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.

Abu Hashish Island Red Sea

Abu Hashish is the island at the centre of a wide bay, 90 minutes South of Hurghada/Egypt. The island was once used as a drop-off point for smugglers bringing hash into the country. A tongue of reef extends about 1 kilometre South of the island. The dive site is at its Southernmost tip. There is a shelf between 15 and 22 metres outside and beyond that a steep but fairly bare drop-off, usually with superb visibility. Inside the tongue of reef is a scattering of long ergs.

Location: Red Sea / Egypt / Hurghada
Description: Reef with coral garden
Depths: 18 meters

Abu Hashish IslandRough seas often make this site inaccessible from Hurghada, although the site itself is well protected. Current is mainly North to South and strongest along the drop-off.

Scuba divers leave the lagoon through an obvious channel filled with table corals, cross the shelf to the drop-off and follow it North. There are some beautiful caves in the 30-metre region. They return along the inside of the shelf and finish the dive back on the lagoon amongst the ergs.

Along the drop-off pelagics, such as jackfish, barracuda, Spanish mackerel, whitetip sharks and now and then, hammerhead sharks and feathertail rays may be seen. On the shelf turtles, bluespotted rays, Spanish dancers, morays, lunartail and leopard groupers live while in the lagoon schools of squid and baby barracuda play.