Wreck Diving
Wrecks of the Red Sea

The Red Sea has been an important international waterway since time immemorial. The first record of a trading expedition in the Red Sea dates back to year 1493 BC, when Queen Hatchepsut of Egypt sent a fleet of five vessels from El Quseir, on the Red Sea mainland coast, to the Land of Punt, near present-day Somalia.

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The Loss of the Zealot: On 26 September 1876, under command of Captain Joseph Best, the Zealot left Liverpool for Bombay with a cargo valued at £24,700. She also carried 2 passengers and a crew of 53. The ship cleared Suez on 12 October and, by 0156 hrs the following morning was off Shadwan Island. The weather was clear and fine. On 13 October, Best hauled up close to Big Brother Island to give himself the best possible ‘exact fix’ on his chart. He then set a course for Daedalus Shoal. At 0400 hrs First Mate Jonathan Russell came on watch and at 0515 hrs took a bearing and went into the chartroom to work on it. 20 minutes later he returned to the bridge to see Daedalus light dead ahead. Instead of calling the master, Russell tried to alter course slowly - one degree at a time, so as not to alert anyone to a sudden change of direction. He did not reduce speed and eventually ran the ship onto the rocks at full speed.

Diving the Zealot: This wreck was discovered by German student Markus Lohr. On 9 September 2003 he made a very deep dive and was surprised to find himself looking at a shipwreck at a depth of 75m. What he saw was very broken up. On 24 September, he returned with more time to explore the wreck. Even at 88m he could not see the stern although he did describe two Admiralty Pattern anchors. He also recovered a dinner plate from a depth of 92m on which was inscribed “Helme Park, South Shields.” He then informed me of his discovery and, with the help of some friends, we were able to identify the wreck. The Helme Park having been renamed Zealot before being lost as described.

Postscript (1): The formal Inquiry found the primary cause of the loss of the Zealot and her valuable cargo was due to the unskilful navigation of First Officer Russell who acted well beyond both his capabilities and authority in continuing to navigate the ship without informing the Master when he first saw Daedalus Light as instructed. Consequently, the court suspended Russell's certificate for 12 twelve months. Surprisingly, they also suspended Best's certificate for 6 months.

Postscript (2): Joseph Augustus Best was born in Plymouth in 1826 where he gained his Master's certificate in 1856. Ships with names beginning with “Z” were something of a problem for him. He lost the Zampa in November 1866 and the Zigzag in August 1867. He was given command of the Helme Park in October 1873 and remained with that ship after she became the Zealot. After losing the Zealot, he did not return to sea until 1878 whereupon he completed very few trips. After a single trip in the Star in 1884, he appears to have retired.

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.










General Cargo Vessel.




74.85m x 9.53m with a draught of 3.25m


Two-cylinder compound inverted direct action steam


John Glyn & Son, Liverpool


General cargo