Fishderk's Dives & Other Ravings

Feb. 22, 2007 - Red Sea North Cruise

The Red Sea is somewhere I go whenever I have got a few bobs to spare. I love the place. I really do! In my view, itís the perfect place for any diver. I reckon you could write a whole library of books about diving in the Red Sea and Iím tempted myself to attempt it but then again I have a hunch nay book on the Red Sea would consist of 80% photographs and 20% text. And rightly so; because when it comes to the Red Sea the old dictum that a picture speaks a thousand words applies. So am I defeating my purpose here or not? Not sure, but anyway I think Iíll just post a few pics of the Red Sea and hope it doesnít mean I canít rave anymore. No, just kidding! Okay, here are a few pics but I really want to talk about wrecks, at least one wreck anyway.  

                                                                              

 

There are many wrecks in the Red Sea and most of them are accessible to the average diver. Of course one of the highlights of the North Cruise and the Red Sea is the Thistlegorm, a 131m, 9009 ton cargo ship built in 1940 in the UK and sunk not long afterward on the night of 5th to 6th October 1941 in the Straits of Gubal between the Shaíab Ali reef and Sinai. The events leading up to the sinking are quite dramatic and spectacular and provide material for a brilliant documentary or perhaps even a thrilling feature film. In fact, the story was published in the Stornoway Gazette in 1943 and survivor interviews were recorded. The Thistlegorm, which means ëblue coalí in Gaelic, left Glasgow in the first week of September 1941 for the Red Sea loaded with military supllies for British forces in North Africa. After stopping in Capetown for coal she set sail for Suez . On the evening of 5th October 1941 The Thistlegorm arrived in the Straits of Gubal where it anchored alongside another twenty vessels. At the same time the 2nd escadron of the Luftwaffe from the 26th Kamp Geswader in Crete were scouring the Sinai coast for allied cargo ships. At about 1 am on the 6th the pilots intercepted the vessels and decided to launch an attack. Apparently, the gunners on the Thistlegorm didnít even have the time to load their anti-aircraft guns and the Thistlegorm was hit, causing a large explosion. She sank with nine crew at 1:30 am on 6th  October 1941.          

The wreck is a wreck-diverís dream and one of the best dives Iíve ever made. She lies more or less upright on a sandy seabed at a depth of between 18m and 31m. She isnít indicated on the surface by any notable marker and has to be located by GPS or sonar. It should be mentioned here that to visit the entire wreck you will need at least two dives. The current in the area can be moderate to very strong or even violent at times so it is advisable to descend a line attached to the structure of the wreck. Whatís more the surface current can sometimes be contrary to the bottom current. Once on the wreck the real voyage begins. The hull split in two toward the stern and debris as well as a locomotive lie on the seabed nearby. Towards the prow you will see the anchor still in place as well as its chain. Heading towards midship you can see cabins and toilets. The hull is open and can be entered once minimum care is taken. Inside you will find an array of vestiges including trucks, jeeps, and BSA WDM20 motorcycles. There is also a selection of military supplies such as uniforms and ammunition scattered here and there. There are even a few Lee Enfield Mk III rifles.  Itís truly like an underwater museum and you get the feeling that time stopped suddenly for the life of this vessel back on that night in October 1941. Here are a few photos I borrow from Google and having failed to locate the author I hope their kindness will prevail; and so I give the links www.divesitedirectory.co.uk and www.africa-expedition.com. I mean they're only smallies, right?                                         

 

 As you can imagine, the hull has become a haven for numerous flora and fauna which adds to the spectacle of this dive. For those of you who know how to take a good shot itís also a photographer's paradise. Here is a stingray I spotted a few metres from the wreck. Awesome! This is my own photo.

 

    Thought you'd like it.

By the way I was thinking of doing something on the Brothers Islands or St-Johns...  

 
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DEA (MPhil) Ancient History, PADI OWSI & EFR Instructor.

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