DDC Blog

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Beaufort, North Carolina 28516


Survive Your Dive

"Nobody understands the allure of the sea more than the U.S. Coast Guard, but we also see the tragic results when people underestimate the hazards. The adventure and thrill of diving are appealing to many, but the ocean is an unforgiving environment — and even less forgiving to those who recreate beneath the surface."
— Rear Adm. Karl Schultz, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District

Recreational diving is by and large a safe activity, but when accidents occur the outcomes are often frightening and can be fatal. The beautiful blue world below can quickly become hostile for divers who lack adequate training, are in poor physical condition, use improperly maintained equipment or are otherwise unprepared.

Although the U.S. Coast Guard does not have regulatory authority over recreational diving as it does for recreational and commercial boating, Coast Guard search-and-rescue crews are frequently called on to assist when divers are lost or in trouble. In the aftermath of a dive injury or death, the Coast Guard marine casualty investigators work with other public health and safety organizations to identify what went wrong and evaluate how to prevent future accidents.

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How to Care For Your Scuba BC

Your scuba BC takes care of you underwater, playing a vital role in safe ascents and exploration. Make sure you take care of your BC by properly prepping it for a dive and cleaning it afterward. Here are a few maintenance tips from our Gear Editor for keeping your BC in tip-top shape for as long as possible.

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Tiny, Underwater Robots Offer Unprecedented View of World's Oceans

Robots the size of grapefruits are set to change the way scientists study the Earth's oceans, according to a new study.

Though space is often known as the "final frontier," the oceans of our home planet remain much of a mystery. Satellites have played a big role in that divide, as they explore the universe and send data back to scientists on Earth. But now, researchers have developed a kind of satellite for the oceans — autonomous miniature robots that can work as a swarm to explore oceans in a new way.

For their initial deployments, the Mini-Autonomous Underwater Explorers (M-AUEs) were able to record the 3D movements of the ocean's internal waves — a feat that traditional instruments cannot achieve. Study lead author Jules Jaffe, a research oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said current ocean measurements are akin to sticking a finger in a specific region of the water. [In Photos: The Wonders of the Deep Sea]

"We can move the finger around, but we're never in two places at the same time; so we basically have no sort of three-dimensional understanding of the ocean," Jaffe told Live Science. "By building this swarm of robots, we were in 16 places at the same time."

Each underwater robot is about the size and weight of a large grapefruit, Jaffe said. The bots are cylindrical and have an antenna on one end and measurement instrumentation on the other.

The swarm's first mission was to investigate how the ocean's internal waves moved. One of Jaffe's colleagues theorized that aspects of plankton's ecology is due to ocean currents pushing plankton together and pulling it back apart. However, scientists did not have the three-dimensional instrumentation capabilities to be able to verify those theories. Over the course of a few afternoons, Jaffe and his team deployed the M-AUEs in hopes of proving (or disproving) the theory.

"We could see this swarm of robots be pushed by currents, getting pushed together and then get pushed apart," Jaffe said. "It's almost like a breathing motion, but it occurred over several hours."

The theory was based on ocean physics, water density and internal wave dynamics, but the scientists had never seen the real-time movement of ocean water in 3D, Jaffe said.

And although their initial deployments were focused on the 3D mapping of internal wave dynamics, Jaffe said there are many other applications for the robot swarms.

For instance, with slightly different instrumentation, the robots could be deployed in an oil spill to help track the harmful toxins released. With underwater microphones, the swarm could also act as a giant ear, listening to whales and dolphins.

"We're not yet churning them out like a manufacturing facility, but we think we can answer a lot of questions about global ocean dynamics with what we have," Jaffe said of the couple of dozen robots the scientists have now. "And we are planning on a next generation, which hopefully would have more functionality and would maybe be even less expensive."

Details of the robot swarm were published online today (Jan. 24) in the journal Nature Communications.

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A Fish Full Of Dollars

The Problem

Sharks are a vital component of our complex marine environment.  Without these apex predators, this ecosystem risks falling out of balance and may ultimately collapse.

Worldwide, fishing is pushing many species to the brink of extinction. This film examines Indonesia’s role as the number one shark fishing nation in the world.  In Tanjung Luar, rural Lombok’s biggest fish market, sharks are a targeted species, where despite worldwide trends shifting away from shark finning, the trade persists. However, as shark populations decline, fishermen are forced further afield every year to satisfy the hungry demand of the Chinese and world market for shark fin soup.

Shark fin soup, a cultural symbol of prosperity and good fortune, is traditionally served at Chinese New Year celebrations, banquets, and weddings.  WildAid says “For every Hong Kong wedding, 30 sharks must die”.  Hong Kong and Guangzhou are major hubs for the trade, and despite past reports of falling demand, as a consequence of large-scale public campaigns launched by environmentalists and animal rights advocates, recent surveys show a surprising amount of shark fin is still being consumed.

Wild Aid have a simple message “When the buying stops, the killing can too”.  The price of the life of a shark is getting cheaper by the year. The price of shark fins has fallen dramatically, but the fishing has not stopped.

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Top 5 Winter Diving Hotspots

Posted by Megan Denny

While warm-water divers pack up their kit and hibernate for the winter, dry suit-certified divers enjoy great diving and fewer crowds. Here are five destinations for your (insulated) bucket list.

White Sea

Regarded as one of the top diving destinations in the world, The White Sea in Russia offers equal parts challenge and reward for divers with the right training. Water temps under the ice average -2 °C / 28 °F and there won’t be a post-dive drink in a coconut waiting for you when the dive is done.

But if you fancy dog-sledding, sleeping under the aurora borealis and exchanging smiles with a Beluga whale, clear your calendar for March. During summer months, you could see an orca whale, beluga whale, or Greenland shark.

Winter in the northern hemisphere is summertime in Antarctica. Set a course for the least-visited continent and you’ll be treated to sites few divers ever experience. In addition to the unique landscape (both topside and underwater), you’ll may encounter a curious leopard seal, or get dive-bombed by a penguin.

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8 Frosty Creatures to See When Ice Diving

Divers tend to be the friendly, welcoming sort. We’re always game to have an adventure and meet new people. But every now and again we throw down.

It usually goes something like this:

Diver 1: That’s great you got to snorkel with whale sharks. Did I tell you about the time I DOVE with one in the Philippines?

Diver 2: No, you didn’t, but I bet it was like the time I dove with a BABY HUMPBACK.

Diver 1: Sounds rather nice, a bit like the time I was in the Bahamas and a pod of dolphins SPELLED OUT MY NAME UNDERWATER.

You get the idea. One-upmanship is alive and well for some members of the diving community. Personally, I would be happy staring at a cuttlefish, or even a common housecat for two hours. But, if I wanted to “win” the game of I’ve-seen-something-cooler-than-you-have, I’d go ice diving.

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Dietary Supplements and Healthy Foods for Divers

Dietary supplements are popular among health- and fitness-conscious people, including recreational divers. Divers often ask about the possible benefits and adverse effects of supplements, used for either general wellness or protection from certain diving injuries. Dietary supplements are clearly helpful to people with a chronic deficit of specific nutrients such as vitamin C (scurvy) or vitamin D (rickets), but effects of supplements in healthy people who eat a balanced diet are less obvious. The large number of supplements available today far exceeds our cumulative scientific capacity to study them all, and so use of supplements grows beyond evidence of their benefits.

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British Columbia's Wreck Trek

A reluctant winter clung to an early March morning while flakes of snow silently fell on eight fully suited divers as our open-skiff slowly motored across glassy-calm water to the first dive site. No one spoke a word.
Images by:
Barb Roy

I couldn’t help but notice the beauty of nature all around. Even through a light veil of surface fog, dark evergreens towered atop rocky shorelines of nearby islands, now bathed in the soft hues of dawn. Perched high above us in a tree, an eagle squawked with another as we passed, followed by the quiet gurgle of an otter entering the water.

“Five minutes out!” announced our dive guide, John de Boeck, owner of Browning Pass Hideaway on northern Vancouver Island. “Below rests the skeleton of the SS Themis wreck. Watch your depth and especially watch your bottom time because the currents really move around Croker Rock. While diving here, it’s possible you might see the ship’s bathtub, maybe the boilers, a few octos and watch out for immense wolf-eels!”
I rubbed my cold hands together and blew some warm air on them before donning drygloves and attaching them to my drysuit. As we prepared to enter the chilly water, John added the general site details and said, “Don’t worry, by now the wolf-eels have already eaten their breakfast…” Yes, I’ve grown accustom to John’s wit over the years. For someone who has been offering dive excursions since 1981, he knows the area eerily well.
Slipping beneath the surface through a forest of tall gently swaying kelp fronds proved to be as magnificent as the topside terrain. Life and color was everywhere. Black rockfish hovered mid-water, not in the least bit afraid of us. I am sure if the light was brighter, the ship’s remains would have been in full view 60ft (18m) below—the visibility was that good.
My husband, Wayne, wasted no time in locating his first wolf-eel. A few needle white teeth oddly protruded through huge rubbery lips. Muppets always come to mind when I see these comical characters up close. All around its den were piles of crumbled scallop, urchin and crab shells. This guy indeed had an appetite for seafood, a lot like Wayne…

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Estimating Your Air Consumption

It is a warm clear day, and the Atlantic Ocean is like glass. As you drop into the water for a dive on North Carolina's famous U-352 wreck, you can see that the captain has hooked the wreck very near the stern. It is your plan to circumnavigate the entire structure and get that perfect photograph near the exposed bow torpedo tube. You descend to slightly below 100 feet, reach the structure and take off toward the bow. Unfortunately, you are only halfway, just approaching the conning tower, when your buddy signals that he is running low on air. Putting safety first, you return with him to the ascent line — cursing the lost opportunity and vowing to find a new buddy.

If you've ever experienced the disappointment of ending a dive too soon for lack of breathing gas or, worse, had to make a hurried ascent because you ran out of air, it may surprise you to learn that your predicament was entirely predictable. With a little planning and some basic calculations, you can estimate how much breathing gas you will need to complete a dive and then take steps to ensure an adequate supply. It's a process that technical divers live by and one that can also be applied to basic open-water diving.

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President Obama Denies All Pending Permits for Seismic Airgun Blasting in Atlantic Ocean

WASHINGTON – Today (Jan 6, 2017), the Obama administration formally denied all pending permits to conduct seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean. Seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean’s surface, was originally proposed in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida.

This announcement follows several recent historic moves by the Obama administration to decrease America’s dependence on dirty fossil fuels, including the removal of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans from the five year program (from 2017-2022) for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf and the permanent protection of important areas of the Atlantic and Arctic from future offshore drilling.

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Football Fish, Himantolophus sagamius

Image result for fish football

Cabrillo Marine Museum Chief Aquarist Lloyd Ellis knew he had a neat surprise coming when on January 3, 1990 San Pedro fisherman Greg Boy brought in a black five-gallon bucket and said "there's a strange fish frozen solid in this bucket." Lloyd knew that if a fisherman found the fish strange, it had to truly be strange. Over the next two days, as the ice in the bucket melted, it revealed a beautiful specimen of a football fish (Himantolophus sagamius). After searching the literature, staff found that this was the tenth and largest specimen ever recorded for the species.

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Diving Wild in Browning Pass, British Columbia

Leveling off at 60 feet, I meticulously scanned Browning Wall's carpeted ledges of pastel-pink soft corals, ghostly-white plumose anemones and big clumps of encrusting sulfur sponges. While stalking one of the Emerald Sea's more elusive critters, I marveled at the living tapestry of rainbow colors.

Stuffed into every nook and cranny of this precipitous drop off were sea anemones, feathery hydroids, deep-purple hydrocorals, spiny red urchins, rock scallops and lacy basket stars. Traveling slowly over a rock festooned with orange social tunicates were several flame-tipped nudibranchs and one Limacia cockerelli (formerly known as Laila cockerelli) nudibranch. Set apart from Browning's ubiquitous schools of widow and China rockfish, beautifully mottled red Irish lord sculpins had perched themselves on invertebrate-encrusted outcroppings, seemingly expecting the ocean's current to spoon-feed them their prey.

My quarry, a decorated warbonnet, peered out from behind some soft coral polyps. Skittish by nature, these eel-like fish were named after the prominent cirri crowning their skull, which resembles the feathers of a Plains Indian chief's war bonnet. Measuring about one foot in length, these bizarre-looking fish rival any to be found at many of the world's tropical diving hot spots in terms of vibrant coloration and exotic beauty. The water temperature was a balmy 49ºF, and I was adrift in underwater photographic bliss.

Browning Pass, a remote current-swept channel off Vancouver Island's Nigei Island, is one of British Columbia's diving jewels. There are numerous dive sites within this channel that feature a diverse assortment of subsea terrain and unusual marine life. John deBoeck, a local dive a operator who pioneered diving in Browning Pass, has proclaimed this waterway as having the best temperate diving in the known universe. It's hard not to agree; the constellation of sea life inhabiting Browning Pass is out of this world. Seasonal upwellings — the movement of deep, nutrient-rich ocean water to the surface, combined with extreme tidal movement — produce an enriched planktonic broth that supports a lush assortment of exotic marine life outstanding in variety and abundance. British Columbia harbors approximately 7,000 marine species, or roughly 4 percent of the world's total. Marine biodiversity experts believe this number could double once the province's subsea terrain is fully explored.

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The Extraordinary Bull Shark

Some sharks are named for their appearance like the blue shark, the hammerhead shark and the blacktip shark. Others are named for where they are found, like the Galapagos shark, the Japanese wobbegong and the Greenland shark. Then there are sharks that have the same name as fierce land animals like weasel sharks, houndsharks, the tiger shark and the infamous bull shark.

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Yemaya, Goddess of the Ocean and the New Year

They call her the goddess Yemaya, Ymoga (Mother of the Fishes), Iamanga, and Balianne. She traveled with them from Yoruba to distant lands, comforting them in the holds of the slave ships that took them far away from their homeland in Africa. Today she is also celebrated under many other names, including the virgin Mary (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception), Stella Maris (Star of the Sea), and Our Lady of Regla...to name but a few.

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Ocean Stories: Mysteries, Legends and Superstitions

Ready for some spooky ocean stories to tell before your next night dive? Today’s post includes tales of ghost ships and sailors’ superstitions. Heed these tales or find yourself in Davy Jones’ locker!  For those who dare to read on, we’ll share some of the world’s eeriest places to dive.

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INTO THE ABYSS, the German HSK Kormoran and the Australian HMAS Sydney

by Dr James Hunter

By mere chance, the two ships encountered one another on the afternoon of 19 November. The naval engagement that followed lasted less than an hour, resulted in the loss of both ships, and spawned one of Australia’s greatest naval mysteries.
As Sydney steamed south, a disguised commerce raider of Nazi Germany’s navy, the Kreigsmarine, was cruising north along the coast of Western Australia. The vessel, HSK Kormoran, had been engaged in disrupting Allied merchant shipping in the Indian Ocean for seven months, and was on its way to lay mines in Shark Bay. Once this mission was completed, the raider would continue north to the East Indies (modern-day Indonesia) before heading west to the Bay of Bengal.

On 11 November (Armistice Day) 1941, the Modified Leander Class light cruiser HMAS Sydney (II) pulled away from Victoria Quay in Fremantle, Western Australia and proceeded to leave harbour. The Second World War was in its third year and Sydney, which had recently returned to Australia after serving with distinction in the Mediterranean Theatre, was tasked with escorting the troopship Zealandia to Indonesia’s Sunda Strait. Following an uneventful six-day passage, Sydney rendezvoused with the light cruiser HMS Durban, to which it transferred responsibility for Zealandia and the final leg of the troopship’s voyage to Singapore. As Sydney reversed course and began the return journey to Fremantle, those aboard Zealandia and Durban could not have known that they would be among the last people to see the warship then regarded as the ‘pride of the Royal Australian Navy’ for another sixty-six years.

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Bahamas Lemon Shark Nursery Gives Researchers Special Insight


I love mangroves, except when i’m in them.

I’m being attacked by mosquitoes and sand flies while recovering from a mild jellyfish sting. It’s hot — like really hot. The sun is setting over tiny tide-driven Paige Creek on 110-mile-long Eleuthera Island, a beanpole strip of land located in the Atlantic east of Nassau. The sharks I’m here to photograph are not cooperating, so I decided to drag my camera gear (and my stiff, dehydrated body) back to the tent. I begin to fruitlessly swat at the sand flies that are getting into my (theoretically) sealed tent. While dripping salt water all over my sleeping bag, I check the images in the back of my camera, but they are not what I was hoping for. I dry off, lay back and wonder what the hell I’m doing here.
The goal is to capture images of baby lemon sharks. I saw 10 today, and call me crazy, but I find them super-cute! From a photographer’s perspective, they live in a beautiful habitat surrounded by mangrove trees. Sharks and trees are not things most people correlate, but these sharks depend on mangroves for the first five to eight years of their lives.

A week earlier, to learn more about lemon sharks, I traveled to the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) and visited Ian Bouyoucos. A native New Yorker, Bouyoucos is a tall, young shark researcher whose primary interest is in elasmobranch stress physiology. Sharks’ lives are far more complex than the eating machines most of us conjure, says Bouyoucos. For example, he says, lemon sharks can form friendships. “Certain individuals tend to stay close to one another, and they can even learn from one another. They definitely have individual personalities.”

A 2-foot lemon shark pup looking for food off Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas.
From the moment they are born, sharks are independent. “They learn how to hunt for other juvenile prey and make a lot of mistakes,” explains Bouyoucos, “but they are learning.” Later, I am reminded of Bouyoucos’ comment as I watch shark pups accidentally bump into mangrove roots, get temporarily stuck in small spaces, and grab leaves in their mouths before spitting them back out as if to say, “Yuck!”
As you watch the 20-inch cuties swimming, the first thing you notice is how floppy they are — a far cry from the 10-foot-long powerful predators they will hopefully survive to become. Lemon sharks are currently listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN.
In a different part of the Bahamas, scientists at the Bimini Biological Field Station (aka Sharklab), led by Samuel “Doc” Gruber, recently made a stunning discovery: The lemon sharks there return to the same mangrove creek where they were born to give birth 12 to 15 years later. It took 20 years of tagging and monitoring to prove, and is the first time this behavior has been confirmed with any shark species.
Hence, every mangrove creek is important. I ask Bouyoucos what would happen if Paige Creek were turned into a marina. “If it’s developed, we don’t know what a returning mother would do, and the pups currently in the creek would certainly be displaced,” he tells me.

Like many shark species, lemons are caught in both commercial and sport fisheries for their meat, and their fins can generate high prices for shark-fin soup across the globe. Bouyoucos says their largest threat, however, “is habitat destruction; as mangroves disappear, so will lemon sharks.”

More than 50 percent of mangroves worldwide are already gone, and the Food and Agriculture Organization calculates the world is losing mangroves at a shocking rate of 1 percent per year. “People want to be by the ocean, so they build their homes or hotels, golf courses, etcetera, right where the mangroves are,” says Bouyoucos.

The good news is there are groups of people working hard to research, protect and restore mangroves. CEI is not only studying lemon sharks, but it is also reaching out to help educate the public. A scenic two-minute walk from CEI (a bridge over a mangrove creek, no less) is where you will find the Island School, which accepts international high school students who participate in CEI’s research. Locally, scientists from CEI visit all the schools on Eleuthera to talk about sharks, mangroves and many other aquatic topics that will affect their future. Internationally, many conservation organizations are working hard to help mangroves and the many species, including lemon sharks, that depend on them. There is still hope.

As I lie in my tent, uncomfortable, swatting away at an army of mosquitoes and sand flies, I know I want to help bring attention to the plight of these beautiful predators. I realize that I love mangroves, even when they are not so easy to love.

The Cape Eleuthera Institute is a research station and educational facility teaching and housing students from around the world. In addition to the lemon shark study, researchers there are also doing pioneering work on deep-sea sharks, bonefish, inland ponds, lionfish and sea turtles. The institute is one of the most ecofriendly campuses in the world. They grow much of their own food, recycle cooking oil from cruise ships to power their boats and vehicles, store rainwater for showers (hot water provided by the sun) and toilets, and use solar and wind power for electricity.


• Lemon sharks grow to 10 feet (3 meters), but may only be 20 inches at birth.

• It takes them 12-15 years to become mature.
• The oldest recorded lemon shark is 37 years old; however, it is possible they live much longer.
• They are found throughout the tropical and subtropical waters of Africa, Australia and the Americas.
• They are known to congregate in large numbers for breeding, and give birth every second year. After the pups leave the mangroves, they can be found on reefs, estuaries, sea-grass beds, and have even been found up rivers, showing they can tolerate a range of salinities.


Lemon shark pups are not the only species to call the mangroves home. They share this thriving habitat with bonefish, barracuda, crabs, lobsters, rays, seahorses, puffers, snapper and grouper, among others. In some locations, like Florida and Cuba, alligators can also be found among the tangle of roots; overseas you might even find a tiger! It is always an adventure exploring mangroves, whether by snorkel, kayak or paddleboard.

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Denmark, the small kingdom in Scandinavia, may only have some 5.5 million inhabitants in its 16,000 square miles of land mass, and due to its northern latitude, it’s waters are not exactly abundant in corals and tiger shark.

However, it boasts an impressive 4,500 miles of coastline, longer than the Chinese wall, and nearly 5 feet of coastline per inhabitant.

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North Carolina—Where the War Came Home

North Carolina—Where the War Came Home Due to the great number of ships that met their demise in the turbulent waters off North Carolina’s coast, the area is often referred to as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. In 1942, the area began to get a second nickname. Just six weeks after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, German U-boats began sinking ships off the North Carolina coast. There were so many ships torpedoed that it wasn’t long before the area near Cape Hatteras was coined ‘Torpedo Junction.’ One of those attacks occurred on July 15, 1942, when Convoy KS-520, with 19 merchant ships and five escorts, was sailing near Cape Hatteras to Key West when the convoy was spotted by a German U-boat, U-576. Before the U-boat could fire its torpedoes, one of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters saw it and began to drop depth charges. U-576 fired four torpedoes into the convoy. Two rocked the Chilore, one hit the J.A. Mowinckel and the fourth struck the SS Bluefields, which sank within minutes. U-576, previously damaged, surfaced in the middle of the convoy and the Unicoi opened fire while two U.S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft dropped depth charges, thus sending U-576 to the bottom of the sea with all 45 crew members

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Travel Hacks -12 Free Apps That Make Travel A Breeze

Whether your destination is Kansas or Kathmandu, successful travel requires planning. And while some people love researching destinations and creating detailed lists and itineraries, many of us would rather not work so hard.

That’s where the latest crop of travel apps comes in. Today’s travel apps put powerful planning and organizing tools in the palm of your hand, allowing you to easily book and organize your trip, find the best ways to get from one place to another, and document and share every moment along the way.

Here are 12 free travel apps to explore—whether you’re planning your next getaway or already on the road:

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U/W Bike Race

eventsiconJoin us on July 4th for this annual event benefitting the Children's Mile of Hope.

Lionfish Tournament

eventsiconWe need your help to make Carteret County's 6th Annual "If you Can't Beat 'em, Eat 'em" Spearfishing Tournament a success! This Tournament is a joint effort between Discovery Diving and Eastern Carolina Artificial Reef Association (ECARA).

Treasure Hunt

eventsiconFood, prizes, diving, and fun! Proceeds benefit the Mile Hope Children's Cancer Fund and DAN's research in diving safety.


2013Join us in support of the East Carolina Artificial Reef Association.  Click here for more info on this great event and how you can help to bring more Wrecks to the Graveyard of the Atlantic.