The Carnatic is another iconic wreck located in northern Egypt in the shallows of Sha’ab Abu Nuhas, the mouth of the Gulf of Suez. It ran aground due to unexplained circumstances on 12 September 1869, allowing for over 200 years of coral growth to almost completely cover its remains. Today, it lies between 12 and 25 metres along the reef’s bank, giving shelter to a variety of benthic species, including large moray eels, elusive scorpionfish, stonefish, parrotfish and napoleon wrasses. It’s a relatively easy dive with optimal conditions of visibility, almost completely absence of currents and year-round accessibility.
The iron-framed, wooden-planked, 90-metre-long Carnatic was built in 1862-63 by the Samuda Brothers on the Isle of Dogs, London, to serve as cargo for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, known today as P&O. The Carnatic was assigned to serve on the Suez-to-Bombay run, at a time when the Suez Canal had yet to be opened. It sailed powered by its square rigging, backed up by a four-cylinder inverted steam engine–of which, the boilers are still visible today–that provided over 2,000 hp to a mono-propeller.
It ran aground under the command of Captain P.B. Jones who, after assessing the situation, forbade the passenger’s from abandoning the ship, despite their requests. According to Jones, the ship was safe and the P&O liner Sumatra was on its way to rescue. However, in the morning of the 14th, after 34 hours on the reef, the Carnatic broke in half, dragging 31 passengers underwater with her. According to historical accounts, the Carnatic transported goods and passengers as well as a small fortune in gold, the equivalent of today’s 1,000,000 pounds sterling. All the gold was recovered, but persistent rumours of a remaining treasure contributed to the ship’s romantic appeal, especially amongst divers.
Whether you’re a treasure hunter or a wreck enthusiast, the Carnatic makes for a very interesting dive. Its long permanence underwater allowed marine life to colonise it extensively. As a result, the Carnatic today sports an incredibly colourful livery made of living organisms, such as soft corals and alcyonarian, and between its metal panels hides thousands of different species typical of shipwrecks, such as the almost unnoticeable stonefish.
The Carnatic offers a great opportunity to observe and admire the interaction between nature and humanity in a perfect example of so-called “artificial reefs”, where the metal of the artificial structures creates the ideal substrate for the coral colonies to grab onto and grow. On the Carnatic, divers can penetrate the wreck to admire the stunning plays of light and shadows and the ghostly-shapes of a bygone past. If you are an advanced diver, you will also be able to admire the stunning propeller and rudder in 27 metres of water, provided you keep track of your air supply and non-decompression limits.
This text is for information purposes only. It has been written by members of the website and can be inaccurate. Always contact local professional divers before diving.