Egypt Red Sea Shipwrecks - The Urania

The Urania

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


Diving Grade







10 39' 54" N, 40 00' 23"E. Dahlak Islands, Eritrea


Usually private Yacht although a few boats do operate out of Eritrea

Minimum Depth to Wreck

0m (Superstructure at surface)

Maximum Depth to Seabed:

3m (At Bows)

Average Visibility:


The Ship

This twin-screw Passenger-Cargo vessel was built by Cantiere San Rocco SA of Trieste, Italy and launched in September 1916 as the Hungaria. She was a very smart ship of 7,099 gross registered tonnes with dimensions of 125.33m x 16.2m and draught of 7.56m. The Uranias configuration comprised 2 cargo holds forward and 2 cargo holds aft of central raised bridge and accommodation castle which were immediately above the engine room.

The Urania originally displayed two funnels although one of these was purely cosmetic and was later removed. At the time of her launch she was powered by two triple expansion steam engines capable of producing 853 NHP and a top speed of 14 knots. In September 1924 she was refitted with an oil fired -propulsion system.

The ship was renamed Genova in 1923 and finally Urania in 1933 when she became the property of the Lloyd Triestino Shipping Company - who remained her owners until she was lost. In 1935 the Urania underwent a considerable refit in terms of passenger accommodation which was extended to include 60 first class, 139 second class and 200 third class passengers. Nevertheless, she was still too small to compete with the larger vessels now employed on the very lucrative Atlantic trade and was used extensively to service Italys links with the Far East.

The Loss of the Urania

Already a veteran of many trips such trips, the Urania was then used as troopship during the 1930s in a period when Italy was engaged in wars in Africa and, like the Nazario Sauro, found herself trapped in the Red Sea when Italy finally entered WW2 in 1940. She was then immediately laid up at Massawa. With Eritrea about to fall into British hands, however, the ship was moved to the Dahlak Islands and scuttled on 10 April 1941.

Diving the Urania

The Urania is found in shallow water and lies on her port side with parts of the starboard side aft of the bridge at surface level. Nevertheless, this is still a big ship and there is much to explore underwater.

The Bows are the deepest part of this dive resting on the seabed at 23m where they have suffered less than the remainder of the ship and are still relatively intact. Curiously, just beside the focsle is a large anchor sitting upright on the seabed. In the absence of any chain or fittings it is safe to assume this was very likely a spare which simply fell from the ship as she rolled over.

Between the two forward cargo holds, the main mast is still virtually intact and lies along the seabed complete with Crows Nest and Crosstrees. At the base of the mast all the deck winches are still in place. The cargo holds are, of course, empty but the hatches are wide open and invite internal examination. That said, the diver must be careful because this ship is now in a state of collapse.

The central accommodation structure is easily the most exciting part of the dive. The ship was virtually stripped of all usable commodities during the almost 12 months when she was laid up prior to being scuttled. This is, therefore, a journey to inspect and discover the bare necessities of a ship from this period. Once again, whilst penetration diving from bridge down to Engine Room is entirely possible - and very exciting, the shallower reaches of this dive involve those parts of the ship that have suffered at the hands of more than 60 years of successive winter storms and are in a state of collapse. Be warned!

Towards the stern we again find two open and very empty cargo holds in between which is a small winch house from where the rear mast stretches away from the vessel resting along the seabed. At this point, the starboard side of the vessel is barely underwater and the diver will encounter considerable damage to the deck plates.

From here the Diver will discover that the stern has largely collapsed onto itself. With the two propellers removed long ago, there now remains a confusion of metal parts and handrails and it is difficult to establish exactly what belonged where.

Overall, the visibility in this area is rather disappointing when compared to elsewhere in the Red Sea - but that said, the Urania does benefit from her shallow disposition with regard to fish life which is quite prolific.

The Unknown Ferry

Almost alongside the Urania lies a relatively small ferry which was probably used to move various materials to and from the Dahlak Islands at some time. Details of this vessel and the circumstances of her sinking are unknown at this time so one can only speculate about this ship either being lost in poor visibility or, perhaps, a captain who was far too curious about the Urania and simply got too close.

The ferry, however, is both upright and intact and provides an excellent second dive.


The Urania was once a magnificent ship from another period if passenger travel. Too slow for the Atlantic trade she was used between Italy and her colonies until war put an end to her career. After more than 60 years underwater she is now collapsing - and with her shallow attitude, this process is helped by each successive crop of winter storms. This is a ship where the diver can experience a bit of "yesteryear at sea" but in this case that experience must always be tempered with considerable caution.

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Last Updated: May 29th, 2011