Hutton, was chosen as the first dive location.  Lobsters would not be on the agenda anymore today but many of the divers were avid spear fishermen who would be seeking Grouper, Flounder and Sheepshead to fill there game bags.  
Captain Robert Purifoy at the helm of the "Midnight Express".

The "Ario" was a US merchant ship that was sunk by a German U Boat in WWII and now lies in about 70 feet of water 10 miles from land.  The US Navy during the War depth charged and wire dragged the wreck in order to knock it down due to it being a navigational hazard.  Today the wreck is a 400 ' long twisted pile of metal making the numerous cracks and crevices a brilliant fish haven.  When there is a wreck with plenty of fish on it you will find divers seeking out those fish for there dinner tables.

As with hunting on land for game, hunting underwater can satisfy the primitive instinct of  catching your own food supply.  Taking a trip to the grocery store is easy and in many cases much cheaper than having to capture your own food but it lacks the excitement and the fulfillment of hunter gatherer instinct that some humans still possess.  In the hands of a responsible discriminate diver and when fishing laws and quotas are obeyed spearfishing is an environmentally friendly form of fishing.  Some call it "release and catch" fishing rather than "catch and release".  A diver can select his fish before hooking or netting it and eliminate unwanted fish or whats called bycatch.

The "Midnight" made its way to the Ario in good time and Danny, the mate jumped in to set the hook on the captains order.  Danny secured the boat to the wreck and then reported on the com that there was about 25 foot of visibility with water temp around 68 degrees on the bottom.  Not bad at all for a dive in May.  Soon after Capt Robert was giving a dive briefing to the divers before letting them jump in.  Our primary concern for everyone at all times is safety and we at Olympus go out of our way to make sure the diving is as safe as possible.  Once all had been briefed it was time for them to make the jump.

One at a time they step up to the entry point and do a last minute check.  Some grab their speargun and with the "killer" instinct on there faces.  With a giant step they disappear underwater. 
After about 45 minutes divers began returning to the boat many of which with nothing to show for there catch in the way of dinner.  But that didn't seem to matter to most.  Being there and making the effort was satisfying in its own way.  It was a great dive and an even better day on the ocean. 
Divers returning from another great dive.
Once all had returned it was my turn to make the jump.  After debating for some time "should I take photos or shoot fish?" I decided to try my hand at fishing.  I grabbed my gun and headed for the bottom.  This was my first dives of the 2011 season and the shock of the cold water took a few minutes to wear off.  Some of you might be saying "68 degrees is cold? What a wimp".  I will admit after spending the last ten years working and living over seas in the tropics my blood had thinned a tad.  I prefer the warm water when I can get it but won't avoid diving in cooler water when presented with a great diving prospect.  So I donned the hooded vest, manned up and made the splash.

Once I made it to the bottom I had a swim around for a while and spotted some very large Sheepshead, a few Black Sea Bass (which are not in season until June 1) and a Trigger Fish or two to name a few.  I bypassed all of them in search of my preferred catch a juicy Grouper.  Unfortunately, they would elude me for today.  I returned to the boat after about 25 minutes and helped get the Midnight under way.
Mate, Danny jumping in to retrieve the anchor.
Danny splashing down.

We moved only a few miles over to the next site, the wreck of the "Suloide", which was also a casualty wreck from WWII that is very similar in layout as the "Ario". " On this dive divers were able to score some nice Flounder that evidently weren't able to camouflage themselves so well.  With a few nice fish in the cooler the "Midnight" finished the day up and headed back to the dock.

Even though we did not manage to get to the preferred dive location and try our hand at some lobsters most all had a great time all the same.  I asked a few divers during the day "how was your dive?" and one answered "any dive is a great dive".  That's an attitude to live by.

Sunday May 9, 2011

With the "Midnight" at the dock today, many of the same bunch of guys left over from the previous days charter (including myself) and a few new ones joined the "Olympus" captained by Robert Purifoy.   The boat left the dock at 0630 again but this time with great weather that would allow us to reach our desired location "The Lobster Wreck".  I hope no one asks me "why do they call it the Lobster Wreck?" because I don't think I could hide my cynicism when I answer them.  "The Lobster Wreck" is over 50 nautical miles from Beaufort Inlet in Morehead City but well worth the drive considering the photos of giant lobsters caught there that have adorned the wall of the dive shop over the years.  The wreck is also known for an abundance of marine life such as Groupers, Pompano and Cobia.  

Mate Bud Daniels preparing to set the hook.
All the passengers found themselves a comfortable spot to relax and maybe even grab some shut eye during the three hour passage south west.  The Olympus reached the wreck as scheduled and in no time managed to get the boat secured and the passengers briefed with the help of the mates "Bud" and Danny.  The conditions were 60-70 feet of visibility until within 20 feet of the bottom and then the viz dropped to a mere 15-20 feet but no one seemed to care and all entered the water eagerly with game bags and spearguns in hand.  This dive has a maximum depth of 120 feet with little relief so bottom times are cut a little shorter.  Once again I stayed up with the boat and waited for the divers to return.  As the first few made it back to the deck of the Olympus it became apparent that a great dive had just played itself out based on the 10-15 pound 'bugs' being pulled out of the bags.  I took a few pics of the excited divers before they stowed there catch in the iced coolers up top.
Catch of the day.
For many divers the fun on the bottom was only part of the experience.  While many were doing there safety stops under the boat a pod of Dolphins buzzed them coming within several feet on one pass.  After more than 15 years in the diving business I have yet to see another marine critter like Dolphins that can reduce even the toughest person to childlike state of excitement at the site of them.  "Oooooh Dolphins" the 250 pound tattooed diver holding a 6 foot speargun standing next to me says.  Priceless!  What's not to love about them though really?  These sentient creatures with out a doubt are considerably more evolved than most species and maybe even ourselves.
"Ooooh look Dolphins!"
Time to dry off.
Considering the success of the first dive it was decided that a second dive on the "Lobster Wreck" was in order.  During the two hour surface interval I jumped in for a dive carrying my speargun instead of my camera.  I would be shooting at the fish with a different tool on this dive.  Once I got to the bottom the first thing I noticed was an abundance of Lionfish inhabiting the wreck.  Lionfish are an invasive species that have been causing much "hub bub" with marine scientists.  This will be a topic of a future blog so stay tuned for more on that.

After swimming the length of the wreck I spotted a few small Grouper off in the distance but not much else.  Capt Robert, who was also diving at the same time as I, must have been pleased as punch based on the nice size lobster I eyed clinging to the inside of his game bag when I passed him heading back to the anchor line.  We both started heading up around the same time and ascended to about 60 feet when all of a sudden a large school of Amberjacks swam up for a closer inspection of the strange creatures emitting bubbles and making lots of noise.  Right behind them was an even larger school of the Amberjacks cousin, the African Pompano.  (see link  These highly reflective metallic fish are a stunning looking and even more so when traveling in large schools.  It was quite a site to see at least two dozen or more of them gracefully swimming by.  It gets even better though.  Three large Cobia (see link suddenly approached me from within the school of Pompano.  Cobia are a tasty eating fish and I decided I would take one for the dinner table.  The Cobia swam in pretty close and I managed to get a shot off easy enough but the hard work just started.  After struggling for a few minutes I was able to string the fish up and get control of him.  Knowing that Robert was looking on the entire time took some of the pressure off since he could assist me if there was any trouble.  All went pretty smooth and then we looked out in to the blue water and spotted what looked like a Reef Shark snooping around curious about the commotion.  It was time to ascend to the boat and get the bloody fish put on to some ice.  Let it be said that I enjoy spearfishing and not because of the killing.  That is the least fulfilling aspect of it.  I have always had a deep respect for all things living and game fish are no exception.
The one that got away.
Due to the popular first dive, everyone kitted up for the second dive on schedule and grabbed the game bags and headed back to the "Lobster Wreck" to try there hand again at bagging a few bugs.  The weather held out nicely and surface conditions were adequate.  The divers returned one by one all with there own accounts of another fabulous dive and some even managed to land a few nice lobsters as well.

Mission accomplished.  The Olympus pulled anchor and headed back to Morehead City with a bunch of jumbo Spiny's chillin' on ice and a 35 pound Cobia hogging up equal space.  It was a great day on the Lobster Wreck.  
A thumbs up from this diver.
Another fun dive notched up.
After loading up a few pounds of fish in the freezer with my handy dandy Foodsaver bagger I cooked up some fresh Thai style Cobia Curry over Bismati Rice and washed it down with a cold Corona with a lime wedge.  Life is good!

Please visit to see Mike's complete photographic portfolio and excerpts from his documentary films.

Stay tuned for more dive tales from Mike Gerken and Olympus Dive Center.

May 1, 2011 - Welcome Aboard

Visit to see video shorts highlighting the shark action from the 2011 season at Olympus Dive Center.  
Click here for more information about myself.

Diver and Sand Tiger Shark.
May 1, 2011

Welcome to my first entry for my daily or weekly blog report on the latest activities as captain of the "Midnight Express" at Olympus Dive Center (see in Morehead City, NC.  (Also visit to learn more about Mike).  This is my third season as captain with Olympus and I am very excited to be back.  I will be posting the latest news and events of my dive charters visiting the famous wrecks of North Carolina, giving condition reports, interesting sightings and showing some of my latest topside pics and underwater photos and video.

Yesterday was my first charter of the 2011 season with Olympus and I could not have asked for a better day.  When I arrived at Olympus at 0545AM the dock was already abuzz with divers loading gear on to both boats, the "Olympus" and the "Midnight".  For divers who have have never dived the wrecks of North Carolina or who are newer divers the look of trepidation on there faces is only alleviated by their excitement to go diving where they have never been before. 

A school of Atlantic Spade Fish.
On this day we have 18 college students from Eastern Carolina University and there instructor joining us to complete a variety of training dives to go toward there college credit dive courses right before summer break sets in for them all.

Leaving the dock went as smooth as it could go.  The trip out to Beaufort Inlet was beautiful with a gentle wind blowing from the North causing the inlet to be smooth with only a gentle swell from the south.  Today the target destination was to be the USCGS Spar (see which lies approximately 28 nautical miles south of the inlet.  The trip took about 1:40 minutes with no delays.  After a long cold winter (with a bit of skiing) it was great to be back on the ocean and by the sound of the passengers milling below deck and on the upper deck they seemed to be happy to be there as well.

Arriving at the dive site my mate, Mike preps the anchor line and readies his gear to tie the "Midnight" up to the Spar.  For those of you have never dived off North Carolina, the process is very simple but exciting.  Well exciting for the mate that is.  With the use of electronics I maneuver the boat over the desired tie in location.  My mate is standing along the port rail dressed in full SCUBA and holding the grappling hook in his hands. He jumps off the boat on my go ahead while I am back down to prevent him from getting behind me.  He immediately swims straight down carrying the hook, chain and line.  If the drop was a good one he will end up within 10 feet of the desired tie in spot and secure the hook to the wreck.  At this point he presses the communication button on his full face mask and speaks to me directly in the helm where I am wearing headphones.  He tells me all is ok and gives me a condition report.  He says, "68 degrees with 25-30 feet of visibility on the bottom with plenty of Sand Tiger Sharks milling about". It is by far the fastest, most efficient and safest way to get a dive boat tied up to the wreck.

After giving a briefing and telling them how to dive with Sharks the excited but anxious divers start entering the water with a giant stride and a 4 foot drop to the surface.  Kirplunk. One by one they drop in and disappear under the water. 

After about twenty to thirty minutes the divers begin to return and clamber back up the ladder most with a look of excitement and even a few enthusiastic expletives from some of the divers.  For many this was the first time they had ever seen a shark up close and personal so much as a 8-9 foot Sand Tiger Shark! (See

With out a doubt Sand Tigers are one of my favorite marine critters to photograph underwater and the wreck of the Spar is a great place to see them.  The Spar sits in 110' of water with the very top of the wreck at 80'.  With the warm clear waters of the Gulf Stream pushing close to the Outer Banks, the visibility averages 50-60' edging up to over 100' on a good day.  Once the summer sets in water temps will climb to 80 degrees easily which is warm enough for most every fair weather diver.

The divers on board the "Midnight" all return safe and sound and settle in for a two hour break before conducting there second dive of the day.  The wind begins to pick up and the seas start to build immediately.  I sadly opt to stay on the boat and keep an eye on the weather rather than go diving.  So unfortunately I have no photos to show today but the season will be a long one with at the least 100 charters to come.

The second dive on the Spar goes pretty much the same as the first.  Awesome and more expletives are heard by the ECU divers.  "that was !@#% awesome!", one diver yells out with what sounded like a NY accent.  Judging by the stories and the excitement in which they are told I'd say all had a great day.  

Once all are back on board it is time to head home.  My mate jumps in and unhooks the "Midnight" from the Spar and then surfaces for me to pick him up.  I point the boat towards Beaufort Inlet and start beating in to the choppy three foot seas.  Going was a bit slow at first but once we got closer to land and on the lee of the wind the seas flattened some and we could make better time heading home.  Along the way I spotted a large item floating in the water in an unusual way.  As I got closer it became apparent that it was two Loggerhead Sea Turtles embraced doing what Sea Turtles do.  Happy days!
Carcharias Taurus or a Sand Tiger Shark on the wreck of the USCG Cutter Spar.

As I pulled in to the inlet and made my way back to the Morehead Water front we once again spotted another small Loggerhead Turtle that could have only been maybe 12-16 inches long.  A rare but not unheard of sighting within the Inter-coastal Waterway.  I just hope he can dodge the building boat traffic and eventually find his way back out to sea.

The season here is only just getting going and I do not have another charter scheduled for a week or so.  I will however be conducting presentations to dive clubs in the area in the coming weeks.  Please refer to my web site or Facebook page Evolution Underwater Imaging (by Mike Gerken) to get the schedule.  My home page link is as follows:

Stay tuned for more to come.  I will have photos, video, dive reports and the latest happenings at Olympus and with Evolution Underwater Imaging.

Happy diving!

Mike Gerken

For Mike's UW photo techniques and tips contact him to learn how to sign up for one of his courses that are available both in person and live online via web cam.

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If you wish to dive Graveyard of the Atlantic contact Olympus Dive Center for more information.

Olympus Dive Center, Morhead City, NC.
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Mike Gerken