SS Thistlegorm rests in the Sha'ab Ali's shallows in the Northern Red Sea, since its sinking back in 1941. Discovered by Jacques Cousteau, it quickly gained a reputation as the world's best wreck site among recreational divers during the early '90s. A dive on the Thistlegorm will let you explore the remnants of the Great War while being immersed in the vibrant marine life of the northern Red Sea such as dolphins and turtles. The Thistlegorm offers divers a unique blend of historical value and aquatic life at a depth that can be easily reached by most divers. Visit the famous Captain's room, the holds containing supplies destined for the British war effort, the locomotives. Finish the dive with a five-metre safety stop surrounded by curious napoleon wrasses, batfish, and dolphins.
The SS Thistlegorm was a 128-metre-long, steam-powered cargo ship that was transporting war supplies from Glasgow to the British troops in Alexandria during the Second World War. Due to a problem in the Suez Canal, the ship had to stop in Sha’ab Ali - near Ras Mohammed- at the “Safe” Anchorage F, where it was spotted and sunk by two German bombers passing by.
The bombers dropped two 2.5 tonne high-explosive bombs on the Thistlegorm, hit the ammunition deposit in hold #4 near the stern, and swiftly sunk the ship with a big blast at 1:30am on 6 October, 1941.
Jaques Cousteau was the first one to discover Thistlegorm's wreck. He presented it to the public in a series of documentaries but kept the location secret. In the early 90s, when Sharm El Sheikh started to develop as a diving resort, the wreck was rediscovered by the local dive guides and quickly gained the status of the world's best wreck dive.
Thistlegorm's wreck now lies - accessible to most scuba divers - at a depth of 30 metres, levelled as if it was still sailing, and relatively well preserved (with the exception of the exploded area, of course). Over the years the wreck has been extensively colonised by hundreds of different species, among which are moray eels, barracudas, batfish, and turtles.
The boats moor onto the wreck itself (this has contributed to the accelerated rate of deterioration) using two mooring lines to connect bow to bow and stern to stern. After the jump, the divers descend along the stern line to reach the wreck. Sometimes the underwater visibility in Sha'ab Ali is not perfect as it is in other places in the Red Sea (due to the sandy bottom). On average, it could be somewhere between 15 and 20 metres. The wreck tends to slowly materialize as the divers descend, gloomy as a ghost ship.
It is worth doing two dives here. Divers would typically visit the deeper points - such as the propeller and rudder - on the first dive, and explore the wreck's holds in the second dive.
It is important to perfectly plan the dives to ensure the best use of your time, so you can see as many things as possible. An ideal itinerary for the first dive could be, depending on the current, heading straight to the starboard or port-side steam locomotives (positioned some meters away from the wreck), then heading back to the propeller and rudder, continuing to the explosion site to see the tanks and ammunition (tapping on unexploded shells is not recommended), and finally ascending along the stern to admire the artillery piece and the tiny “heads”. If there is still time, visiting part of the weather deck now could save time on the second dive.
The second dive usually takes place after a surface interval of one hour. Divers start the exploration from the explosion site facing the bow, where the steam boilers and their ducts can still be seen relatively intact, as well as the massive drive-shaft and the remains of the triple-expansion steam engine.
From here, divers can access the coal deposit - directly underneath the wheelhouse - and the holds, filled with all sorts of war supplies such as wellington boots, rifles, trucks, motorbikes, and plane parts. After exploring the holds, divers then proceed to the massive winch that operated the anchors and follow the anchor chains to reach the bow. If you look out into the open sea and turn around to admire the entire wreck, it will seem as if it was still alive and sailing, surrounded by schools of fish.
On the way back to the ascent line, divers can explore the weather deck, visit the wheelhouse and the captain’s cabin (as well as its famous bathtub), and enjoy the abundant marine life. During the mandatory safety stop, divers will occasionally receive a visit by one of the many pods of dolphins that hunt in the area, especially when the dive site is not crowded.
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.