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.

South Sudan – Black-Belt Diver Paradise!

Just like Christopher Columbus, we have also taken to seeing the world and our destination was the deep southern region of the Red Sea. We had heard lots of tales about this place and we wanted to see for ourselves if the amazing stories of the untouched water world were really true.

“Tales are true and truth is only a tale.” (Master Hoppan)

Due to a substantial sand storm, we started our discovery Deep South tour in the North at none other than Shaab Rumi which turned out to be a good thing as our curious hammerhead friends surrounded us once again. Leaving the hammerheads behind, we were able to leave for the South, hoping for the best. The winds subsided somewhat but not entirely but this did not hinder our proceedings toward our destination. And in the end, we were able to fulfill the entire planned itinerary!

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Our second (2-week) Deep South there went without a hitch. We found marine life and untouched coral reefs unparallel to anything we had seen before. We often stopped at turquoise spots, our curiosity was driving us and we just had to jump and see what was down there! There were times that we spotted a no-name place and we happened to find ourselves in the middle of a school of hammerheads, counting up to 30. It was a big surprise for both of us; they were swimming about half a metre from us and they have surely not seen divers before.

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Dahrat Abid, Darraka, Miyum… wonderful untouched reefs, pulsing marine life and plenty to see! There were grey reef sharks, silky sharks, white-tip sharks, barracudas, hammerheads, dolphins, turtles… Every dive was an awesome experience! Our dive suits were left on the boat and we wore only our shorties in the 30-degree water. Aside from Andromeda, no other boats were to be seen during our second (2-week) tour.

andromeda, sudan, red sea, liveaboard, reef sharks, silky sharks, white-tip sharks, barracudas, hammerheads, dolphins, turtles
reef sharks, silky sharks, white-tip sharks, barracudas, hammerheads, dolphins, turtles

La Dolce Vita onboard Andromeda

The water temperatures that were once 25C in February, have now become 29C and the air temperatures have also increased by 10C. Due to the lack of any significant winds in Sudan in the past 3 weeks, the water surface is 28-29C now and about 26C at 40m deep. This week there was no full house on the boat, so la dolce vita was in full swing.

Tour date: May 6-13, 2013
Itinerary: Sudan-North
Air temperatures: 35-39C
Water temperatures: 29-29C
Visibility: 10-30m

diving, safari, red sea, sudan, andromeda, sunsetAt Angarosh the first 2 hammerheads appeared right away. And a great surprise – a longimanus also showed up. At Merlo Reef we snorkelled with dolphins and at Shaab Rumi we dived with grey reef and white-tip sharks but the currents were so strong that we were not able to swim out into the open sea, so we missed the hammerheads this time. No despair, the north side of Sanganeb made up for it and we were able to swim with a huge school of them and with some grey reef ones at the south side. There was a grey reef shark even at Umbria! The triggerfish are still spawning and have not let up their attacks yet, so the fins keep getting decorated with their bite marks, if we get too close. 🙂

scuba diver, cruise, Andromeda, onboard, red sea, sudan, trip, diving safariThere are only a couple of weeks left and we are closing the season with a big bang – our 2-week Deep South Sudan safari! There are still a few places available, so join us!

Andromeda, sudan, diving, safari, scuba, liveaboard, red sea, wreck, sharkA new week, new hopes. We will be back next week again and let you know what we will have seen.

In case you have missed out on our previous reports, you can catch up by following these links:
Warrior fish and the offspring
Caught between dolphins and sharks
Scooters in action!
Sudan, the Jolly, under and above water
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!

Warrior fish and the offspring

What an excellent week this has been! Our guides have gotten so used to the constant presence of large marine life that they have almost “forgotten” about all the other creatures beneath the sea.  So, this week we asked them especially about these other creatures and it turned out, marine life here does not teem only with hammerheads and grey reef sharks!

scuba, diving, sudanese, red sea, liveaboard, dive, shark, diving safariFor one, we learnt that the scalloped-edged fins are in this season among the guides. Why? Because triggerfish are spawning these days and they are very protective of their offspring. So, any time the guides swim over their nests, the furious mothers attack the fins, leaving behind their pretty bite marks.

Tour date: April 26 – May 06, 2013
Itinerary: Sudan-Ultimate
Air temperatures: 35C
Water temperatures: 27-28C
Visibility: 30m

Also spawning are the groupers, one of the most colourful characters of the seas, despite their frightening appearance. They are built stubby and look like a spud 🙂 They can be photographed easily, they are quite photogenic as they are calm and allow divers close to them. These days they are cruising in spectacular 50-member schools, specimens weighing up to 30-40kg.

diving, sudan, safari, cruise, liveaboard, red sea, scooter, shark, scuba diverWe were getting ready for hammerheads at Logan Reef and we spotted two larger females. At Keary Reef, we already counted ten. And for a change of pace, we met up with grey reef sharks at the southern part of Shaab Ambar. Then came Sanganeb, and a serious size of school as well – thirty sharks swam by us. Shaab Rumi ruled where hammerheads and grey reef sharks greatly outnumbered us.

Andromeda, Cassiopeia, scuba diver, onboard, diving safari, liveaboard, red seaOur chef, Mustafa, got a helping hand in the kitchen this week! Three guests joined him and together they created mouth-watering feasts. On the menu this week – Far-Eastern delights prepared with Sudanese and Egyptian ingredients and spices! Now this is personalised service! 🙂

A new week, new hopes. We will be back next week again and let you know what we will have seen. In case you have missed out on our previous reports, you can catch up by following these links:
In focus – the grey shark
Caught between dolphins and sharks
Scooters in action!
Sudan, the Jolly, under and above water
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!