Wrecks

S.S. Thistlegorm

Dive Brief

Dive Drift Dive
Max Depth 30m
Max Time 60mins
Current Medium to Strong
Entry Penguin Entry
Pick Up RIB pickup
Extra SMBs

Look for

  • Octopus
  • Nudibranchs
  • Anemonefish
  • Fusiliers
  • Big Table Corals
  • Gorgonian Fans
  • Turtles

Ship Info

  • Albyn Line: Formed 21st June 1901
  • Built: January 1941, Joseph L. Thompson and Sons Ltd, Sunderland
  • Type: Steamship, single screw
  • Gross Tonnage: 4898 tonnes
  • Length: 415 feet/126m
  • Sale price: £115,000
  • Launched: 9th April 1940, by Mrs. K.W. Black

Voyages

  1. The USA to bring back steel rails and aircraft parts
  2. Argentina, returning with grain
  3. West Indies for sugar and rum
  4. Final voyage to Suez

Crew: 41

Bombed: 6th October 1941

Casualties: 9

Cousteau's visit: 1955

Rediscovered: 1974 first known dive to wreck

Dive Site: First publicized in 1992

Television: First TV documentary in 1995 'Thistlegorm's Last Voyage' by Caroline Hawkins

Location: Safe anchorage 'F' in the Straits of Gubal

Depth:The Deepest point at 30m

Shallowest point: at 13m

The Thistlegorm in Gaelic means 'blue thistle'. She was a British transport ship belonging to the Albyn Line shipping company, was 126.5 meters long and had a three-cylinder steam engine which was giving the vessel a speed of around 10 knots. The Thistlegorm was built to transport refurbished wartime materials for the British troops. In May 1941 with a crew of 39 men it had left the port Glasgow, Scotland with a cargo of munitions, bombs of a different kind, antitank mines, riffles, a hundred of BSA motorcycles, BSA W-M20, Matchless G3L and Norton 16 H, Bedford, Morris and Ford trucks, two light Bren Carrier MKII tanks, two steam Stanier 8 F locomotives with two coal tenders and water tankers necessary for travel in desert zones, transport trucks, portable field generators, spare parts for airplanes and automobiles, medicines, tires and rubber boots. The cargo was destined for the British 8th Army stationed in Egypt and Lybia; yet the German forces controlled the Mediterranean so circumnavigating Africa and passing through the Suez Canal to reach the port of Alexandria was considered the safe route. The Thistlegorm was already on its way up the Red Sea when it received the order to anchor in Straight of Gubal and wait as the Suez Canal was temporary obstructed by a vessel that had hit a German mine. On the night of the 5-6th October two German Heikel He III bombers, coming from their base in Crete, sighted and attacked the ship. It was hit by two bombs on hold no. 4where the munitions deposit –among other things-was situated. The explosion was very violent and tore the ship in two whilst the locomotives despite their weight of 126 tons each and the fact that they were tied to the deck, were catapulted into the air. The bomb and the explosion of some of the ammunition stored in hold 4 led to the sinking of the Thistlegorm with the loss of four sailors and five members of the Royal Navy gun crew. Mr. Rejda single-handled saved most of the sailors by swimming into the wreck and towing them to safety. The survivors were picked up by HMS Carlisle. Captain Ellis was awarded the OBE for his actions following the explosion and a crewman, Angus McLeay, was awarded the George Medal and the Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea for saving another crew member. Most of the cargo remained within the ship, the major exception being the steam locomotives from the deck cargo which were blown off to either side of the wreck.

In the early fifties Jacques-Yves Cousteau discovered her by using information from local fishermen. He raised several items from the wreck, including a motorcycle, the Captain's safe, and the ship's bell. The February 1956 edition of National Geographic clearly shows the ship's bell in place and Cousteau's divers in the ship's Lantern Room. Cousteau documented diving on the wreck in part of his book The Living Sea.

What makes this ship so extra-special is a combination of several factors. Despite extensive damage aft of the Bridge, the main section is upright and on an even keel. Then, there is the story of her passing, with all its ingredients of War, Heroism and Tragedy - something that is never re-created in any vessel deliberately sunk. Lest we forget, even the Titanic would have passed into obscurity were it not for the manner of her sinking! Then, prevailing conditions and accessibility all come into play. These include an acceptable climate, relatively warm waters, very good underwater visibility and a maximum depth of just 32 metres to the seabed.

What more could be asked of any shipwreck you might ask - and the word "Cargo" springs to mind. Within the Thistlegorm, that cargo is a veritable underwater "World War II Museum."

Despite the manner of her sinking and the ongoing destruction, the Thistlegorm is still in remarkable condition. The front section remains largely intact and sits upright on a sandy seabed at a maximum depth of 32 metres. The starboard anchor is deployed, some railing are still in place and all the winch houses, winches, blocks, windlasses and other paraphernalia are there to be found. Leaving the focsle, on the main deck there is a railway water carrier on either side of No 1 Hold with the one on the port side resting precariously over the edge of the Hold.

Each hold was built in two levels with the upper level known as "tween decks." Basically, these tween decks are, in effect, a large shelf that stretched under the decks of the ship. There are Bedford trucks and a number of Motorcycles on the starboard side and whilst the same is found on the port side, the top of the hold is bent downwards and, with the presence of the water carrier, perched somewhat menacingly over the edge, it tends to be less well visited.

Inside No 1 Hold, the cargo of parts and spares has come to look like an accumulation of debris that obscures anything of greater interest - including more vehicles.

Back at deck level, there is a Tender Railway on each side of No 2 Hold beside which are two "torpedoes" shaped Paravanes. Once again there are some very interesting vehicles in the tween decks but below these on the port side, the Diver will discover two large Armored Cars - built on Rolls Royce Chassis.

It must be said, that even after several hundred dives on Thistlegorm, such is the allure it holds for divers, that there is always something new to see. Very recently, a local diver claims that he stumbled across a newly discovered locomotive some one hundred and fifty metres from the wreck. The race is on to reach and photograph the engine together with the ship's funnel, both of which, allegedly, are still attached to the deck blown clean off the ship by the explosion.

Diving SS Thistlegorm requires certification as a trained diver, beyond entry-level, through a recognized scuba training agency. In any event, divers visit the wreck at their own risk.

Dunraven Wreck

Dive Brief

Max Depth 30m
Max Time 60mins
Current Medium to Strong
Pick Up RIB pickup or return to boat
Extra SMBs, Torch

Look for

  • Batfish
  • Scorpionfish
  • Nudibranchs
  • Pipefish
  • Anemonefish
  • Napoleon Wrass
  • Goatfish
  • Jackfish

Ship Info

  • Built: Newcastle 1873
  • Dimensions: 80m x 10m
  • Draught: 7.3m
  • Cargo: General with 25 crew
  • Sank: Sha'ab Mahmud 1876

The SS Dunraven was built in Newcastle upon Tyne at the C. Mitchell and C. Iron Ship Builders, launched in 1873 the ship was owned by a Mr. W Milburn. Powered by both sail and steam the ship was planned to ply the route from Britain to Bombay.

3 years later in January 1876 she set sail from Liverpool loaded with steel and timber she sailed for Bombay where the cargo was sold, and she was reloaded with Spices, Cotton, and Muslin for the return journey. It was generally an uneventful journey, and she reached the Red Sea approaches the Suez Canal on 25 April. Thinking they were further up the Gulf of Suez than they actually were Captain Care, and the 25-man crew sailed the ship straight into the reef. The ship stuck fast south of Beacon Rock at the southern end of the furthest reaches of what is now the Ras Muhammad National Park on the outside of Sha'ab Mahmoud. The crew worked frantically to dislodge her and 14 hours after striking the rock she slid off, unfortunately, this motion up to her balance and she capsized.

She sunk quickly then, into 25 meters of water, leaving the crew to be rescued from the lifeboats by local fishermen. After the incident, the British Board of Trade held an immediate inquiry and found Captain Care to have been at fault. The board declared him negligent and revoked his Captain's license, the master’s Certificate, for a year.

The wreck was known to local fishermen for generations as the shallow depth would cause their nets to snag but it was only re-discovered to the general populace in 1977 when a German Oil company employee re-discovered the site. The ship was dived on soon afterward and many wide theories appeared around it suggesting it was a World War I ship that operated on behalf of Lawrence of Arabia. Then a piece of porcelain was found with the name SS Dunraven upon it showing its real origin. Legends still surround the wreck as there are stories of the wreck being caused due to an argument between the drunk Captain and his promiscuous wife.

Since its rediscovery, the wreck has become a popular dive site due to its shallow depth. The wreck has largely broken up as it lies upside down upon the reef but there are three large holes in the hull which allow divers to penetrate the wreck and examine the two large boilers and host of fallen metalwork. In part due to the shallow depth, an abundance of reef fish can be found around it, Glassfish, Groupers, Jackfish, Scorpionfish, and Crocodile fish can all be seen around the ruptures in the hull.

Million Hope

Dive Brief

Dive Drift Dive
Max Depth 30m
Max Time 60mins
Current Medium to Strong
Entry Penguin Entry
Pick Up RIB pickup
Extra SMBs

Look for

  • Octopus
  • Nudibranchs
  • Anemonefish
  • Fusiliers
  • Big Table Corals
  • Gorgonian Fans
  • Turtles

The Loss of the Million Hope

The Million Hope sailed from Aqaba on 19 June 1996 and in the early hours of 20 June struck the inshore Reef near Nabq. The mainly Filipino crew refused to abandon ship until it became clear it was going to sink and were then all rescued safely in an operation that lasted more than 20 hours. Some of the crew later accused the vessel's master of failing to follow prescribed navigation routes and of maintaining high speed despite poor visibility.

Egyptian officials became immediately concerned about the cargo - the worry was that it would slowly dissolve in seawater, producing an algae-like film that would blot out essential sunlight from all adjacent reefs. Major Salvage companies were, therefore, invited to tender for the salvage of this cargo which was separately valued at £1.3 million. The cargo was successfully salvaged and the Million Hope was abandoned as a constructive total loss.

Diving the Million Hope

The ship's superstructure is above the surface and the hull rests on the seabed at 20m. Her starboard side is alongside the reef and the ship is upright with a list to port. The decks are underwater but not the focal. The vessel is largely intact with no evidence of salvage. All the cargo holds are entirely open and empty.

At the Bows, there is clear evidence of the ship's impact with the reef with the bulbous nose having been pushed back into the hull. Swimming between reef and hull you will find the remains of the Hey Daruma squashed underneath.

The Hey Daruma

  • Name: The Hey Daruma
  • Constructed: Ardrossan Dockyards Ltd
  • Launched: August 1940
  • Type: General Cargo Vessel
  • Displacement: 1,736 grt
  • Dimensions: 83.8m x 12.5m with a draught of 3.6m
  • Machinery: Single action 8 Cylinder Oil-fired engine
  • Output: 2,500 bhp and a top speed of 14 Knots
  • Owners: Sefinot Ltd of Eilat
  • Cargo: Water

On the night of 3 September 1970, the Hey Daruma sailed from Eilat with a cargo of water and later struck this same inshore Reef. All the crew was safely rescued. There were several attempts to refloat the vessel before she was eventually abandoned as a constructive total loss. The ship finally slipped off the reef and was reported as being upside down at the base of the reef in 18-20m of water. In 1996 the Million Hope came to rest on top of the Hey Daruma - leaving very little trace of this much smaller vessel.

Back to Million Hope

Near the stern of the Million Hope on the port side the diver will find the gantry from No 4 Crane has fallen to the seabed and resting against the hull. The huge propeller is at 24m but the rudder is missing creating a great deal of space under the after-deck. Up above, that after-deck is at 4-5m with all the usual fittings such as bollards, vents, railings and a huge winch in place. Behind the winch is a large open deck hatch - which allows easy entry into the ship's interior. From here the Diver is able to locate a number of rooms including the Engine Room - which is as exciting as any have seen elsewhere, each hold is wide open, cavernous and empty.

The Million Hope is easily one of the largest shipwrecks any Scuba Diver is ever likely to visit underwater. Don't lose sight of the fact that this ship has a significant list to port and that there exist 4 massive cranes and a very large bridge deck - all above water. Collectively, these structures weigh many hundreds of tons and are evenly spaced along the entire length of the ship. Below the surface there are tears in thehull - all the way through to the cargo holds. I firmly believe there will come a time in the not-so-distant future when this vessel will simply fall over onto her port side and become completely enveloped by the sea. Should this happen - and sooner rather than later, the Million Hope will then provide a much better diving attraction.

Jackson Reef

Dive Brief

Dive Drift Dive
Max Depth 30m
Max Time 60mins
Current Medium to Strong
Entry Penguin Entry
Pick Up RIB pickup
Extra SMBs

Look for

  • Octopus
  • Nudibranchs
  • Anemonefish
  • Fusiliers
  • Big Table Corals
  • Gorgonian Fans
  • Turtles

On the northern edge of the reef, the wreck of a grounded freighter stands as a warning sign. Most of its hull has been salvaged for scrap, leaving only a skeletal hulk. A fixed mooring exists at the southern end of the reef. Dives begin from this point and proceed generally northward along the east side of the reef.

The steep-sided walls of Jackson Reef are among the finest in the Sinai region. The reef is densely grown with a real profusion of hard and soft corals, with special accents provided by luxuriant gorgonian fans and black corals.

Not surprisingly, fish life is excellent. The strong current brings plenty of nutrients for reef and schooling fish. Current and profile combine to tempt pelagics from the open water. Large schools of barracudas and jacks are common here, as are larger predators including several species of sharks. The smaller reef species on which these pelagic visitors feed are profuse.

South Laguna

Dive Brief

Dive Drift Dive
Max Depth 30m
Max Time 60mins
Current Medium to Strong
Entry RIB roll entry
Pick Up RIB pickup

Look for

  • Big Table Corals
  • Gorgonian Fans
  • Stingrays and Eaglerays
  • Moray Eels
  • Schools of Fusiliers
  • Nudibranchs

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