See Image 1 Description Below


Image 1 - The US tanker, Papoose, was struck by two torpedoes from the German submarine U-124 on the night of March 18, 1942. By the early hours of March 19, she had settled upside-down on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in 125 feet of water approximately 30 miles south of Morehead City, North Carolina, USA.

Fellow photographer David Breidenbach and I reached the wreck after an 18 hour drive by car and a 3 hour boat ride aboard the dive boat Atlantis IV out of Morehead City. We saw massive damage to the mid-ship hull as we descended to the upright keel - damage we knew had been caused by the second torpedo that had sunk the vessel. We felt a slight current that ran broadside to the ship as we swam over the wreckage the torpedo had wrought.

As we cleared the torpedo damage, we came upon a dozen large sand tiger sharks (Charcharius Taurus - known as grey nurse sharks or snaggle-tooth sharks in other parts of the world) stacked loosely atop each other, motionless as they stemmed the current. It was a wall of large sharks the likes of which I had never encountered. Armed with Nikon Nikonos cameras and 15mm lenses, David and I knew we had to get much closer for a clear photo in the dark water.

The sharks dispersed as David and I approached, and they began to meander lazily toward us. We felt no danger from an attack by these animals, but we wanted to avoid any physical contact that might trigger an unpredictable response. Although David and I were only a few feet apart, one of the sharks swam between us. I raised my arms and began to twist my body to avoid brushing against the massive shark, and I saw David doing the same thing from the corner of my eye - an underwater ballet of two danseurs and an out-sized leading lady 100 feet beneath the surface of the Atlantic. We each began to photograph the animals as they made close approaches. Curiosity sated, the sharks moved off after a short time.

Clay Coleman