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Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
Dive Site: Carina
Location: Shag Rock, 27°47'45"N; 33°51'22"E
Description: 18th Century steamship
Length: 40 - 50 metres (130 - 165 feet)
Depth: 10 metres (30 feet)
Visibility: 30 metres (100 feet)
This shallow wreckage lies on the northern side of one of two large pieces of reef which are known as Shag Rock. Shag Rock is actually the name of the more southern reef, however in the absence of a name for the northern piece this is often grouped as Shag Rock also, but really is a separate part of Sha'ab Ali. Incidentally Shag Rock gets its name from the cormorants or "shags" which used to perch on an old light frame which was visible in the 1990's, but has since slipped into the sea. At very low tide these birds can still be seen sitting atop protruding bits of reef. The wreckage is very spread out and has become known as The Carina. I'm not sure how this name came about however it is not the correct name, which still remains a mystery. Carina was originally part of a large star constellation, Argo Navis, so perhaps a boat captain named the wreck after the stars. What I do know is that there is little left of the original ship. What is clear from the wreckage is that it was a large sail and steam ship from around the 1880 era and a large number of household bricks scattered amongst the wreckage suggests that this was her cargo. The stern area still houses the propeller making it barely discernable from the rest of the wreckage.
This site is fed by strong currents and if they are running it is important that your dive guide drops you to the north of the wreckage so you at least get some time to drift over it before heading down the east side of the reef in a southerly direction. Normally the dive boats will drop you off and then go and moor further down around the east side of the reef, so you make a "one way dive" back to your boat from your drop point. The last time I dived here in 2002 the current was running at around 2.5 knots past the wreckage and a steady knot or so down the east side making for an effortless cruise along the reef. This is a shallow dive with the majority of the wreckage in 10m or less and the edge of the reef at a similar depth of 12-14m. It makes for a good third dive of the day or dusk dive, before heading to Sha'ab Ali to moor for the night and get an early start on the S.S Thistlegorm, or cross the Straights of Gubal back towards Hurghada. The corner of the reef where the wreckage lies slopes gently up with table coral after table coral overlaid and really does have some of the best examples of hard coral in the area. The east side of the reef floor is also covered in coral rather than being a sand composition only and I have seen eagle rays in this channel. The lack of a distinguishable break between sea floor and reef wall means it's best to stick within visibility distance of the upwards sloping reef which will be on your right shoulder, although if you do fancy some compass work, the coral garden to the east is lovely and if you get lost surface conditions are generally good for a boat pick up and other boat traffic is very minimal.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
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