KURE BEACH - Scuba divers and snorkelers will soon be able to explore one of the best-preserved shipwrecks on the North Carolina coast as the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources opens the state’s first Heritage Dive Site, the Civil War blockade runner Condor, Friday, June 16.
Secretary Susi H. Hamilton will speak at a 10:30 a.m. dedication event for the site at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site in Kure Beach, N.C.
“I am so delighted to help dedicate the first Heritage Dive Site in North Carolina, and one that I hope will be the first of many underwater sites celebrating and preserving our state’s rich maritime heritage,” said Secretary Hamilton. “This project is the result of some amazing teamwork between our Underwater Archaeology Branch, historic site, maritime museum and aquarium staffs, along with some truly outstanding community partners such as North Carolina Sea Grant and Friends of Fort Fisher.”
More than 150 years ago, the high-tech steamer Condor sailed for Wilmington on her maiden voyage with her cargo and illustrious passenger, Confederate spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow. Steaming through the cordon of Union naval vessels blockading the port of Wilmington, Condor ran aground and was lost on the night of Oct. 1, 1864.
The 218-foot-long wreckage rests in 25 feet of water, about 700 yards off the beach in front of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, making it an accessible dive. The Condor has been fully mapped by staff of the department’s Underwater Archaeology Branch, so that divers can easily find the vessel’s full lower hull, engines, paddle wheels and boilers, which are all still in place. Buoys mark the site along with mooring lines for boats and kayaks.
The site will be open for divers from June through November each year. Visitors to the area can also learn about the Condor’s history and view artifacts from the vessel at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site visitors center, or see a replica of its engine room in one of the tanks at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher.
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