King Snefro

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Carnatic

(27°34.530' N, 33°55.320' E)

 

The P & O passenger steamer "Carnatic" was built in 1862 in London, classified as an "iron framed planked passenger steamer" and was 90 m long. In September 1869, it had taken 210 passengers and crew, a cargo of cotton bales, copper sheeting, royal mail and £40,000 in gold coins and was on the way to Bombay.

 

The captain personally negotiated the long narrow confines of the hazardous Gulf of Suez. The night was clear, the mainland and islands were all visible and Shadwan Island was sighted. Soon after, breaking waves were seen on the starboard bow and the "Carnatic" struck the reef of Abu Nuhas.The ship is firmly stuck on the corals; it was taking water but was still in pretty good shape. The captain decided everyone would remain on board and he fully expected to be rescued later that day by other passing ships. None came and underestimating the damage of a coral reef on a steel-hulled vessel, the captain decided passengers and crew will spend another night on board.

 

The slow but steady process of weakening the keel was not recognized. The level of water within the ship finally flooded the boilers; power and light went off and in the morning sea condition changed. Now water was rapidly filling the ship. Finally realizing his ship was lost, the captain ordered the passengers into the lifeboats. First passengers had just taken their seats when the "Carnatic", without warning, broke in half. With her back broken, the aft section sank quickly. The fore section fell over onto its port side and began to slip off the reef - taking almost everyone into the sea. One by one survivors were taken into the remaining lifeboats and anything that might be helpful was collected. They row over to Shadwan Island from where they were rescued the next day and returned safely to Suez. Of her 210 passengers, 31 lost their lives when the ship sank. One month later all gold coins were brought back by a salvage operation but the story of a missing treasure still appears from time to time.

 

Today, the "Carnatic" lies parallel to the reef with the stern at 26 m depth and the bow at 18 to 20 m depth. Both the stern and the bow are largely intact. At the central part, where the ship was broken, the engine room and boilers are nearly destroyed. The "Carnatic" is unlike any of the other wrecks in the area as it was a wooden ship and fully encrusted in hard and soft corals. The wooden superstructure and planking has rotted away - now divers are able to explore the deck levels within the wreck although it is really a pile of scrap metal so be careful. The stern with a single row of seven square windows is the most exciting and interesting part. Below the windows, a magnificent rudder and a large three-bladed propeller. Similar to the bow section, lifeboat davits are found on both sides. Among the wreckage it is still possible to find pieces of furnishings and even intact bottles of wine and soda which were part of the cargo. The entire wreck is well colonised by hard corals, colourful soft corals and encrusting sponges also a wide population of reef fishes which include grouper and lionfish.