|The most recent wreck here, the Giannis D, met her fate in 1983. She was a Greek cargo freighter of 2,900 tons and 99m in length, which was carrying a cargo of softwoods from Rijeka in the former Yugoslavia to Hodieda in the Yemen. |
A navigational error seems to have been the cause of her demise. She struck the reef squarely, and quickly broke her back ahead of the main bridge section. The liveaboard vessel Lady Jenny responded to the ships distress call, but by the time she arrived, the Giannis D was already settling and the crew had been rescued by a supply boat from the nearby oil fields. Red Sea folklore has it that the divers on Lady Jenny dived the wreck almost immediately.
Today the wreck lies in two separate pieces. The bridge and stern section lies down the slope of the reef from 6m to a maximum depth of 24m. The bow section is not far away, but is not often dived as the main section of the ship has so much to offer, including the ideal dive profile.
After only 12 years in the water, the neighbouring reef is beginning to claim the wreck and she is now engulfed in soft corals. She has also become home to a prodigious variety of fish life. The stern section is still intact and divers can safely penetrate the engine room and accommodation - although you should be wary of the wrecks inhabitants: lion fish and scorpion fish seem to abound here. You may encounter the odd large grouper or moray eel on your internal explorations.
The loss of a ship like the Giannis D equipped with modern navigation aids, is all the more surprising when her master must have been aware of the loss of another Greek freighter only two years previously on the reef of Abu Nuhas. The Chrisoula K sank in October 1981 - another victim of careless navigation. The wreck of the Chrisoula K is easy to find, as the remains of her bow sit on top of the reef at its east end. The rest of the wreck now lies a little deeper than the Giannis D. The hull appears more intact. The shallowest point is around 12m. The stern is in a maximum of 28m.
The bridge section is easily accessible through windows and bulkhead doors, and is a good place to begin your exploration before delving deeper into the engine room. The engines are in remarkably good condition. Every available space is slowly being commandeered by the ships new crew of glassy sweepers. Larger species lurk in the shadows. Although access to the wreck is reasonably easy and a lot of light finds its way through hatchways and collapsed bulkheads, recent reports indicate that the wreck is becoming unstable and that parts of the hull have collapsed after periods of bad weather. Normal precautions should be exercised - it is always best to take a torch.
As with the Giannis D, the soft corals currently dominate here. But every year a new coral species gains a foothold on the steel surfaces and another species of fish leaves the reef to make the wreck its new home.
Another southbound freighter, the Lentil, met her fate in 1976 during one of the violent storms which can hit the Gulf of Suez in the summer months.
This ship struck the reef, then came free again before sinking in 30m depth several hundred metres away from the main reef system. The ship is more broken up than those on the reef itself and marine life is not so profuse. For these reasons, charter skippers do not favour it.
I first dived the Un-named Wreck with my wife during a liveaboard trip when we elected to dive the reef itself while the rest of the group dived the other wrecks. We were dropped a few hundred metres to the east of the Carnatic, and submerged expecting to find only the vibrant reef below us. Instead there was a mass of coral rubble and a rusting anchor chain.
Following this devastation for a few metres brought us to the crushed bows of a large freighter sitting upright and gently running back down the reef to a maximum depth of around 25m at the stern.
She looks as though she might be a recent wreck, as there is less coral growth on her than on her neighbours. She is also remarkably intact. We spent a happy hour or so exploring this wreck entirely on our own ... an experience in itself!
The bridge and accommodation areas are very accessible and intact - even down to the skippers bath. The cargo holds are wide open, and it appears that some salvage has been undertaken. The main mast has fallen acrosthe forward deck and leads you towards the collapsed bow section. Fish life on the wreck was sparse in comparison with others in the area, although my wife was surprised by her first meeting with a white tip shark as we swam along the side of the hull towards the stern!
Our dive guides opinion regarding this wrecks identity differed. One even claimed that she was in fact the Chrisoula K! Veteran Red Sea skipper Alex Double, however, assures me that this wreck pre-dates the Chrisoula K. We were unable to find a name on the hull, which may have been only painted on originally - perhaps there is a reader out there who can identify her for me Whatever the name of the ship, she is well worth a visit and should only improve as the years pass and the reef re-establishes itself.
For many divers visiting Abu Nuhas, the highlight must be the wreck of the Carnatic. This is the oldest wreck on the reef, having sunk in 1869, and was one of the last Royal Mail shuttles run by the P&O line from Suez to India before the Suez Canal opened. She was a hybrid steam sailer of 1775 tons and 90m in length. As with all P&O ships, she was renowned for the good food, fine wine and quality of service which made the long trip to India more comfortable.
On her final voyage the Carnatic was carrying£40,000 in gold coins, bales of cotton, plus port wine, champagne, beer and soda for consumption en route and for the colonial community in India.
At that time, many of the reefs were not well charted and, in calm conditions with the sun low on the horizon, reefs are very difficult to spot. It is thought that this, combined with a navigational error, bought the Carnatic to grief on a clear, calm September day. The wreck then became one of the first successful salvage operations in the area using standard diving dress. All but£8000 of the coin cargo was recovered at the time - much to the relief of P&O and their insurers, Lloyds of London. Visiting the Carnatic today you will find she has slid down to the base of the reef to rest on her port side on sand. The visibility here is normally excellent and you can see most of the wreck below you as you descend. The hull is broken a little astern of midships and the pieces lie only a few metres apart. Landing on the starboard side of the ship at approximately 15m, you can see the lifeboat davits still extended and peer over the edge of the gunwales across the deck supports and into the main hold areas of the ship. Looking back from the bow towards the wreck, it is easy to see the sleek lines of what was essentially a sailing clipper with an engine.
Every exposed surface of the wreck is festooned with soft and hard corals and there are the dazzling fish you would expect to find on any Red Sea reef. The hull offers easy access along its length, and the stern is very intact with the large single screw still in place. The Carnatic has, in fact, become an extension of the reef and, despite the increasing numbers of divers visiting her, the coral has not suffered significantly. There is also the possibility of stumbling across the missing£8000!
|Agents || |
- Oonasdivers (tel. 01323 648924);
- Regal Diving (tel. 01353 778096);
- Goldenjoy (tel. 0171-794 9767);
- Scubaway (tel. 07000 790188);
- Dive and Sail (tel. 01452 740919);
- Discover Scuba (tel. 01268 272 272);
- Aquatours (tel. 0181-255 8050);
- Hayes and Jarvis (tel. 0181-741 9942);
- Speedwing (tel. 01455 852228);
- Barfield Travel & Tours (tel. 01636 71722);
- Crusader Travel (tel. 0181-744 0474);
- Diving World (tel. 0171-407 0019);
- Buddies (0171-386 0051);
- Destination Red Sea (tel. 0181-440 9900);
- Red Sea Divers (tel. 07000 434434);
- Travelcare (tel. 0181-892 7606).