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Egypt Red Sea Shipwrecks - The Numidia


THE NUMIDIA 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

8m (at Bows)

Maximum Depth to Seabed:

80m+ (at stern)

Average Visibility:

35-40m


The Ship

The British cargo ship Numidia was built in Glasgow in early 1901. A relatively large vessel, she displaced 6,399 gross registered tons and was powered by a 3 cylinder triple expansion steam engine capable of providing a top speed of 10 Knots. She was 137.4m long, 16.7m wide and had a draught of 9.2m.

The Numidia was owned and operated by the Anchor Line at the time of her loss.

Big Brother Island - viewed from the west. The Numidia is located to the extreme left of the picture.

The Loss of the Numidia

On 28th February 1901 the Numidia set out from Glasgow on her Maiden voyage. She was a well-found ship and the lengthy journey to Calcutta and back was an excellent opportunity for both Captain and crew to get to know this brand new vessel. Her second voyage, however, would prove to be her last.

On 6th July 1901, the Captain ordered the mooring lines slipped from her berth in Liverpool and stood beside the Pilot as the vessel moved slowly into the River Mersey and then out into the Irish Sea. The Numidia was carrying a general cargo of 7,000 tons and a crew of 97. There were no passengers.

The ship's mast still defying gravity

The ship cleared Suez in the early hours of 19 July 1901. They made good time and by 7pm that evening, Shadwan Island was already abeam. The weather was fine with a fresh breeze from the NW. At 11pm the course was altered and at 1am on the 20th the light on Big Brothers island was sighted off the port bow. Observing the bearing, the Captain altered course again and informed the "officer of the watch" this would take the ship over one mile to the west of the Island. He then left the Bridge leaving instructions to be called when the Light was abeam. At about 2.10am the Master was awoken by the shock of his ship crashing onto rocks. Hurrying to the bridge, he found his ship hard aground on Big Brothers Island - almost directly below the Lighthouse!

After two hours of trying to get off the rocks the engines were stopped. By this time the ship was taking on considerable water although the pumps were coping. At 7.30am despatches were sent to Suez for urgent assistance and most of the crew were landed on the Island. Other vessels then arrived and every effort was made to refloat the Numidia without success. Eventually realising his vessel was lost, the Master allowed his crew to be rescued - although he remained on the island for a further 7 weeks - during which he supervised the salvage of most of the cargo before the Numidia finally sank.

At the formal Board of Trade Enquiry, the court said that the officer of the watch had probably fallen asleep at his post and had, thereby, failed in his duties. His certificate was duly suspended for a period of 9 months.

Diving the Numidia

As with the rest of the ship, the mast is covered in some extremely colorful soft corals.

Big Brothers Island is roughly oblong with a NW - SE attitude. The Numidia is found off the northern-most tip of the island. Quite often, however, there is a strong current running straight onto the wreck.

This is a dive to set the heart racing and one of the most incredible shipwrecks available to Divers. Like the Ada, she also defies all the known laws of gravity and lies "up" the reef at an almost vertical angle. After nearly 100 years underwater she is, of course, now an integral part of the reef itself and will never move.

At a depth of only 8m the Diver will find the Bows are well broken and marked by a pair of Railway Engine Wheels originally carried as deck cargo. From here, the ship quickly takes on its original shape and the Diver is soon descending to deck level. The first thing that most Divers comment on, however, is the absolute colour that now adorns this vessel. Hard Corals and Soft Corals have colonised this ship in a manner similar to the Ada - making them amongst the most beautiful shipwrecks in the world. The railings, masts, lifeboat davits, windlasses and deck winches are all still in place - having become part of a living Reef of such vibrancy that it is easy to lose sight of the fact that this is a "wreck dive!"

Being carried as cargo were two pairs of Railway Engine Wheels with an offset axle. This pair is found at the top of the main wreckage in 8m.

In amongst the varied colours - from the lightest greens to the deepest reds, is a fish life that has made this shipwreck "home." The groupers are probably the most outstanding inhabitants - but all Divers have their own favourites and each is found right here. As for the ship itself, she is able to provide every type of Dive for every type of Diver. Even those who abhor wrecks will like this one.

The wooden decking has, of course, gone and, of course, the cargo was salvaged. This, however, provides an incredible opportunity to investigate a large ship at whatever depth suits the personal requirement. Forward of the central bridge are two cavernous cargo holds with ventilation hatches along the starboard side. The decks are now a square pattern of steel in between which is the lower half of the forward mast.

Immediately behind No 2 Hold is the raised central "castle" with its accommodation and what remains of the Bridge. Having been constructed of wood on a steel floor, all but the basic outer framework has rotted away. We are now at a depth of 50m and the remainder of the ship lies in very deep water.

Immediately behind the bridge is the ships funnel which has fallen over to one side. Here several lifeboat davits are swung out. The Engine Room is immediately below. Further aft are Nos 3 and 4 Holds - and the decking is very similar in appearance to that nearer the Bows. Once again, the Diver will find the lower half of an equally stout rear mast - also defying gravity, along with all the attendant deck winches.

The Numidia's hull has been transformed into a thing of great beauty by numerous colorful soft corals

The stern is raised and provides a beautifully rounded poop deck below which the single large propeller is found at a depth of some 80m.

Apart from the damage encountered at the Bows, all metal structures are fully intact throughout the ship and they are all covered in the most exciting arrangements of Hard and Soft corals - which only begin to fade in their intensity from 50m downwards. The largest Grouper are also a feature of these deeper aspects of the wreck.

Postscript

Although an altogether very different vessel from the Ada, the similarities between these two ships are quite amazing - made all the more so because they now lie so close together. A truly exciting shipwreck, the Numidia also offers tremendous scope for the Technical Diver. Like the Ada, however, she is largely overlooked because of relatively few visitors to the Brothers Islands.

The Brothers Islands form one of Egypts "Marine Parks" - for which an additional charge is levied prior to leaving port. With a Military Base on the Island, the Brothers are also a "restricted area" and this means no landing at all. Occasionally, the Islands are closed to Diving - sometimes at short notice...

Whilst this is not a common occurrence, it does amount to "too much hassle" for some people. In the meantime, therefore, the Numidia and Ada remain largely overlooked whilst still enjoying high reputations as two of Egypts most outstanding and largely unspoiled shipwrecks.

As I said - this is a dive to set the heart racing...

Back to Egypt Red Sea Shipwrecks

Last Updated: May 29th, 2011

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