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EGYPTSS ThistlegormThe SS Thistlegorm is undoubtedly one of the world’s top shipwreck dives, and this is all down to the cargo it was carrying. The vessel itself makes a fine dive in its own right, but the treasures con-tained within the holds are what attract literally thousands of divers per year.“ The rest of the ship is perfectly upright, and swimming along the decks, which contain the water carriers from the locos, cranes and more, into the superstructure – you can even see the captain’s sink and bath-tub ”The Thistlegorm was less than a year old when it was sent to the bottom of the Egyptian Red Sea on 6 October 1941, succumbing to damage from German Heinkel He 111 bombers while at anchor in Sha’ab Ali, just east of the Straits of Gubal, waiting to go through the Suez Canal.
This British armed merchant navy ship was chock-full of Allied military supplies, including motorbikes, Bren gun carriers, trucks, rubber boots, Lee Enfield rifles, munitions of all shapes and sizes, airplane parts – today it is like diving through a museum. Every dive you do you will spot something you hadn’t seen on previous excursions, and as well as the rich cargo to keep you captivated, there is plenty of marine life that calls the holds home, including moray eels, lionfish and scorpionfish, crocodilefish and even several species of nudibranch.
On the sandy seabed on either side of the Thistlegorm lie the remains of two steam locomotives, which were blown some 100 metres into the air by the explosion that decimated hold four of the vessel (where much of the ammunition was stored, hence the devastation) and then landed upright, and are now seemingly steaming along the bottom.
The stern section, just behind the bomb damage to hold four, is tilted to port, and you can see the two anti-aircraft guns still in place, now host to plenty of coral growth, as well as the immense propeller and rudder.
The rest of the ship is perfectly upright, and swimming along the decks, which contain the water carriers from the locos, cranes and more, into the superstructure – you can even see the captain’s sink and bath-tub - and through the multiple hold levels, is an experience that will stay with you forever. You only scratch the surface of this vast ship with a couple of dives – most day trips will feature a dive around the exterior of the vessel, followed by a second when you penetrate into the holds to see the magnificent cargo - and you’ll be left wanting more as you surface from your final dive.
Incredibly, while the Thistlegorm was first discovered way back in 1956 by one Jacques-Yves Cousteau, it was then inexplicably lost again until it was rediscovered in 1992, and it has been a staple on trips to the northern Red Sea ever since.
Did you know?The SS Thistlegorm is famous for its wartime cargo and was fitted with light weaponry. It consists of a 4.7inch light anti-aircraft gun and an anti-aircraft machine gun.Essential informationLocation: Sha’ab Ali, Gulf of Suez, Egypt Depth: 16m-32m Diver level: Advanced “ Every dive you do you will spot something you hadn’t seen on previous excursions, and as well as the rich cargo to keep you captivated, there is plenty of marine life that calls the holds home ”Who to dive with Elite Diving www.elite-diving.com SS ThistlegormRed Sea, Egypt 27.8137° N, 33.9208° E
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USNS General Hoyt S Vandenberg
Scuba Diver Magazine
Scuba Diver is an independent publisher of scuba diving magazines in all major English-speaking countries.