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World | Red Sea | Diving North Hurghada:

North Hurghada (El Gouna) overview



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Click here for printed guides of Red Sea Dive Sites

Travelling Diver site by site printed guides for the dive sites in this area, with maps, dive site illustrations and integrated log book

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
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Carnatic Map  - courtesy of Rik Vercoe
Deck of the Carnatic, Red Sea dive site - courtesy of Carina Hall
Hull of the Carnatic, Red Sea dive site - courtesy of Carina Hall
Stern of the Carnatic, Red Sea dive site - courtesy of Luke Cooper-Berry
Propellor on the Carnatic, Red Sea dive site - courtesy of Luke Cooper-Berry
Moray eel on the Carnatic, Red Sea dive site - courtesy of Chris Williams

Scuba Diving in the Red Sea

Dive Site: Carnatic

Location: 27°34'53"N; 33°55'32"E (Sha'ab Abu Nuh‚s)

Description: British cargo ship

Length: 90 metres approx (295 feet)

Depth: 24 metres max (79 feet)

Visibility: 20 - 30 metres (65 - 100 feet)

Rating: ****

The Carnatic is a beautiful 19th Century wreck that lies on Sha'ab Abu Nuhas Reef. Its shallow depth means that it is accessible to all levels of diver and all levels will appreciate it as a great wreck dive. Despite the length of time the Carnatic has been on the seabed (it sank in 1869) it is remarkably intact. The majority of your dive can be done along the outside of the wreck past giant moray eels and other Red Sea reef fish that have made this wreck their home. In the holds you can see the remains of broken bottles and there are shoals of glass fish inhabiting them. Penetration into the holds is easy for any level of diver. To finish the dive you can head back along Sha'ab Abu Nuhas reef where you will be able to find many different types of coral and fish before ascending.

Carnatic Resources

Reader Reviews:

The Carnatic is one of the older wrecks in the Red Sea and after her sinking in September 1869 she lay alone on the reef of Abu Nuhâs for over 100 years before being joined by several others wrecks in the 1970’s and 1980’s. She is of iron framed planked construction and was a P&O passenger sail & steam ship, 90m in length with a beam of 12 metres.

On September 12th 1869 she began what ended up being her last voyage from Suez with an intended destination of Bombay under the command of Captain P.B Jones (who had taken command of the Carnatic in 1867). With 176 crew, 34 passengers she had a cargo of wine, cotton bails and £40,000 of royal mint gold. It is thought and widely reported that Captain Jones did most of the navigation and course plotting and with the inevitable lack of sleep certain bearings were not taken during watch changes. Whatever the reasons, the Carnatic struck the reef of Abu Nuhâs just after midnight where she did not sink immediately but became stuck on the shallow reef top. It was a clear night and the decision was made not to abandon ship, but for crew and passengers alike to remain on board. Captain Jones knew that another P&O vessel, the Sumatra was due to pass them in the opposite direction on route to Suez, and intended to seek her assistance. After a perilous night on the reef top the Sumatra had still not arrived on Sept 13th. The Carnatic appeared to be in fair condition and as nightfall approached for the second time, Captain Jones made the fateful decision to ride out another night on the floundering vessel. After some 36 hours on the reef the Carnatic finally gave up her hopeless battle against the elements and broke in half, late morning on Tuesday Sept 14th 1869. The passengers and crew abandoned ship, using the lifeboats which were not damaged and could still be launched. They allegedly used some of the previously jettisoned, tightly packed cotton bails as flotation devices, and the remaining 7 lifeboats then made for Shadwan (or Shaker) island, approx 2 miles to the south. The cotton bails were also used to keep them warm during the cold night experienced in this area in contrast to the heat of the day and to make a fire. The lives of 26 crew and 5 passengers were lost.

It is reported that Captain Henry Grant was dispatched by Lloyd’s of London to recover the valuable cargo of gold, a task which was completed (apparently in full) by November 8th 1869. This was quite a task and was a landmark in salvage operations of that time.

Today, some 135 years later, the Carnatic is a fantastic dive site. The outer reef of Abu Nuhâs should not be underestimated and surface conditions and the direction of the surface current can make mooring difficult. It is more normal these days for larger dive vessels to moor on the relatively safe south side of the reef and for divers to be ferried out to the wreck in small tender boats or RIBs. The wreck lies in around 22m of water at the base of the reef, tipped over onto her port side. She lies parallel to the reef wall with her starboard side facing towards the top of the reef. Now in two sections, amidships she is broken apart, but she still managed to sink and settle with dignity and lies is such a way that it is still easy to imagine how she once looked when intact. The current here can be strong and normally runs from the bow to stern, so it’s a good idea to start your dive at the stern and head forward into the current, before drifting back. The wooden decking is long since gone making it possible to swim between her decking beams which now look like a giant ribcage (take care as soft corals cover the wreck). The inside of the stern is full of glassfish and sweepers making her a photographers dream come true. Her boilers are clearly defined amidships and in the early 1990’s there was a huge table coral which had grown on top of a twisted piece of metal. This was home to a huge resident moral eel, however sadly when I last dived here in February 2002 the remains of the broken table coral where on the seabed. The bow section is littered with the broken bottles which are left over from her cargo of wine. She is often referred to as the “Wine Wreck”. Indeed everything about a dive on the Carnatic is picturesque and has an air of romance – a fine bottle of wine and a candle lit dinner for 2 at 22 metres would be just the ticket!

Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor

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