The Straits of Tiran are well known amongst divers as the location of some of the best reef and wall diving in the Red Sea. However as we shall see there are some interesting graves of ships in these narrow waters.
The Ports of Aqaba and Eilat at the head of the Gulf of Eilat are accessible by sea only through the Straits of Tiran, a narrow passage of water bordered to the west by the Sinai and to the east by Tiran Island and it's reefs. The channel is made more hazardous to shipping by Gordon, Jackson, Thomas, and Woodhouse, 4 of the worlds best coral reefs. They lie slap bang in the middle, so it's not surprising that many ships have come to grief here. Two of them have become local landmarks; The LARA, a Cyprian vessel ended up high and dry on top of JACKSON, and the LOULLIA on GORDON. The MARIA SHRODER too is an above water monument to these seemingly difficult waters. There have been several other vessels which shared the fate of the Lara and the Loullia, and a few which only just survived. Below are just a few of the casualties of the Strait of Tiran.
AYA VARVARA.A Cypriot motor vessel of 968 tons, built in 1950, and 232 ft long. She left Ababa for Port Said in ballast, and on the 27th of June 1976 ran aground on the coral reefs north of Ras Nasrani. Her engine rooms and holds flooded and she was abandoned, her crew being rescued by an Israeli Naval vessel. She lies on a broad stretch of reef near Nabq in 24 mtrs, with her bow section showing above water and her stern section almost upright on the seabed. The wreck is adorned with soft corals, invertebrates and a vast population of fish. Dolphins have often been seen here.
HEY DAROMA.The 1736 ton, 275 ft Israeli cargo vessel, was wrecked near Nabq, to the south of the wreck of the Aya Varvara. She was abandoned as a total loss after refloating attempts failed. Her bow section remains on top of the reef at 28 05 N 34 27E, with the stern section lying upside down on the sea bed in 24 mtrs. She makes a safe and interesting dive and much of the hulls’ interior can be accessed with care. Don’t bother to look for her cargo - it was water! She was built at Adrossan in 1944 for Sefinot Ltd.
KAPTAIN KISSA6210 tons, phosphate carrier. Grounded in the Straits of Tiran, July 13th 1996 enroute to Aqaba from Jedda. Like many of the vessels that ply these waters, navigational errors seem to have put her on the rocks. She was one of the lucky ones and was refloated two days later.
ZINGARA.An Italian freighter 1569 tons 253 ft long, built in 1963 left Aqaba with a cargo of phosphate and ran aground on a reef patch near Nabq on 22nd of August 1984. She was abandoned as a total constructive loss. Her official position puts her on Laguna reef near the Kormoran but this is incorrect. She actually lies on the Sinai side of the Straits and was partly visible above water, much of her remains being down the slope in 24 mtrs. However the wreckage has suffered an unusual fate. Most of it now lies under a new wreck!
THE MILLION HOPE.In July of 1996, yet another phosphate carrier struck the Sinai shore while navigating the narrow ENTERPRISE PASSAGE. Fire gutted the superstructure and she was abandoned. Oil threatened to cause damage to the reefs. However the leek was small and disappeared after a few days. The Million Hope is now settling, almost intact with a list to port, her cranes still visible above the water, her holds now empty of their cargo. After only a few months the wreck is home to a multitude of fish and hard corals are beginning to establish themselves. This must surly be a great opportunity for biologists to study coral growth rates. The keel of the wreck lies in 24 mtrs, and with a shallow bed to seaward, it should eventually become another GIANUS D, a haven for marine life and a paradise for photographers!
KORMORAN.The details of the sinking of this large bulk carrier, are at the time of writing unknown. Local fishermen and skippers can offer no information on her demise. I have pieced together a possible scenario from the evidence found around the wreck since I first dived her in 1992. Her attitude and possession give the first clue. The Grafton passage is the North or 'up' lane of the separation channel for traffic through the Straits of Tiran. There have been many casualties here, the most recent being the Cunard liner Royal Viking Sun. She struck only a few hundred yards away. A large reef patch reaches into the passage from the Island of Tiran, despite modern navigation aids, the reef has caught several victims. It would seem from the state of her bow that the Kormoran drove headlong in to the reef. Her bow is buried deep into the coral. Her name is clearly visible, although welding spots above would suggest she has been renamed. The letters seem to be AMA ---- S. The spelling of her current name would suggest a German ownership. An anchor chain runs out over the reef. Marine life is now colonising the wreck, and these include Morays, Triggerfish and Parrot fish and the surrounding reef is worth a visit. Lying in only 8 mtrs of water the wreck is ideal as a third dive after visiting the nearby reefs, but because of her position she is subject to swell, although there are no current problems.
There is no evidence of cargo, but from the size of her now flattened holds and large derricks it would seem she was a bulk carrier possible in ballast or carrying perishable goods. Several sets of winching machinery lie around the wreck. Her paint work is still evident and there are still many portholes both square and round. The stern is very photogenic, with the mid afternoon sun behind it provides a classic shipwreck image. Inside the stern section are a growing number of glass fish, and deeper down a school of hatchet fish. Other parts of the wreck including the bow are ideal for diver/wreck portraits and the natural light is a great asset for wide angle shots.
By coincidence, another vessel came to grief near here, bearing the name of CORMORAN, a wooden yacht which was smashed to pieces. It’s no wonder many of the locals said the wreck didn’t exist!
LARAalthough the wreck itself is high and dry on top of Jackson Reef there is an interesting 'debris field' on the coral slope. It is interesting to see the damage done to the reef, and how the reef is slowly recovering. Many fitting pipes, hatches and port holes lie scattered around and are slowly being covered by a healthy coral growth. The wreckage extends down the reef.
ISRAELI WARSHIP.Although I have no confirmation, there is reputed to be the wreck of an Israeli warship, possibly a gunboat or even a small destroyer. It is supposed to lie in 70 mtrs.
XANADU.This is the wreck of a small diving charter boat which struck Woodhouse reef at the north end, with a party of fishermen and local officials on board. Suprisingly she had just been stripped of the diving compressors and cylinders. A ton of polythene granules which had been salvaged from the wreck of the Hamada several years before, had been stored in the bow and had saved her from a previous sinking at Sha’ab Ali, had also been removed. She now lies in 40 mtrs at the north end of the reef.
LOULLIA.The Panamanian motor bulk carrier ran aground onto Gordon reef while in ballast enroute to Suez from Aqaba on 29th of September 1981. Built in 1952 she has become a landmark perched as she does on the edge of the reef. Her hull has rotted away and it is only a matter of time before she begins to collapse in to a rusty heap. During the 80’s she was used as a base by drug dealers.
NIGER BASINThis vessel is reported to have sunk in May 1982, and relocated in 1993 at 27 59 26.9N 34 27 15.6E. NO FURTHER DETAILS AT PRESENT
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