Thistlegorm

THE STORY OF THE SINKING:


thistlegorm2_HRIn May, 1941 the Thistlegorm was being loaded with war supplies in her home port of Glasgow. She was to carry huge amounts and a wide array of military cargo including land mines, shells, ammunition, weapons, trucks, armoured cars, motorcycles, trailers, vehicle and aircraft spare parts, radios, rubber boots and a whole lot more. There were also a couple of railway engines, tenders and water carriers for the Egyptian Railways. She joined a large convoy and headed for Alexandria.

The Axis Forces having occupied almost all of the northern Mediterranean coastline, the convoy followed the safer route to Alexandria which was via South Africa. After sailing north along Africa’s eastern coasts, the convoy arrived in the Red Sea.

When arriving at the entrance to the Gulf of Suez, Thistlegorm was assigned “safe anchorage” and was to wait for further information. They settled in to wait for clearance to proceed through the channel to Alexandria.

The length of wait was dependent on several factors such as aircraft activity, cargo priority and the time the vessels had been waiting already. Thanks to two vessels colliding in the gulf and virtually blocking the way through, Thistlegorm was forced to wait two weeks, standing idle.

German night-flying aircrafts were alerted to possible large-sized vessels in the Red Sea. On October 5, 1941 at about 11pm two aircrafts left their base in Crete and headed for the Egyptian coast. Their mission was to seek and destroy.

Just as their fuel levels were getting to a critical low and they thought their mission was fruitless, the Germans noticed a ship at anchor. One of the pilots dipped his plane low and approached the Thistlegorm, dropping his bombs right over the bridge. The bombs detonated the ammunition cargo and the explosion ripped the ship open.

The vessel began to sink quickly and the crew speedily abandoned the ship. The Thistlegorm sank at 1:30am on October 6, 1941. In all, 9 people lost their lives.

DIVING AT THE WRECK:

thistlegorm3The Thislegorm was initially discovered by the legendary Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1956.  She sits on the seabed at 28m in an upright sailing position. The very top of the structure is only 12m from the water surface. She is one of the most sought-out wrecks in the world and with reason.

The holds are still laden with cargo. Divers can discover the tons of equipment such as jeeps, trucks, tires, motorcycles and alike and easily imagine the life onboard this awesome vessel. Around the vessel there also items that were ejected from the cargo hull following the tremendous explosion. There are tanks, towing equipment, boxed ammunition and weapons.

Access is easy through the blasted-out bridge area. The crumpled decking folding out as an open tin can is still as it had been after the explosion. The image tells of a devastating event. Vehicles are parked in the hold as if waiting to be unloaded. On the starboard side besides the vehicles, other items can be found like small arms and weapons. On the stern two deck-mounted guns are still in place and are best viewed from below.

Usually there is a current but it can get quite strong coming in from the north. Groupers, jackfish, tuna and the occasional black-tip shark are just a few of the larger marine life visiting this place. The usual reef fish and creatures are also present and provide a nice distraction from the wreck.

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.

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.

Diving with the Eyes of an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist

In our new series of articles Dr. Gabor Kiefer, an ear, nose and throat specialist answers your questions that come up most frequently during diving, on holidays and diving tours. If you have any questions regarding the topics or other issues, feel free to comment.

Our childhood experiences often influence our adult goals and aspirations. I was around 10 years old when captain Cousteau
series started to run on TV. I decided then that I was also going to be a diver. But the little boys love of wanting to dive remained only a platonic desire for a long time and nearly 20 years had to pass before the childhood dream could become a reality.

Since then, during the following 10 years or so, I have had the chance to live through wonderful experiences and exciting adventures on numerous diving trips and safaris.
My professional work gradually included diving and more and more divers began contacting me and entrusting me with their various ear, nose and throat problems or asked me for their fit for diving tests.

In my series of articles I would like to share with you my experiences as a diver and as a doctor to make sure that your diving tours and travels are the least disturbed by ear, nose and throat problems.

Dr. Gabor Kiefer PhD.
University Assistant Professor
SOTE, Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic
Tel: +36 20 947 0701
To be continued!