Steven Slater had been exploring the Andrea Doria ocean liner that sank about 60 miles from Nantucket, Massachusetts in 1956.
Mr Slater, from Gateshead, was taking part in a group excursion to the Italian ship.
The 46-year-old reportedly got into difficulties and was pulled from the water unconscious near the wreck by crew members from the Ol’ Salty II charter boat.
They conducted CPR for more than two hours, according to the US coastguard.
He was later pronounced dead.
Mr Slater is the 10th person to die exploring the Andrea Doria, according to the diving website diverblue.com.
A family statement said: “It is with absolute sadness that we have to tell you that Steven died on Monday 24 July whilst diving in the United States.
“We are all heartbroken but draw comfort knowing he was doing something that he loved.”
Fellow diver Steve Sanders wrote on Facebook: “To be your friend was an honour, to dive with you was a pleasure, to share your passion was awesome, but now you have left a big hole in so many hearts, swim free my friend the seas missing a Neptune.”
A Facebook post on the EUROTEK Advanced Diving Conference page said: “Steve was a hugely respected and well-liked British wreck and technical diver.
“Steve pursued his passion, actively researching, then searching and diving missing wrecks with his friends.”
Ol’ Salty II’s captain, Nick Caruso, said on Facebook: “We’re coming home. Sad end.
“Our deepest, sorrow and sympathy to the family and friends of the lost brother wreck diver.”
The SS Andrea Doria sank in the Atlantic as it was heading for New York City when it collided with the MS Stockholm, killing 46 people.