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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KINGSTON

The Loss of the Kingston: On 28 January 1881, the Kingston departed Cardiff for Aden. The ship cleared Suez on 20 February and the Captain personally supervised the navigation of the Straits of Suez. As the hours passed, he did not ask any of his officers to check his calculations and bearings. Consequently, he made a mistake when trying to determine the ship’s correct position. By 22 February 1881, the ship had become much further east than was realised. Finally, thinking he had safely cleared the Gulf of Suez, the Captain left the bridge and retired. Within a short time, however, the ship ran aground on Shag Rock. A passing ship agreed to send help from Suez but, as they waited, the ship became down by the stern and she slowly sank against the reef. On the second day, the crew took to the boats and the Kingston sank later that day. So shallow was the water, that the ship’s bows and masts remained visible able the surface. The lifeboats were tied to the masts as Captain waited to be rescued. The Kingston was declared a constructive total loss on the 28 February 1881.

Diving the Kingston: The Kingston is upright on an even keel with her bows smashed into the Reef. At the stern, propeller and rudder are found intact at 17m. From here, the diver swims upwards into the remains of the wreck. After more than 125 years underwater, this wreck is still in remarkable condition. Half the hull from amidships to the stern is fairly intact but with no superstructure. The cargo of coal is still in place, Above the stern, are the remnants of the tiller. Nearby is evidence of portholes having been removed. The wooden decks have gone leaving a series of steel spars and beams. There is also a spare propeller. Amidships are the remains of the engine room with two large boilers and condenser. The remainder of the ship is nothing more than scattered debris across a coral slope. Two masts lie of the starboard side of the wreck.

Postscript (1): This wreck became known as the “Sarah H” from the moment she was discovered. The name coming from local dive guide Sara Hillel. It was a name which prevailed.

Postscript (2): Captain Cousins was adjudged to have been negligent and his Master’s Certificate was suspended for 6 months. He was then given command of the “Harvest” in October 1881 and promptly ran her aground on three occasions. After receiving a very stern warning from the ship’s owners, he promptly settled down to complete a full career at sea without further mishap.

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

West coast of Shag Rock, Sinai Peninsula

Depth

4m to 19m

Constructed

1871

Launched

16 February 1871

Type

General Cargo Vessel.

Displacement

1449

Dimensions

Machinery

Single, coal fired 2 cylinder compound steam-engin

Owners

Commercial Steamship Co.

Cargo

Coal