We have teamed up with Travelling Diver to offer you printed guides to the Red Sea. Text and illustrations of dive sites are provided by Rik Vercoe, our largest contributor to the region and one of the foremost authorities for information in the area with over 1000 dives undertaken in the region during his research.
- Written and Illustrated by Rik Vercoe
- Lightweight - ideal for airline baggage weight restrictions
- Fits into your standard diving logbook binder
- Click to find out more ...
print dive site review | contribute site info / photo
Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
Dive Site: El Mina (the Harbour Wreck)
Location: 27°13'55"N; 33°51'34"E
Description: Egyptian minesweeper
Length: 70 metres (230 feet)
Depth: 26 metres (85 feet) to top of wreck, seabed at 30 metres (100 feet)
Visibility: 30 metres (100 feet)
The El Mina was bombed by the Israelis in 1969 in Hurghada bay, but still has a sister ship afloat nearby which is worth looking at to compare to what you are about to dive. The wreck now lies on its side and there are a lot of small holes to peer into and penetration is possible, although tight, through a significant amount of the wreck. Sea urchins are abundant on the wreck and a very large moray was found living in one of the holes. An interesting dive.
El Mina Resources
El Mina is Arabic for "The Harbour" and the fact that this wreck lies in the Harbour at Hurghada is the only link between the name and the wreck. The "Harbour Wreck" as it is commonly referred to, is an Egyptian owned, Soviet built type-43 minesweeper, 570 tons, approximately 60m in length and with a beam of 9m. It lies on its port side in 33m of water at the stern, 26m at the bow. Armament consisted of 2 manual dual 37mm anti-aircraft guns, 2 manual dual 25mm AA guns, 2 manual dual 12.7mm guns and 2 DC mortars. The T-43 was the NATO code name for this vessel type; standard Soviet designed ocean minesweepers, although many of the original ships were also built by the Chinese. The wreck is widely reported as having sunk in 1969 or 1970, however an eye witness account given in 1995 by an Egyptian boat captain, who had previously served in the Egyptian military, states the sinking occurred on June 6th 1967; the victim of an Israeli fighter plane. This was the day after the Israeli air force attacked airfields in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq on June 5th sparking the Arab-Israeli 6-Day War, which lasted until June 10th when UN Security Council cease fire demands were accepted.
Attached is a picture of one of the harbour wreck's sister ships - Minesweeper 513 - which I took in March 1996. Minesweepers can still often be seen moored in the harbour at Hurghada. This is one of two wrecks located in Hurghada Harbour (see also the section on the Excalibur). The close proximity of these wrecks to one another and to most dive centres located along the coastline of Hurghada opens up a number of opportunities to both divers and dive guides alike.
The Harbour Wreck is a lovely dive and being a relatively small wreck you can easily cover the vessel stern to bow several times in a single dive, even with the bottom time limits that come with a 30m depth. The stern of the wreck is twisted to port with the decking facing the seabed. This makes for easy access to the twin screws and propellers. Look out for the giant moray eel which has made its home here. As you move amidships and towards the bow the wreckage lies squarely on its port side meaning the bridge and decks are accessible. There are also 4 varying sized anti aircraft guns visible as well as the mine sweeping equipment. Live rounds are scattered on the seabed. As you reach the bow the bomb blast in the starboard side is hard to miss, with jagged steel twisted outwards. It is possible to enter the interior of the wreck through the blast hole and swim down the central corridor to various cabins, interior rooms and even the engine compartment. However space is tight, light does not penetrate and there is an increasing amount of silt building up, so penetration is not recommended. Also at the bow you can clearly see the anchor chains snaking off across the seabed, showing that not only was this minesweeper bombed on Hurghada's front door step, but that she was at anchor, with no inkling of what was about to be inflicted upon her by the approaching Israeli fighter plane. The latter part of the dive can be completed above the hull, playing with several resident clownfish and observing with care the urchins and lionfish, before heading up the shot lines for safety stops.
Being a 30m wreck "El Mina" is generally beyond the limits of open water divers, however being in such close proximity to shore means that a well organised dive guide can cater for differing levels of diver, while offering wreck dives to all. Diving the El Mina means you are likely to be in the water before 9.30am (the proximity of most other day sites to shore means that the first dive is often around 10.30am). Therefore the more advanced divers can dive the El Mina first and once a 45-minute dive has been completed a 5-minute trip to the nearby wreck of the Excalibur provides an 18m wreck dive for those less experienced. There is plenty of time for your dive guide to have a short surface interval before leading the dive and then rest of the day is available to head out to one of Hurghada's reefs for all divers to make a second dive together. Organising your day this way means that not only can you cater for differing dive levels and offer wreck dives to all, but the timing will put you out of sync with the rest of the diving vessels, meaning that you can enjoy relatively private dives.
The Harbour Wreck is rarely buoyed due to its location in a busy port and back in the early 1990's I used to find this wreck using reference points on the shoreline (taking a 330 degree bearing on the Mosque, lining up the 3rd military station with the right corner of the bright red hotel roof and then looking 90 degrees to starboard and placing the cone shaped structure between the 2 grey water towers). When I last dived the El Mina in 2002 the Hurghada shoreline had changed beyond all recognition, but these day most day boats have a GPS or fish finder making location easy. Being the first boat on the site is a definite advantage as this site can become crowded. As it was a necessity to "tie on" to the wreck (a practice I never liked due to the potential damage which could be caused to the wreck) best practice is to brief, or be briefed en-route to the site and be kitted up to the point of just needing to don BCD and fins upon arrival. As the guide I could then enter the water from the bow of the dive boat and descend with the securing rope to the wreck. I would always brief the boat crew to feed out the entire length of rope (irrespective of how close to the wreck they thought we were). Once down at the wreck I would find a place to secure the rope and then rather than "tie on", I would thread the rope through the securing point and allow the slack to float back to the surface, where a pre-briefed crew would retrieve the end, pull in the slack and secure to the dive vessel cleats. With the crew briefed to secure a bow to stern line, divers could now enter at the stern of the dive boat, pull themselves along the surface to the bow and descend down the shot line where I would meet them just 5 to 10 minutes after my descent. This would avoid multiple ascents and descents for me and once the dive was completed I would surface with the group. To untie from the wreck simply meant undoing the rope from the dive vessel bow cleats and allowing it to thread itself back out of the securing point. Barring a tangle (avoidable by picking a strong and open securing point) I would not need to make any additional descents.
Note: This type of operation requires a detailed and clear briefing to both divers and especially the Egyptian boat crews.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
Roughly 150 metres from the stern of this wreck is now a fishing vessel, which is (still) in a really good shape. With some moderate care it is possible to do both wrecks in one dive.
Erwin Matheeuwsen, PADI AOW - BLS - O2 prov
I've dived this wreck twice this year, once as a normal dive and once as a technical dive. There are moorings now for the boat to tie to. Visibility can be poor sometimes as it is in the harbour but when I say poor I mean poor for the Red Sea. Good easy wreck for first timers like the Dunraven.
Ian Higgins, PADI Assistant Instructor
The El Mina is a great wreck and it's huge, but the vis is not that good down there and sometimes the current is little bit strong at the surface but it's a great spot to dive for advanced courses I think that this wreck is the best.
Dived on this wreck early morning in September. First dive boat on the site so had the entire wreck between 3 of us! Very good and easy dive for anybody advanced and above. Deco time is the problem due to the depth if you want to penetrate. Highly recommend and better visibility than the Thistlegorm (which is my personal favourite).
Mick Hatswell, MSD
This wreck is sometimes referred to as the Miniya rather than the El Mina including in Shipwrecks from the Egyptian Red Sea by Ned Middleton
Into the corridor trough the blast hole, where is the engine room?
Sven De Vos | 17/2/2010
Do you have any comments on this dive site?
print dive site review | contribute site info / photo | top
Do you run a dive operation in this area?
Click here to find out more about being listed on this
page in dive site directory.