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Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
Dive Site: The Excalibur
Location: Hurghada Harbour
Description: Twin mast motor and sail vessel
Length: 22 metres (72 feet)
Depth: 22 metres (72 feet)
Visibility: 10 - 30 metres (30 - 100 feet)
The Excalibur was a beautiful twin mast motor and sail vessel, around 22m in length and originally finished in white and light blue, with dark blue framing. As far as I can tell she sank some time between November 1995 and February 1996. She now rests upright (with a slight lean towards her starboard side) in a small sand lagoon in 22 metres of water. Coral boulders surround the lagoon perimeter making for a surreal setting. Much mystery surrounds her demise and over the years I have heard many different tales of her sinking. What is certain is that she suffered significant fire damage to her main cabin section and the fact that this damage, although severe, is very Centerd suggests almost without doubt that fire occurred shortly before she slipped beneath the waves. But what caused the fire? During much of my two years in Egypt, and whenever on shore, I took spending some of my evenings in Segala at a coffee shop frequented by many of the dive boat captains. Whilst drinking red tea and playing dominos (I never won a game in two years!) I kept a constant ear open for tales of new dive sites or wrecks. After first discovering the existence of the Excalibur I set about making enquiries. This was made slightly more difficult by the fact that back then I had no idea of the name of the wreck. One of the first stories I heard (and one that has prevailed over the years) is that the vessel was deliberately set on fire for an insurance claim. I also heard that the sinking was the result of a messy divorce, where one half of a marriage partnership fired the boat to stop the other taking it as a divorce settlement. I even heard that an Egyptian crew member was killed in the blaze although I find this highly unlikely in the absence of any further reports of this. Whilst the tales range from a simple electrical fire which started while the owners were ashore enjoying a sunset meal to stories of deceit and subterfuge, I must add that this is all hearsay and rumour and I have never uncovered any evidenc e to support these claims. Any factual information on the previous owners or proof of the vessels sinking would be gratefully received.
Whatever the cause of her sinking, the loss is a divers gain. The Excalibur provides a wonderful second or third dive of the day. Her main mast used to be visible from the surface starting at 4m and her 22m max depth and close proximity to shore (she can be shore dived) make her accessible to all levels of diver.
There is a second larger wreck in the harbour at Hurghada - The El Mina. It was after a first dive on the El Mina that I first got the chance to look for the unknown second harbour wreck. I had been chatting to the boat captain who told me that a vessel had recently sunk to the south of the El Mina. As luck would have it a small green fishing boat (common to those parts in those days and around 3 metres in length) tied up to the back of our dive boat during our surface interval. The fishing boat was called the "Fatota". After a chat with the fisherman, he confirmed the captain's story and better still agreed to ferry me in full dive gear over to the area for a short search. Even in the calm conditions it was quite a rocky ride balancing on what amounted to no more than a kayak. At 1.06pm on April 25th 1996, not only did the fisherman drop me in the right area, he dropped me bang on the stern of the wreck (no more than 50m from the shoreline). What greeted me below the waves was a beautiful, almost totally intact, luxury sailboat, complete with twin masts, rigging and bowsprit with bow net rigging still in place. Diving totally alone on the wreck was like something out of a pirate movie and it was easy to imagine her as a sunken galleon involved in swashbuckling adventure, pirates pacing her decks and a secret treasure chest buried in her keel. I would love to entertain the notion that I was the first to dive her after her sinking, however the tell-tell extra bits of orange rope which had been tied and then cut from her mast tops, suggested I was certainly not the first here. With no idea of her identity, and for logbook purposes I named her "The Suzanna" (to this day I have no idea why) and only much later discovered her true name to be "The Excalibur". In the subsequent months I never tied a single rope to the vessel, insisting our dive boat moored off the wreck to preserve her If only others had been so careful - I returned to The Excalibur (or Suzanna, as I still like to call her) nearly seven years after her sinking and was dismayed to find both her masts had been pulled from her, almost all the rigging is now on the sea floor and the bowsprit netting is gone. Despite her condition she still sits upright and proud, the fire damage in her main cabin area apparent to all, the flames now replaced with thousands of glassfish and the occasional lionfish.
I had a wonderful first dive on the Excalibur back in 1996 and returned just over an hour later to share the experience with the divers on my boat. Having returned from the wrecks of Abu Nuh‚s it was a great last dive for them on their mini-safari.
Later that day I put pencil to paper and drew a picture of this lovely site. Whilst hardly doing her justice I re-drew my original picture recently and elected to draw her as she was then rather than how she now appears (see map attached here on dive site directory). Although now inaccurate I hope other divers will picture her this way and be reminded that caring for these precious wrecks preserves them for others to be inspired by, as I was when we first met.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
The only thing I can add to this very good description is the name.... Excalibur is now known to all as the wreck Suzanna. I have no idea why... [see above review - Editor] I am an instructor working in the Red Sea, and this is always my choice of wreck dive for advanced course wreck dive module.
Sue Webbe, Instructor
I believe that the Excalibur was a small liveaboard belonging to a dive centre called Suzanna, which is where the name comes from [we are looking into this and will update this page soon! - Editor]. The glassfish on the wreck have got company. Swimming with the glassfish you find small baby barracudas that have made Excalibur their nursery, with the glassfish as their food.
To my knowledge, the Excalibur seems to be linked to Susannah, the German lady owning Susannah Divers, one of Hurghada's original operations. Either set on fire or victim of a short circuit ignition.
Phil Simha, Course Director, Dive Journalist
It's a great wreck dive which have sunk in 1995 after an electric fire in the engine room. It is small but there is a lot of sea life around it like lionfish and some barracuda and it's also a great place to make a night dive.
A great site to get basics of the wreck diving. But I enjoy diving it till now, even after having dived some 100 MSW wrecks. Here is video of Gulf Fleet No. 31 wreck and of Suzanna wreck (more common name among Russian divers).
Vadim Malysh | 03/10/09
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