Wreck Diving
Wrecks of the Red Sea

The Red Sea has been an important international waterway since time immemorial. The first record of a trading expedition in the Red Sea dates back to year 1493 BC, when Queen Hatchepsut of Egypt sent a fleet of five vessels from El Quseir, on the Red Sea mainland coast, to the Land of Punt, near present-day Somalia.

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CARNATIC

The Loss of the Carnatic: This ship was employed between Suez, Bombay and China under the command of Captain P. B. Jones. In September 1869 Captain Jones supervised the loading of his ship which included 34 passengers, a general cargo, Royal Mail and £40,000 specie (unfinished coins) destined for the Indian Mint The Carnatic had a crew of 176. On 12 September 1869, they sailed for Bombay. Early the following morning, however, the ship struck Sha’ab Abu Nuhas Reef and became firmly stuck. Expecting another of his company’s ships to arrive at any time, Jones decided to stay put and the ship remained aground for two days before she suddenly broke in two and sank. 5 passengers and 26 crew were lost. Having rowed across to Shadwan Island, the survivors were rescued by the SS Sumatra on the following day.

Despite false rumours to the contrary, the Carnatic was not carrying gold and all the valuable specie was recovered by British diver Stephen Saffrey working from an official salvage vessel. There is no missing treasure! This wreck is also known as the “Bottle Wreck” on account of the large number of wine bottles found when she was first discovered.

Diving the Carnatic: Lying parallel to the reef, the ship is on her port side with bows facing east, stern west and keel towards the reef. The wreck is a fairly constant 25-27m to the seabed throughout. Her wooden superstructure and planking have rotted away leaving a steel hull with iron cross-members which allow the Diver to enter the wreck itself. At the bows is a large ring which once held the bowsprit. Below this is a curved metal support onto which a magnificent figurehead was mounted. There are lifeboat davits on both sides and plenty of access points for a journey inside the hull. Between the relatively intact forward and stern sections is a pile of debris which was once the engine room. The stern has a row of seven square windows below which a magnificent rudder and very large propeller rest on the sand.

Postscript: The wreck of the Carnatic was first discovered by Adrian O'Neil, captain of the Lady Jenny V, in 1985. It was British underwater photo-journalist and author Lawson Wood who finally identified the vessel.

Ned Middleton is an award-winning, best selling author. For more information about this and other shipwrecks found within the Egyptian sector of the Red Sea, his book “Shipwrecks from the Egyptian Red Sea” (ISBN 1898162719 and 1905492162) is readily available. This book was declared “Underwater Publication of the Year” for 2007.

Location

Straits of Gobal, Sha'ab Abu Nuhas, northern tip

Depth

17 to 27m

Constructed

1862

Launched

December 1862

Type

Iron framed, planked passenger steamer.

Displacement

2014

Dimensions

Machinery

4 cylinder vertical, inverted tandem compound stea

Owners

Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company

Cargo

Passengers, specie, mail and general cargo