Scuba photo journalist, explorer, publisher, author and maritime historian and founder of the Red Sea Wreck Academy
Finding the Thistlegorm
Just who was the first to dive this Red Sea classic?
Apologies to all Cousteau fans. If you are easily offended don’t read on!
Of all the rumours surrounding shipwrecks, none is more prolific than the 'discovery' of the Thistlegorm. Each claim seems to get earlier and earlier. Sitting in Root Camp in Quisir, minding my own business, a larger than life German announced his presence to all in a fanfare. HE had discovered the Thistlegorm! I kept mum, so did those with me. I slipped the copy of Sunderland to Suez, The Story of the Thistlegorm, which I had just signed, under the table.
Some time later, much to our amusement the German realised his predicament and became very in-conspicuous!
So who did discover the Thisltegorm? No I wasn’t there when it sank! In fact I didn’t dive her until 1993. And no it wasn’t Cousteau. We’ve all seem the episode. The elaborate lengths the team went to to find her. Great television in its day (apart from the hammers hitting the coral). But why not ask the fishermen who’s falukas were tied to her mast?
In that same film we see Cousteau’s men descend into the already half empty holds. The truth is she was never lost! Salvage took place almost immediately – the medical supplies lifted with the ambulances parked up on her bridge area, and at least ten of the Universal Carriers (they were destined to return to a watery grave later as the Israelis swept through the Sinai). And the very valuable brass had been removed from the Loco’s control cabins.
There‘s not much left of the Stanier 2-8-0 locomotives.
During the Israeli Occupation more salvage took place and the wreck was dived on a regular basis and then by Italian Navy divers. As the Israelis left after handing the Sinai back, the interest in the Thistlegorm gave way to the spectacular reefs of the Sinai. A few still dived her keeping her location a secret. Discoveries such as the Dunraven and then the arrival of the Jolanda, and Giannis D drew only a marginal interest.
Then someone decided to get 'famous' and reveal the Thistlegorm to the world. The humble cargo ship, never lost, only forgotten was then discovered by .....many!
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