La proue du Giannis D, énorme. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
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 Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:

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 call Thistlegorm, Giannis D, Carnatic, Numidia. These are four impressive wrecks that I was able to photograph in october 2016 in Egyptian waters, in the Red Sea.

La poupe de l'immense Giannis D, à une vingtaine de mètres de profondeur. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte, octobre 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 to 1901. The most recent of the four is the Giannis D, a Greek bulk carrier that sank in 1983. The busiest of history is that 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 2016, aboard 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.

The wrecks are really not dives like the others. During the descent, the heart beats a little stronger, the eyes widen, the excitement is growing. And even if they are well-known sites, many immersed, already explored, the atmosphere is always shrouded in mystery, when is clarified, little by little, in the bluish fog of the water, the darker mass of a huge ship lying on the bottom ...

Le Thistlegorm a été bombardé en 1941. (Shaab Ali, Mer Rouge, Égypte, octobre 2016)
The Thistlegorm was bombed in 1941. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
L'épave du Carnatic, la plus ancienne, gît au pied du récif d'Abu Nuhas depuis 1901. (Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The oldest Carnatic wreck lies at the foot of the Abu Nuhas Reef since 1901. (Red Sea, Egypt)
Là aussi, on se sent tout petit face à l'immense Giannis D. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
We feel very small in the face of the huge Giannis D. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Cette partie de la coque du Giannis D n'est plus qu'un amas de ferraille. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
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, 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 always a little present.

"There are shipwrecks that are uncomfortable", recognize Jenny and Niko, our guides on theExocet. They think in particular of that of Salem Express (where we did not go), which has become a controversial dive site. This passenger ship sank in 1991 on a reef off Safaga, with on board hundreds of Egyptian pilgrims returning from Mecca. There were officially less than 700 passengers and crew on board, unofficially much more. The reports report about 470 deaths, but the toll is likely much heavier. Many bodies would still be at the bottom of the wreck, which is considered a sanctuary.

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

Thistlegorm

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

Le Thistlegorm était un cargo britannique. Il a été coulé lors de son quatrième voyage, alors qu'il faisait route vers Alexandrie. (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 ...

EDIT - 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 is to see 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, but I did one or two more, as the wreck is large, there is so much to see, inside and out ... To visit without getting wet, I invite you to go 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 ...

Au-dessus du pont supérieur du Thistlegorm, les photographes sont à la fête. (Shaab Ali, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
Above the upper deck of the Thistlegorm, photographers are at the party. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
Le Thistlegorm est une épave spectaculaire, qui fascine les plongeurs. (Shaab Ali, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The Thistlegorm fascinates divers. (Thistlegorm, Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
L'épave du Thistlegorm est facilement pénétrable. (Shaab Ali, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The wreck is easily penetrable. (Thistlegorm, Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
Dans les cales du Thistlegorm, des poissons évoluent autour des motos englouties depuis 1941. (Shaab Ali, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
In the Thistlegorm holds, fish have been evolving around sunken motorcycles since 1941. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
Le Thistlegorm transportait du matériel militaire pour les troupes britanniques en Afrique. (Shaab Ali, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The Thistlegorm was carrying military equipment for British troops in Africa. (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
Tout est resté là, quasiment intact. L'épave du Thistlegorm est un véritable musée sous-marin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale... (Shaab Ali, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
Everything remained there, almost intact. The wreck is a real submarine museum of the Second World War ... (Thistlegorm, Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
Sur le pont supérieur du Thistlegorm, une échelle semble mener vers la surface... (Shaab Ali, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
On the upper deck of the Thistlegorm, a ladder seems to lead to the surface ... (Shaab Ali, Red Sea, Egypt)
L'épave du Thistlegorm, immense, est devenue le refuge des poissons. (Shaab Ali, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
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: 99m. Construction : 1969, in Imabari, Japan. Launched as Shoyo Maruhe took the Markus in 1975 and then from Giannis D in 1980 when he resold the Greek shipping company Dumarc Shipping & Trading from Piraeus. Shipwreck: April 19, 1983. He sank right on the Abu Nuhas reef flat while the captain was sleeping ... The ship had left Rijeka in Yugoslavia (in what is now Croatia) and after crossing the Suez Canal was on its way to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, with a load of wood. Depth: 25 to 27m at the bottom, 5m at the top of the portico.

Le Giannis D, avant et après le naufrage... (Photo et illustrations : DR)
The Giannis D, before and after the sinking ... (Photo and illustrations: DR)

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

The outside has thrilled me, but the interior leaves me a more unpleasant impression. Nothing difficult in the penetration, but everything is inclined to 45 degrees, so that I almost dizzy at the edge of nausea, at times, with the desire to get out as soon as possible ... These corridors leaning are really troubling for the brain! It's a pretty unpleasant feeling, that many divers feel in this wreck. But the places are really amazing, with lots of details to watch, and I focused on the light effects.

L'énorme épave du Giannis D gît à une vingtaine de mètres de profondeur, inclinée à 45°. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The enormous wreck of the Giannis D lies at a depth of twenty meters, inclined at 45 °. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
L'imposante masse du Giannis D, à contre-jour, est vraiment impressionnante. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The imposing mass of the Giannis D, against the light, is really impressive. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Dans le sable, gisent les débris tombés du pont du Giannis D. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
In the sand lie fallen debris from the bridge. (Giannis D, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Sur le pont du Giannis D. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
On the Giannis D. Bridge (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Le Giannis D est parfait pour une partie de cache-cache sous-marine... (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The Giannis D is perfect for a game of underwater hide-and-seek ... (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Les poissons sont désormais les maîtres des coursives, cales et salles des machines du Giannis D. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The fish are now masters of the passageways, holds and engine rooms. (Giannis D, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Oh là, là, ça penche... J'en ai presque la nausée. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
Oh, there, it leans ... I almost feel nauseated. (Giannis D, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Une échelle du Giannis D, délicatement ornée de coraux moux roses. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
A scale delicately adorned with soft pink corals. (Giannis D, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Cette partie de la coque du Giannis D n'est plus qu'un amas de ferraille. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
This disemboweled part of the hull of Giannis D is nothing more than a pile of scrap metal. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Sur le pont du Giannis D. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
On the Giannis D. Bridge (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Des coraux moux jaunes et rouges se sont fixés sur les structures du Giannis D. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
Yellow and red soft corals are attached to the structures. (Giannis D, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Le palier de sécurité se fait sur la partie haute de l'immense GIannis D. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The safety stop is on the upper part of the huge portico. (Giannis D, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Vue sur la timonerie du Giannis D, depuis le sommet du portique. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
View of the Giannis D wheelhouse from the top of the portico. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
La proue du Giannis D, énorme. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
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: 90m. Construction : 1862, at Cubitt Town, near London. He was armed in 1863 by the company Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation. Shipwreck: September 13, 1869. Party of Suez (the Suez Canal will be inaugurated the following month), he was traveling to Bombay, India, with a cargo and on board 230 passengers and crew. He too was embedded on the reef ... (He's right next to Giannis D and there are two other wrecks nearby in Abu Nuhas, which means that the place is dangerous for navigation.) Depth: 27m at the bottom, 17m on the highest part.

Le Carnatic était utilisé par les Britanniques sur la route des Indes pour le service postal, le transport de passagers et de marchandises. (Illustrations : domaine public & 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 CarnaticAt first glance, it does not fill your eyes like the others. I found it particularly beautiful and moving. It is still 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!

Le quadrillage métallique du pont du Carnatic compose un étrange damier sous-marin. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The metal grid of the bridge is a strange underwater checkerboard. (Carnatic, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Les anthias jouent au-dessus du corail qui a colonisé le pont concrétionné du Carnatic. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The anthias play above the coral that colonized the Carnatic's concrete bridge. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
D'étranges formes semblent surgir de ce qu'il reste de la coque du Carnatic. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
Strange shapes seem to emerge from what remains of the hull. (Carnatic, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Dans le Carnatic, les poissons de verre sont partout. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
Glass fish are everywhere. (Carnatic, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Fascinants jeux de lumière à l'intérieur du Carnatic. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
Fascinating light games inside the Carnatic. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Profusion de coraux moux sur cette partie brisée de la coque du Carnatic. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
Profusion of soft corals on this part of the Carnatic hull. (Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)
Je ne me lasse pas d'admirer les bancs de poissons de verre qui se font et se défont inlassablement dans les entrailles du Carnatic. (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
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)
Le Carnatic est un immeuble à poissons de verre ! (Abu Nuhas, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
This old ship is a glass fish building! (Carnatic, Abu Nuhas, Red Sea, Egypt)

Numidia

Type of ship: British cargo. Length: 137m. Construction : 1901, in Glasgow, Scotland, for the shipping company Anchor Line. Shipwreck: on the night of July 19-20, 1901, on the reef of Big Brother Island, reported by a lighthouse on his maiden voyage between Liverpool and Calcutta, India. He was carrying railway equipment. Depth: 15m for the debris of the front part closest to the surface and up to 80m for the stern, inaccessible in diving leisure.

À gauche, le seul navire identique au Numidia, l'Assyria, photographié ici vers 1905. (Photo : Scottish Maritime Museum) À droite, l'épave du Numidia, qui repose presque à la verticale sur le récif pentu de Big Brother, jusqu'à environ 80m de profondeur.
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 starts really only from 30-40 meters, so, it takes less time than the other wrecks (for non-divers: the deeper we go, the more air we consume and so the more we quickly empty his bottle). The Numidia has a massive, ghostly, quite impressive. To say that she has been there for more than a century ...

I did not take the time to sneak in with Jenny, our guide, and my partner Françoise, fascinated that I was by the profusion of corals outside! Magical.

But I'm a little hungry, not to have been able to linger any longer. We chose to go up along the reef of Big Brother, to make a little longer the dive, hoping to cross, to return, some long-legged sharks. The tek divers, equipped to push deeper exploration towards the stern, are fond of Numidia.

L'épave du Numidia émerge du bleu, tel un mystérieux navire fantôme. (Big Brother, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The wreck of Numidia emerges from the blue, like a mysterious ghost ship. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
Seules les structures hautes du Numidia, à une trentaine de mètres de profondeur, sont accessibles en plongée loisir. (Big Brother, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
Only the high structures of Numidia, at about thirty meters deep, are accessible in recreational diving. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
Le Numidia, comme les autres épaves, est devenu un gigantesque récif propice à la vie corallienne. (Big Brother, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The Numidia, like the other wrecks, has become a gigantic reef conducive to coral life. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
Les coraux se sont installés sur le pont supérieur. Numidia (Big Brother, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
Corals proliferate on the upper deck. (Numidia, Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
La lumière du flash révèle les couleurs dont s'est paré le Numidia. (Big Brother, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The light of the flash reveals the colors of which the Numidia has adorned itself. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
Cette cheminée du Numidia est couverte de coraux moux orangés. (Big Brother, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
The exterior of Numidia is sumptuous. (Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt)
L'épave du Numidia se dresse à contre-jour sur le récif. (Big Brother, Mer Rouge, Égypte)
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!

And also… The wreck of Liberty in Bali (Indonesia) remains one of my favorite wrecks, on which I always have great pleasure to dive back, year after year. Recently, in 2015, I also dipped 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 Cadiz, in 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, Maldives ...

  Egypt: Red Sea - October 2016

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  1. Wow, your article "plunges me" two years back ... 🙂
    Thistlegorm was a revelation for me, first wreck of all my life, my level 2 just got ...
    Wonderful. And your photos are superb!

    Have you returned to Egypt recently to dive? I feel that it's getting more complicated to get there by plane (but it's back to normal little by little, no?)

    Voyageusement,
    Marie / The Old Sole

    1. @ Marie / The Old Sole: yes, the Thistlegorm is really an exceptional wreck ... I can imagine the strong impression it made you too at the time.
      I was in Egypt for this cruise, as I said in the article, in October 2016. Nothing complicated to get there, it "just" to book a plane ticket ... 😉 Nothing special to report when to the trip, just very serious and very thorough security checks at the Cairo airport, between the international flight and the domestic flight.
      Tourism in Egypt has obviously suffered a lot. The "good" side of things is that we do not hustle on the dive sites, even the most famous as the Thistlegorm ...

  2. Hi Corinne 😉
    Superb your article! Now that you have tasted the Exocet, be careful you can not do without!
    I had the opportunity to do a lot of wrecks in the Red Sea ... The Thistlegorm several times, always exceptional, full of history ... And to say that before the revolution it was the second most wrecked wreck in the world ! a real Jacuzzi ... I think I never had more than 4 boat on the surface, happiness.
    I have a heart for the Ghiannis D ... always full of life ... And the interior is quite destabilizing. Once I saw bubbles come down ... the surface seemed to be 45 ° outside ... in short, I did not know where I was!

    1. @Anthony: thank you !!! Yes, the Exocet is really top. Cruise decided at the last minute, seeing a post Phil Simha FB who said there was a place and reminding that there were my friends Audrey and Rémy Blue Addiction on board and more ...

      For me, a diver especially in Asia, the wrecks of the Red Sea, it's a novelty, discovery ... I'm conquered. Especially since we do not jostle, because of tourism at half mast, on the sites. In any case, I would do all these wrecks with pleasure. Reassured to see that I'm not the only one experiencing strange sensations inside the Giannis D ... 😉 Really "disorienting", yes ...

  3. Hi Corinne,
    Nice memories for me (Thistelgorm and Numidia)
    Also the Liberty in Bali, but still in love with Raja Ampat and Indonesia in general!
    Kisses to you
    Christian

    1. @Christian: beautiful discoveries for me, these wrecks. It was only my second time in the Red Sea ... But I remain like you absolutely bitten of Indonesia and Raja Ampat (I will probably return in a few months) ... Kisses
      🙂

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