Thistlegorm Red Sea Motorbikes

The Thistlegorm – Liveaboard in the Red Sea (II / III)

Motocicleta en el Thistlegorm

This is the second part of the liveaboard in the Red Sea, Egypt. The first part of the story can be found here. After two days we arrived at Ras Mohammad National Park and then to one of the most famous shipwrecks in the world, the Thistlegorm.


Again we woke up very early. We had a light coffee and got into the water at 7am. We were already in the famous Ras Mohammad National Park, a natural reserve declared by the Egyptian government. In it, fishing or anchoring is not allowed. The dives of the day were:

Ras Za´atar

Ras Muhammad

The Ras Mohammad Park

We jumped from the stern of the boat, which left as we submerged. It was a very nice drift dive. There is a very striking pink anemone about 25 meters deep. Going east, we came to a corner where the current became very strong forcing us to turn. At that time, we saw an eagle ray just above us. Watching its calm movement backlit by the morning sun was a unique gift.

Shark & Yolanda reef

They are two fairly large islets with abundant corals. We went down in shark reef (and we didn´t see sharks) so that the current would take us to the second islet. We surrounded the reef to a lower part where some of the remains of the Yolanda wreck can be found, since most of the structure is 135 meters deep. We were abled to watcht its grotesque load of toilets and baths scattered in the bottom. Bizarre! It seemed like an abandoned construction site in the middle of the sea. Also it was curious not finding big fishes except a Napoleon who swiftly passed by.

Los inodoros del Yolanda

Yolanda´s toilets

It was already noon and the boat headed towards the Gulf of Suez for the next dive site: the SS Thistlegorm.

The SS Thistlegorm

Juanchi en Thistlegorm

Juanchi in the Thistlegorm

The SS Thistlegorm is the most famous wreck of the Red Sea. Diving there confirmed everything that is said about it: beauty and mystique.

The story of the Thistlegorm

In June 1941, the SS Thistlegorm, a British Navy freighter, sailed from Glasgow carrying large quantities of war material to Alexandria, on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt. The aim was to resupply Allied forces in that country. To avoid the German and Italian forces present in the Mediterranean, the route of the convoy of which the Thistlegorm was part was traced around the African continent. In Cape Town he made his repose and then skirted the eastern coast of Africa to the Red Sea.

Vagón de cubierta

One of the train wagons in the upper deck seen from bottom of the cargo bay.

Because the Suez Canal was blocked by a broken vessel, the Thistlegorm was ordered to wait in an area designated as “Secure Anchor Point F”, which ended up being its final destination. On the 6th of October, 1941, two German aircraft dropped two bombs on it, stricking in the middle of the ship and causing an explosion in the ammunition magazine. In a few minutes the Thistlegorm sank taking 9 lives of  the 48 persons crew. On its decks, trucks, motorcycles, jeeps, aircraft wings, train cars, boots, helmets and ammunition, all submerged.

In the 50´s decade, the shipwreck was discovered by Jacques Cousteau with the help of the local fishermen. Although Cousteau recovered some objects like the bell with the name of the ship, the captain’s safe and a motorcycle, he kept the ship’s location in secret to preserve it. Finally, in the 1990s, with the development of tourism in Sham el Sheik and the increasing popularity of recreational diving, the Thistlegorm was rediscovered and is today one of the most visited sites of the Red Sea.

Dives in the Thistlegorm

After sailing from Ras Mohammad, it was easy to see in the distance where the Thistlegorm was located. Eight boats similar to ours were anchored in the area as it is an extremely popular site. The plan was to do two dives during that day (one in the afternoon and the after sunset) and the next day do the first one in the morning.

Since it is a very big shipwreck,  the first dive was for recognition. Our boat was tied to the bow, so we went down the line to the ship and began swimming through the upper deck, first passing by the train wagons and the entrances to the inner cargo bays and the bridge.

Proa del Thistlegorm

Thistlegorm bow

Further on is the area where the bombs struck which divides the bow from the stern. It is a place full of twisted metals, where you can see an old tank and broken crates with old ammunition. From there, also one of the locomotives ejected by the explosion can be seen deeper on the sand.

Municiones en el Thistlegorm

Boxes with ammunitions

As we continued, the landscape changed completely. Unlike the prow, which is supported on the almost horizontal seabed, the stern is totally twisted to port. As I passed beneath it and looked at it, I felt I was under a dark, metallic, giant twenty-meter wave about to fall. It was a really shuddering sensation. Astonished, we reached the end of the ship where the cannon and the anti-aircraft machine gun are located and returned by starboard. We were really impressed!

Cañon en la popa del Thistlegorm

Cannon on the stern of the Thistlegorm

The second dive was nocturnal and we stayed mainly in the upper deck of the bow and in the cellars without entering the interior of the shipwreck. As soon as we went down, from the darkness of the first cellar came a green turtle that completely ignored us. We also saw several scorpion fish on the deck and a group of large bats fish in what was the captain’s cabin.

Las famosas motocicletas del Thistlegorm

The famous Thistlegorm motorcycles

Vagón de tren sobre cubierta

Train wagon on the upper deck of the Thistlegorm

Pez escorpión en el Thistlegorm

Scorpion fish on the upper deck

Escalera en el Thistlegorm

Old stairs, now a reef


Thistlegorm – Flood and resurrection (of a strobe)

En las bodegas del Thistlegorm

Inside the bays of the Thistlegorm

After charging the batteries all night and a quick morning coffee, we jumped in the water with Juanchi for our last dive on the Thistlegorm. As we went down the prowl I noticed some small bubbles coming out of one of my strobes. That´s when I discovered with great terror that the o-ring was damaged, allowing water to enter the battery compartment. Immediately I turned off the strobe, alerted Juanchi and went up to throw the strobe on the deck of our boat to minimize internal damage.

Juanchi foteando

Juanchi taking photos

As I went down again, I tried to forget about the incident and began our last dive in the Thiestlegorm. This time we went to the bottom level and started ascending through the different cargo bays levels . As we swam among the remains of trucks and motorcycles, at times I felt myself walking through the halls of a museum of the second war. In short, the Thistlegrom is an excellent dive site and has its well-earned fame.

Motocicleta en el Thistlegorm

Motorcycle on the Thistlegorm

A truck cabin

Back on the boat, as we sailed south, I checked my flooded strobe. Although the batteries were ruined, the battery compartment of my submarine strobes (Sea & Sea YSD1) is watertight, so a deep cleaning with a swab was enough to make it work again.

Los restos de un volante

The remains of a steering wheel

Neumático bien preservado

Well preserved tire

Already more relaxed we prepared for the following dives of the day, the great shipwrecks in Abu Nuhas.

Abu Nuhas – Carnatic wreck

Juanchi en el Carnatic

Juanchi in the Carnatic

The Carnatic was an English steam freighter that sank in the Red Sea in 1869. It is the oldest shipwreck in the area, in which there are 7 boats of which 4 are at depths achievable by recreational diving. As we approached the site in zodiac we crossed with a group of dolphins. We descended following one of the lines and went through the bottom to the stern and propeller of the boat. Then we entered to its interior, which is leaned towards port. In the bow we were surrounded by a lot of small crystal fish.

El Carnatic

El Carnatic

Abu Nuhas – Chrisolula K Wreck

Recorriendo el Chrisolula K

The Chrisolula K

The Chrisoula K was a German freighter manufactured in 1954 and sold in 1970 to a Cyprus company. When it sank in 1981 it carried a cargo of granite ceramics to Saudi Arabia. You can still find lots of boxes with them inside the bow cellar. Again we crossed with the dolphins, this time underwater. The most beautiful part of the shipwreck was the stern castle, where there are many thing to see and photograph. An excellent dive.


Dolphins in the red sea

Juanchi en Chrisoula K

Juanchi in the Chrisoula K

El interior del Chrisoula K

The interior of the Chrisoula K is fascinating. This is the engine room where there is a bench drill and a complete lathe.

Abu Nuhas Reef

To complete the day, we did the night dive on the Abu Nuhas reef, which turned out to be quite deteriorated. We found a large sea cicada and stayed for a long time taking photos of it.

Cigarra de mar

Sea cicada

They were two incredible days of diving but more was to come as we headed south back to Hurghada. In short the post with the third and last part of liveaboard in the Emperor Superior.

You can read the whole story of the trip to the Red Sea by clicking here!

Haciendo la parada de seguridad

Doing a safety stop in the Red Sea

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