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Thistlegorm, Nordtour

The Thistlegorm is the best known wreck in the Red Sea and one of the most sought after in the whole world. It is regularly visited by boats from both Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada. She lies between Sha ab Ali and Sha ab Mahmoud. This was where she sat at anchor on the 6th of October 1941, when she was hit by a German long range bomber. The bomb landed in number 4 hold, which held ammunition. She was ripped in half and sank instantly. She lies in 30 m water, in an upright position and stands proud of the seabed by about 18 m. The Thistlegorm had just rounded Africa, since the Mediterranean route was unfeasible. She was stacked to the decks with provisions and arms for the British army in North Africa and these can still be seen, virtually intact in spite of the years. In hold 1, near the bow, are lorries, fuel trucks and crates of rifles. In hold 2 are motorcycles, Jeeps, aircraft wings and more rifles. Hold 3 is midships and is completely empty. Hold 4 is toward the stern and has been obliterated. Amongst the debris are cases of shells 303 bullets and 2 upturned Bren-gun carriers, like miniature tanks. On the seabed, either side of the wreck are 2 locomotives. Thrown there by the blast, they stand upright, like a ghost-train racing out across the sand. On the forward deck of the Thistlegorm is the rolling stock to follow the locomotives, also mine-clearing drones, like fat torpedoes and an impressive display of winching equipment. The wreck is best approached as 2 separate dives. In the morning head for the deep stern-section finishing the dive on the shallow bridge and foredeck. In the afternoon explore the holds. The forward 3 can be connected without leaving the interior of the wreck. The current on this dive can be extremely strong. It runs always bow to stern, or stern to bow. Usually the former is the strongest, since in this case the tidal current is running with the prevailing wind and sea. By using the wreck as protection and moving through the interior as much as possible you can always find shelter from it. The Thistlegorm is not just for wreckers Fish lovers and photographers will also find plenty of interest. Indeed, before divers discovered the wreck, local fishermen had been coming here for years to fish for groupers and the abundant snapper. The Bren-gun carriers midships, are often encircled by a large group of banner fish. Bat fish, Jacks and even barracuda ride the strong current where it is forced up and over the wreck. Nudibranchs, rabbit fish and surgeon fish graze the algae that encrusts the metal.

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