The meeting point of the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba, this is the tip of the Sinai peninsula and has been a National Park for decades to protect its outstanding natural beauty above and below the waves. While signature dives like Shark & Yolanda are the main draw, inspiring divers with steep drop-offs, legendary visibility and huge schools of fish, there are many other dives such as Ras Gozlani and Ras Za’atar with stunning underwater scenery that need to be seen to be believed.
SS Thistlegorm was a British cargo steamship that was built in North East England in 1940 and sunk by German bomber aircraft in the Red Sea in 1941. Her wreck near Ras Muhammad is now a well-known diving site
The ship completed three successful voyages in her career. The first was to the US to collect steel rails and aircraft parts, the second to Argentina for grain, and the third to the West Indies for rum. Prior to her fourth and final voyage, she had undergone repairs in Glasgow.
She left Glasgow on her final voyage on 2 June 1941, destined for Alexandria, Egypt. The ship's cargo included: Bedford trucks, Universal Carrier armoured vehicles, Norton 16H and BSA motorcycles, Bren guns, cases of ammunition, and 0.303 rifles as well as radio equipment, Wellington boots, aircraft parts, railway wagons and two LMS Stanier Class 8F steam locomotives. These steam locomotives and their associated coal and water tenders were carried as deck cargo intended for Egyptian National Railways. The rest of the cargo was for the Allied forces in Egypt. At the time Thistlegorm sailed from Glasgow in June, this was the Western Desert Force, which in September 1941 became part of the newly formed Eighth Army. The crew of the ship, under Captain William Ellis, were supplemented by nine naval personnel to man the machine gun and the anti-aircraft gun.
In the early 1950s, Jacques Cousteau discovered her by using information from local fishermen. He raised several items from the wreck, including a motorcycle, the captain's safe, and the ship's bell. The February 1956 edition of National Geographic clearly shows the ship's bell in place and Cousteau's divers in the ship's lantern room. Cousteau documented diving on the wreck in part of his book The Living Sea.
The SS Dunraven was built in Newcastle upon Tyne at the C. Mitchell and C. Iron Ship Builders and was launched in 1872. The ship was owned by a Mr W. Milburn. Powered by both sail and steam, she was planned for the route from Britain to Bombay.
Three years later, in January 1876, she set sail from Liverpool loaded with steel and timber bound for Bombay. There the cargo was sold and she was reloaded with spices, cotton and muslin for the return journey. It was generally an uneventful journey and she reached the Red Sea approaches to the Suez Canal on 25 April. Thinking they were further up the Gulf of Suez than they actually were, Captain Care and the 25-man crew sailed the ship straight into a reef. The ship stuck fast south of Beacon Rock at the southern end of the furthest reaches of what is now the Ras Muhammad National Park on the outside of Sha'ab Mahmoud. The crew worked frantically to dislodge her, and 14 hours after striking the rock she slid off. This motion upset her balance and she capsized.
She sunk quickly in 25 metres of water, leaving the crew to be rescued from the life boats by local fishermen. After the incident the British Board of Trade held an enquiry and found Captain Care to have been at fault. The board declared him negligent and revoked his captain's license, the Master's Certificate, for a year.
Blue Hole (Dahab)
The Blue Hole is a submarine sinkhole, with a maximum depth within the hole of just over 100 m (328 feet). There is a shallow opening to the sea around 6 m (20 feet) deep, known as "the saddle", and a 26 m (85 feet) long tunnel, known as "the Arch", whose ceiling is at a depth of 55 m (181 feet) and whose bottom falls away as it reaches the seaward side to about 120 m (394 feet). On the seaward side the floor drops steeply to over 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). The hole and the surrounding area have an abundance of coral and reef fish. The Blue Hole is popular for freediving because of the depth directly accessible from shore and the lack of current.
The dive site is reputed to have the most diver fatalities in the world with estimates of between 130 and 200 fatalities in recent years. The reasons for why this site has such a high number of fatalities are not clearly understood
The Sinai Peninsula was occupied by Israel from the Six-Day War of 1967 until Egypt won it back in the 6th of October war in 1974. During the Israeli occupation, the Blue Hole developed a significant international reputation as a dive site. In 1968 a group of Israeli divers led by Alex Shell were the first to dive the hole with modern scuba diving. During the dive, they noticed the underwater arch.
Since 1982 the Blue Hole has become very busy and is dived almost every day by recreational divers. Local dive centres take appropriately qualified divers to 30 m (AOW level or CMAS**) at the El Bells or Bells to Blue Hole sites. The Bells entry is from the shore further along from the Blue Hole. At 26 m at the bottom of the Bells is a mini arch that should not be confused with the arch in the Blue Hole itself. The dive is then a wall dive that finishes crossing the Blue Hole saddle at a depth of 7 m. Recreational divers do not get to see the Blue Hole arch when doing the Bells to Blue Hole dive.