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Marsa Alam top shipwrecks, Series 3

14-11-2017
Port Ghalib News

3. SS El Qaher

 

El Qaher is Zambezi class British destroyer, 1930 tons and 111 meters long,  launched in 1943, completed in 1944 and subsequently sold to the Egyptian navy in August 1956.  It has been bristled with weapons including four 119mm guns, six anti-aircraft guns, torpedoes and 70  depth charges and was capable of an impressive 36 knots. It is considered One of the few Red Sea shipwrecks clearly visible on Google Earth. It has been sunk on the morning of 16 May 1970, Close to the ship's home port of Berenice 110km south of Marsa Alam.  

While at anchor just off shore it has been suffered from a massive surprise air assault by Israeli Dassault Mirage aircraft or 12 Israeli F4 Phantoms.  Although it fought back and withstood several attacks, it eventually succumbed to overwhelming firepower.  Its structure ripped open by cannon fire and missile strikes, and its deck ablaze, its bow ripped open by the adjacent coral reef as it sunk.   

Originally the ship would have had a crew of around 200 but it's not known how many were on the ship when it was attacked or how many casualties there were. The depth of its wrecks are above sea surface to 21 meters maximum depth.

The ship has some old cargo of spent cartridge cases from the anti-aircraft guns used during the short but desperate fight with the Israeli Mirage aircraft.  They now litter an area of the reef close to the wreck.  At least one and probably numerous 4.5 inch armed shells.  There is one still in the breech of the stern gun.  Other unused ordinance lies neatly on the top of one of the Bofors AA guns.  However the RU ammo lockers are reportedly empty.  

Despite the immense damage inflicted by the aerial assault, the wreck is in surprisingly good condition with the bow section still held in place by the ship's anchor. As the bow of the wreck is jammed on a rocky reef, it is possible to swim under the aft section which still remains perched several meters above the seabed. Caught off-guard in the attack, the ship's internal watertight doors are still open and it is possible to swim through large sections of the wreck although as always great care should be taken.  

The entire wreck has become a haven for numerous species of fish and  you may well see  Jacks, Napoleons, giant Puffer fish, dense shoals of Silversides and an occasional solitary barracuda. Also some giant groupers, sponges and soft corals of vibrant colours - some attached to the ship's giant propellers at 21 meters.  


 

 

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