A sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) surrounded by tomtates (Haemulon aurolineatum) and round scad (Decapterus punctatus) on a wreck in North Carolina.

Before the construction of lighthouses in the 1800s, the shallow waters around North Carolina’s coast became the resting place for hundreds of vessels lost during storms. In World Wars II, German U-boats destroyed dozens more ships further offshore. Over 400 wrecks now rest along North Carolina’s outer banks, in an area known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

I’m not a wreck diver. So when my friend first asked me to join him on a dive trip to North Carolina, I was unexcited. He went on to tell me stories of wrecks packed with sharks and colorful fish life.  Really? Off North Carolina? Then I saw the epic images of sand tiger sharks covered in baitfish. A few hours later I was eagerly planning my trip to Morehead City.

Located close to the warm, nutrient-rich waters of the gulf stream; the wrecks along North Carolina’s outer banks have developed into productive artificial  reefs. The most impressive wrecks lie 15-20 miles off-shore and require 2–3 hour boat rides. The area is prone to rough seas, poor visibility and strong currents. Olympus Diving has large, comfortable boats and the practical knowledge to tackle these challenges.

A sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) surrounded by round scad (Decapterus punctatus) above a wreck covered in soft coral. North Carolina is a dream dive destination.
A sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) surrounded by round scad (Decapterus punctatus) above a wreck covered in soft coral. North Carolina is a dream dive destination.

The stars of the show are the sand tiger sharks that aggregate on the wrecks during the summer months. These docile sharks have a unique ecological role; providing constant protection for baitfish, such as round scad (Decapterus punctatus), from predators, such as jacks and tuna. The closer the predators, the closer the baitfish huddle around the sharks. The dynamic behavior between shark and baitfish against the wreck backdrop creates near limitless photographic opportunities and makes these wrecks a truly epic place to dive. Here are my favorite images about North Carolina’s sand tiger sharks: