The Spar's career came to a halt when she was decommissioned in February of 1997 and placed in to storage at the Coast Guard yard in Curtis Bay, MD. Her illustrious duties of course were far from over. After collecting rust for seven years the Spar was purchased by the State of North Carolina and sent to the bottom of the Atlantic in 2004 to become an artificial reef to attract fish life for sport fishing and recreational SCUBA diving. Today, the Spar is one of the hottest wreck dives off the North Carolina Coast. With a max depth of only 110 feet and the shallowest point at 75 feet she appeals to divers with beginner to expert skills alike. The water temp in the summer months can climb as high as 82 degrees on the bottom with average visibility at a respectable 60-70 feet. To prep the Spar for her new role as an artificial reef a section of the the aft super structure was removed to access the engine room and remove her turbine. This surgical procedure left a large hole in the deck for divers to access the inner workings of the ship. Penetrating the other areas of the Spar is fairly simple and makes her suitable for instructors to conduct advanced diver training. As for the marine life, traditionally a dozen or more Sand Tigers can be found about the wreck on any given day as well as large schools of Atlantic Spade Fish that tend to loiter around the tall superstructure. Fearless Greater Amber Jacks regularly sneak up behind divers coming to within arms reach and even several different species of Moray Eels can be spotted regularly living within the cracks and crevices of the wreck. On not so rare occasions divers can have the added thrill of seeing Giant Southern Stingrays, with wing spans greater than five feet across, take a leisurely swim past them. Cobia, a large popular game fish on the East Coast, are all too often seen swimming behind and underneath the Stingray's darting to and fro like frolicking children. With an array of marine life such as this a description of a dive on the Spar is worthy of bold lettering in ones log book.The Wreck of the Spar may be only a modest 180' long and not have the proportions and memorable history as say the aircraft carriers USS Oriskany, the USS Saratoga or even the WWII troop transport ship the SS President Coolidge but, her story is a respectable one that deserves attention all the same. Let it not be forgotten that this ship and her crew served it's country to the best of it's abilities in war and in peace time and continues to serve today as a stunning dive sight. The "Cutter With the Most Gold" just keeps on giving.
A school of Atlantic Spade Fish.
Captain 'Cuda' at the helm of the Spar.
Latest News on the Spar
In late August of 2011 hurricane Irene swept directly over the wreck of the Spar with 25-30' waves. The immense surge moved the Spar approximately 200 feet from her original location and pushed her over on a 45 degree list to port. The wreck however is still completely intact. That's one tough ship. I have yet to dive the Spar since Irene and I look forward to obtaining new photos as soon as I can.
All text and images copyright Evolution Underwater Imaging LLC2011©Mike Gerken. Unauthorized use prohibited without expressed written consent by the author.
References:USCG Historical Archives; USCG Cutter Spar
Third Class Petty Officer, Tom Hough USCG (Ret.)
Presently, Mike Gerken is the captain of the dive vessel, "Midnight Express" out of Olympus Dive Center in Morehead City, NC and sole proprietor of Evolution Underwater Imaging LLC. He can be found on any given day shooting underwater photographs of the famous shipwrecks of the region as well as the prolific Sand Tiger Shark population that inhabits them.Please visit Mike's web site at Evolution Underwater Imaging to view his complete underwater photo portfolio and video excerpts from his documentary films The Wrecks of Truk Lagoon and The Wreck of the SS President Coolidge.
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