Diving the SS Thistlegorm

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Diving is one of my greatest passions, and since I became a diver 1 year ago, I had no idea what kind of dive sites I was about to see, as well as the challenges I would face in some of them. Until now, I haven’t dedicated an entire post to a unique dive site. However, after seeing the shipwreck of the SS Thistlegorm sunken in the Red Sea with my own eyes, I simply had to.

A little bit of History

Apart from being considered the 3rd best dive site in the World, the SS Thistlegorm carries a very interesting story; reason why I believed it is worth sharing it with you. Even if you are not a diver, don’t ever pretend to become one or are pretty much scared of the ocean, you might as well want to read/look until the end of the post. I am about to take you for a dive in one of the most famous shipwrecks in the World with me, and you won’t even get wet!

The SS Thistlegorm was a British steamship of 126m length. It was launched in April 1940 and only made four trips, where the last one had no happy ending. The ship was mainly used for cargo; previous to its last trip it transported sugar, rum, grains and even steel rails and aircraft parts.

The last trip was originated in Glasgow on June 2nd 1941, and the final destination was supposed to be Alexandria in Egypt. The ship was transporting supplies for the Allied Egyptian forces during the World War II, and included railway wagons, trucks, armored vehicles, motorcycles, guns, cases of ammunition, rifles, radio equipment, aircraft parts and even Wellington boots (people still wonder why they needed these boots in the desert!).

On October 6th 1941, after facing challenges and anchoring in the safe F (how the location was called) the SS Thistlegorm was bombed by German bombers flying by the area originally on the search for the Queen Mary. Out of the 41 members of the crew, 9 did not survive. The location of the ship remained unknown until 1955, when Jacques-Yves Cousteau managed to find it following directions given by local fishermen. Back then, he did not reveal the location of the ship, which was only rediscovered in 1974.

With the development of the city of Sharm-El-Sheikh, recreational diving began to appear in the region, and in 1992 the precise location of the SS Thistlegorm was finally revealed. Since then, the ship attracts thousands of divers each year, and became one of the best and most popular dive sites in the World.

Diving

That would be me!

That would be me!

It is possible to dive the shipwreck by either taking a 4-hour boat trip from Sharm-El-Sheikh, or during a diving safari trip. The ship lies at the maximum depth of 30m and can be already seen at 13m. She is considered a “giant museum underwater”, and a unique wreck, where basically everything remained untouched since its explosion, during the WWII.

It is still possible to see unexploded bombs – yes, unexploded – lots of motorcycles, trucks, railway wagons and everything else that was on board the ship when it was sunken. The place is magically rich in marine life, fish are everywhere and you can lose yourself among them.

Unexploded bomb.

Unexploded bomb.

Can you see the truck?

Can you see the truck?

Railway wagon

Railway wagon

When going with a diving center, two dives are made in one day. Normally (depending on the current) the first one you can see the outside of the ship, and on the second one, you go inside, passing through its compartments. Here is an illustration so you have an idea how the dives are made:

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Yellow path: 1st dive and Orange path: 2nd dive. Source.

The dive begins after the dive guide ties a line on the wreck. Because the currents here are often strong, the divers need to go down following the line. The challenge is to find your boat’s line when returning to the surface, since the dive site is so busy with other boats. In any case, the important thing is to come up using a line.

Traffic on the way up!

Traffic on the way up!

I have to admit, when I began to descend I felt like I was going nowhere. The visibility was very poor and I couldn’t see a thing, it felt like a night dive. The very strong current was shaking the line from one side to the other, and for a moment I thought: what am I doing here?! It was only when I saw that huge amazing shipwreck that I realized how worth while this dive was.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

The first dive was a bit chaotic; too many people and fins around, some people from our group got separated for mistaking us with another group. While looking for them we had to hold on to the ship so the strong current didn’t carry us away. All went well and we got to see this giant WWII’s underwater museum from the outside. What a beautiful thing!

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Happy for making back to the ship after the first dive, I was stronger and more prepared for the second one. This time our new inseparable friend was an underwater lantern. We were about to penetrate the ship, and to take a look on what is inside its compartments…

 

I told you I would take you for a dive didn’t I?!

 

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

From inside the ship

From inside the ship

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

From inside the ship

From inside the ship

Since I was a child I dreamt of diving, of exploring huge shipwrecks underwater. When I entered that ship I realized I had accomplished my childhood dream. It was scary, adrenaline was taking over my body, but I couldn’t contain a smile. I did it! I am diving one of the most famous shipwrecks in the World at 28m depth, and it was my dive number 50!

Me!

Me!

What an unforgettable experience. I was challenged in different ways, and I will keep the memories of this dive forever in my mind.Β Waking up at 4 in the morning and having spent over 8 hours on a boat were all worth it. And being the only Brazilian among the British and the German on the boat that day was an interesting fact. Speaking of Germans, a special thank you to W for making the underwater videos without my knowledge… I am glad he did it!

If you are interested on learning more about the SS Thistlegorm, you can check this website, read some of the published books about her or watch a documentary called “Thistlegorm’s last voyage” by Caroline Hawkins.

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, by Packing my Suitcase.

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Eff It, I'm On Holiday

About Allane

A Brazilian living in Germany. Married to W. mommy to a baby girl and a Golden Retriever. Traveler, writer, aspiring photographer, diver, wine appreciator, Formula 1 fan, avid reader of historical and young adult fictions books. City girl, nature lover, believer of a better world, one little change at a time.

  • Nihar Pradhan

    It was a wonderful experience as promised it was indeed without getting wet. The entire path and the narration of different parts of the ship wreck and the history behind makes it a fabulous journey. Yes, the truck was lying there and it looks as if it wants to start its journey which didn’t happen…the unexplored bombs, though little dangerous but if it has not exploded for so many years why now…
    This is no less than a museum and with so many things to explore and experience it is no doubt that one of best diving place in the world. The guiding rope is nice way to go down without getting astray…once there, it was clear and things looked like on any other museum on the earth.
    The mystery of sunken ships comes to light only after years and are kept secret for reasons which appears to be a mystery by itself.
    Loved the whole experience and will look forward to more such dive with you and not getting wet and enjoying as much as you did…thank you so much for sharing such an exciting and beautiful experience.

    have a fresh and lovely week ahead,
    Happy Diving & Exploring such hidden treasures…
    πŸ˜€

    • I am very glad that you enjoyed the dive Nihar πŸ˜€
      Yes, this place is stunning, you can dive there many many times and you will still see each time something different! It is an enormous ship with a lot to see πŸ˜€
      The rope was very scary in the beginning, but it was the best and the safest way to go down πŸ˜€

      • Nihar Pradhan

        Since you mentioned so many things was carried in the ship, it must be a fabulous place to explore and being underwater, it must be undergoing changes with the water current and plus the marine lives around it… looking forward to more such adventurous dive and wishing you always a very safe dive, and I know you go well prepared.
        take care…
        πŸ˜€

        • Yes Nihar, it is a fabulous place to explore underwater! I was impressed. I wish I could have done more dives there to see more things πŸ˜€ the ship is huge!

          Thank you so much Nihar… yes, always diving safely πŸ˜€

  • hahahaha I am happy I was able to take you for a dive with me without making you afraid πŸ˜€
    I do understand your fear, because it is the same one I have with heights! πŸ˜€

  • Ohhh I hope you can do it one day, you won’t regret!! The underwater world is a whole new whole to be discovered!! There is so much to see!! πŸ˜€

  • Ohhh really?! I must admit that I am a little afraid of caves!
    How awesome that you are going to Cape Verde, it is on my diving list!! Let me know what you thought when you come back!
    And I’m sure you will be fine on the ship wrecks, you are a very experienced diver πŸ˜€ How exciting!!!

  • Thaaaank you Vlad!! This was a very special dive to me πŸ˜€ it was an unforgettable experience!!!

  • Mabel Kwong

    Such a beautiful dive, I can only imagine. Glad you were strong enough to hold onto the boat and didn’t float away πŸ˜€ It must have been very cave-like down there, going through the ship swimming like a fish. I am sure the diving guides all hustled the group along and there wasn’t much time to stick around and try to find some treasure πŸ˜€

    By the way, you missed my comment on the last post :’D

    • yesss it was a hustle down there with so many people around, and we didnt have enough time to explore details of the ship… I guess that’s why some people do more than 2 dives… the ship is huge so it’s impossible to see everything in only 2 dives.

      Ohhh nooo did I miss your comment? I will take a look at right away, OMG!!! Sorry about that!!

      • Mabel Kwong

        I like how you say it – hustle down there! It sounded like, swim, swim, swim, and keep moving along with the tide or against it or else you will be left behind or carried away πŸ˜€ I hope you get to go again, it really does look like a big place and lots to discover among the ship. You took very good underwater photos while floating around. Very clear πŸ˜€

        Nah, it’s okay, I miss comments all the time too. I was just sad I didn’t hear from Allane in so long but then I did :’D

        • haha yes it was exactly how you described it.. crazy with a lot of people and sometimes swimming against the current! πŸ˜€

          awnnn I’m so sorry! I am still kind of getting used to the Disqus commenting platform, sometimes a miss a comment then someone reminds of it! Shame on me πŸ˜€

  • hahaha glad you found it interesting πŸ˜€
    You can’t dive but it’s nice that there people out there like me who shares the dives on the blogs πŸ˜€
    And don’t worry, many people I know would never like to dive and are very afraid, my mom for example!

  • Gin

    It sounds like an awesome experience !! I’ve visited some wrecks, but they were much more smaller than this and the time spent inside was really small πŸ™‚ Were you scared the first time to dive into a wreck and had to visit the inside ?

    • It was amazing!!!!
      The first wreck I had the opportunity to go inside was a small airplane in Turkey, and I wasn’t scared, I was way too excited hahaha.
      But I was scared of the Thistlegorm at first… I guess it’s remote location gave the chills hahaha. But it was simply amazing, I wished I had done more dives to see more πŸ˜€

  • Thanks πŸ˜€

  • Yes it is πŸ˜€
    It is also incredible how much life there is around the wrecks, they are great for environment somehow πŸ˜€

  • That’s awesome!! Yes, you should definitely do it… I have seen documentaries about diving in NZ and it’s amazing, the marine life there is incredible!!
    Do it do it πŸ˜€

  • It was a wonderful experience!! One of the best in my life… scary, but incredible!! πŸ˜€

  • hahaha yes, it’s a bit scary, but it was totally worth it!
    Glad you liked the tour πŸ˜€

  • I can understand you. I am also not a big fan of enclosed spaces underwater, I don’t like cave diving for example. But a ship is pretty cool, the history makes it even more interesting. Diving inside the ship was a bit scary, but it wasnt entirely enclosed, most of it was open and with sun light πŸ˜€

  • It was amazing!! My heart was in my mouth the entire time, it was crazy!! Yesss, yo should try diving, it sounds like you would love it πŸ˜€

  • Ohh no really? Maybe you can try once, the first dive is never deep, it’s always between 3 and 5m… then you see how it goes πŸ˜€

  • hahaha thank you dear!
    It was something to never forget indeed!! It was challenge for me, but I would do it again. It certainly made me a stronger diver.
    In December I am diving in Egypt again, this time in a place I haven’t been before, which is pretty much secluded, and most people who go there are divers. πŸ˜€ let’s see how it goes!

  • Kathleen (Kat)

    I’m still dry πŸ™‚ Don’t think I will ever be a diver, but I must say your photos are simply amazing! My friend has just came back from her maiden dive on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and she loved it πŸ™‚

    • Ohhh really?? I can imagine, diving in Malaysia is definitely on the top of my diving bucket list πŸ˜€

  • hahaha thank you dear. I’m happy that you liked it πŸ˜€

  • Thank you Cathy πŸ˜€
    I love diving wrecks, and this one was certainly the best one so far.

  • Thank you πŸ˜€
    Yes, becoming a diver was always a dream!

  • Thank you, happy that you liked it πŸ˜€
    Sorry that you can’t dive, but you still can have some fun with snorkeling!

  • hahaha don’t worry, my mother would never never do it either, she is very afraid of it πŸ˜€

  • hahaha it was an awesome dive… the ship also reminded me of the titanic πŸ˜€

  • It was amazing!! Very crazy too, pure adrenaline πŸ˜€

  • Sailing is awesome too, I have never tried it before, but on the first opportunity I have I will definitely try it.
    And I hope you try diving someday, if you love the sea, you will love diving too πŸ˜€ it’s amazing!

  • Thank you Amber πŸ˜€
    Yess, it was a very unique experience for me in many ways. I’m happy that you liked the photos, it seems to me that you would like to go diving πŸ˜€

  • Snorkeling is already great πŸ˜€ many people don’t even try snorkeling. I hope one day you try diving, in the beginning you won’t go deep, max 5m, with the instructor. πŸ˜€