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Egypt Red Sea Shipwrecks - The Aida


THE ADA 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

Advanced

Location:

26 19 00" N, 34 50 00"E. Big Brothers Island

Access:

Day boat or Safari Boat from Hurghada, Safaga or Qesir

Minimum Depth to Wreck

12m (at Bows)

Maximum Depth to Seabed:

60m+ (at stern)

Average Visibility:

35-40m


The Ship

The Aida was built in France and launched in 1911. She displaced 1,428 gross registered tonnes and was powered by a single 3 Cylinder triple expansion engine capable of providing a top speed of 9 Knots. Her dimensions were; 75.1m x 9.7m with a draught of 7m.

Originally ordered for the Egyptian Ports and Lighthouses Administration, she was later transferred to Egyptian Marina and used to ferry troops.

Big Brother Island

Historical Information

The vessel makes an appearance in the official British War Diary dated 8 October 1941. The document reads:

SITUATION REPORT Egypt and Canal Area

S. S. ROSALIE MOLLER was sunk by enemy air attack on Anchorage H.

between 0045B and 0140B. S. S. AIDA (Ports and Lights vessel)

was sunk at Zafarana Anchorage by H. E. III which crashed at

the same time after hitting AIDAs mast. S. S. AIDA can be salved.

Aida wreckage

The bombs from the German aircraft actually scored a near miss and thinking very quickly, her Captain beached his ship before she could sink. At this time, throughout the world, Allied shipping was being lost at an unsustainable rate and every effort was made to salvage any vessel that was not a total loss. Consequently, the Ada was refloated and repaired and continued in service until 1957 when she was eventually lost.

Intriguingly, however, having been officially described as "sunk" during the War, many accounts of the vessel now residing off the Brothers Islands describe her as the "Ada II" - which is incorrect.

The Loss of the Ada

Aida wreckage

On the sheltered south-east facing coast of Big Brothers Island, is an old jetty used by the Egyptian soldiers stationed on the island for up to two months at a time. Naturally, they require a constant re-supply of fresh water and provisions in addition to a changeover of personnel every so often.

On 15 September 1957, the Captain of the Ada was tasked to exchange military personnel on Big Brothers Island. There were heavy storms that day and it would seem that, despite the sea state, he still decided to go ahead - and in so doing he struck the rocks. Almost immediately, the Ada began to sink and the Captain had little option but to abandon ship.

A Tugboat responded immediately and took off 77 personnel with the remainder, including the Captain, all getting safely to shore. In the meantime, the Ada drifted a short distance to the northwest before her bows finally embedded themselves into the reef. As the stern sank, it came to rest at an extremely steep angle down the reef.

Diving the Ada

Aida wreckage

This is an outstanding dive by any standards - with the Diver left wondering how any ship could come to rest at such an angle. One would have expected the forces of gravity to have taken over at some point and send the vessel to a much deeper resting place. But not in this case and the Ada lies straight "up" the reef with her bows at 25m and her stern at 60m. Apart from substantial damage to the Bows, this ship is virtually intact.

After more than 40 years underwater, the Ada is now permanently concreted to the Reef on which she has slowly become a part. There is considerable coral growth all over the ship. With decreasing intensity as one ventures deeper and deeper, the Diver will encounter a wide variety of soft corals and hard corals with the shallower parts of the wreck being a veritable living confusion of colour. Add to this an amazing selection of fish life which includes everything from large Grouper and Tuna - always found feeding at first light, and the thousands of Vanikoro Sweepers that inhabit No 1 Hold and this is a wreck that has something for everyone.

After the damaged bows, most of the main forward deck is intact. The wooden decking has rotted away - leaving a virtually intact steel framework with easy access to all parts. The forward hold is empty and, once inside, the Diver is totally sheltered from the current - which can be quite strong.

Aida wreckage

Incredibly, the forward mast is still largely intact and continues to defy the inevitable laws of deterioration as it points up from the wreck and away from the vertical Reef. Below the mast are an assortment of winches with a boom lying across the deck itself. Amidships is the raised Centre Castle with what remains of a wooden Bridge Structure. This is no more than a platform but there are still much to see - especially amongst the accommodation block below. There are many cabins to explore - most of which still have their brass portholes in place.

The ships funnel is at almost 50m and now lies on its side - partly rusted away. A massive steam whistle - very similar to the one found on the Rosalie Moller, can be seen on its under side - with everything now firmly concreted to the upper decks on which it lies. Immediately below is the entrance to the Engine Room - complete with the 3 cylinder triple expansion steam engine looking as though it could still drive the vessel through the water.

From here, conditions are very deep indeed. The Ada was never salvaged so it is all still there - right down to the single propeller at 60m. The after-deck is completely intact - except for the absence of woodwork. The coral growth is quite outstanding for such depths - though nothing like the shallower reaches of the vessel where greater sunlight penetration ensures a more prolific growth. This, of course, is where the big boys hang out - and I have never seen Grouper this size anywhere else in the Red Sea.

Postscript

For those who harbour a dislike for shipwrecks and prefer Corals and Marine Life, this is a wreck to provide a conversion to an experience that, put simply, is the best of both worlds. In terms of bright colours, hard corals, soft corals and prolific fish life, this is a wreck to rival any of Egypts Reefs.

In addition, this shipwreck offers tremendous scope for the Technical Diver and is one of the more outstanding shipwrecks to be found anywhere in Egyptian waters. Like the Numidia, however, she is largely overlooked because relatively fewer people visit the Brothers Islands.

A visit to the "Marine Parks" - of which the Brothers Islands is one, is, of course, an added expense which must be paid in cash prior to departure from port. The Brothers Islands themselves are a "restricted area" and this means no landing at all. It is also not uncommon for the Islands to be closed to Diving from time to time - sometimes at short notice...

Whilst such practises are, thankfully, not a common occurrence, it does amount to "too much hassle" for some. In the meantime, therefore, the Ada remains largely overlooked as she enjoys a high reputation as one of Egypts truly unspoiled shipwrecks. As I said - an outstanding dive by any standards...

Back to Egypt Red Sea Shipwrecks

Last Updated: May 29th, 2011

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