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InDepth Magazine - Issue 5
- A Return to Hope

InDepth Magazine, issue 5 editor's introduction:

Welcome to the latest edition of InDepth Magazine. It has been an absolute joy to produce this latest incarnation, dedicated entirely to our recent trip out to Egypt and Jordan.

 

Within these pages, you will find detailed most of the dives that we completed, including Dahab’s Blue Hole, The Canyon and, of course, our return to the wreck of the M.V. Million Hope.  A dive that I particularly enjoyed and one I hope to go back and do again soon! 

 

We also travel across to Jordan and the profoundly visceral city of Petra for a ten-mile hike in the intense heat as we visit not only the Treasury but also climb all the way up to the Monastery. An experience of epic proportions.

 

I hope you enjoy reading about the dives and the travels as much as I enjoyed taking the photographs and writing about our adventures, it was a magical experience, and I hope it is conveyed through these pages. Enjoy!

James Neal

Publishing Editor, InDepth Magazine

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A Return to Hope!
 

Returning to Egypt and the wreck of the M.V. Million Hope.

Red Sea Relax Resort in Dahab, Egypt.
Dahab. Egypt.
Red Sea Relax Dive Resort in Dahab, Egypt.
InDepth Dive Resort Dahab.

Let’s be honest, the last couple of years haven’t been great... they’ve pretty much sucked big time, especially when it comes to getting away and going diving in warmer climes! But, things might just be starting to return to some semblance of normality, we might just hope for a return to pre-pandemic travel... and with that, I tentatively ventured to an airport with ‘The Wife’ and returned to hope... the M.V. Million Hope to be precise!

 

Much like everyone else, I haven’t been abroad in a while, not since 2019 in fact, which saw my last liveaboard trip out to Egypt on M.Y. Nimar and my ever-suffering wife hadn’t been on holiday with me since she took me to Cyprus to dive the M.V. Zenobia for my 50th birthday. This presented a problem of sorts, as a couple of the boys had asked me to go to Malta with them and I had agreed... now I had to decide if I was brave enough to go away with the lads first or if I should go on holiday with ‘she who must be obeyed’ first. To be honest, it wasn’t really a decision I had to make, it was made for me, I was going away with ‘The Wife’ and that was that! It just so happened that I had also been invited out to Red Sea Relax in Dahab on business and so I suggested to my good lady that perhaps she might like to come with me and help me plan some of the dive centre trips we had in mind, which would entail a trip across to Jordan and the opportunity to visit Petra... we’ve wanted to visit Petra for years, she couldn’t refuse!

Hollis Katana 2

We were able to book a flight with TUI from Birmingham to Sharm El Sheikh amidst the news that a great many flights were being cancelled  at the last minute and hundreds of passengers were being turned away from departure gates by the police... it would be fair to say, we were a little on edge! We did have an anxious delay of over an hour, but we were amongst the fortunate ones whose flight wasn’t cancelled. 

We had a very smooth flight and arrived safely in Sharm El Sheikh, we were met by our driver who then  took us on the 45 minute drive up to Red Sea Relax in Dahab. 

 

Dahab isn’t like any other part of Egypt I have visited, it has more of a Bedouin feel about it, it has a bit of a hippy vibe, is laid back, relaxed and, most importantly, it feels safe! You aren’t harassed by any of the locals and you can wander freely.

The Red Sea Relax Resort itself has a pleasant feel, it’s an attractive resort with its white-washed walls contrasting against the green of the exotic plants and the azure blue of the ever-inviting pool. Set against the backdrop of a cloudless sky and 37 degrees, a slight sea breeze brings with it a soothing touch that caresses the skin and makes the temperature both pleasing and not unbearable. After a five and a half hour flight and something in the region of eight or nine hours of travel time in total, I found myself quickly relaxing as the fatigue of the journey was whisked away on that very same breeze, along with all my worries, which I left back in ‘Blighty’ with its grey skies and clouds. The resort is perfectly named and it does exactly what it says... Red Sea, relax!

 

Now let’s go diving!

 

I am a fan of check dives... seriously! I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with going for a bimble in relatively shallow water to make sure all of my kit is functioning correctly after it’s been pulled apart, hauled two and a half thousand miles around the Earth, and then reassembled! When you think about it like that, the value of the check dive is obvious.

 

The Red Sea Relax Dive Centre has everything a diver could ever wish for, even sidemount bands, which really surprised me. I had brought my own Hollis ones, which I like to use if I’m constantly changing cylinders, it’s just quicker and more convenient. I also take jubilee clips and insulation tape with me if I’m diving the same ali cylinders on every dive, as you would expect on a liveaboard. With resort diving, you are more likely to be chopping and changing cylinders for every dive, so the travel bands make sense.

I had my kit reconfigured and ready to dive in under 30 minutes and we literally walked out of the dive centre door and onto the beach and into the ocean. It was glorious, warm, blue, clear... 28 degrees Celsius, oh yeah! Bring it on...

 

I pull the dump on my Hollis Katana and let the warmth of the Red Sea spill over me, the Omnired technology of my BARE Velocity 5mm wetsuit has been doing its job well and soaked up an enormous amount of warmth both from my hot skin and the sun, now I pull the neck seal away and allow the sea to rush in and cool my skin, the suit technology combined with my body warmth soon warm it and my insulation is complete. I signal my buddy, Mustafa, who is also my guide, that all is ‘OK’ and that I’m good to go. He returns the OK and we kick toward the ledge and the drop-off that awaits, my Atomic Aquatics Blade fins, my travel fin of choice,  slice through the water and propel me towards the drop-off, the water is divine, visibility is in excess of fifty metres and I can feel her calling, the rapture of the deep beckons me towards her, my heart beat slows as I settle into the dive as the ocean extends her warm embrace. I’m where I belong.

I wasn’t expecting anything special on a check dive, just 30 minutes or so, a bimble around, noting any adjustments that I may need to make, weighting, trim typically, that sort of thing. As it turned out, the only thing I elected to do was to drop 2 kilos. I think Mustafa realised I was comfortable, and hopefully, he thought I was competent, as we ended up spending just over an hour in the water, with a maximum depth of 30 metres and during that time I got to see the delights of ‘Lighthouse’ which included multiple underwater sculptures that have been made as artificial reefs, one of which is an enormous elephant! The highlights, however, had to be the two octopuses we came across and I also saw my first ever seahorse! Just magical. I couldn’t believe it. Never underestimate the value of a check dive!

My kit performed flawlessly, which is always reassuring, especially given that I had some deeper dives planned and some of the kit I was diving was now over 3 years old. The 5mm Velocity wetsuit still looks like new, it’s not had the same level of use, thanks to two years of lockdowns. My Hollis 200LX sidemount regs are just a joy to dive, and they were quickly the  envy of many at the dive centre, their stylish good looks just make them so cool and they breathe beautifully, effortlessly. As always, I had my trusty Oceanic Shadow mask, as far as I’m concerned there is nothing that comes close to being as good as this mask on the market for such a small price. It’s so comfortable, fits perfectly, and the field of view, thanks to its low profile, is great. I love it, literally love diving it. And it looks cool in the photos, which is a bonus. Although I must admit, I do very much like my Zeagle Scope mask as well, it’s a very close 2nd contender and I have had a few friends try both and the jury is out as to which is the overall favourite, it’s fairly level pegging at present.

Frustratingly I came down with a nasty stomach bug following a night out at an Indian Restaurant. I had a most enjoyable  chicken vindaloo which, the following morning, essentially tried to kill me! I had a pretty rough 24 hours, so much so that there was talk of calling doctors and getting me looked at, such was the concern at one point. I felt horrific!

 

Fortunately, it passed almost as quickly as it came on, but the lingering effects did put paid to my diving the arch of the Blue Hole, instead it was decided to defer that until our next trip out in September. I was gutted, literally. And I had the stomach cramps to prove it! So instead we elected to dive the Blue Hole via Bells, I was in for a treat.

'My Hollis 200LX sidemount regs are just a joy to dive, and they were quickly the  envy of many at the dive centre, their stylish good looks just make them so cool and they breathe beautifully, effortlessly.’

The Blue Hole (Via Bells)

 

The Blue Hole is an iconic site and one I have wanted to dive for many, many years, which, given the fact that I typically lust for rust seems to be something of an anomaly! The site has a checkered history, having claimed the lives of many divers, and it is a magnet for both technical divers and freedivers alike. Much like Dahab, the place has a vibe to it, it too has a relaxed Bedouin feel about it and it makes for an inviting spot to spend the day, my other half was quite happy pottering about whilst I dived. Although there is one area that provides a sobering reminder of the dangers that this site has to offer, as you take your kit to the entry point of ‘Bells’ you have to walk past the memorials to many of the divers and freedivers who have lost their lives here. It’s a touching tribute and a stark reminder of the risks potentially associated with diving at this site.

 

With my cylinders at the water’s edge, I step into what can only be described as a gash down through the side of a wall that drops towards the seabed. I sit on the edge with my Blade fins in the water and clip my cylinders onto the Katana wing, all around me are locals screaming and shouting as they throw themselves into the water, it’s utter pandemonium, but they are having the time of their lives!

'It's a touching tribute and a stark
reminder of the risks potentially
associated with diving this site.’

I pull my Oceanic Shadow mask over my head and slide off the ledge into the water, I signal the descent to my buddy and we slip beneath the surface, the screaming stops and relative silence replaces the mayhem. The only sound that of my breathing and the exhaust bubbles as they erupt from the 200 LX regs and dance their way back towards the surface, expanding and exploding into an array of smaller bubbles as they race away, we drop ever deeper down through

the chasm that has swallowed us whole. The arch looms below, nearing, as our cylinders clang against the edges and the ‘Bells’ ring out! Under the arch and out the other side we emerge on the wall and commence our swim around to the Blue Hole, the abyss below appears never ending as I hover beside the wall taking in the sheer splendour of this incredible place. My senses struggle to take it all in, the shear drop below reminds me of the wall at Yolanda Reef, an epic dive site, but the life that clings to the wall beside me is incredible, it’s breathtaking in its majesty. We swim forward, there’s little current to resist our progress and the sheer magnificence of it all continues to enthral. The swim around the wall takes us about forty minutes, we shallow a little and make our way over the lip of the Blue Hole and drop into the void that awaits. A freediver makes their way past me, down, ever deeper, into the darkness that engulfs them, my only thought is ‘sod that’ as I’m extremely grateful for the cylinders strapped to either side of me and the precious life-sustaining gas that they contain. We venture further into the centre of the Blue Hole, the surrounding walls are a stark contrast to those on the outside, little life clings to these, there’s nothing really to see, to be honest, it’s a bit of a disappointment. What the Blue Hole offers is depth and the arch, it’s a sterile site, so without doing either of those there’s little point to staying. We complete our decompression, hovering motionless, suspended beneath my Katana wing and wrapped in the warmth of the Velocity wetsuit, I’m comfortable. I steadily breathe from my Hollis 200 LX regs as I slowly exhale the excess nitrogen that has built up in my tissues, it’s time to reflect on the dive, exiting the water I’m met by my wife, she’s smiling and I suspect a little relieved, it’s time now to sit and relax, and drink some tea!

Blue-Hole-Dahab.jpg
Memorials at Dahab's Blue Hole.
Transporting dive kit to Dahab's Blue Hole.
Exiting the Blue Hole after a dive.
Scuba Diving Egypt's Blue Hole.

Jordan’s Petra

 

It was now time for a bit more travelling, we had been told it was possible to visit Jordan’s Petra as a day trip, starting at 4 am, but we wanted to spend at least one night at the Seven Wonders Luxury Bedouin Camp and we were very pleased indeed that we did, not least because the route we took involved 12 hours of travelling!

 

There are, in fact, two ferry ports that allow you to cross the Red Sea to Aqaba, one is much closer to Dahab than the other. The first is a one-hour drive and the other is a three-hour drive. What we didn’t know at the time is that the closer of the two is actually the locals’ ferry and the other is a specific, fast track, tourist ferry. We had booked tickets on the  locals’ ferry and consequently had a three-hour crossing, the tourist ferry has a one-hour crossing and specific customs for tourists. The real delays however are with the embarking and disembarking, the locals’ ferry takes much longer, it took us 3 hours to board each time and disembarking involved customs and the kind of delays one might expect. The drive from Aqaba to Petra is another 2 - 3 hours depending on road closures!

 

If I’m honest I think we had more of an adventure taking the route that we did, I was something of a novelty, being the only white-skinned foreigner on board. I was asked by several of the locals if they could have their photo taken with me and we were offered some wonderful hospitality, being introduced to real Bedouin tea was a highlight, it was gorgeous!

 

Ahmed, the manager at Red Sea Relax, had pre-booked our transfers for us and we were met at the Port of Aqaba by Moohanad of 

Go Aqaba Taxi, who I have to say was superb. We had a very smooth drive to ‘Little Petra’ and settled into the Seven Wonders Luxury Bedouin Camp for the evening, with authentic Bedouin music, sat under the stars, next to a roaring open fire with large kettles of hot black tea boiling away. It was a magical first night. We slept in dome tents with en suite facilities, piping hot showers and the luxury was the sort that you would typically expect from a reasonably high-end hotel.

 

We had an early start, breakfast was hearty and we were taken from the camp directly to Petra. Entry tickets aren’t cheap at around £70 each! (But you get a two-day ticket for that price.) Nothing is cheap in Jordan, one Jordanian dinar is worth approximately one pound and twenty pence, although, once you move outside the tourist areas, prices do drop quite significantly! 

Once past the entry gates, you have a walk of about a mile down to the ‘Sic’, a giant fissure that runs through the rock for about another two miles, this weaves its way back and forth, through the rock, the walk is just simply spectacular, as you round the final corner the first of the real wonders can be seen peeking  through the gap, it’s the ‘Treasury’ made famous by Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, and as it comes into view it simply takes your breath away! What an incredible sight, carved straight into the rock itself!

Standing there, before the ‘Treasury’ is awe-inspiring. It’s difficult to convey in words the magnificence of this wonder of the ancient world, one that’s been hewn straight out of the rock face, thousands of years ago, pre-dating Christ, I’m dumbfounded by the scale and the grandeur of it, it has an eminence, a grace and a beauty. It’s simply jaw-droppingly spectacular! We easily spend over an hour simply staring at this monolithic creation  and I brave a climb up the side of the cliff to a secret viewpoint that allows me to snap some great photographs. Climbing back down, I was grateful to be back on the ground, reminding myself that it’s been a long time since I was a twenty-year-old!

 

Venturing further we discover that the Treasury is just the beginning, around the next corner the Sic opens up into a valley and you behold an entire city carved into the sides of the cliff faces, bathed in forty-degree Celsius sunshine, the heat is blisteringly hot and the day has only just begun! Stepping out of the shade and into the light, the intensity hits you like a hammer blow, you feel the pores of your skin contract as the sun robs your body of its moisture, constricting beneath the thin layers of cotton that offer little protection against the ultraviolet barrage that assaults you. Sunscreen and a hat are both essential!

Petra Treasury Jordan.

'pre-dating Christ, I’m dumbfounded by the scale and the grandeur of it, it has an eminence, a grace and a beauty. It’s simply jaw-droppingly spectacular!

Commencing the trek down through the valley you become aware of a presence, Petra’s long forgotten civilisation can still be felt, it’s not an eerie sensation, more an awareness, you’re aware that an ancient, yet advanced, culture thrived here, for millennia and then they simply abandoned this wondrous place, but why? Why would a people just up and leave an entire city, en masse? This is the enigma that encapsulates Petra, it is shrouded in a veil of mystery that steeps through the air itself to make its presence felt in your very essence.

 

As you reach the bottom of the first valley there’s a most welcome cafe and bar that offers all manner of refreshments and fluids. We take a much-needed break and have a spot of lunch before we commence the long, arduous slog up to the ‘Monastery’ that sits at the summit of the next mountain! The climb up takes a good couple of hours and it’s a long, brutal trek, as you drudge, willing yourself to put one foot in front of the other in the sweltering heat, the sun beating down relentlessly, sapping your strength as you battle your wills in an ardent determination to reach the top!

Along the route, the path is littered with a cacophony of stalls, the locals selling their trinkets and souvenirs, every item of which has been hauled up by the mules that also offer rides to those who feel the need to give up and let these poor beasts carry them to the up. We continue our march forward with a bitter determination to succeed and succeed we do. Rounding the final corner at the very summit, nestled in the side to the right as you step out onto the plateau sits the monastery in all her splendour!

 

Exhausted, we collapse in a dishevelled heap, too tired to truly appreciate the  miraculous sight that we behold. It takes a few moments to recover from our exertions, slowly the spectacle that looms over us is taken in, the significance of this creation and its location, why is it here of all places? It makes little sense? And how on Earth did the original architects conceive of such a thing, let alone build it?

 

We rest, taking in the monumental enormity of it all, the monastery itself, the colossal views, the arduous climb that we’ve just made... and the climb back down that we’ve yet to complete!

 

I still can’t find the words to accurately convey the impact that this place has, it touches the soul in a profound manner, and it leaves its mark imprinted indelibly, it moves you to a spiritual plane that allows you to reflect on the magnificence of life itself and the wonder of it all as though seen through the eyes of a child for the very first time. We walk back down the side of a mountain, satisfied that we have touched something beyond ourselves, the experience was visceral!

Having trekked for just a little under ten miles in the oppressive Jordanian heat it would be fair to say that we slept extremely well upon our return to the Bedouin camp, we enjoyed another evening around the campfire, gazing up at the stars with sanguine content. We then had a second day exploring Petra, making the journey down through the Sic to the Treasury once again, a camel ride added to the experience, and we also took a short journey back part of the way via the foulest smelling donkey and cart you could possibly imagine. We finished our exploration of Petra with a trip to the museum and then capped off our time in Jordan with a tour of Aqaba and an ice-cold beer at the marina. We then commenced our journey back to Dahab, arriving back at the resort in the early hours of the morning. 

The Monastery at Petra, in Jordan.
Travelling to Jordan.
Petra Treasury, in Jordan.
Riding a camal at Petra in Jordan.

The Canyon

The following day sees us taking a drive up towards the Blue Hole, having obtained the necessary permits to dive ‘The Canyon’, a fissure on the seabed that allows you to drop through to a subterranean level below. We get kitted up in the sweltering sunshine at the water’s edge and slip into the water as the wave tops lap against us with their cooling embrace.

 

Marc, my guide, gives a thumbs down to signal our descent, the brief is a mid-water swim out into the clear blue canvas at ten metres in search of our target destination. We glide through the water column, side-by-side, upon spotting it he directs us down to a narrow crack in the ocean floor that looks little more than a streak of mud across the bottom. We descend, the gas expelling from the dump of my Katana wing as I allow the negative buoyancy to pull me towards the smear on the ocean’s tapestry below. As it nears its features start to take shape, and the narrow void appears to widen as if it’s a gaping maw about to consume us whole! I drop through the encrusted chasm into the ravine that lies beneath and continue to descend beneath the seabed and into the dusty pages of an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel... it’s like turning the pages of Pellucidar 1, At The Earth’s Core, as the world we know transforms into an alien realm only ever experienced by those lucky few who venture into the aquatic realms below.

'I drop through the encrusted chasm into the ravine that lies beneath and continue to descend beneath the seabed and into a chapter from an Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel..!

Upon reaching the bowels of this sandy dominion we turn on our lights to illuminate the cavernous realm into which we have descended, the fissure narrows and drops away in front of us, I head down in between the coral-encrusted walls as they squeeze ever closer, narrowing with each kick of my Atomic Blade fins, ever deeper until I finally reach the bottom. My dive computer reads 44 metres, my no decompression limit has long since lapsed and we are well into the realms of decompression stops on the way back up.

BARE Velocity Ultra.

My time here is limited only by the gas supply that I am carrying, I want to spend longer, cosseted in this secret lair, but our dive plan only permits so long before I am forced to turn away and swim back up through this watery crevice, through a shoal of shimmering razor fish and back out into the light blue sun-kissed waters above.

We make our way back towards our exit point, stopping briefly at various depths to off-gas. Our final stop is beside a small pinnacle, festooned with orange Anthias, I try to photograph my buddy through this wreathing shoal only to be engulfed by them as they spiral around me in a swirling and somehow bizarrely coordinated mass of high-speed orange scales. It was an enchanting end to a profoundly satisfying dive. A dive that I probably would have never considered undertaking had it not been for my hosts.

 

Our decompression complete, we exit the water grinning like little kids that have just been up to some unseen mischief. We make our way back to the dive centre content, I noted that my BARE 5mm Velocity wetsuit had performed admirably throughout the dive, particularly at depth in the fissure where the surrounding water temperature had dropped significantly, which I only noticed upon completing my logbook back at base!

Million Hope Crane Wreckage.

M.V. Million Hope  (Ryusei Maru)

 

There are some dive sites, some wrecks, that you just have to dive, especially if you’re in a particular geographical location, for example, if you find yourself in the Sinai Peninsula then the M.V. Million Hope, originally known as the Ryusie Maru, is most definitely one of those wrecks! 

 

Located near Sharm El Sheikh, at 28 03’ 42” N, 34 26’ 40” E, having run aground at the inshore reef near Nabq on the 20th June 1996, she was en route to Taiwan, from the Port of Aqaba, loaded with 26,000 tons of Potash, when conditions quickly deteriorated and she met her demise in the early hours. She lies close to shore in approximately 20 metres of water, just 3 miles from Sharm, and she makes for a truly spectacular dive!

 

Dahab is located approximately an hour north of Sharm El Sheikh and I was very much aware of this wreck, not only because I had dived her before, but because I am  the coordinator for the northern hemisphere ‘Maru Divers’, a worldwide group that meet up as often as we can and dive maru wrecks. So come hell or high water I was going to dive this wreck whilst in Dahab, the only thing that could potentially stop me was the weather... but I made my desires known, there was certainly no prevarication on my part, I was as direct and to the point as ever! The guys at Red Sea Relax excelled.

We made the journey down to Sharm El Sheikh and went directly to a friendly dive centre known as ‘1st Dive School’, they  provided us with cylinders and transport around to the resort from which we were meeting the zodiac that was going to take us to the wreck. 

It is possible to access the wreck from one of the resorts, but it is significantly easier from a zodiac. If a little costly!

 

Conditions were perfect, the last time I dived this wreck the sea state would be best described as challenging, a large swell was running hard into the wreck, which made alighting somewhat interesting, but not half as challenging as getting back onto the zodiacs after the dive!

Scuba Diving the Million Hope Wreck

Our skipper did a superb job of station-keeping as we kitted up in silence and then rolled backwards into the awaiting grasp of an old friend, entering the water directly adjacent to the starboard side of the stern, my buddy was the ‘required dive guide’ who had only dived the wreck once before, so I essentially paid his boss £150 to take him for a dive! I didn’t mind; I was finally descending onto the wreck that I had been itching to dive again for years. I had advised my colleagues to apricate themselves at their leisure as I was going be some time, meanwhile my new dive buddy was in for the longest dive of his life! 

 

I orientate myself against her bulk, she’s huge, a behemoth of a wreck. Having gained my bearings, I kick towards the stern as I vented gas from my Katana wing and allowed myself to drop down under her huge bulk to the remains of her torn-off rudder, I give my buddy an OK and he signals back the same, I then thumb down and he nods eagerly, I’m guessing from his excitement that he’s a bit new to all of this, I decided I’d best keep an eye on him! Venting more gas from the Katana I drop towards the seabed only having to inject a short blast of air back into the wing to arrest my descent, I hover motionless beneath the belly of the beast. I turn to the east and start to swim away from the wreck, my newfound friend looks confused, I signal for him to stay close as I continue to swim away from the stern and towards the tracked crane that I know is lying on the sand a short distance away. As we near, her features come into stark focus and my buddy’s eyes widen with delight. Not the sort of thing you expect to see lying on the seabed and it truly is a magnificent sight.

I advise my buddy to stay at my side and not to wander off as I shift my concentration towards my camera, and start taking a few shots, adjusting my buoyancy with both breath control and short blasts of gas into the Hollis Katana, each adjustment gives me a new perspective on my subject and a new opportunity to capture a better shot, I’m also dumping gas if necessary, to fine-tune my position as I manoeuvre and then hover motionless, the only sound that of my 200 LX regs as I draw breath between shots. I breathe in, and take a shot, as I exhale there’s a rapturous cacophony of expelled gas as the molecules undertake their interplay with the surrounding elements in what would be a physicist’s delight as they thunder towards the heavens. This cycle repeats, the 200 LX’s hiss and click in reassuring confidence as I’m absorbed in my task, periodically checking my buddy, capturing the images that I came for. With that task completed, it’s time to move on and explore.

I lead my ‘guide’ around to the port side of the once magnificent Ryusei Maru and enter her cavernous double hull at a break amidships and venture underneath the wreck itself, sandwiched between thousands of tonnes of rusting steel and the sandy seabed below, which undulates with ever-increasing height until we emerge at the narrowest point at another break in the hull where the bow itself has completely separated from the main wreck and fallen onto its starboard side. I take us around the forecastle and up the bulkhead, a wall of steel that towers over us, at the midway point we enter the ship via a doorway and penetrate the bowels of her rusting hulk. Inside is a myriad of tangled pipework, cables, and all manner of detritus litters the corridors and adds to the scene of carnage that envelopes this wreck. The cataclysmic events that tore this ship asunder are strewn all around, tattered, mangled, rotting and decayed.
                                     

It takes a keen eye to discern intrinsic elements of the ship from one another, their intertwined elements each encrusted with years of concretion. The pernicious decay of this once-majestic mistress of the ocean is barely evident since my last visit, the slow and subtle deterioration barely discernable between visits, but she is different, her aura is no longer the same. Her beating heart has stopped. I can no longer hear the sepulchral cry that emanated from deep within her as the heavy seas pulled at the hinges of a long disused door, swinging it back and forth in an agonising howl of wrenching metal that was, at one time, the still beating heart of this stricken vessel. As I glide through her passages I wonder if the silence is a result of the quietened sea state or if that mighty door has been silenced forever by one battering too many, heavy seas tearing it from its hinges and casting it aside, I wonder as I make my way through her interior, ever deeper, ever forward, as she lies silent all around me. Today this wreck feels very different, yet strangely familiar, an old friend that’s aged just a little, frailty has started to creep in as she slowly succumbs to the ferocity with which she is beaten every winter.

 

I push further forward and we emerge in one of the cavernous holds that now stand empty of their original cargo. The four sides tower over us like a giant fortress, shielding us from the turmoil of the ocean that thrashes and claws at her outer skin, within is calm, tranquil and still. Hovering within her belly, my buddy looks like a kid in a candy store unable to take it all in, mesmerised. I signal that we should head up towards one of the gantries above and follow that towards the next hold, shallowing we start to feel the effects of the tide once again, as it gently tugs us off course, we correct and head further aft, dropping down into the next hold and heading towards the back corner and the machine shop. Within there is an array of industrial contraptions for all manner of trade, woodworking, metal work, lathes, and drills, all frozen in time, eerily recognisable and yet dated by the decades spent beneath the waves.

 

The decompression obligations are now looming, and whilst the dive is relatively shallow, the time spent at depth is now getting considerable, I lead by buddy up onto the deck so that we may explore further and profile the dive better, there’s plenty to see, the original derricks and cranes have all been lost, either destroyed by storms or removed by salvors to make it safer for passing ships but there remains a maze of rooms to explore and the decks are littered with debris, and the ocean has started to claim her for her own.

Inside the Million Hope wreck.
Machine shop inside the wreck of the MV Million Hope. Egypt.
The bow of the Million Hope, Ryusei Maru, Egypt.

Checking my grinning companion’s gas once again it’s apparent that our time  on the wreck is almost up, I make one last sweep over her vast superstructure, gazing down upon the devastation below, it’s like a scene from a war, it’s a stark contrast to the tranquillity of the dive itself and a visceral reminder of the brutality that this once great ship has had to endure. I check my dive computer, the glass ceiling that sat at six metres has now been scrubbed away by the last half an hour rummaging around, the nitrox 32 did its job well, extending the bottom time and reducing the deco obligations. I deploy a DSMB to signal topside that we are making our final ascent, upon surfacing we are met by a different RHIB, but my rapscallion friend Mohamad is peering down at us with his ever playful countenance. He’s a welcome sight and helps us de-kit and climb aboard, I take one final look down at the wreck below before I take his hand and exit the water. My buddy can’t contain himself, he’s bursting with excitement and declares that his longest ever dive had previously been 40 minutes, we’d just extended that record by over an hour, having just completed 105 minutes on the wreck. I smiled to myself, his delight was infectious!

'The glass ceiling that sat at six metres has now been scrubbed away by the last half an hour rummaging around, the nitrox 32 did its job well, extending the bottom time and reducing the deco obligations.

With the kit loaded in the wagon we head off on the drive back towards Dahab, but not before Mohamad insists on a stop at the local McDonald’s in order to treat himself to four burgers! Four!

Back in Dahab, it’s time to relax, we have a final day to enjoy before we fly back and as with any dive trip that involves flying there’s a no-fly day before departure. This affords us the ideal opportunity to partake in a few of Dahab’s other delights.

 

First on the agenda is a deep full-body massage, my wife has arranged for us to go together and I must admit I am very much looking forward to it as I ache from head to toe, all the diving and all the travelling has taken its toll. We are ushered into a small room with two massage tables side by side, the pleasant aroma of incense and oils hangs in the air, changed and lying face down we are joined by our professional masseurs and they go to work on extricating all the knots in my neck, shoulders and back. It’s a slightly painful experience at times, with the odd twinge as an elbow is thrust deep into a muscle and twisted from side to side, but it’s effective and an hour later we leave feeling both invigorated and relaxed. 

Mohamad then takes me across the road to the Egyptian barbers for a haircut and wet shave, I was, perhaps, a little insouciant as far as the cutthroat razor was concerned and it wasn’t until it was held at my throat that I realised just how much trust I had placed in a complete stranger! I needn’t have worried, although next time I will most definitely go with the scary shave first and then the relaxing massage! It was, however, a delightful experience and I felt great. My grey Santa Clause whiskers had been eradicated and I was ready for a night on the town with Steve, the dive centre manager who insisted that I had to drink from the ‘furry cup’! But first, we spent a few hours meandering around the streets of Dahab shopping for gifts and souvenirs before we spent our last evening at one of the seafront restaurants enjoying a superb meal and great company. I was then taken off to the Blue Beach Bar for copious amounts of gin and the delights of having to drink one of them from a fur-wrapped metal cup that was, quite frankly, minging! But when in Rome, eh? Suffice to say, the next morning I had a banging headache and we still had some business to discuss!

I would like to end this article with a few very special words for a young man that made my trip to Dahab all the more enjoyable for his being there. I enjoyed the company of all the staff at Red Sea Relax, they are all, without exception, some of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, good-natured souls who made me feel welcome and at home. I enjoyed diving with my guides, Mustafa for taking the time to show me the local sites, Marc in particular for some of the deeper dives, I enjoyed diving with him, a kindred dive spirit, and also Charlie, for the marathon workout dive that made me feel good about myself for being able to keep up with him despite the 30-year age gap! And Steve and Teresa for their warmth and generosity.

 

But I deliberately want to dedicate these last words to Mohamad, who has no idea just how much of a positive effect he has at the dive centre, always on hand, willing and wanting to help in any way that he can. He was a joy to have around, fun to be with, and moments of great hilarity, from taking advantage of his innocent gullibility to teaching him English words that I really shouldn’t have, sorry Steve! He was my ‘go-to’ for any issues, from Internet connectivity to inhalers! He was genuinely concerned when I was unwell and I am honoured to have him as a friend. 

 

As we bade farewell, having agreed to fly our dive centre flag from the resort and to return regularly, I find myself looking forward to my next trip out before I’ve even left. Thank you all. I can’t wait to see you again!

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Comments (1)

If you ever get the opportunity to head across to Jordan, from Dahab, and visit Petra then you should jump at the opportunity.


Petra is simply spectacular.


Heading out again in a couple of weeks with another group and also planning to dive the military museum and the wreck of the Cedar Pride. Can't wait!

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“THE HEART OF A MAN IS VERY MUCH LIKE THE SEA, IT HAS ITS STORMS, IT HAS ITS TIDES AND IN ITS DEPTH IT HAS ITS PEARLS TOO.

— Vincent van Gogh

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