NEW YORK (MainStreet) For the past three years, Paul Riccobon has been diving at Kure Beach in North Carolina, drawn by the opportunity to dive in waters where he can explore among a host of historic shipwrecks.
Prehistoric fossils can also be found on the ocean's natural ledges, making the underwater experience more than a "great dive," said Riccobon, who takes underwater photos during his adventures.
"They're beautiful wrecks because of the colors and the life that has attached themselves to it," he said. "It's actually kind of a magnificent site. You come up on this thing and see this big hunk of a ship."
Riccobon, president of American Decal, a printing company, makes the annual trek from Santa Ana, Calif. because diving in the U.S. is easier and more affordable than traveling abroad.
"It's a very different experience, and the diving is really good off of Kure Beach," he said. "There aren't big crowds and the beach is clean and beautiful."
Divers can explore various shipwrecks such as the Hyde and Markham, which are both fully intact and are a good site for beginners. The 300-mile coast has been dubbed the Graveyard of the Atlantic and is a popular among history buffs.
The fabled Fossil Ledge, also known as Megalodon Ledge, is famous for having a significant number of teeth that belonged to the megalodon, an extinct whale-eating shark that experts believe to be the largest shark that ever lived.
"You can experience every kind of dive at Kure," Riccobon said. "Finding old shark teeth is very cool. The ships are still in good shape."
Chris Slog, an instructor at Aquatic Safaris, said the probability of finding these prehistoric prizes is not guaranteed, but most divers return to the boat "with at least one tooth." The largest megalodon tooth that was found was about seven inches long. Other souvenirs that divers could take home include whale vertebrae and teeth.