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 latest wonderment as an underwater photographer: sunken ships, in the Red Sea, colonized by coral and fish. Spectacular wreck dives in Egypt!
Diving on wrecks
They are called Thistlegorm, Giannis D, Carnatic, Numidia. These are four imposing wrecks, that I was able to photograph in october 2016 in Egyptian waters, in the Red Sea.
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 sank in 1983. The most historical is that of the Thistlegorm...sunk in 1941 by German bombers.
These are not my first wrecks, in my diving life, but they impressed me a lot, because of their size (all of them 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 theAdvanced Open Water (AOW)with a minimum of 50 dives experience. It is also ideal 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 2016on board theExocet. I really appreciated the organization, the comfort and the atmosphere on this boat. The cruise mixed photographers and snorkelers. These four wrecks are "classics", in the program of most of the diving cruises organized in the Red Sea. Some of them can also be done as day trips, like the Thistlegorm from Hurghada or Sharm el-Sheikh.
Learn more. If you read English, you will find a lot of information about the wrecks of the Red Sea and their history on this site: The Red Sea Wreck Project.
Wrecks are really not like other dives. During the descent, the heart beats a little harder, the eyes widen, the excitement grows. And even if these are well known sites, many dives, already explored, the atmosphere is always shrouded in mystery, when the darker mass of a huge ship lying on the bottom becomes clearer, little by little, in the bluish mist of the water...
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 that are appropriated by fish and coral. But even when time has passed, the feeling of being on the scene of a drama is still somewhat present.
"There are wrecks that make you uncomfortable", recognize Jenny and Niko, our guides on theExocet. They are thinking in particular of the Salem Express (where we did not go), which became a controversial diving site. This passenger ship sank in 1991 on a reef off the coast of 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 indicate that about 470 people died, 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 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 cause any casualties.
Type of vessel : 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 was transporting military equipment for the British troops in Africa: Bedford trucks, caterpillars, motorcycles, machine guns, ammunition, two locomotives... Depth: 30 m at sand level, 15 m for the highest structures.
Of the four, this is probably my favorite wreck! It was Jacques-Yves Cousteau who first discovered and explored the Thistlegormin the 1950s. It is today the most famous wreck of the Red Sea. You can enter and explore the holds, which are a real underwater 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 → Treasures of the abyss: touched, sunk. The internet version of the article is here → Diving: the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm, ship sunk in the Red Sea in 1941
We made two dives there, but I would have done one or two more, as the wreck is so vast, and 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 presentationwhich I found on my return, while researching the Thistlegorm.
Below, some of the pictures I took during these really spectacular dives...
Type of vessel : 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 (in present-day Croatia) and after passing through the Suez Canal was bound 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.
There are four wrecks on the Abu Nuhas reef (including the CarnaticI will introduce you below). The wreck of the Giannis DThe boat, broken in two (the stern slid along the reef years after the bow), is particularly "photogenic" from the outside, and during my visit, the visibility was excellent. I would have liked, once again, to spend more time there and to make some more dives...
I was thrilled with the exterior, but the interior left a more unpleasant impression. Nothing difficult in the penetration, but everything is tilted at 45 degrees, so that I almost felt dizzy at the limit of nausea, at times, with the desire to get out of it as soon as possible... These tilted corridors are really disturbing for the brain! It is a rather unpleasant feeling, which many divers feel in this wreck. But the places are really extraordinary, with a lot of details to observe, and I focused on the light effects.
Type of vessel : 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. It left from Suez (the Suez Canal will be inaugurated only the following month), and was heading for Bombay, India, with a cargo of 230 passengers and crew members. It too crashed on the reef... (It is right next to the Giannis D and there are two other wrecks in the vicinity of Abu Nuhas, that is to say if the place is dangerous for navigation). Depth: 27 m at the bottom, 17 m on the highest part.
The wreck of the CarnaticAt first glance, it doesn't impress like the others. However, I found it particularly beautiful and moving. After all, it has been there for almost a century and a half...
The interior, with the blue light filtering through the metallic skeleton of the concretion-covered hull and the thousands of ever-moving glass fish, is magnificent!
Type of vessel : British cargo. Length : 137 m. Construction : 1901, Glasgow, Scotland, for the shipping company Anchor Line. Shipwreck: on the night of July 19-20, 1901, on the reef of Big Brother Island, even though it was marked by a lighthouse, during its maiden voyage between Liverpool and Calcutta, India. It was carrying railway equipment. Depth: 15 m for the debris of the front part closest to the surface and up to 80 m for the stern, inaccessible for recreational diving.
The interesting part really starts only from 30-40 meters, so we enjoy it less than the other wrecks (for non-divers: the deeper we go, the more air we consume and therefore the faster we empty our tank). The Numidia has a massive, ghostly look, quite impressive. To think that it has been there for more than a century...
I did not 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-like.
But I am still a bit disappointed not to have been able to stay there longer. We chose to go back up along the Big Brother reef, to make the dive last a little longer, hoping to meet, on the way back, some long-legged sharks. Teak divers, equipped to explore deeper into the stern, love the Numidia.
These famous wrecks of the Red Sea were all new to me, as I am more used to drag my fins in the waters of the Indo-Pacific area. And there are many others, which we passed by, and where we did not dive...
The often excellent visibility of the Red Sea adds to the pleasure of the discovery and of the underwater photography: you can really look at the wrecks, try to reproduce their atmosphere. I keep a wonderful memory of these four wrecks!
Other wrecks, in Indonesia and in Brittany... The wreck of the Liberty in Bali (Indonesia) remains one of my favorite wrecks, on which I always have great pleasure to dive, year after year. Recently, in 2015, I also dived on the wreckage of a small plane shot down during the Pacific War, in Raja Ampat (Indonesia) and, a long time ago, in 2003, I even dived on l'Amoco Cadizin Brittany. And I also had the opportunity to explore many other wrecks, small and large, more or less spectacular, during my travels, in Thailand, Malaysia, the Maldives...