Nov 2014

Diving the SS Thistlegorm

By Hannah Harrelson

Initial Impression
The first thing I had to wrap my mind around was the size of this sunken carrier ship. Often, as a diver, I find myself feeling insignificant compared to the marine life and features surrounding me, and it is that dose of awe that continues to reignite my passion for diving. My first decent upon the SS Thistlegorm made me feel like a diving virgin.

The magnitude of the wreck is immediately noticed due to a spectacular visibility of around 30 meters. The next most noticeable feature is the current; switching directions multiple times throughout the days depending on the tides. This can be crucial information when mooring up to the dive site.


The SS Thistlegorm is a British ship that completed 3 successful voyages. During WWII she left Glasgow in June 1941 on her 4th voyage with the intention of traveling to Alexandria and deliver cargo for the Egyptian railroad, assisting the Egyptian Allied Forces. Unfortunately a collision in the Suez Canal prevented passage, and as a result the ship moored up that September. It was on the 6th of October 1941 the SS Thistlegorm lay anchor at the strait of Gubal in the Red sea when a German bomber airplane flew over the ship and managed to drop some bombs in the ships holds. The flames were said to be so intense they lit up both sides of the Red sea.

The ship sank to the bottom of the sea and was forgotten until fifteen years later when underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau raised several items from the ship and appeared in National Geographic in 1956. Oddly enough the ship was almost forgotten again, and it wasn’t until Sharm el-Sheikh had started to develop as a dive destination in 1992 the old wreck became recognized as being ideal for divers and training.

We pulled up independently of any other dive organization, yet were immediately welcomed by the local guides on neighboring liveaboards. Unlike most popular wrecks I’ve been on, we were instructed to drop both a bow and stern line to be tied directly to the wreck, as opposed to mooring up on set buoys or alongside fellow dive boats. Luckily one of the liveaboards already had a line tied to the wreck, making the initial decedent easier with the current.


Current Conditions
The top of the wreck sits at around 17 meters below the surface with the deepest point reaching 30 meters, making it ideal for advanced and wreck divers. Those with only their Open Water certification will still be able to appreciate all the marine life and get a lovely view of the Thislegorm from above, however the current could create difficultly depending on one’s experience. Diving on Nitrox (Enriched Air) is a popular option to increase bottom time.

The marine life ranges from groupers larger than divers to nudibranchs the size of my fingernail The history is immediately felt as you swim through a grave yard of motorcycles, tanks, trucks, cranes, artillery, and even a steam locomotive still recognizable through the variety of corals growing amongst the ship. On a personal note, I’ve been diving since 2001 and can easily say the SS Thistlegorm is ranked in my top 5 favorite dives!

‘Diving the SS Thistlegorm’ was written by Hannah

Photo Credit: Wikimapia & Telegraph


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Hannah Harrelson

My father introduced me to diving immediately after my 12th birthday. Family holiday to the Cayman Islands and he needed a buddy. I remind him and my mother of this each time they question my reason for moving across seas, far away our land lock home town.

Dive one of my open water was in 2000 on Bloody Bay Wall, Little Cayman where I was greeted by a variety of colorful tropic fish, rays, eels, reef sharks and turtles. From then on, I holidayed south and on the coast, eager for opportunities to breathe alongside the unique marine ecosystem.

The itch to see what else the ocean had to offer increased proportionally with each dive, and in 2012 I traveled to Koh Tao, Thailand to complete my PADI Divemaster; the first level of professional qualification.

I completed my Open Water Instructor level in Vero Beach, Florida 2012 and began my teaching career in Abu Dabi, UAE. I returned to Davy Jones Locker on Koh Tao in 2013 for my Master Scuba Diver Trainer and have certified over 150 divers.

The enjoy teaching because it gives me the opportunity to introduced a part of ocean like never before seen. The grin, even with residual diving snot, students get after their first experience Scuba diving can be equally exciting as the dive itself.

When I'm not teaching, my diving interest extends to Tech, wreck and cave diving.

Personal Diving Goals:
More Caves! Diving with schools of Hammerheads, no cage Great White dive, and I suppose the Great Barrier Reef

PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
PADI Equipment Specialist
PADI Tec Rec Gas Blender
PADI Tech 40
BSAC Compressor Operator
TDI Cavern
TDI Intro to Cave