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Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
Dive Site: Ulysses
Location: 27°41'12"N; 33°48'10"E (Bluff Point, East Small Gubal Island)
Description: British sail and steamship
Length: 95 metres (312 feet)
Depth: 28 metres (92 feet)
Visibility: 30 metres (100 feet)
The Ulysses is another "grandfather" wreck of the Red Sea. Travelling from London to Penang and under the command of Captain Arthur Bremner, she struck the reef on the east side of Small Gubal Island on August 16th 1887. She was carrying a mixed cargo, much of which was manually unloaded by the crew of the HMS Falcon, which came to her assistance. This was done whilst she was stricken on the reef top. Some of her cargo of large drums of cable was not salvaged and now lies on the coral slopes amongst the wreckage. I have often heard this wreck referred to as "The Cable Wreck". After a valiant fight she finally slipped beneath the waves sometime between 20th August and 6th September 1887, sinking 18 years after the Carnatic (which hit the not too distant reef of Abu Nuh‚s). Very similar in construction to the Carnatic she was a British sail and steamship, steel hulled and of "iron framed planked" construction. 95 metres in length she had a beam of just over 10 metres making her sleek in design for that time.
Today, well over 100 years later, the Ulysses is a stunning dive site. Her location means that she is not one of the most dived wrecks in the area - in fact to the contrary, very calm conditions are required to dive her. The outside east side of Small Gubal Island is located on the edge of the Straights of Gubal facing directly into the oncoming north to south current. The current here can be very strong and the surface swell is often large making boat mooring near impossible. The normal way to dive here will be a long boat ride from the south side of Bluff Point in your dive vessels tender or RIB. Once in the water, if the current isn't strong, head to the stern section which is the deepest and most intact part of the ship. With a maximum depth here of 28m you will see distinct similarities between the Ulysses and the Carnatic. Her deck planking has long since gone, opening up her rear section like a giant rib cage. Glassfish and sweepers have congregated here in their hundreds making for some lovely photographs. It is easy to swim into the stern section (take care as soft corals cover the wreck) and the missing decking means that exit points can be easily found. As you head amidships most of the ship is badly broken and you will see a number of large cable drums. The bow (as shallow as 6 metres) is very broken having been constantly battered in the shallow waters, however a multitude of Red Sea fish, such as antheas, bannerfish and hoards of butterflyfish drift lazily around the wreckage. The coral reef here is also impressive with layer upon layer of stone corals, acropora table coral and raspberry coral.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
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