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16 Jul 2020
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History & Culture

Many people recognize the Outer Banks as a premier beach vacation destination on the East Coast. But did you know that the ocean along the Outer Banks has long been known as a very treacherous and dangerous area for ships? In fact, you may have heard the name “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” used to describe the area. This is because thousands of vessels have ran aground along the coast over the years due to shifting shoals, bad weather, strong winds, and poor navigational tools. Additionally, a history of piracy and war contributed to the number of wrecks. For avid divers and lovers of history, however, these sites are great spots for an exploration! One of the most popular wreck sites to explore is the site of the Triangle Wrecks in Kill Devil Hills.

What are the Triangle Wrecks?

The “Triangle Wrecks” refer to the site of the wreckage of two vessels—the Carl Gerhard and the Kyzikes. Both sunk a few years apart about 200 yards off the coast of Kill Devil Hills near milepost 7. The Kyzikes, an American tanker, sank December 1, 1927 and The Carl Gerhard, a Swedish freighter, went down on September 23, 1929 in the same spot. In fact, when it ran ashore, it struck the Kyzikes wreckage and cut it into two pieces.

How Can I View the Wrecks?

Unlike some other shipwrecks along the coast of the Outer Banks that are visible from the beach or above the surface of the water, the Triangle Wrecks can only be viewed by taking a diving excursion. The Triangle Wreck location is a very popular dive site. The vessels sit in about 20 feet of water and according to the National Marine Sanctuary, the top of the stern, the engine, and two boilers of the Kyzikes are within inches of the water’s surface at low tide. Additionally, divers can easily recognize hull plates, boilers and the engine of the Carl Gerhard at about 20 feet in depth. Although none of the wreckage sticks out of the water anymore, at one point, a mast was visible above the surface. However, with three major pieces of the wreckage, along with lots of debris scattered around the area, the wrecks are relatively easy to find and explore. It’s important to keep in mind that changes in tide, wind, and shifting sands can obstruct the visibility or make it more challenging to dive around the Triangle Wrecks.

Diving on the Outer Banks

You might think that scuba diving is only for the crystal waters off the coast of the Caribbean but diving in the Atlantic is a very popular pastime, especially since there are so many shipwrecks to see along the OBX coast. While divers love to see the vessels themselves, they also dive to see the marine life that has made its new home around the wreckage. However, open ocean diving in the Atlantic is not for beginners and all local dive facilities will require divers to prove they are certified and capable of handling the Atlantic currents and local conditions.

If you’re an avid diver, stop by Roanoke Island Outfitters and Dive Center in Manteo where you can rent all the equipment you need or book wreck dive charters, beach dives and spear fishing excursions. If you’re brand new to diving, they even offer diving lessons or snorkeling lessons, which is perfect for beginners who just want to test the water, to so speak. Dive Hatteras in Frisco also offers wreck charters for experienced, certified divers.

Learn More About Outer Banks Shipwrecks

Even if you aren’t a certified scuba diver, there are other ways you can learn more about shipwrecks along the Outer Banks and even view some of the wreckage for yourself. For an above-ground view, try taking an air tour over the coast! Seaside Vacations partners with Barrier Island Aviation through Club Seaside to offer our guests discounts on air tours! Not only will you see local attractions from a new perspective, but you might spot sea turtles, dolphins, and a look at some of the many shipwrecks along the shoals—especially on a clear day! Learn more about air tours with Barrier Island Aviation.

If you’d prefer to stay on dry land, take a day trip down to Hatteras to visit the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum which is part of the NC Maritime Museum network. There, you can explore exhibits about local maritime culture and view artifacts taken from various shipwrecks in the area, including everyone's favorite wreck, Queen Anne's Revenge. The museum is family-friendly to kids of all ages and open year-round.