Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In the footsteps of Jacques Cousteau: Thistlegorm & Ros Mohammed - Egypt

Stats:

Destination:  Thistlegorm Wreck & Ros Mohammed National Park

Number of Days Spent:  1 day

Where we stayed:  Dahab

Best restaurant:   The ship provided a very tasty breakfast & lunch.

Best of:   Thistlegorm was definitely our best wreck dive to date....very cool!

Worst of:  I can't decide if it was the "advanced" PADI diver that was so bad he hit everything and everyone within range or the dive master that had his fill of him and screamed complaints when he wasn't in earshot.  Now that I think about it, it was probably the fact that we missed seeing dolphins under the water during our dive of Ros Mohammed.  The group right behind us saw them :-(

Most Memorable:   I don't think we'll ever forget entering the wreck for the first time & seeing the unexploded bombs, crates of motorcycles & other random items from the ship. 

Useful Tip:   Most dive companies in Dahab insist on using the Dahab based trip for Thistlegorm that leaves at midnight and sets out for Thistlegorm in the early morning hours using a slower boat.  However if you ask around there are a few companies that offer the Sharm based trip on a nicer boat and leaving the morning (very early) of the dive for the same price.  We didn't want to spend the night on a dive boat so we opted to do this.  The drawback is that they don't always go to Ros Mohammed.  The two tank dive to the Thistlegorm is part of the packaged tours that most people visiting Sharm are on and the boat tries to "up sell" the third dive at Ros Mohammed.  We had to help strum up enough interest to make the third dive.   

As most of you know by now, we really enjoy diving.  The world is a vast place and with over half of it covered in water, we figured no tour of the world was complete without checking out a few of the treasures that lie underneath.  Following in the footsteps of one of the greatest explores of our time, Jacques Cousteau, a diving trip to the Red Sea is not complete without a visit to the Thistlegorm wreck.  Cousteau introduced the ship to the diving world in the 60's but kept its location a secret.  It was not until the 80's that the ship was rediscovered and is now one of the most visited wreck dives.  It is so visited in fact that the wreck generates more revenue than the famous pyramids of Giza!  With all that money coming in, the government seems to lack the restraint needed to protect this treasure.  As long as you have an Advanced Certification, you can dive the site no matter how many dives you have done or how long it has been since your last dive.  All divers follow a specific path - first dive is a tour around the outside with the second dive heading inside to the cabins and holds.  A couple of people in our group had only dove around a dozen times.  The result is a lot of knocking around, banging on the walls, stirring up sand, etc. that not only endangers the structure, but suffocates any coral or life that is trying to make the Thistlegorm home.      

Considered one of the best wreck dives in the world, the Thistlegorm was a WWII cargo ship on her way to Egypt to resupply allied troops.  While waiting to go through the Suez canal, German planes spotted the ship anchored and sent it to the bottom of the ocean along with its unique collection of cargo.  Unexploded ammunition spills out one of the holes created by the bombs.  Two locomotives went flying in the air and landed on the ocean floor remarkably facing right side up.   Inside the remaining cargo hold sits several motorcycles, boxes of boots, jeeps and even a couple of tanks.  The first dive takes you around the outside of the wreck and the second dive penetrates the wreck - weaving in and out of rooms and cargo holds. 

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After our rough first two dives we talked a few more people into a 3rd dive at Ros Mohammed National Park.  It was simply beautiful!  And yes, those are toilets in the second picture, a ship hauling bathroom fixtures (there are a few tubs scattered about as well) was tossed about in a storm and dropped a couple of cargo boxes. 

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To see more photos of Thistlegorm click here!
To see more photos of Ros Mohammed click here!

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