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Diving the Abu Nuhas ship graveyard

Listed under Wreck Diving in El Gouna, Egypt.

  • Photo of Diving the Abu Nuhas ship graveyard
  • Photo of Diving the Abu Nuhas ship graveyard
  • Photo of Diving the Abu Nuhas ship graveyard
  • Photo of Diving the Abu Nuhas ship graveyard
Photo of Diving the Abu Nuhas ship graveyard
Photo by The Dive Tribe
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The curse of mariners is the fortune of divers, and some of the most popular dive sites in the Red Sea’s fringing reefs are those where ships have met untimely ends. Sha’ab Abu Nuhas, translated as “father-of-bad-luck reef,” has long been the nightmare of seafarers running off course while navigating the Straits of Gobal at the entrance of the Gulf of Suez. It is home to four wrecks suitable for recreational diving—and possibly a few more that are still awaiting discovery.

The Carnatic

This 90-meter vessel powered by square-rigged sails and a steam engine was launched in 1862. Owned by the Peninsula & Oriental Steamship Navigation Company (today’s P&O), she sailed mostly between Suez, Bombay, and China. In those days, the Suez Canal was still awaiting completion and both passengers and cargo bound to the Indian Ocean were unloaded in Alexandria, from where they journeyed overland to Suez before boarding a new vessel to continue their voyage. On September 13, 1869, the Carnatic ran aground with 34 passengers as well as a cargo of cotton bales, copper sheeting, Royal Mail, and coin money (her valuable cargo was salvaged later that year).

The Carnatic lies on her port side between 27 and 18 meters, her two halves resting in such a way that conceals a very damaged amidships and gives the impression of an intact vessel. Her elegant lines and characteristic stern are enhanced by abundant coral encrustations. The wreck is safe and easy to swim through with plenty of open spaces between the two levels of iron framework. Some broken wine bottles can be observed. Advanced level is required to reach the seabed; beginners shall remain in shallower parts.

The Tile Wreck (The Chrisoula K or the Marcus)

Launched in 1954, this 98-meter long diesel-powered cargo freighter was retained to carry a consignment of large patio-style floor tiles from Italy to the Saudi port of Jeddah in 1981. Following a collision with Abu Nuhas reef, she was considered a total constructive loss, while the captain and his crew were picked up uninjured by rescue units from a nearby naval base. Experts still argue about the real identity of the “tile wreck” familiar to so many Red Sea divers; it is sometimes said to be the Chrisoula K and sometimes the Marcus, a similar German-built, Greek-owned vessel that is said to have sunk in the same location in May 1978.

The wreck’s main body sits upright, while the stern lies on its starboard side with the propeller and rudder at a depth of 26 meters. Several interior areas can be visited including the engine room, and the cargo of tiles is still in place. Visibility on site is usually very good and this allows divers to see the whole wreck at once, a most impressive sight. The abundant coral growth throughout the wreck provides great photo opportunities. This wreck is slightly more protected from the elements than others on Abu Nuhas and snorkeling is possible when the sea is very flat.

The Giannis D

This 99-meter diesel-powered cargo ship was launched in Japan in 1969. She ran aground in April 1983, on her way from Croatia to Saudi Arabia and Yemen with a cargo of wood. The weather was so calm that no surf broke on the Abu Nuhas plateau, making the reef invisible to the ship’s navigators. The Giannis D remained afloat for a few weeks before snapping in two during a storm. The Giannis D is found in three detached parts: the bow, the remains of a very damaged amidships, and the stern. Her deepest point lies at 24 meters, while her characteristic A-frame deck Gantry crane reaches just below the surface. The most interesting stern section features a well preserved engine room relatively easy to access. Some of the wood cargo is still visible, which prompted the Giannis D to be dubbed the “timber wreck.” The distinguishing funnel bearing a large letter “D” can also be seen.

A typical dive is comprised of several tours up and around the stern with swim-through opportunities and finishes around the superstructure. This is an approachable yet rewarding wreck for novices.

The Lentil Boat (The Kimon M or the Seastar)

This diesel-powered 121-meter refrigerated cargo vessel was launched in 1952. Carrying a cargo of lentils out of the small Turkish port of Iskenderun on the way to Mumbai, she became the easternmost wreck of Sha’ab Abu Nuhas on December 12, 1978, after a full-speed collision with the reef. The Kimon M is sometimes confused with the Seastar, another Greek cargo that is said to have run aground on Abu Nuhas reef. The Kimon M lies at the base of the reef on her starboard side. Her deepest part, the propeller and rudder, are resting on the seabed at 32 meters. This wreck presents unstable metal sheets and is at risk of collapsing; it is hence considered dangerous to penetrate. She has deteriorated considerably in the last three decades as her sideways positioning puts the ship under a pressure she was not built to withstand.

The Kimon M is not dived often. Difficulty level is heavily dependent on waves upon entry and exit; advanced level is required to reach the deepest parts.

Francoise regularly dives on the Abu Nuhas shipwrecks departing from El Gouna with The Dive Tribe

Written by  Francoise Ohayon.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Red sea has become a divers paradise as it offers some of the most beautiful and adventurous diving experience. One need's calm seas in order to get to the wrecksite. The main part of the ship lies in a fairly upright position at the bottom of the reef, while the stern has keeled over almost completely onto its starboard side.

I think these are of the best underwater discoveries after the ship wreckage of Titanic.Now I can feel what it takes to be diver.

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