Morehead City, North Carolina - U-Boats have always had a unique place in the dive community. There is a large population of divers out there who are simple U-Boat obsessed. Perhaps the success of Shadow Divers has fueled the fire, but the flames were there long before that. What I find astonishing is the lack of respect some in the dive community have treated these historic sites and maritime graves. Any artifact, features or even loose metal that can be blasted, pried, chiseled, air lifted or simply yanked off these sites has been. I guess I will never understand finder’s keepers mentality when it comes to public’s maritime heritage.
The U-Boats have been great dives, although, I must admit they lack a certain sense of awe. Perhaps because they have just been pillaged and plundered to death. All that remains is what couldn’t be stolen which is basically the pressure hull and conning towers. Even the deck gun has been ripped off the U-352 and is decaying outside a dive shop in Morehead City. My desire, and I suspect that of the dive community is a more intact sense of site preservation. I understand the site will deteriorate, however the pathetic argument that if “I don’t take an artifact, its just going rot away” is not valid. A few who rob the masses of a truly great experience is unfortunate.
Perhaps the other reason, less tangible or controversial, is based on my past experiences diving on incredibly historic and well preserved icons of our nation’s history. In the context of this project, the HL Hunley comes to mind. After spending months as the project photographer for the recovery of the first successful submarine in maritime history these U-Boats seem modern. The fascination of the U-Boats to the dive community is the ability to dive a true piece of history - and one that plays a captivating role. Even in there looted, stripped and broken state, they are authentic. Not an artificial reef submerged intentionally, but a physical connection to the past and our history as a nation. My career with the NPS has allowed me to do this very thing, on so many occasions, and for this I am incredibly grateful.