We have teamed up with Travelling Diver to offer you printed guides to the Red Sea. Text and illustrations of dive sites are provided by Rik Vercoe, our largest contributor to the region and one of the foremost authorities for information in the area with over 1000 dives undertaken in the region during his research.
- Written and Illustrated by Rik Vercoe
- Lightweight - ideal for airline baggage weight restrictions
- Fits into your standard diving logbook binder
- Click to find out more ...
print dive site review | contribute site info / photo
Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
Dive Site: Thistlegorm
Location: 27°42'00"N; 34°05'00"E
Description: Container ship
Length: 126 metres approx (413 feet)
Depth: 16 - 33 metres (52 - 108 feet)
Visibility: 20 - 30 metres (65 - 100 feet)
The Thistlegorm was discovered in 1956 by Jacques Cousteau and is probably the most famous wreck in the world. It sank in 1941 when it was hit by a German bomb that blew a hole in the port side, igniting tank ammunition that was in the hold. The explosion ripped the roof of the ship backwards, rather like opening a tin of sardines. The stern section of the wreck lies almost horizontal to the sea bed; the remainder of the wreck is nearly upright. Inside the wreckage, tyres, tanks, motorbikes, Bedford trucks, waders and wellington boots can be seen. Penetration is possible around the bridge and blast area. The large prop is still in position and the guns on the stern are in excellent condition. Artillery litters the blast area. A bath tub can be seen towards the bow and a toilet near the stern. The sea life is impressive with possibility of seeing tuna overhead the resident turtle. Expect this to be very busy, especially once the day boats have reached it; it is likely to be chaos both on the surface and under the water.
Thistlegorm wreck map (88kb)
When I dive the Thistlegorm I generally go into the first level to have an explore around the trucks and bikes, then make my way down to the lower level and its coal bunker. As you come out you can either go over to the blast area or around to the bow anchors to make a swift visit to the captain's bathroom. I've seen lots of jacks and trevallies, a huge napoleon wrasse and even a turtle on the wreck. Expect zodiacs and boats to be everywhere on the surface.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
The wreck is now as busy as Piccadilly Circus. It is best dived early morning from a liveaboard before the day boats arrive. It is a good dive with plenty to see inside and out. If you are diving from a day boat make sure you know where the shot line is, as you could come up by the wrong boat. Also be aware that a current sweeps the wreck and you need to be fit if you are to not get swept off the wreck entirely. This happened to an Italian lady diver when I first dived the wreck. She was picked up 4 hours later because the boat she was on did not have an inflatable! None of the other boats seemed bothered about her plight including ours!
John Green, BSAC Advanced Diver and OW Instructor
A very nice wreck with plenty of penetration opportunities and the holds are really interesting. On the seabed at 30m two locomotives can be found, one on each side of the wreck.
A word of warning the current can be strong while on the bow or on the shot line. Can also be very busy. Has been known to have 20 dive boats above it.
Adrian Hart, BSAC Advanced Diver
Best done on a liveaboard as your there before the day boats and are the last to leave so you can sometimes get this wreck all to yourself. I first did the Thistlegorm in 2002 on a liveaboard and last at the end of 2003 as a dive guide. Still as popular as ever although showing signs of wear and tear. I've had the privilege of being the last person on this wreck with it all to myself whilst untying the shot. Still the daddy!
Ian Higgins, PADI Assistant Instructor
Postscript...Just returned to work in Sharm and have heard that the captains cabin has now collapsed.
(JANUARY 2008 Update)
We dived the Thistlegorm during the day and night from Emperor MY Superior, using the new mooring buoys system. Having made over 60 dives on the wreck in differing conditions, it was interesting to see this system in place and how it would work.
Personally, I think this is a great idea and we moored easily on the buoys, and Blue Pearl (Blue-o-Two)was also moored across the other side of the wreck (on the buoys). Our buoys meant we were positioned forward on the wrecks starboard side, and the BP was astern on the wrecks port side.
I thought their stern rope down to the end most mooring buoy could have been tricky in a current, as this is the deepest place, and at the end of the wreck.
We had a small tag line between buoy and wreck, which was perfect - and didn't damage the wreck in any way - nor put any strain on the wreck etc. This tag line was definitely needed (contrary to recent comments about jumping the 5m from the wreck to the mooring buoy line). The tag line is needed because when a current starts your boat moves and the buoy lines move, as did ours so the 5m gap became more like 10m or more in a raging current. The tag line allowed us to make the journey easily, otherwise you could find yourself in mid-water trying to get to a mooring buoy in a strong current. Divers must not underestimate the strength of these currents, and divers new to diving and/or the Thistlegorm should be mindful & wary - if no tag line. I think with a current on a night dive and no direct line back to the surface situations could arise when currents start; our night dive had no current.
The wreck itself looked a little more "wrecked", and certainly in the holds there is very little air now, only a few pockets here and there. Fish life at the time was sparse perhaps due to all the disturbances, so let's hope it returns. There are several large morays and grouper as well as batfish.
Fantastic Dive, but could have done without 40 dive buddies (I kid you not) still have nightmares about the scrabble for the decompression stop. But the holds were full of BSAs and trucks, jacks on the bow, and crocodile fish. FAB. I can only imagine what it was like for Jacque Cousteau.
Yeah, that was one of my best ever dives!
It's strange to be in this wreck, it's like touching history!
Nice, two thumbs up!
When I first started diving I read an article about the Thistlegorm and said that one day I would go to theRed Sea and dive her, She is still a dream come true, to dive her was very moving, thoughts of the people who lost their life when she went down filled my hart with admiration for all people who have to fight for their country. It was quite sad that some people had taken the remembrance reef, such disrespect for such brave people. Over crowded but the best wreck I have dived.
I dived on this wreck in September 2006. I think it's the most beautiful wreck in the world located to depth of 40m.
Andrzej Setlak, Advanced Open Water Diver
Had a weeks diving in the Red Sea (23-7-07) was lucky enough to dive the Thistlegorm including a night dive and found the turtles hiding place! Best of all dived the wreck at 6am Thurs morning (26-7-07). Fantastic, maybe top 10 dives of my life. Found a 4.7 inch shell at 31 metres, could not find 40 metres without digging (comment made by Andrzej Setlak) good last dive Sunday 29-7-07, 12+ Hammerheads off Jackson Reef. Fantastic. Thanks to dive leaders Lisa Gates & Niel Smith of Ocean College, Sharm.
C Harris, BSAC Advanced Diver
My first ever wreck dive; absolutely amazing, we got there early and only 2 other dive boats arrived. Knowing the circumstances of the wreck, I feel very privilaged to have been able to visit the site. Both the completeness of the wreck and the marine life make this dive incredible.
I dived the Thistlegorm in March 2008. All the new mooring lines are in place but some dive boats are still tying onto the wreck and pulling it to pieces bit by bit. The Thistlegorm really is an awesome wreck to dive if not a little crowded at times. It can sometimes be difficult to work out what mooring line you should be coming up on and which hanging cylinders to use if required for a deco stop.
All in all though, a must do dive if your out in the Red Sea.
Sean Kelly, Divemaster
I dived the site on July 17th 2008. I don't recommend this wreck to inexperienced divers for the current and the visiblty can be quite tough. Incredible wreck. The first thing I did when I saw the bedford trucks was to check if the stories about the steering wheels are true. Very sad indeed. Breathtaking site, don't miss it.
Amir Zvieli, Divemaster
It was a great dive, going round the outside of the ship first and out to the train on the sea floor. The second dive we went inside the cargo holds, saw all the trucks, motor bikes, boots, it was a great but very hard dive. Ensure you get a good guide, currents can be strong a 15ltr tanks is a must to give you good bottom time.
Andy Docker, AOW | 12/11/08
Been there several times over the years and its easy to see the fast decay of the wreck. Too many Russian divers steal from the wreck, air bubbles making airpockets that rust. Boats still tie to the wreck. I say stop the diving on Thistlegorm!
Johnny, AOW-DK | 11/05/2009
Dived it in September 2009 and it was a fantastic experience, despite there being a very strong current which made me thankful for using a 15ltr tank. So many special sights during the dive but the one that sticks in my mind was hovering in front of the bow which gave an awsome view of the wreck.
Ian, AOW | 3/11/2009
Do you have any comments on this dive site?
print dive site review | contribute site info / photo | top
Do you run a dive operation in this area?
Click here to find out more about being listed on this
page in dive site directory.