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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MAIDAN

The Loss of the Maidan: Under command of Captain Nicholas Breen and with a crew of 100, the Maidan had travelled Calcutta in April 1923. On 22 May they departed Calcutta and arrived at Port Sudan on 7 June. They sailed again at 0030 hrs 9 June 1923. The weather was fine, clear and moderate and the ship maintained a speed of 10.5 knots. At 1845 hrs the First Mate took bearings which showed the Maidan to be 2½ miles west of her intended route. The Captain, however, was satisfied with their course. At 2330 hrs Breen went to his cabin leaving orders to be called when St. John’s Island was sighted. At 0126 hrs 10 June the Second Officer was in charge of the watch when St John’s was sighted dead ahead at a distance as 8-10 miles. He immediately altered course and called the Captain but Breen did nothing! Shortly afterwards, discoloured water was seen off the port bow and the Maidan struck Rocky Island at 0139 hrs. At 1910 hrs 10 June 1923 the Maidan slipped off the reef and sank.

Diving the Maidan: This wreck is found at depths of between 80-120m and may, therefore, only be visited by those with the prerequisite technical diving qualifications and experience. As Grant Searancke described at the time of her discovery, he was at 80m when he saw the vessel in the distance and later saw the main body of the wreck another 20m below. At another time, he describes how he returned to the wreck to photograph engine room and cargo holds at depths of 120m. The vessel itself is very badly damaged though basically in one piece and lying on its side.


Postscript (1): Captain Breen was born in Dublin in 1872 and gained his Master’s certificate in Belfast in 1903. After several successful appointments as ship’s master, which included the war years of 1914-1918, he was given command of the Maidan in 1921. The Board of Trade Enquiry, however, found him to have made serious errors of judgement resulting in the loss of the Maidan and he was severely censured. He never went to sea again.

Postscript (2): Although previously falsely claimed to have been discovered in 50m!, the Maidan was finally discovered by Grant Searancke and Kimmo Hagman in 2003. I was fortunate enough to be asked to verify their discovery and was sent a short film of the wreck by Tony Backhurst which I studied most closely. From all the evidence provided at that time, I was satisfied the wreck was almost certainly the SS Maidan. Irrefutable evidence to confirm this fact was later found.

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

Rocky Island, in the Deep South

Depth

82m to 120m

Constructed

1912

Launched

March 1912

Type

General Cargo Vessel.

Displacement

8205

Dimensions

Machinery

4 cylinder quadruple expansion steam engine.

Owners

T & J Brocklebank of Glasgow

Cargo

General cargo