Straits Of Gubal - Hurghada
Straits Of Gubal
Egypt’s Straits of Gubal, a narrow strip of water squeezed between the Red Sea Coast and the Western shore of the Sinai Peninsula, is one of the country’s major diving destinations and is easily accessed from Hurghada.
This strait’s vast coral pinnacles have proved a tricky customer for seafarers trying to navigate through here across the centuries, and today, it is renowned for its wreck diving.
Egypt’s most famous wreck, The Thistlegorm (a WWII cargo ship that French diver Jacques Cousteau discovered while exploring the area in the 1950s), is among the strait’s many dive sites.
The Thistlegorm was built in 1940 as a merchant vessel being 126m long and 17.5m wide. It was commandeered by the Navy during World War II. It sunk in 1941 (6th October) by long-range bombers from German-occupied Crete. Sunk in the same way as the ‘Rosalie Moller’ – just 48 hours and a few miles apart, now it lays on a sandy floor at 30m deep. The top of the wreck is 17m.
The wreck is exposed to the tidal currents and the prevailing winds, which can make this dive inaccessible at times. Since the current can be quite strong and there can be lots of silt in the water visibility can be quite bad. These conditions and the depth of the dive means that this is only open to experienced divers.
The Thistlegorm was carrying cargo for the War Effort in North Egypt, and every dive is a visit to an underwater museum, a place in time where the clocks stopped. Locomotives, various ammunition and Lee Enfield rifles, Bedford trucks, Triumph motorbikes and even aeroplane wings can still be found in The Thistlegorms cavernous holds. You can do penetration diving, but ask your dive guide, all easy to find openings are well covered.
This is the most visited wreck of all Red Sea. There will be lots of dive boats and many many divers. Best dives are early in the morning before all day dive tour comes to the wreck. Some dive centres and liveaboards also offer the possibility to do a night dive too.
The Rosalie Moller
Built in Glasgow in 1910, this 108.2m long vessel started its life carrying cargo around Europe, before being re-registered in China in 1931. In 1938 the Rosalie Moller was requisitioned by the Royal Navy, transporting ‘Best Welsh Coal’ to a variety of UK Naval Ports. After joining the War effort – and a full overhaul – in July 1941 ‘The Rosie’ set sail for Alexandria laden with 4680 tons of coal. A collision in the Suez Canal meant that she was unable to pass through, and was directed to ‘Safe Anchorage H’ until the way was cleared.
On 5th October 1941, German Intelligence had reports of the Queen Mary being sighted in this area, and dispatched 2 Heinkel HE111’s on a search and destroy mission. The Queen Mary was never found, but the merchant ship ‘SS Thistlegorm’ was, and was bombed and sunk on October 6th. The explosion from the Thistlegorm was so massive, that it lit up the night sky, exposing ‘Rosie’ in Anchorage H. 48hrs later on 7th October, the same fate was delivered to Rosalie Moller.
Today the Rosalie Moller sits upright on the seabed with the main deck at 30-32 meters. Apart from a hole in the port side near the stern, where the bomb exploded, the only other major damage is the collapsed funnel and the stern mast, which was broken off more recently due to dive boats tying onto it. The wreck is home to large groupers and lionfish and a huge number of glassfish. Large tuna and jackfish patrol the wreck in search of smaller fish.
n the north-western part of the Alternatives there is a large roughly quadrangular outcrop known as Stingray Station. It gets its name because many Blue Spotted Stingrays gather here particularly in the spring months. It can be dived both as a mooring dive and as a drift dive and is very popular with snorkellers due to the shelter the reef provides and the shallowness of the surrounding water.
Bluff Point / The Barge Wreck
Bluff Point is one of the most popular night dive spots for almost all safari boats coming from the South to stop at before crossing the Straits of Gubal and heading further north to Sha’ab Ali and the S.S. Thistlegorm. Located on the east of Gubal Island, Bluff Point is secluded from the surface conditions and allows boats to moor in preparation for an early start across the Straights, or a quick attempt at the crossing when the weather breaks.
One disadvantage of Bluff Point is that being an ideal place to wait to cross the Straights is gets busy – very busy! Once the safari boats are moored they tend not to want to move until they leave for the crossing and this does limit you to diving the Gubal Barge (as if diving anywhere in the Red Sea is limiting).
It gets really busy and the way around this is to ask your dive guide if you can do a daylight dive or even a dusk dive as soon as you arrive and then a late night dive (say 8-9pm). You don’t need to go deeper than 14m here, so take the opportunity of getting an extra dive in.
Boats often tie themselves directly onto it and then the guides claim this as a pole position, as their divers can descend the ropes without having to worry about navigating to the barge. What this actually means is that the guide doesn’t have to do the dive and finishes early for the day. Worse still is that the barge has literally been pulled to bits over the last 10 years. A common mistake here is to actually limit yourself just to the barge; there is a lot to see on the coral bottom too (although there is also a lot of rubbish).
Drop in away from the barge and spend at least 10 – 15 minutes getting there. Once your dive guide has briefed you as to which direction the barge is in (it will be either East or West) head down the shallow slope to 14m and then head in the appropriate direction. If you are deeper than 15m you might miss the barge. If you are getting shallower you are heading North towards the island and if you are getting deeper than you are heading away from the island and the boats – it’s that simple. Watch the currents, even in and around the barge.
The “Dunraven” was a steam and sail powered vessel with an iron hull and wooden decks. She was built in Newcastle upon Tyne (England) and launched in 1873. The ship was 80 m long, had a beam of 10 m and displaced 1.613 tons. She had two masts with a topsail-schooner rigging and a coal-fired 140 hp steam machine. The “Dunraven” travelled between India and Great Britain.
On her last journey from Mumbai to Liverpool, she carried a cargo of cotton, spices and timber. During the night of 24 April 1876, she lost her course through the Strait of Gubal and crashed into the Horse Shoe Reef at Sha’ab Mahmud. The crew tried to save the ship but was forced to abandon it when the water reached the machine room. The “Dunraven” capsized and sank around 17:00. There were no casualties among the crew.
The wreck was discovered in 1977. The “Dunraven” lies with her upside down diagonal to the reef. Her bow (very sharp, impressive) at 18m is the shallowest part, the stern is at a depth of 28m. The hull has partially collapsed and there are some big cracks and holes especially on the starboard side, but the stern is fairly intact, probably because his structure is supported by the two big boilers.
The rudder and the screw with its long blades – the latter covered with soft corals – are an impressive sight. The wreck is densely covered with stone coral, the deeper, more shadowed parts carry beautiful soft corals. Among the fish that can be seen at or in the wreck are morays and crocodile fish.
A good route to dive the “Dunraven” starts at the bow. Follow the keel to the rudder and screw and go down to the ground, around the stern. Close to it on the starboard side is a big crack that allows it to dive into the hull. There is enough light coming through the holes, but it’s useful to carry a lamp to explore the debris on the ground and the remains of the machinery. The inner compartments have disintegrated long ago, so the inside looks very much like a cave. The exit goes over the two boilers through a second big hole.
You should use your remaining air to explore the shallow area of the reef. Its corals are beautiful and it’s possible to see morays – some of them very big -, barracudas, napoleon fish and batfish.
Shag Rock is situated about a mile south of Sha’ab Ali and 6 miles away from the wreck of the Thistlegorm. On the northern side of the reef lies a wreck which for a long time had been falsely called Sara H, an imaginary name that in reality does not apply to any ship. The wreck, in fact, was the British cargo vessel Kingston built in 1871 in Sunderland by Oswald Shipbuilding Co. which ran aground on the 22nd February 1881 whilst en-route to Aden, located in Southern Yemen with its cargo of coal. 78m long, 10m wide and 1449 tons this wreck lies in water of 4m down to 15m.
The wreck is easily accessible and offers spectacular opportunities for photographers. There is an abundance of soft and hard corals and numerous and varied reef fauna. Divers need to be aware that this wreck should only be dived when conditions are good as strong currents are possible. The wreck of the Kingston is usually part of a Thistlegorm overnight trip.