The bow of Giannis D, huge. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The bow of Giannis D, huge. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)

Four spectacular shipwrecks in the Red Sea

#Egypt

  Egypt: Red Sea - October 2016

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

This is my last wonder underwater photographer: ships sunk in the Red Sea, colonized by coral and fish. Spectacular wreck dives in Egypt!

Diving on wrecks

They're called Thistlegorm, Giannis D, Carnatic, Numidia. These are four imposing wrecks, which I was able to photograph in october 2016 in Egyptian waters, in the Red Sea.

The stern of the immense Giannis D, about twenty meters deep. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
The stern of the immense Giannis D, about twenty meters deep. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)

Some are quite old: the sinking of the Carnatic dates back to 1869 and that of Numidia à 1901. The most recent of the four is the Giannis D, a Greek bulk carrier that went down in 1983. The most storied is the history of the Thistlegorm...sunk in 1941 by German bombers.

These are not my first wrecks, in my life as a diver, but they impressed me a lot, by their size (all around a hundred meters) and their beautiful state of conservation.

What level ? These four wrecks in the Red Sea are accessible by recreational diving, from level 2 (N2) or fromAdvanced Open Water (AOW), with a minimum experience of about 50 dives. The ideal is also to have a certification Nitrox (air enriched with oxygen) to maximize the time spent at the bottom.

How? I discovered these wrecks in diving cruise in october 2016aboard theExocet. I really appreciated the organization, the comfort and the atmosphere on this boat. The cruise mixed divers photographers and freedivers. These four wrecks are "classics", on the program of most diving cruises organized in the Red Sea. Some may also be on day trips, such as the Thistlegorm from Hurghada or Sharm el-Sheikh.

Learn more. If you read English, you will find lots of information about the wrecks of the Red Sea and their history on this site: The Red Sea Wreck Project.

Shipwrecks are really not dives like the others. During the descent, the heart beats a little stronger, the eyes widen, the excitement increases. And even if they are well known sites, many of them already explored, the atmosphere is still shrouded in mystery, as the darker mass of an immense ship lying on the bottom gradually becomes clearer in the blue fog of the water...

The Thistlegorm was bombed in 1941. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt, October 2016)
The Thistlegorm was bombed in 1941. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
The oldest Carnatic wreck lies at the foot of the Abu Nuhas Reef since 1901. (Red Sea, Egypt)
The oldest Carnatic wreck lies at the foot of the Abu Nuhas Reef since 1901. (Red Sea, Egypt)
Here too, we feel very small against the huge Giannis D. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
We feel very small in the face of the huge Giannis D. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
This part of the hull of the Giannis D is nothing more than a pile of scrap metal. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
At this point, the hull of the Giannis D is more than a pile of scrap. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)

There is beauty and emotion in the spectacle offered by these immense structures abandoned at the bottom of the water, which have become artificial reefs appropriated by fish and coral. But even when time has passed, the feeling of being on the scene of a drama is always a little present.

"There are shipwrecks that are uncomfortable", recognize Jenny and Niko, our guides on theExocet. They are thinking in particular of the Salem Express (where we didn't go), which has become a controversial dive site. This passenger ship sank in 1991 on a reef off Safaga, with hundreds of Egyptian pilgrims returning from Mecca on board. There were officially less than 700 passengers and crew on board, unofficially many more. Reports put the death toll at around 470, but the death toll is likely to be much higher. Many bodies are still believed to be at the bottom of the wreckage, which is considered to be a shrine.

With regard to the four wrecks that I present below, the wreck of the Carnatic (1869) killed about thirty people and that of the Thistlegorm (1941) nine dead, but those of the Numidia (1901) and the Giannis D (1983) did not make any victims.

Thistlegorm

Type of ship: cargo ship of the British Merchant Marine. Length: 131 m. Construction : 1940, in Sunderland (United Kingdom). Shipwreck: 6 October 1941, off the Sinai near Ras Mohamed. The ship, despite its anti-aircraft gun, was sunk by two German bombers. En route to the Suez Canal and Alexandria, Egypt, the Thistlegorm transported military equipment for the English troops in Africa: Bedford trucks, tracks, motorcycles, machine guns, ammunition, two locomotives... Depth: 30 m at sand level, 15 m for the highest structures.

The Thistlegorm was a British freighter. He was sunk on his fourth trip while on his way to Alexandria. (Photo: DR)
The Thistlegorm was a British freighter. He was sunk on his fourth trip while on his way to Alexandria. (Photo: DR)

Of the four, it's probably my favorite wreck! It was Jacques-Yves Cousteau who first discovered and explored the Thistlegormin the 1950s. Today it is the most famous wreck of the Red Sea. We can enter and explore the holds, which are a real submarine museum of the Second World War ...

Update - July 2017: Thanks to this wreck, I found myself in the newspaper The Parisian, who asked me to testify for a summer series! A copy of the page can be seen here →. The treasures of the abyss: touched, sunk. The internet version of the article is here →. Diving: the wreck SS Thistlegorm, ship sunk in the Red Sea in 1941

We did two dives there, but I would have done one or two more, as the wreck is so vast, there is so much to see, inside and outside... To visit it without getting wet, I invite you to go and see this awesome 3D presentation, which I found on my way back, doing research on the Thistlegorm.

Below, some of the photos I made during these truly spectacular dives ...

Above the upper deck of the Thistlegorm, photographers are at the party. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
Above the upper deck of the Thistlegorm, photographers are at the party. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
The Thistlegorm is a spectacular wreck that fascinates divers. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
The Thistlegorm fascinates divers. (Thistlegorm, Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
The wreck of the Thistlegorm is easily penetrable. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
The wreck is easily penetrable. (Thistlegorm, Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
In the Thistlegorm holds, fish have evolved around sunken motorcycles since 1941. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
In the Thistlegorm holds, fish have been evolving around sunken motorcycles since 1941. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
The Thistlegorm was carrying military equipment for British troops in Africa. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
The Thistlegorm was carrying military equipment for British troops in Africa. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
Everything remained there, almost intact. The wreck of the Thistlegorm is a real submarine museum of the Second World War ... (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
Everything remained there, almost intact. The wreck is a real submarine museum of the Second World War ... (Thistlegorm, Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
On the upper deck of the Thistlegorm, a ladder seems to lead to the surface ... (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
On the upper deck of the Thistlegorm, a ladder seems to lead to the surface ... (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
The wreck of the Thistlegorm, huge, has become the refuge of the fish. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
The wreck of the Thistlegorm, huge, has become the refuge of the fish. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)

Giannis D

Type of ship: cargo bulk carrier Greek. Length: 99 m. Construction : 1969, in Imabari, Japan. Launched as Shoyo Maruhe took the one from Markus in 1975, then from Giannis D in 1980 when it was sold to the Greek shipping company Dumarc Shipping & Trading of Piraeus. Shipwreck: April 19, 1983. The ship had left Rijeka in Yugoslavia (now Croatia) and after passing through the Suez Canal was heading for Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, with a load of wood. Depth: 25 to 27 m at the bottom, 5 m at the top of the gantry.

The Giannis D, before and after the sinking ... (Photo and illustrations: DR)
The Giannis D, before and after the sinking ... (Photo and illustrations: DR)

There are four wrecks on Abu Nuhas Reef (including the Carnatic, which I present to you below). The wreck of Giannis DThe reef, broken in two (the stern slipped along the reef years after the bow) is particularly "photogenic" from the outside and when I passed by, the visibility was excellent. I would have liked, there again, to have been able to spend more time there and make some more dives...

I was enthusiastic about the outside, but the inside left a more unpleasant impression. Nothing difficult to penetrate, but everything is tilted at 45 degrees, so that I almost felt dizzy to the point of nausea at times, with the desire to get out as quickly as possible... These tilted corridors are really disturbing for the brain! It's a rather unpleasant sensation that many divers in this wreck feel. But the place is really extraordinary, with a lot of details to observe, and I concentrated on the play of light.

The enormous wreck of the Giannis D lies at a depth of twenty meters, inclined at 45 °. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The enormous wreck of the Giannis D lies at a depth of twenty meters, inclined at 45 °. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The imposing mass of the Giannis D, against the light, is really impressive. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The imposing mass of the Giannis D, against the light, is really impressive. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
In the sand, lie fallen debris from the Giannis D. bridge (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
In the sand lie fallen debris from the bridge. (Giannis D, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
On the Giannis D. Bridge (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
On the Giannis D. Bridge (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The Giannis D is perfect for a game of underwater hide-and-seek ... (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The Giannis D is perfect for a game of underwater hide-and-seek ... (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The fish are now the masters of the Giannis D.'s gangways, holds and engine rooms (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The fish are now masters of the passageways, holds and engine rooms. (Giannis D, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Oh, there, it leans ... I almost feel nauseated. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Oh, there, it leans ... I almost feel nauseated. (Giannis D, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
A scale of Giannis D, delicately adorned with pink soft corals. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
A scale delicately adorned with soft pink corals. (Giannis D, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
This part of the hull of the Giannis D is nothing more than a pile of scrap metal. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
This gutted part of the Giannis D's hull is nothing but a pile of junk. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
On the Giannis D. Bridge (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
On the Giannis D. Bridge (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Yellow and red soft corals have settled on the structures of Giannis D. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Yellow and red soft corals are attached to the structures. (Giannis D, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The security stop is on the upper part of the immense GIannis D. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The safety stop is on the upper part of the huge portico. (Giannis D, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
View of the Giannis D wheelhouse from the top of the portico. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
View of the Giannis D wheelhouse from the top of the portico. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The bow of Giannis D, huge. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The bow of Giannis D, huge. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)

Carnatic

Type of ship: British mixed transport vessel (goods and passengers), both steam and sail. Length: 90 m. Construction : 1862, Cubitt Town, near London. It was armed in 1863 by the company Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation. Shipwreck: September 13, 1869. Setting out from Suez (the Suez Canal was not inaugurated until the following month), it was on its way to Bombay, India, with a cargo and 230 passengers and crew on board. He too was embedded on the reef... (He is right next to the Giannis D and there are two other wrecks nearby in Abu Nuhas, so if the place is dangerous for navigation). Depth: 27 m at the bottom, 17 m on the highest part.

The Carnatic was used by the British on the route of the Indies for the postal service, the transport of passengers and goods. (Illustrations: public domain & DR)
The Carnatic was used by the British on the route of the Indies for the postal service, the transport of passengers and goods. (Illustrations: public domain & DR)

The wreck of Carnatic...don't look like the others. Yet I found it particularly beautiful and moving. It's been lying there for almost a century and a half...

The interior, with the blue light filtering through the metal skeleton of the concretion-covered hull and the thousands of ever-changing glass fishes, is magnificent!

The metallic grid of the Carnatic Bridge is a strange underwater checkerboard. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The metal grid of the bridge is a strange underwater checkerboard. (Carnatic, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The anthias play above the coral that colonized the Carnatic's concrete bridge. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The anthias play above the coral that colonized the Carnatic's concrete bridge. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Strange shapes seem to emerge from what remains of the Carnatic's hull. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Strange shapes seem to emerge from what remains of the hull. (Carnatic, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
In the Carnatic, glass fish are everywhere. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Glass fish are everywhere. (Carnatic, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Fascinating light games inside the Carnatic. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Fascinating light games inside the Carnatic. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Profusion of soft corals on this broken part of the Carnatic shell. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Profusion of soft corals on this part of the Carnatic hull. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
I never tire of admiring the shoals of glass fish that are made and disintegrate tirelessly in the bowels of the Carnatic. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
I never tire of admiring the shoals of glass fish that are made and disintegrate tirelessly in the bowels of the Carnatic. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
The Carnatic is a glass fish building! (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
This old ship is a glass fish building! (Carnatic, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)

Numidia

Type of ship: British cargo. Length: 137 m. Construction : 1901, Glasgow, Scotland, for the shipping company Anchor Line. Shipwreck: in the night of July 19 to 20, 1901, on the reef of Big Brother Island, which was nevertheless signalled by a lighthouse, during its maiden voyage between Liverpool and Calcutta, India. She was carrying railway equipment. Depth: 15 m for the debris from the bow section closest to the surface and up to 80 m for the stern section, inaccessible during recreational diving.

On the left, the only ship identical to Numidia, the Assyria, photographed here around 1905. (Photo: Scottish Maritime Museum) On the right, the wreck of Numidia, which sits almost upright on the sloping reef of Big Brother, at about 80m depth.
On the left, the only ship identical to Numidia, the Assyria, photographed here around 1905. (Photo: Scottish Maritime Museum) On the right, the wreck of Numidia, which sits almost vertically on the stern against the sloping reef of Big Brother, up to about 80m deep.

The interesting part really only starts from 30-40 meters, so you don't really enjoy it as much as the other wrecks (for non-divers: the deeper you go down, the more air you consume and therefore the faster you empty your bottle). The Numidia has a massive, ghostly, quite impressive. To say that she has been there for more than a century ...

I didn't take the time to sneak inside with Jenny, our guide, and my partner Françoise, fascinated as I was by the profusion of corals outside! Fairy.

But I'm still a little hungry, for not being able to spend more time on it. We chose to go up along the Big Brother reef, to make the dive last a little longer, in the hope of crossing it on the way back, some long-legged sharks. The tek divers, equipped to push deeper exploration towards the stern, are fond of Numidia.

The wreck of Numidia emerges from the blue, like a mysterious ghost ship. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
The wreck of Numidia emerges from the blue, like a mysterious ghost ship. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
Only the high structures of Numidia, at about thirty meters deep, are accessible in recreational diving. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
Only the high structures of Numidia, at about thirty meters deep, are accessible in recreational diving. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
The Numidia, like the other wrecks, has become a gigantic reef conducive to coral life. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
The Numidia, like the other wrecks, has become a gigantic reef conducive to coral life. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
Corals settled on the upper deck. Numidia (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
Corals proliferate on the upper deck. (Numidia, Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
The light of the flash reveals the colors of which the Numidia has adorned itself. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
The light of the flash reveals the colors of which the Numidia has adorned itself. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
This Numidia chimney is covered with orange-colored corals. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
The exterior of Numidia is sumptuous. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
The wreck of Numidia stands against the reef. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
The wreck stands against the reef. (Numidia, Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)

These famous wrecks of the Red Sea were all unpublished for me, who are more used to drag my fins in the waters of the Indo-Pacific zone. And there are many others, near which we went, and where we did not dive ...

The often excellent visibility of the Red Sea adds to the pleasure of discovery and underwater photography: you can really look at the wrecks, try to restore the atmosphere. I keep an amazed memory of these four wrecks!

Other wrecks, in Indonesia and Brittany... The wreck of Liberty in Bali (Indonesia) remains one of my favourite wrecks, which I always take great pleasure in diving on, year after year. Recently, in 2015, I also dived on the wreck of a small plane during the Pacific War in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, and a long time ago, in 2003, I even plunged theAmoco Cadizin Brittany. And I also had the opportunity to explore many other wrecks, big and small, more or less spectacular, during my travels, in Thailand, Malaysia, the Maldives...

  Egypt: Red Sea - October 2016

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