Aug 14

Cape hatteras Diving: the Wreck of the Dixie Arrow

Category: animals,scuba,Travel

The Dixie Arrow was a US tanker torpedoed by a German U-boat during WWII.  Here is the story, as taken from

<built> in Camden NJ in 1920 and 1921, <the Dixie Arrow and its sister ship, the F. W.  Abrams>  met their end in 1942 only a few miles apart in the WW II Battle of the Atlantic off the Coast of Hatteras.  The Dixie Arrow was steaming from Texas City, TX, with crude oil when she was torpedoed by  Kapitanleutnant Flachsenberg in U-71 just south of Diamond Shoals on March 26th, 1942.  Despite being engulfed in flames,  the lives of many of the Dixie Arrow’s crew were saved when  ABS Oscar Chappell sacrificed his own life manning the helm of the crippled tanker to turn the ship and steer the flames away from the survivors gathered on the ship’s bow.  All tolled, eleven died  and twenty-two survived the sinking.  <… stuff removed> Today both ships lie in about 90 feet of water less than six miles apart.  The Dixie Arrow is better preserved:  The shape of her bow and stern are easily identified–with high relief in the bow section rising twenty-five feet from the ocean floor.  Both wrecks are regularly visited by large rough-tail and southern sting-rays, sand tigers, and huge atlantic barracuda.

So this is a storied wreck and also it hosts great clouds of life.  I was trying out a new camera and the pictures are kinda crappy, but here they are.  The most notable thing were the large number of robust, muscular sand tiger sharks, many of which were larger than us. At first glance you may think that it is scary to be around such large animals; indeed, they are kind of alarming, because of their numbers, size, muscularity, and how their mounths are formed into a permanent goofy grin of protruding sharp teeth.  But they treated us with a laissez-faire attitude.  I knew that they knew I was there, but I could also tell that I didn’t look like food.  At that moment, anyway…


Another thing to consider is that their mouths are not meant for eating large prey.  They don’t have a particularly nasty reputation for attacking humans, although it does happen occasionally.  Here you can see the relative sizes of man and beast; if anything, the size of this shark has been de-emphasized, because it’s farther away than the diver (who happens to be Chuck of Columbia Scuba).


Other large predators inhabit the vicinity, such as these 3 and 4 foot-long barracudas.


Above is a shot of the tanker’s giant steam engine surrounded by a great cloud of life. The engine is beautifully exposed, and you can see the crankshaft and boilers when diving (although not in this particular image).

Divers may be interested to know that in the summer, the water here is very warm.  The Gulf Stream makes a close approach to land here, and this wreck, being about 20 miles offshore, lies within it.  I wore  a 3-mil suit; the water temperatures were almost 80, avan at depth. There is a one-hour+ boat ride involved; the water has a reputation for being rough and you never know what you will find.  It was something of a challenge this day, and some people puked, but overall the weather was gorgeous.

The town of Hatteras is well-known as a tourist attraction and I won’t go into any detail describing it, except to say that there is at least one good dive shop here (mentioned above)  that dispenses nitrox, and there are numerous restaurants, quaint inns, and beautiful beaches.

It also has mosquitoes, and plenty of them.  Since I’m outside having my blood drained by mosquitos in order to be near a hot spot to make this post, I’m just going to slap in the rest of today’s photos without comment:


2 Comments so far

  1. Terry Papavasilis August 18th, 2010 9:24 AM

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for posting the pictures. You are an awesome photographer! I can’t wait to wreck dive NC again next year.

  2. Seamus` August 23rd, 2010 8:52 PM


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