SS Thistlegorm

IMG_6158Being a scuba diver is wonderful if you live near places you can dive! I have lived near and far from good sites! I have been diving for 21 years – yup I said that! I learnt to dive when I was 15 to read about that check out Where it all Began! I have dived from several countries including South Africa, Mozambique, Saudi Arabia and Cyprus.

So when I traveled to Sharm El Sheikh for a week long holiday, you can bet I went scuba diving. While there are many beautiful dives spots in the Egyptian side of the Red Sea, my favourite was the SS Thistlegorm, which is reached by a four hour boat ride down the coast – yes four hours! It’s actually a scenic ride, with breakfast along the way, and beautiful views of the coast.

A brief history of the SS Thistlegorm, she was a British Merchant Navy armed freighter, built in 1940 in Sunderland. She was equipped with a 4.7 inch anti- aircraft gun and was, at the time she sank, installing a heavy caliber machine gun. The SS Thistlegorm sailed four voyages before she sank near Ras Mohammed in 1941. She was carrying motorcycles, bren guns, rifles, wellingtons, ammunition, radios and equipment, and aircraft parts for the Allied forces in Egypt. Strapped to her deck were several rail wagon bound for the Egyptian National Railway.

The German forces suspected a ship in the area to be carrying Allied troops to Egypt, so they sent out the Luftwaffe to find and destroy the ship. Two bombs were dropped on the SS Thistlegorm, blowing the rail waggons off the deck and sinking her. Four soldiers and five Royal Navy Gun Crew lost their lives, while the HMS Carlisle rescued the rest of the crew.  Most of the cargo remained on the ship. The wreck of the SS Thistlegorm was discovered in the 1950’s by Jacques Cousteau and is now a top ten dive site!

Diving the SS Thistlegorm was fantastic, the visibility was excellent – it was cold, 21 degree Celsius. But it was unbelievable. The wreck is haunting, almost forgotten like the cargo strewn around it. The damaged section is distinct, and there are many ammunition shells scattered around. It was hard to figure out what to look at first! Figuring out what these random feet like things were was a strange experience because once your brain connects that the feet remain of boots, you can’t unsee them. It was mind altering! I enjoyed playing spot the ammo or the welly while trying to figure out which guns or rifles lay in the muck! And by muck I mean algae! The coral was mostly soft corals, zoanthids, hydroids and Gorgonian whips. Ideal for me to brush up on my Benthic knowledge. The outside of the wreck was awesome; the inside was more so. Finning through small cargo doors and port windows were easy, losing a fin in the dark – not so much fun! But it was easily found, and the dive continued. I was surprised how much there was to see inside the ship. I knew the cargo was still mostly intact, but there was a lot of it in the small ship. Fascinating, sadly, as with all dives they kept ending! Am starting to wish I had gills! So much ocean to see!

If the SS Thistlegorm is not on your list of MUST SEE dive sites, then grab a pen and add it now!

Nudibranch – the way to a perfect dive!

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