Monday, November 26, 2007
The wreck of the SS Thistlegorm
The Thistlegorm was a merchant navy transport ship that was sunk of the coast of Egypt in 1941.
The Thistlegorm set sail on her last voyage from Glasgow on 2 June 1941 destined for Alexandria. She was carrying supplies to relieve the 8th Army in preparation for Operation Crusader. As Germany controlled the Mediterranean sea during this period, the ship had to sail in a convoy around the Cape to the Red Sea. In September, Captain Ellis anchored north of the Straits of Gubal at what is now known as Shag Rock near Ras Muhammad National Park.
The Suez Canal at that time was closed as a result of a ship collision. For two weeks the ship stood moored at this supposedly safe position awaiting instructions to proceed through the canal. Thistlegorm was a sitting target for two German bombers returning from Crete. Allegedly they were searching for a large troop carrier when they ran low on fuel, turned home, and stumbled upon the Thistlegorm. They dropped two 1000 lb (450 kg) bombs directly onto the ship. These bombs penetrated No 4 Hold detonating much ammunition. The explosion killed nine crew members and was so forceful that it launched two railway locomotives stacked on deck into the air. They currently stand upright alongside the wreck at a depth of 33m / 108 feet.
Thistlegorm sank immediately, leaving no time for the crew to operate the lifeboats. Instead, they jumped into the water and were later rescued by the HMS Carlisle, another British ship moored nearby.
We dived the Thistlegorm in 2000. It has become a very busy dive site now unfortuntely. I suppose the thrill of sitting on a motorbike or in a jeep at 30 meters is too much for poeple.