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Egypt Red Sea Shipwrecks - The Chrisoula K


The Chrisoula K

By Ned Middleton

Note: Ned Middleton is a professional Underwater Photo-Journalist who has published a number of articles in recent years about Red Sea Wrecks. Please send corrections to Ned Middleton here.


Day Boat

Safari Boat

Shore Dive

Snorkelling

Diving Grade

Yes

Yes

No

No

All

Location:

27 34 53" N, 33 55 55"E. Northeast corner of Shaab Abu Nuhas Reef

Access:

Day or Safari boat normally from Hurghada occasionally from Sharm El Sheikh

Minimum Depth to Wreck

4m (at Bows)

Maximum Depth to Seabed:

27m (at stern)

Average Visibility:

30-35m


Shab Abu Nuhas is a magnificent Coral plateau that barely reaches the surface and, from a distance, is not easily seen at all. Unfortunately, as far as shipping is concerned, Abu Nuhas lies right at the very edge of the busy shipping lane called the Straits of Gobal - located at that point where the north west Red Sea begins to taper as it becomes the Gulf of Suez. It really is the one Reef that simply should not be where it is - as many a ships captain has discovered to his cost.

The Loss of the Chrisoula K

In August 1981 Captain Kanellis was in Italy on board, the Greek registered freighter Chrisoula K. Having completed the loading of a cargo of Italian Floor Tiles for Jeddah the previous day, it was first light when the mooring lines were slipped and the Chrisoula K headed out into the open reaches of the Mediterranean Sea for what was to become her last voyage. It was a long and uneventful journey to Port Said followed by the 200 mile trip through the Suez Canal. From here, the Captain then had to negotiate the narrow confines of the more treacherous upper reaches of the Straits of Suez - during which he insisted on giving his personal attention to every detail of navigating and running his ship.

Not for the first time do we find a Captain who decided to do everything himself and, as the vessel finally approached the Straits of Gobal, he had been on duty for more than 2 days without a break. Such prolonged periods of hard concentration, were bound to take their toll and, just as the ship approached the wider, easier to navigate channels of the Red Sea, Captain Kanellis was finally able to relax and hand over control of the ship to one of his Officers.

With Jeddah another 600 miles further south, Captain Kanellis retired to his cabin for some well earned rest. He had not been asleep very long when he was very rudely awoken by an event that would signal the end of both his career and his ship. With the engines set at "Full Speed" the Chrisoula K had driven hard onto the north east corner of Shaab Abu Nuhas Reef. The date was 31st August 1981.


Lloyds List for 1st September 1981 included the following item under "Casualty Report:"

"Chrisoula K (Greek). Suez, Aug 31 - Mv Chrisoula K, ran aground yesterday in the Red Sea, sustaining serious damage but no casualties, shipping sources said today. The vessel hit coral reefs near the Egyptian naval base at Ras Banas, about 500 miles south of here, sources at the Assiut Shipping Agency, representing the ship owners, said. Rescue units from the naval base picked up the 21-member crew unscathed and took them to Suez, the sources said. The vessel, carrying a consignment of tiles from Italy, was on her way to Jeddah. The sources said the seriously damaged vessel was considered a total loss - United Press International."

Thankfully, there was no loss of life - but whether the Captain, through his tiredness had made a simple mistake - either in the instructions given or the course plotted, or whether another officer made the fateful decision that brought the Chrisoula K into contact with the infamous Reef is not known. What is known, however, is that today, the Chrisoula K can be found where she fell and provides all grades of Diver with one of the finest shipwrecks in the entire Egyptian Red Sea.

The Ship

A General Cargo Vessel of 3,720 tonnes (gross), the ship was built in the German Baltic port of Lubeck by Orenstein, Koppel and Luebekker and launched in 1954 as the Dora Oldendorf. In 1970 new owners re-christened her the Anna B and in 1979 the Clarion Marine Company of Piraeus, purchased the ship and renamed her Chrisoula K.

Her dimensions were 98m x 14.8m with a draught of 9m. She was powered by a 9 cylinder diesel engine - capable of delivering a very credible 2,700 bhp. This was built by Masch, Augsburg-Nuernberg (MAN) of Augsburg - in the heart of Bavaria. Incidentally, this town is on the banks of the River Lech - a tributary of the Danube and that, in turn, allows access to the mighty Rhine.

But is this the Chrisoula K?

Not far from the Chrisoula K is another wreck (the Kimon M) which is of similar size, tonnage and age. The confusion which exists is fully described in the piece on the Kimon M and need not be repeated here.

Soon after being driven hard onto Shaab Abu Nuhas, the stern of the Chrisoula K filled with water and she settled on the reef - leaving her bows high and dry. Several photographs of those Bows, were then taken and some were widely published. Curiously, when viewed from a certain angle, they give the impression that the Bows are entirely separate from the main body of the wreckage - something that has led to considerable confusion about the true identity of this shipwreck.

Those innocent photographs were in fact quite misleading - simply because the Bows were still attached to the main body of the wreck when the remainder of the ship slipped back into the sea and came to rest underwater. Naturally, being the most shallow, the Bows have suffered at the hands of nature for almost twenty years and are now well broken up.

For conclusive proof of the identity of this wreck, one must, therefore, look elsewhere. I know it is asking too much but, if Divers had left the bell in place, there never would have been a problem at all...

In 1999, I came across an old photograph of the Chrisoula K taken in Malta in 1980. This photograph shows various ships features quite clearly and I have made comparisons with what is found today - underwater. In short, wreck and photograph match leaving me in no doubt whatsoever that the shipwreck widely regarded by the Diving Trade in Egypt as the Chrisoula K is correctly identified. On top of that - there is also her cargo of floor tiles!

Diving the Chrisoula K

With wave action having now reduced the Bows even further, it is the remainder of this fabulous wreck that attracts most interest. The main body is generally upright with her cargo of Italian floor tiles still in place.

The stern, however, is now leaning well over to starboard and is slowly separating altogether. Here the decks are almost vertical and have become well colonised by outcrops of coral with all the popular Reef Fishes one might expect to find. Although canted over, this part of the ship is, nevertheless, largely intact and comes complete with the usual array of bollards, capstans and railings. There is also a small accommodation block through which access is gained down to the engine room. From the decks, the rear mast hangs in mid-water almost parallel to the seabed and defying the inevitable laws of deterioration and gravity thus providing an added dimension to a fascinating scene.

Deep inside the stern, the engine room offers some serious penetration diving for the experienced wreck diver. A word of caution for those who do wish to venture deep inside the ship. Engines rooms are, by their very nature, busy places - even long after the engines have ceased to turn, and those in the Chrisoula K are no exception. There are numerous obstructions which are made all the more confusing by this part of the ship being on its side. Experience of such diving plus a torch and back-up torch are essential. Even so, the greatest danger is provided by silt - through which no light will penetrate.

Having arrived, on all sides, the diver is confronted by a wide assortment of pressure valves, gate valves, vents, dials and gauges of all sizes. There are pipes and railings stretching in every direction, steel ladders - now on their side and metal walk-ways that have fallen at the wrong angle. Altogether, they add equal measures of excitement and curiosity as the Diver tries to visualise what it was like when the engines were turning.

At the seabed, the large propeller and rudder are still virtually undamaged at the maximum depth for this dive of 26m. From here, the entire port side then gives the diver a very clear indication of the destructive power of the sea. Looking carefully, one can see how, at the very stern, the steel plates lie hard over and almost flat, then, a few metres ahead they are simply twisted. Then the diver will find a large tear in those steel plates just before the port side becomes perfectly vertical. The entire Port side being covered in a large assortment of hard corals.

Swimming through that large "tear," the Diver is able to enter one of the holds immediately above the cargo of large floor tiles - with each package of twenty or so tiles still carefully bound together. With high levels of damage sustained throughout the wrecks superstructure, a significant amount of natural-light penetrates these spaces and helps to provide plenty of easy swim-throughs and access to areas worthy of exploration without the danger of becoming "lost" inside.

Summary

This shipwreck offers a variety of different dives to cater for all levels of experience. At one end of the scale, there is penetration right into the engine room for the more able Diver, less demanding is a visit to the rear accommodation blocks, a swim through open cargo holds or, perhaps, simply an investigation of the external features without venturing too deep.

In less than twenty years, the Chrisoula K has become a natural extension of the nearby Reef with hard corals and soft corals colonizing the wreck. In addition, many of the more richly coloured Reef Fishes have made the Chrisoula K their home as the vessel slowly continues its transition from man made object to Coral Reef extension - a process that will continue until, one day, she will inevitably disappear forever under the weight of nature.

By then, of course, she will have become a long-forgotten part of Egypts rich maritime history.

See Also:

The Red Sea Area

Back to Dive Sites in Egypt

Last Updated: June 12th, 2011

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