Ned Middleton describes how he and a team of Divers from Diving World discovered a wreck in the Egyptian Red Sea.
Saturday 19 December 1998 was a beautiful day and very soon, this small group of Divers – all brought together by chance, set off on a one-week excursion in luxurious style. Within an hour or so we were Diving some of those excellent Reefs that combine to make the entire Red Sea an underwater Marine Park of such unique diversity of flora and fauna that it will always stand as one of the Underwater Wonders of the World. Names like Umm Grammar and Gota Eida Reef were soon tripping off the tongue as we each returned to our floating base excited by what we had just encountered.
Then, with the most successful indoctrination into the delights of the Red Sea behind us, it was time to contemplate tomorrow when we would be visiting the Ghiannis D and the Thistlegorm. I had become partnered with Shane Brown – a Physical Training Instructor from Nottingham. Shane proved to be a great companion and it was a pleasure to watch him rapidly developing into a very good Diver indeed. He also began to insist (and I tell the truth!) on carrying my spare camera – and many a good Diver has been well paid for much less.
The Ghiannis D was a great Dive. The stern section is particularly dramatic – reaching almost to the surface. The wreck, however, lies in two completely separate sections and the Bows are often overlooked – though, personally, I found these to be the best.
Then, for me at least, it was a very long-overdue visit to the famous Thistlegorm and, I have to say that, as I entered the water, I was wondering whether or not any vessel could live up to the hype – both good and bad, which surrounds this particular ship. As we approached the site, it was midday and Ali Baba was first in the water to secure the mooring line. He takes great pride in his work and secured the Miss Nouran to the Thistlegorm’s anchor chains at the bows.
Ironically, the Thistlegorm suffers greatly from those Diving Boats which moor to the shallower reaches of the wreck – such as the Bridge, with some tying to each other. With the larger Boats weighing in at something like 20 tons, it is easy to see how the combined force of these Boats is able to exert pressures for which no big ship’s superstructure was ever designed as the long rolling waves continually test their lines. The effect is catastrophic and large sections of the Thistlegorm’s Bridge are now found on the seabed on the starboard side, whereas another, even larger section, was seen hanging down and swaying precariously over the port side – all pulled off by the Diving Boats who are dependent on this ship for their very livelihood.
Looking back, I must confess that – before I got into the water, I had wondered why Ali Baba had taken that little extra time to take our line down as far as the anchor chains. Rather obvious when you think about it, he was using one of the Thistlegorm’s strong points – but then he cares.
Nevertheless, the Thistlegorm is still an incredible experience and we soon found those WW2 vehicles and motorcycles – exactly as depicted in the many accounts I have read of this truly amazing shipwreck. Even now, the vehicles look as though they are still waiting to be unloaded. With the powerful lights from my twin strobes illuminating this fantastic scene, it was also all too obvious why so many “downbeat” articles persist about this single shipwreck. The motorcycles are now all pushed over as Divers have searched for something to take home. The badges, pedals, twist grips and tool kits are all long gone. As for the other vehicles, only a few steering wheels are left – but, worst of all, in order to get at those steering wheels, or another souvenir from the engine, Divers have forced their way in through the roof or the bonnet of each vehicle – thus maximising the damage caused in search of a trophy – only to throw it away a few months later… I rest my case.
For the rest of Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning, we enjoyed the extensive delights of a vessel that produces a curious conflict within any caring Diver – and even then we had not seen it all. The Thistlegorm is still the most outstanding accessible shipwreck in the world and will remain “The World’s Foremost Diving Attraction” for some years to come. Sadly, however, the rate of decline is far worse than I had ever imagined and if not halted – like now!, she will soon become a distant memory – perhaps then, the World of Diving will allow this particular War Grave to rest in Peace… Monday night found us anchored at Bluff Point where, right below our stern was the smallest remnant of a shipwreck – in only 12m of water. A sheltered spot, a well lit Boat and a small wreck are the ideal ingredients for a good night dive – and this proved to be a veritable haven for fish life with the biggest delight being provided by a pair of very large Moray Eels.