Shipwrecks off the Coast of Egypt

For thousands of years, the treacherous waters of the Red Sea have been the crossroads of civilization. The earliest ships in this region were made of reeds, and those which sank have vanished without a trace. However, there have been over a hundred shipwrecks since the mid-1800s alone. Several dozen of these wrecks lie in shallow waters and are suitable for exploration by divers.

SS Carnatic

In Jules Verne’s famous 1873 novel “Around The World In Eighty Days,” this is the steamship which Phileas Fogg narrowly misses in Hong Kong, due to the machinations of Detective Fix. In real life, the Carnatic had been operating for 7 years along the Suez-Bombay route before she became a victim of the infamous Sha’ab Abu Nuhas reef in September 1869, just 2 months before the Suez Canal would open. Her sinking claimed 31 lives.

She was carrying 40,000 British pounds of gold when she sank, exactly the same amount as Phileas Fogg’s fortune before his celebrated journey. Although all the gold was recovered, rumors of lost treasure persist to this day.

The Carnatic is just one of many shipwrecks lost to the Sha’ab Abu Nuhas reef, a particularly dangerous section of the Red Sea which juts out into shipping channels. This reef has claimed so many ships that even its name comes from the copper cargo of a long-forgotten shipwreck. Today, it is a popular destination for scuba divers.

SS Kimon M

This large bulk carrier is another victim of the Sha’ab Abu Nuhas reef. However, before she foundered on the northeast corner of the reef in December 1978, the official Lloyds report states that she struck a previous wreck, which remains unidentified to this day. The unknown ship may even have been successfully refloated after having been grounded on the reef.

The Kimon M is just one of 4 shipwrecks in close proximity along this part of the reef. The other 3 are the Carnatic, the Giannis D, and the Chrisoula K. Although nearly all the Kimon M’s cargo of lentils was lost, thankfully all her crew members survived.

HMS Thistlegorm

This merchant navy ship became a victim of war in 1941. She had been in service for barely a single year.

Her destination had been Alexandria, Egypt. She had been sent to the Red Sea by way of South Africa to avoid the Axis-controlled Mediterranean Sea, but that did not save her. On a clear moonlit night, she was caught by surprise by a German bomber over the Gulf of Suez, and was sent to the bottom along with nearly her entire cargo of armed vehicles, trucks, motorcycles, Bren guns, 2 steam locomotives, and other war materiel. Her sinking claimed 9 lives.

For many years, the Thistlegorm was remembered with honor by the British vessels which dipped their flags as they passed by her final resting place. Although Jacques-Yves Cousteau photographed the shipwreck, salvaged the ship’s safe and bell, and is credited with finding the shipwreck, he never revealed her location. She was not rediscovered until after nearby Sarm el’Sheikh began to develop as a diving resort in the early 1990s.