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Diving the Thistlegorm

Listed under Diving in El Gouna, Egypt.

  • Photo of Diving the Thistlegorm
  • Photo of Diving the Thistlegorm
  • Photo of Diving the Thistlegorm
  • Photo of Diving the Thistlegorm
  • Photo of Diving the Thistlegorm
Photo of Diving the Thistlegorm
Photo by flickr user jon hanson
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If it’s not the most famous wreck in the world then it’s in the top ten. 131 metres long, the Thistle was a WW2 military cargo ship bombed from above while carrying a full load of hardware, guns, motorbikes, jeeps, trucks, tanks and entire train carriages - it was a good score for the German fighters that sunk it. As well as the cargo, which was never salvaged, the main body of the Thistlegorm is in pretty good nick. "Blown open like a can of sardines" people say, and that about sums it up, the top deck was blown backwards, so it’s easy to get inside from the bridge and through the hole which sunk it.

The first level under the remains of the deck has rows of bikes and trucks. People have pushed the bikes over and pulled parts of them off as souvenirs and the trucks and jeeps have been broken into for the same reason - this is a real shame, guys don't do this! You'll be leaving nothing for next time! At one end is the ‘head’ as in the bathroom of the captain’s cabin, but it has partly fallen in now due to wear and tear which comes from boats mooring on the wreck.

This ship is actually a mass war grave and the blasted rails and gaping hole make some divers feel quite emotional, like a war museum. Even more reason to treat it with respect. Jacques Cousteau re-discovered the ship in 1955, his photos of the wreck in the 1956 National Geographic inspired a lot of people to learn to dive, but he (wisely) didn't tell anyone where to find it. Then it was ‘re-re-discovered’ in the early 90’s, and it is since then that any vandalism has taken place - check Cousteau's photos for the original state.

As far as marine life goes there are resident turtles and it’s a popular route for tuna schools.

On the down side, and there often is one, the currents are very changeable and come across the boat from multiple directions so you need to be strong enough to get down the rope and stay on the wreck, you also need to be a properly licensed diver. And this is the big one – it’s busy, there can be up to twenty boats around it, so the best thing to do is stay on a liveaboard the night before and get up first thing and stay on it after all the day boats have gone. 10 to 30 metres down, visibility is about 20 to 30 metres.

Written by  Nick Shaw.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Diving the Thistlegorm

This has to be one of the world’s best known wreck dives. It’s an English supply ship torn apart by a German bomber, plenty of supplies are still down there and big ones at that, there are a couple of motorbikes, tanks, wellies, heavy and light artillery and even parts of a train. As well as being something of a submerged museum quite a lot of life has moved in since it sunk. Turtles, trevally, wrasse and the odd tuna will probably be hanging around. Being thought of as one of the best means it’s popular too, expect to find the surface littered with boats and plenty of other divers pawing over the wreck. You also need to be a relatively experienced diver before you attempt it, it’s pretty deep and the current can take you by surprise.

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