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Red Sea - The Zingara


The Zingara

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

No

No

Yes

All

Location:

28 01' 06" N, 34 29' 24"E. Southern Gulf of Aqaba off west coast of Tiran Island

Access:

Day boat from Sharm El Sheikh

Minimum Depth to Wreck

0m (Superstructure at surface)

Maximum Depth to Seabed:

15m (Throughout)

Average Visibility:

30-35m


The Ship

This General Cargo vessel was built by VEB Schiffwerft in their Neptun yard at Rostock, in the former East Germany and launched as the "Kormoran" in 1963. She sailed under that name until 1976 when her name was changed to "Adamastos." In 1980, yet another change of owner saw her renamed Zingara.

A rather smart ship of 1,582 gross registered tonnes, her dimensions were 82.4m x 12.6m with a draught of 4.25m. The Zingaras hull was "ice-strengthened" and comprised 2 cargo holds forward with engine room and bridge located at the stern. She was powered by a 6 cylinder diesel engine capable of producing 1,365 BHP and a top speed of 12 knots.

The Zingara was owned and operated by Montemare di Navigazione S.p.a. and registered in Naples at the time of her loss.


The Loss of the Zingara

The Zingara sailed from the Jordanian port of Aqaba on 21st August 1984 with a cargo of Phosphate Rock. The following day she ran aground on Laguna Reef immediately north east of Jackson Reef and was subsequently declared a total constructive loss.

Two factors arising from the wrecking of this ship have given cause for considerable speculation. The Straits of Tiran are that narrow stretch of water between the Sinai Peninsular and Tiran Island offering the only access to the Gulf of Aqaba and, with it, Jordans only seaport from which the Gulf takes its name.

Four magnificent coral reefs are found right in the centre of the Straits making this narrow interface between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba all the more narrower. Jackson Reef is the most northerly of these reefs and Gordon Reef the most southerly. Ominously, they are both marked by the prominent shipwrecks "Lara" and "Loullia" respectively - a clear warning for all vessels entering and leaving the Gulf of Aqaba to exercise extreme care. Understandably, therefore, the rule of the road is keep right with "up" traffic entering the Gulf being required to take the eastern route between those reefs and Tiran Island and "down" traffic keeping to the west. All charts are clearly marked with this requirement.

It was, therefore, somewhat strange that the fully loaded Zingara hit the reef on the eastern side of the Straits - when a southerly course demanded a westerly route. Furthermore, there is no doubt that the ship struck the reef with such considerable force as to be driven hard onto the reef removing her bottom completely.

Diving the Zingara

Even with the name "Kormoran" permanently etched in large letters on the bows of this ship, her true identity remained something of a mystery for many years. One published report described the Kormoran as a large Bulk Carrier being entirely separate from the Zingara - which had become permanently lost from view when the 26,000 tonne Million Hope landed on top of her - on the other side of the Straits of Tiran - but those are stories for another day.

The way in which the Zingara was lost means that the wreck is very broken up. She is, however, one of those rare wreck sites where everything seems to be neatly laid out between bows and stern - as though she had be deliberately arranged by some giant hand. Most interesting of all - everything really is still there.

A very small part of the top of the stern breaks the surface - thus acting as an ideal marker for the start of the dive. In every direction the diver is treated to a magnificent underwater terrain of hard corals at their finest and many of these are now firmly attached to various features of the wreck. There are also some really spectacular Napoleon Wrasse - although nothing matched the five incredible specimens and the Turtle we saw on our very first dive.

The stern rests over on its port side at an angle of about 45 degrees. Railings and bollards still adorn the after deck - below which the rudder and propeller are still in place - occupying a small hole about 2m or so deeper than the surrounding seabed. This relatively intact part of the wreck soon gives way to large sections of ship no longer in their rightful place. Rounding the stern, we found the broken remains of the bridge castle and I was impressed by the sight of two very large brass portholes - it is always nice to dive any wreck that has not been looted.

Large steel plates lie across the seabed affording the best possible examination by Divers. A pair of deck winches lie upside down with hard coral having already become very firmly established. Over to our right one of the ships two masts lies pointing away from what was once the starboard side towards the open sea.

Swimming gently on, we eventually found a very large section - upside down and raised above the seabed. This was part of the forward decks and was complete with handrails. It led immediately to the focsle. Altogether, this part of this ship creates the most fascinating scene - almost as though the top of the ship had been removed from the hull and then laid perfectly on top of the reef - but as though the rest of the ship was all still there. In short, the evidence on the seabed supports the fact that this vessel was indeed driven onto the reef at full speed.

The large windlasses, complete with their attendant anchor chains are all still there - and everything with varying degrees of even more hard coral growth. Over on the port side, sufficient of the bows below deck level still exist and reveal the raised steel letters "KORMOR" still firmly in place - with the letters "A" and "N" obscured behind coral. Off to the starboard side, the forward mast lies across a gently sloping bed of coral.

The Bow and Stern sections are undoubtedly the most photogenic aspects of the entire wreck - which has a lot to offer the serious diver as that second or even third dive of the day after deeper dives elsewhere.

Postscript

This is a ship which met its end in the most dangerous of circumstances. Either the Captain decided to save time and wrongly sought to head south down the eastern channel - against any oncoming traffic, and was piling on the speed in order to get through as quickly as possible, or he simply made a monumental error in navigation.

Such was the speed of his ship at the time of impact, there is no doubt that the lives of all those on board were in very serious danger. It is highly unlikely, therefore, that this was a deliberate act of wrecking. Whatever the truth, the Zingara was several miles east of any proper course - where she is still found to this day.

Back to Egypt Red Sea Shipwrecks

Last Updated: May 29th, 2011

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