Egypt’s Shipwrecks


wreck-diving

Compiled by Ned Middleton



In addition to my main occupation of underwater photo-journalist and author, I am also a shipwreck historian. As such, my studies take me to all corners of the globe where any of the world’s most outstanding “diveable” shipwrecks may be found. Indeed, for every hour I spend underwater, I easily spend hundreds of hours in dedicated research. As I am so fond of saying, the only way to produce a definitive account of any wrecked ship is through research, research and yet more research. But that is not any easy task! Not even in the UK, for example, are the many details pertaining to any single ship, naval battle, tragedy or other aspect of maritime history found within a single book, museum, library or other institution. So complicated is the overall process that I am frequently discovering new avenues for research that were previously unknown to me.

For me, there are three elements to every shipwrecks story. Firstly, there are the historic details of the ship itself - when and where built, size, type, machinery and so forth. Then there is that all-important account of how the vessel came to be lost. Finally, there is the equally important description of what the vessel is like, today, underwater.

As one might expect, I frequently found myself comparing Egypt's shipwrecks to other well known shipwreck diving locations and, over considerable time, I reached the conclusion there is no comparison. Certainly, Truk Lagoon, Bikini Atoll, the Caribbean and even the Mediterranean all come to mind, but consider this; One single story explains how the shipwrecks in Truk Lagoon came to be there. That event was Operation Hailstone - the codename for the attack by US Forces which resulted in the sinking of over 40 Japanese ships over two days in 1944. Unlike Egypt, Truk Lagoon has no shipwrecks from as early as 1869 or as recent as 1996. The same general comment also apples to those vessels sunk at Bikini Atoll which were all part of those post-WW2 atomic bomb experiments. Elsewhere, there is no single country in either the Caribbean on one side of the Atlantic Ocean, or the Mediterranean on the other, which can boast a collection of shipwrecks to compete with those found in the Egyptian sector of the Red Sea.

Weather permitting, it is quite possible to visit all the major shipwrecks described on this site during a three-week dedicated safari. By comparison, one would have to visit almost every island in the Caribbean or several countries in the Mediterranean to find anything of similar value. On top of all that, each individual wreck offers the diver a significant brush with maritime history.

At first, divers were, generally speaking, happy to visit the various wrecks and note whatever differences existed. As Egypt became ever more popular, however, so the individual diver’s requirements for information about each specific vessel became more and more demanding and the European diving press responded with ever-increasing articles on specific wrecks. It has to be said that, in the rush to produce “something” about the newly discovered SS Whatever, many accounts were hopelessly inaccurate. Of course, having been published, those inaccurate details were then repeated by others who restricted their own research to what somebody else had written. At one point things became so bad that, in recent years, one British diving magazine actually published a full account of a shipwreck that simply does not even exist!

Suffice to say, the details of each wreck contained within this site have been checked, double-checked and even treble-checked against the finest authoritative documents and bodies available. In short, the details are as accurate as it is humanly possible to produce and, for those divers who like to add details of each wreck into their own personal log-book, these are details you may trust.

With so much to offer the dedicated wreck diver - in addition to a welcoming climate and warm, clear water, it is easy to understand why Egypt’s incredible ships’ graveyard attracts so many scuba-diving tourists back year after year.

The laws of Egypt

It is against the law to remove any artefact from any shipwreck found within Egyptian territorial waters. Whilst I am not aware of any prosecutions having ever occurred, such prosecutions have taken place in other countries without any detrimental effect on the local tourist trade.

Shipwrecks are, by their very nature, deteriorating assets. Any additional deliberate decline by those who seek to remove parts of these vessels will eventually lead to the requirement of legal action having to be taken by the Egyptian authorities. Because the laws of protection are already in place, I firmly believe the first prosecutions will come as a great surprise to those who are charged!

A word about Safety

I do not subscribe to the view that dives may be graded according to each individual diver’s qualifications. All experience is relative. It is not, therefore, for me (or anyone else) to state which diver should or should not visit this wreck or that wreck. We have no means of comparing experience and ability with the requirements of any dive, which in any event, might be significantly changed by adverse weather conditions or the deteriorating state of the vessel itself.

My task is to inform the reader about Egypt's outstanding shipwrecks. In so doing, I wish to report the facts surrounding each lost ship and that is all I seek to do. It is for each reader to seek separate advice with regard to their own diving experience and the suitability of any particular scuba diving visit to any of those ships.

Shipwrecks are made of steel and wood - commodities which continue to deteriorate in sea water until eventually nothing will be left. They are structures which will have been damaged and, therefore, weakened, at the time of sinking. Furthermore, they are very heavy and prone to collapse at any time. This is especially so for those which lie on their side, if only because no ship was ever designed to withstand its own weight in such circumstances.

Any of the shipwrecks described in this site may have become unsafe since I last visited the vessel in question. All divers are strongly advised, therefore, to seek up-to-date advice with regard to the current condition of any vessel they intend to visit. Be warned - shipwrecks can be dangerous places and should always be approached with great caution.

Having said all that, Egypt is most fortunate to be able to provide one of the finest collections of shipwrecks in the world - do enjoy.

Ned Middleton is an award-winning, best selling author. For more information about this and other shipwrecks found within the Egyptian sector of the Red Sea, his book “Shipwrecks from the Egyptian Red Sea” (ISBN 1898162719 and 1905492162) is readily available. This book was declared “Underwater Publication of the Year” for 2007.


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