The Kingston (The Sara H)
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|
|Location:||27 46' 42" N, 33 52' 36"E. West coast of Shag Rock|
|Access:||Day or Safari boat from Sharm El Sheikh or Hurghada|
|Minimum Depth to Wreck||4m (at Bows)|
|Maximum Depth to Seabed:||19m (below Stern)|
There is no shipwreck called the Sarah H.. In the early 1990s, Shlomo Cohen spent considerable time working with various Diving resorts based on the Sinai Peninsula whilst writing his excellent book "Red Sea Divers Guide." Towards the end of his stay, he came across a previously unknown shipwreck on Shag Rock.
Ten years ago, nobody had any idea of the ships name, history or nationality. On top of that, she had been underwater for so long, there was no chance of any local fisherman having any personal knowledge of the wreck. Like all good writers, Mr Cohen needed to give the vessel a working name - not an uncommon practice by any means. He was operating from the Dive Boat "Sea Surveyor" at the time and their Skipper was David Hillel. It just so happened that his charming wife Sarah was also the resident Divemaster. Consequently, it was suggested that the unknown wreck be named in honour of Sarah and, whilst this was welcomed by all, a little more "credibility" was added by including the "H" from her surname.
Thus the "Sarah H" came into being. A couple of years later, however, the wreck was correctly identified as the Kingston (see below!). Even so, as recently as 1999, yet another Diving Guide would be published calling this wreck "Sarah H." T
The Kingston was built in Sunderland by the Oswald Shipbuilding Company, and launched on 16th February 1871. She was technically described as an "Iron, Screw, Brigantine" and was one of a relatively new breed of ship which had a funnel as well as two masts.
Powered by a single, 2 cylinder compound steam-engine, the Kingston was capable of a top speed of 11 knots. She was a general cargo vessel and measured 78m long, 10m wide and had draught of 6m. She displaced 1,449 gross registered tons.
The Loss of the Kingston
On the morning of 20th January 1881, Captain Cousins sailed from London in charge of the Kingston - the destination was Aden.
Sailing via the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, the Kingston finally cleared Suez on 20th February 1881. Cousins decided to remain in charge of the ship for the entire length of the Straits of Suez himself. He took no rest as he continued to double check every single detail of navigating the Kingston safely through some very treacherous waters. Then at long last, the Kingston was nearing the open Red Sea and, even though it was now dark, Cousins felt that the immediate dangers were now over and that he could relax. He duly gave some short and sharp instructions to the First Mate and retired to his cabin. He had been awake for almost 2 days...
In the early hours of February 22nd the Kingston struck Shag Rock. Within moments, the Captain was back on the bridge and taking charge of the situation.
For two days the crew fought to keep the Kingston afloat but it was a lost cause. Knowing that help would not be long in arriving, Cousins remained on the Kingston until the last possible moment when the Kingston suddenly settled by the stern. The Kingston then slipped gracefully backwards from the Reef. Soon, only the Masts were visible and it was right next to these Captain and Crew were found - less than two hours later. No injuries or loss of life was sustained.
Diving the Kingston
The Kingston sits upright on an even keel with her bows smashed into the Reef. Strong currents prevail over the wreck so it is better to start with an inspection of the stern section at 17m - where the propeller and Rudder are found, before swimming up, over the top and into the wreck itself.
The Kingston is in remarkable condition. Just less than half of the hull to the stern is still fairly intact. The weight of the cargo of coal keeps everything in place and prevents the vessel from being pushed over by the strong currents. Immediately above the stern, are remnants of the tiller. Nearby is evidence of portholes having been removed. The wooden decks have rotted away leaving a series of spars and other metal beams - on top of which sits a spare propeller.
The wreck is entirely wide open. There are two levels beneath the various spars and no enclosed spaces. Amidships is well broken up - although various fittings and a large Boiler are still found. The front half of the ship is nothing more than a collection of large pieces of debris scattered on a coral slope. The masts lie alongside the wreck facing up the Reef.
This corner of Shag Rock is home to one of the most incredible stretches of "Hard-coral Reef Coastline" I have ever seen. That same coral has colonised the wreck most beautifully. All the local Reef Fishes are present and, all things considered, combine to make this a fabulous wreck - and an excellent second (or even third) dive after a much deeper visit to the Thistlegorm earlier in the day.
On leaving the wreck, the drift dive to the pick-up point is entirely memorable - because of the vast stretches of unspoiled hard corals. Altogether quite an excellent dive.
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Last Updated: May 29th, 2011