Dunraven

THE STORY OF THE SINKING:

dunraven3In January, 1876 the Dunraven laden with cargo left England for Bombay. On April 6 she left Bombay loaded with cotton and wool. The trip across the Indian Ocean was uneventful and she continued on and up through the Red Sea. In the early morning hours of April 25, high land was spotted right ahead by one of the crew and believed it to be Shadwan Island. An hour later a light was also spotted which was taken for the Ashrafi Light, up in the Straits of Gobal.

The captain arrived on deck at around 4am. Land was in plain sight 6-7 miles off the starboard side in a northerly direction and the captain altered course in the direction of the land. A few minutes later a dark object was spotted along the way and by the time the news reached the captain who ordered the engines to be shot off, it was too late. The Dunraven struck hard and her hull was immediately penetrated.

The boat caught fire and the steam pumps were set to work right away. By 7am the water reached the engine room and put out the fires. By noon it was obvious the boat was going to go down and the crew took to the lifeboats. A local dhow took the crew onboard at around 4pm and it was then that they were made aware that their actual position was off the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, at Beacon Rock.

DIVING AT THE WRECK:


dunraven2When having sunk, the Dunraven landed almost completely upside down when reaching the sea floor at about 30m deep. Her upside-down bows are the shallowest part of the wreck, about 17m below the water surface.

Her keel is virtually intact and it is covered with bright soft corals. On the stern, at 28m, a coral-wrapped huge screw and the rudder can still be found, pointing toward the surface. The bows are broken and slightly separated and the whole wreck rests against the reef. A great chain still dangles from the chain holes with bright lush soft corals climbing all along its length. The anchor lies farther away from the wreck in the sand. Also in the sand near the wreck are scattered various parts of the boat, including the two masts.

When swimming along the keel, in midway of the wreck where the hull is broken, the remains of some contorted metal and the large funnel can be still seen. On the inside the two coal boilers are also still visible which are circled by thousands of tiny glassfish. Next to the boilers the engine can be found still intact along with pistons, pipes, taps and valves still in good shape.

The inside of the wreck can get a bit dark in places but the port holes allow some natural light to illuminate the inside. Lying almost completely upside down, the wooden-panelled deck is now the ceiling along which runs the propeller shaft.

The wreck of Dunraven hides a rich marine life. She is frequented by huge groupers, barracuda, scorpionfish, crocodilefish and on occasion mantas.

Umbria

THE STORY OF THE SINKING:

umbria9In May, 1940 the Umbria was loaded with various war-like commodities and ammunition such as 360,000 bombs, 60 boxes of detonators and other stores totalling 8,600 tons in preparation for the forthcoming Italian war effort and destined for troops already stationed in Italy’s East African colonies.

On her way to Eritrea, and eventually onward to Calcutta, on June 3, 1940 she arrived at Port Said and on June 6 she continued on. She was closely followed by the HMS Grimsby of the Royal Navy. When she got close to Port Sudan on June 9, the Grimsby forced the Umbria to anchor close inshore by Wingate Reef. After having anchored the ship, the New Zealand battle-cruiser HMS Leander arrived and 22 men (including the captain) boarded the Umbria searching for contraband and stayed onboard until the next morning. The Umbria’s captain was listening to his radio that morning and heard the news that Italy had formally declared war. He wanted desperately not to allow his precious cargo to get in the hands of the British and decided on the best solution – on sinking the boat. They had to do it without the British getting wind of any of their activities. And they succeeded. The British noticed water filling the ship and the 2 captains ordered to abandon ship. Although salvageable, it was decided the ship would be left alone as her cargo posed an awesome danger.

DIVING AT THE WRECK:

umbria13The Umbria lies almost exactly as she had reached her final resting place on the sea bottom – on her port side at Wingate Reef. The bows at 38m are the deepest part of the wreck. The stern and the rudder rest on the sand at 30m. The tops of the remains of its masts emerge from the water where birds are often perched.

The massive superstructure with only its wooden decking missing, provides a variety of opportunities for divers to explore. The wreck is overgrown by colourful soft and hard corals abundantly and its fish life is bountiful. It is one of the world’s most beautiful wrecks to dive. It is rare to find ship wrecks that are almost completely intact and free of any signs of crash or collision.

The ship was anchored when she was sunk and both her anchors can be found about 200m from the wreck. The main mast was near the forward deck which is now broken and lies on the seafloor.

Due to the entire body of the ship being so intact and missing hatch covers, it is easy to enter the hull and the cargo holds to get a glimpse at the sunken treasure. In one compartment lie undisturbed the aerial bombs, detonators, rolls of electric cable, wooden boxes and storage jars still sealed. There are also bags of cement with have now solidified and stand as cement blocks. And there are the amazing Fiat 1100 Lunga motorcars, still very much recognisable.

The area of the bridge is probably the one with the most damage due to the ship sinking and the natural erosion of the wooden decking and the effects of some powerful storms. Yet, it is also covered in gorgeous corals, making this truly a beautiful wreck to dive. This is the way to the staterooms with several cabins going along the sides of the hallway. The engine room can be entered from here however it is almost completely void of any light. Beyond the two huge engines are the two propeller shafts and nearby is a fully equipped workshop.

umbria2Once outside of the wreck, farther back is the easy access into the holds where the majority of the bombs lie, carefully stacked in long lines. It is a surreal experience to be witness to all this destructive power dormant for some many years. Farther in the back, one of the propellers is above the seabed and the other one is partly buried in the sand.

Lots of snapper fish and sea lilies found home under the giant rudder by the stern. Lots of tiny comical cleaning crabs live near the collapsed funnel on one of the gangways which start to clean our hands if we put them on the bridge. Around the wreck we can run into barracudas, butterflyfish, spiny fish and schools of tiny red fish. On the right side of the boat corals bloom like bunches of rosehip bushes. It is a truly rich wreck as in marine life as in history.

Carnatic

THE STORY OF THE SINKING:

carnatic4The Carnatic was built in London and launched in 1862. She was a hybrid sailing and steam-engine vessel with two masts and a central coal-fire boiler. She weighed 1,776 tons and had a length of 90m.

She was operating between Suez and Bombay. Before the completion of the Suez Canal, vessels unloaded their passengers and cargo in Alexandria which were then transferred to Suez on land. There another boat waited for them, in this case the Carnatic, bound for Bombay, with 34 passengers, a crew of 176 and a cargo of bales of cotton, wine, royal mail, copper sheeting and £40,000 in gold coins.

On September 12, 1869 the Carnatic sailed out of Suez under the command of Captain Jones and began her voyage to Bombay. Captain Jones navigated the treacherous waters in the Gulf of Suez. The headlands and islands along the way were visible in the clear night. However early in the morning, breakers were seen by the crew as the boat was getting near of Shadwan Island. It was too late to stop and the boat struck the Abu Nuhas Reef.

Although impaled by the reef, the pumps were working hard and the boat still seemed to be in good condition for the captain to keep the crew and passengers onboard. He was also expecting the Sumatra to pass them by shortly and hoped for a rescue. She did not show and despite several passengers requesting to be taken to Shadwan Island, they all had to spend another night onboard. The captain was reluctant to allow people to be taken to the island in the life boats in such treacherous waters but by the morning water was filling the boat quickly and he finally ordered the life boats to be readied.

During the rescue the boat suddenly broke in half after 34 hours on top of the reef taking 5 passengers and 26 crew with her. Eventually the survivors were able to make it to Shadwan Island, about 3 miles from the reef. Finally they were all rescued by the soon arriving  Sumatra.

Recovering the cargo

Recovery operations for the valuable cargo began a couple of weeks after Carnatic’s demise with the help of Stephen Saffrey, a diver. Most of the cargo was salvaged, including the royal mail, the gold coins and the copper sheets.

DIVING AT THE WRECK:

carnatic2Today the Carnatic lies at the base of the Abu Nuhas reef, parallel to it. She is on her port side with the bows facing east. Her stern is at about 24m on the seabed and her bow is at about 16m. The deck faces the open sea. The wreck is shaded by the reef behind, therefore it is best to dive her in the morning.

The wooden structure and planking has rotted away but the steel hull remains, held together by iron supports. With the decking gone, divers are able to explore the wreck 2 decks down. The keel of the boat is virtually intact and the stern provides a view to the impressive windowed quarter deck. The boat widens from the bows toward the main body where the life boat davits are found. From here divers can enter the more than 150-year-old structure.