Heritage Dive Site

North Carolina’s first Heritage Dive Site, the Civil War blockade runner Condor, rests in 25 feet of water, about 700 yards off the beach in front of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. She is one of the best-preserved Civil War blockade runners found anywhere in the world.

Her full lower hull, engines, paddle wheels and boilers all are still in place. The vessel is laid across the sea floor like a drawing of the high-tech, stealthy steamer she was when she sailed for Wilmington with her cargo and illustrious passenger, Confederate spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow, more than 150 years ago.

The Condor, along with the many other shipwrecks along the N.C. coast, is part of North Carolina’s rich maritime heritage. By designating Condor as a Heritage Dive Site, that heritage can be better preserved and protected.

Tour the Site

Select a link that corresponds with the map below to view underwater video of the dive site. View all the videos here

Condor Map

Diving on the Condor

The site sits in a relatively shallow, rocky bed, in only 24 feet of water. The main structure of the wreck itself is only 21 feet below the water surface, while parts of her machinery are only 13 feet below. This would normally mark the site with a beginner’s rating. However, the sometimes less than clear water in North Carolina’s near shore wrecks, along with it consisting entirely of 150-year-old iron, makes this a slight step above beginner.

The wreck itself consists of a relatively intact, 218.6-foot-long, iron hulled steamship. The bow is still attached to the wreck along with her sternpost and rudder. In between are outer hull plating, intact I-beam frames, the water tank, “beehive” boilers, both engines, paddle wheel shafts, paddle wheel hubs, keelson and too many pieces of structure to mention. The engine room is clearly defined by the bottom of the bulkheads, while having enough room to swim between the engines even in full dive gear.

With the travel line running down her middle and buoys at either end, the site will be easy move around. Dive slates have been made for the site, which will provide a diver with the ability to take a self-guided tour around the complete wreck.

It is a fantastic diving spot, and one of the few sites in the world where you can physically touch our cultural history. When swimming along the site, it is impossible not to mentally picture the crew performing their tasks, along with Rose O’Neal Greenhow walking her decks.

Please have fun on the site and always remember, “Take only pictures and leave only bubbles.”

History of the Condor

Condor was one of five Falcon Class steamers built on the Clyde River in Glasgow, Scotland, for the lucrative trade of blockade running. Steaming through the cordon of Union naval vessels blockading the port of Wilmington, N.C., on her maiden voyage, Condor ran aground and was lost on the night of Oct. 1, 1864.

Rose O'Neal GreenhowOn board that night was Rose O’Neal Greenhow, the famous Confederate spy, who was returning to the Confederacy after a trip to England to raise funds for the Southern cause. Fearing capture and possible execution by Union leaders, Greenhow insisted on being rowed ashore, despite the vehement protests of the captain and officers of Condor.

A volunteer small-boat crew finally attempted to get Greenhow ashore, but rough seas and breaking waves capsized the boat and she drowned. She is buried in Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington. To this day, her gravesite often is bedecked with flowers and flags, left as homage to the “Wild Rose” of the Confederacy.

The remainder of Condor’s crew rowed ashore the following day, including a Newfoundland puppy belonging to the pilot, Thomas Brinkman.