Interesting facts about diving and last news from us.
A few years ago I was bringing a boat up from Sharm El Sheik to Aqaba, someone commented, “How will you find your way?” I answered, “Turn left out of the harbour and when there is no more sea left I will be in Aqaba”. The point being that its very easy to navigate the Gulf of Aqaba, once past the reefs in the straights of Tiran (where there are actually a couple of sunken vessels of the unfortunate ships that strayed to near) one just has to stay away from the edges, so to speak, a simple task for most captains. Thus no likely wrecks from navigation errors, the weather is also benign, especially for ships, and in various wars the trade route via Suez canal in that gulf are were ships were attacked resulting in several wrecks.
So how do we have some great wrecks to entertain divers in Aqaba? We put them there! The most famous is the Cedar Pride scuttled on 16th November 1985 to coincide with the opening of the Royal Diving Centre, a government run project to make diving affordable to the local populace. The Cedar Pride is a 74 metre length cargo vessel that was deemed as a constructive total loss after a fire on board while in Aqaba port in 1982. The King of Jordan himself, a keen diver, took an interest in the vessel and a plan was hatched to sink the ship, in the hope it would become a part of the reef, and a habitat for the rich marine life, the current King Abdullah liaised with the local authorities to get the job done with the help of a consultant from the UK, John Fylan, and chose the final resting place for the ship in 25 metres (the top being 7-14m depth) after considering three recommended sites.
A plaque was placed near the bow of the wreck in 2015 on the 30th anniversary of its sinking. The wreck is now covered in a fantastic variety of marine life and provides shelter and habitat for a large number of species as well as being an adventure playground for divers. It provides a good safe training ground for wreck diving courses including penetration options. Side mount diving, now becoming more popular is a great option for this. Also is provides underwater photographers for some fantastic wreck and diver scenes as well as the smorgasbord of resident marine life, the biggest problem being to take the correct lens! Better to dive it many times as it never ever gets boring.
In 1997 after work on underwater cables was completed a working barges was scuttled in 20m just to the South West of the Cedar Pride, the name of this barge is Tarmac Five now nicely covered in marine life next to a small local boat that had actually sunk prior to the Cedar Pride origin unknown to me.
In 1999 the Aqaba Marine Park scuttled two M42 Anti aircraft tracked vehicles, one in the north port area for glass bottom boats to observe and one on the south beach near Seven Sisters diving site, both in just 5- 6 metres so great for snorkelers, try divers and divers completing safety and decompression stops near the end of their dives, the one near Seven Sister being the most popular and came to be known locally as “the Tank” also providing a unique experience a great Underwater Diving photographic possibilities.
Five years after this I was conducting a deep Diving Courses in Aqaba off the Japanese Gardens when to my left, seaward I noticed a very large dark shape, a whale? A submarine? What? I cautiously swam towards the shape and it came into focus, a huge barge like bow upended on its side! Swimming over the top at the stern there was a huge crane in a massive a frame, explaining how the wreck was balanced on its side. Swimming back along the top of the wreck towards the bow at 35m, the name was revealed as the letters TAIYONG C486B came into view (nice for a wifi code!) After some research it was determined that this was scuttled on New Years Eve 1999 becoming a millenium wreck after an repair failed on a hole through the inner hull when the jib had been dropped accidentally, this hole can still be viewed. The marine life is prolific including many larger fish, the a frame being beautifully covered in multicoloured soft corals.
She lies in 40 – 57 metres of water the top being 35- 44m depth so a perfect technical dive for those who are qualified and for technical diver training as well of the amazing photographic potential in great viz.
In 2008 the Marine Park cleaned a sunk a wreck deep Eel Canyon, renamed Al Shorouk to indicate a new dawn of diving in Aqaba, she drifted from the planned depth of 25m finishing up in 40-60m depth providing another great tec dive ideal for normoxic trimix, as the years progress the marine life here is increasing.
In November 2017 another fantastic addition to the wreck collection was made by the scuttling of a C130 Hercules aeroplane in 18m of water very near to the tank by the Seven Sisters dive site. Due to it uniqueness it has become a popular dive site with visitors and locals all wanting a photo with it, in time this will become covered in marine life recent dives can see this starting, a great project for university students studying marine biology! More wrecks are planned!© Rod Abbotson 2019