||Straße von Gubal
* Difficulty: 3
* Current: 1 to 3
* Extremely interesting dives on a wreck that is exceptional for its historic interest and intact condition.
* An abundance of beautiful fauna.
* The site is hard to find if you do not have a GPS.
* Difficult dive because of the depth and the current.
* Visibility often poor.
* Carry a torch with you.
* Be careful when visiting the inner structures.
* There are almost always too many divers on the wreck.
In 1956 Jacques Cousteau, with his mythical oceanographic ship Calypso, discovered the wreck of the Thistlegorm, on the outer wall of the immense reef known as Sha'ab Ali, off the western coast of Sinai. This was a British transport ship built in1940 by Thomson & Sons that was lying at anchor early in the Second World War when it was attacked by a squandron of German bombers from Crete. The Thistlegorm had come from Cape Town loaded with material for the British troops in North Africa (munitions, hand grenades, anti-tank mines, Lee Enfield MK III rifles, BSA motorcycles, Morris automobiles, Bedford trucks, two light MK II Bren Carrier tanks, two locomotives, two railway freight cars, two tank cars, spare parts, medicines, tyres and rubber boots) and was hit by two bombs; it sank to 30 metres in an upright position onto the flat and sandy ground.
Cousteau found a ship which, despite the fire that had resulted from the bombing, was virtually intact, as was its cargo. He documented his discovery in some scenes in one of his memorable documentary films so that the public at large would become acquainted with this extraordinary wreck, which is considered the most interesting in the Red Sea and has become a great favourite with scuba divers from all over the world.
The Thistlegorm lies 19.2 miles from Ras Mohammed and 31.2 miles from Naama Bay (about4-5 hours by boat). Exploration of the ship is usually done in two phases, after having moored your boat either on the fore or aft side of the ship's outer structures. This is often a delicate operation and should be done by guides.
The first dive is made in the morning; it is a general tour of the wreck, which lies in NW-SE position. Begin from the deepest stern area, preferably from the western side in order to see the heavy machine gun and anti aircraft gun, which are on the deck at -25 metres. Next to this is the huge hole made by the German bombs in hold 4, which contained munitions, bombs, the two MK II Bren Carrier tanks and the locomotive that now lies at 28 metres, about 30 metres distance from the ship. Having done this, proceed along the bridge, which often has a counter current that is running southeast, and move around to the bow, where at 15 metres you will see the perfectly preserved, large anchor winch. This first dive is limited to admiring the ship's structures and offers a view of the abundant fauna living here: schools of batfish (genus platax), barracuda, large groupers (genera cephalopholis and epinephelus), schools of snappers (lutjanus bohar), jackfish (genera caranx and carangoides), butterflyfish (genera chaetodon, ceniochus, pomacanthus), surgeonfish (genera acanthurus, zebrasoma naso), crocodilefish (genus cociella), sabre squirrelfish (sargocentron spiniferum) and soldierfish (myripristis murdjan) - all of which make the Thistlegorm an artifical coral reef. The second dive is in the afternoon and includes exploration of the inner structure of the ship, the three holds and their cargo. Hold 1, near the bow, is the most interesting: its deepest parts contain crates of medicines, Lee Enfield MK III rifles, rubber boots and tyres, while the upper section has BSA motorcycles and some Morris automobiles. Hold 2 is towards mid ship with the entrance flanked by two wagons. It also has two sections: the lower one contains Bedford trucks and the upper one has more BSA motorcycles and Morris cars. Immediately astern of the second hold is the partly uncovered bridge leading to the captain's cabin. Heading to the stern you will reach hold 3, which contains mostly crates of munitions and hand grenades; beyond it you will see the funnel hole, astern of which is the huge hole where the fourth hold was, with the two MK II Ben Carrier tanks you already saw in the first dive. This ends your dive. However, you really need to make at least 10 dives to completely explore this fascinating wreck.
Unfortunately, nowadays there are simply too many divers visiting the Thistlegorm. Their very presence is jeopardizing the fine state of preservation of the wreck's structures, while the air bubbles accumulating against the metal walls are causing rapid corrosion that is endangering its’ very survival. In the near future severe measures concerning diving - or even closure of the site - will have to be taken in order to safeguard this extraordinary historical monument.
* Type of ship: merchant
* Nationality: English
* Construction date: 1940
* Length: 131 m
* Width: 17,5 m
* Tonage: 9009 t
* Date of shipwreck: 5-6 October 1941
* Depth: 16-33 m