This WW II Shipwreck is Home to 100 Sharks – SS Caribsea

11 March 1942. 0200 hours. The merchant ship SS Caribsea is steaming along the coast of North Carolina. She’s carrying 3,600 tons of manganese ore to Norfolk, Virginia from Santiago, Cuba. The night is cold and dark, but nothing is out of the ordinary.

Suddenly, an explosion rocks the ship, and seawater starts flooding the foredeck. A torpedo has struck the #2 hold on her starboard side, and her highly combustible cargo has caused a boiler explosion. Now, she is sinking rapidly. The captain gives the order to abandon ship, but there is no time to send out a distress signal or launch the lifeboats. The crew can only escape from their bunks and jump into the ocean. In two minutes, the Caribsea plunges into the deep, leaving behind a massive oil slick.

The survivors cling to the scattered wreckage and eventually climb into a couple rafts that had floated free of their vessel. That’s when they see what sank their ship: a German submarine, known as U-158. The sub passes within a 100 yards of them and, then, disappears beneath the dark waters.

The survivors then drift for 10 hours before they are spotted and picked up by the steamer SS Norlindo. Out of the 28 crew members, only seven survived. For these survivors, the Caribsea is now a nightmare-inducing memory.

You know what’s crazy? If you started reading this article when the torpedo first hit the Caribsea, you would already be at the bottom of the sea. Do you think you could escape from the sinking ship in such a small amount of time?

Well, guess what? We’re going to the bottom of the sea anyways. But we’re going down there with scuba gear. Come join me on an undersea adventure to this historic World War II shipwreck.

Today, the wreck of the Caribsea lies on the seabed in 27 meters (90 feet) of water. She is largely intact, but time has taken a toll on her. Like many wrecks, she is more reef than ship, and sometimes, it can be hard to make heads or tails or her. This NOAA map paints a pretty good picture of her current state. The most notable landmarks are her triple expansion engine and double scotch boilers in the middle of the wreck and her rudder and rudder post at her stern.

Yet, while once a scene of tragedy, this shipwreck is now a haven for all manners of marine life, especially fish. From great barracuda to queen angelfish and from black sea bass to summer flounder, there’s no shortage of fish species here. When I dived this wreck, I didn’t know where to point my camera because there were so many awesome sea creatures to film. I mean, check out this little octopus hiding inside the engine block.

But, of all the treasures on this wreck, the golden doubloons are the sandtiger sharks. These sharks are drawn to the numerous fish that call this wreck home. There can be up to a hundred sandtiger sharks cruising in the water column and hovering around the wreckage.

Swimming with these sharks in the open sea is an otherworldly experience. With their fearsome fang-toothed faces, these sharks look pretty dangerous, but they’re actually quite sluggish and peaceful. I’d describe them as big, toothy puppies. Some of them are curious and swim close. Others are a bit more skittish and keep their distance. It depends on the shark.

But, now, it’s time to get back on the boat, so if you liked this article please give it a like, leave a comment down below, and follow Tidewater Teddy! Thanks, and have a great day!

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