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.

Sudan, the Jolly, under and above water

Five nations represented themselves last week on our Sudan tour. They have had such a blast that several of them are already planning their next year’s safari with us. There were guests from Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Holland and Germany, all jolly individuals, so our crew was also doing a happy dance this week.

Tour date: March 23 – 30, 2013
Itinerary: Sudan-North
Air temperature: 30-35C
Water temperature: 26-27C
Visibility: 30m

Life was just as lively under the water. At Sanganeb, for example, we ran into a school of hammerheads, head count – 30. Of course this was not the only place for hammerheads. We met up with some at Angarosh, at Qita el Banna and at Shaab Rumi. This week the currents were mild, it was barely windy and the seas were calm.

Although the first 2 days were a bit on the windy side, we were able to sail all the way up North and visited all the dive sites in our itinerary:

Day 1: Shab Suedi, Gota Shambaia, Gota Shambaia
Day 2: Abington, Angarosh, Angarosh, Shambaia
Day 3: Qita el Banna, Blue Belt, Precontinent, Precontinent
Day 4: Shaab Rumi, Shaab Rumi, Sanganeb North, Sanganeb West
Day 5: Sanganeb North, Sanganeb South, Sanganeb South, Umbria
Day 6: Umbria, Umbria

The group chose to spend the last day onboard taking it easy and taking a leisurely walk in the harbour, instead of visiting Suakin. Indeed, the giant cargo ships anchored in the harbour provide for an interesting attraction. Andromeda, with her respectable 40-meter length, was dwarfed by these giants and looked more like a small toy boat on the water. After walking by the marina and through the town of Port Sudan, most people are amazed by how clean it is, how pleasant its atmosphere is and how liveable it is. The best part of town is the street where the market and the shops are where the vendors are not at all pushy, they are friendly to invite you to check out their goods. Sudanese people, in general, are not at all pushy or forceful. They are curious and pretty low-key, very loveable people.

A new week, new hopes and we will be back next week with the latest from Sudan.

If you missed any of the past weeks’ events, you can catch up by clicking on the links below:

An Eiffel Tower in Sudan
Manta, hammerhead, barracuda!
The sharks winked back!
Angarosh, the “Mother of Sharks”
A perfect start in Sudan!
Fish parade in the month of the Pisces!

10 things you may not know about us

1. That’s right! Our divers’ safety in the water is ensured by our Nautilus Lifeline diver search and locate system.

2. Another crazy thing – we have a unique shisha room waiting for our guests where complimentary shisha and coffee is served.

3. Our uniquely designed pretty claret coloured boats have charming honeymoon suites – not to miss!

4. In the spring of 2014 we are awaiting our guests already with TWO boats in Port Sudan- woohoo!

5. Our guests may fly to Port Sudan via Cairo or Dubai.

6. There are free WIFI services onboard (with 3G coverage, of course).

7. Our daily offer is also quite hefty – we offer at least 4 dives every day (except for the first and last days).

8. This is sensational too! – our most northern dive site is at Angarosh and the most southern site is near Eritrea! Have you looked it up on the map yet?

9. And another specialty of our – our guides communicate in Italian, Russian, English and German, besides Arabic and Hungarian, of course.

10. An exciting event approaching – our latest offer, our 2-week tour to the Deep South which will include the absolute best dive sites from Port Sudan all the way to the Eritrean border.

+1 No scams, no gimmicks – we do not charge extra for the dive sites!

Are there any real reasons why not come to see us in Sudan? We don’t think so. So, how about it?