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2010 ECU Nearshore Expedition
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Blog: June 7, 2010

Diving on Oriental
Saxon Bisbee
East Carolina University

Dr. Richards records the bow of Oriental (John McCord, UNC CSI)
Dr. Richards records the bow of Oriental. (John McCord, UNC CSI)
Today we got ready at the usual time of 8:30 am, threw our dive gear in the truck, made sure we had our recording slates and tapes, and piled into the van. The ocean was expected to be rough, but Dr. Richards decided to check it out anyway. A quick stop at Nags Head found that the ocean was calm, so diving was a go.

Oriental aground (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper)
Oriental aground (Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper)
We arrived at Oregon Inlet at 9:30 am and loaded our dive boat, R/V Cutting Edge. By 10 am we were at the Oriental site-it lays about one mile south of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge and about 400 yards from the beach on Pea Island. Oriental is known locally as the "boiler wreck" because its steam cylinder engine sticks out of the water. It was a Civil War Federal troop transport wrecked during a big storm in 1862. No lives were lost.

Engine of Oriental protruding from the water (Program in Maritime Studies)
Engine of Oriental protruding from the water (Program in Maritime Studies)
A brief snorkel showed good diving conditions-no current, 15-foot visibility, and fairly warm water for this time of year (61°F). We found that the ship is half-buried in the sand. It was originally about 200 feet long. Besides the engine, boilers, and propeller, most of the wreck only sticks up above the bottom about 5 feet.

Propeller of Oriental (John McCord, UNC CSI)
Propeller of Oriental. (John McCord, UNC CSI)
The wreck's structure was photographed on our first dive. After this, a baseline was fixed, and we were given specific sections to record. My section was 0 to 20 feet, port side. We used our slates to draw all of the major features of our assigned sections, using a scale of 1 inch=2 feet. On the third and last dive of the day, I recorded the 40 to 60-foot section, starboard. By 3 pm, we were back at Oregon Inlet. Tonight we will fit our recorded sections together to make one large drawing.

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