Welcome to the second instalment of our build up blogs for our technical expedition to the Brother Islands.
In this blog we are going to examine the larger of the two wrecks that lies on Big Brother Island; The Numidia. Once again I have called upon Mr Middleton to assist with the description of the wreck and also Mr Spenceley for his expert photos. Thanks again boys.
The British cargo ship Numidia was built in Glasgow in early 1901. A relatively large vessel, she displaced 6,399 gross registered tons and was powered by a 3 cylinder triple expansion steam engine capable of providing a top speed of 10 Knots. She was 137.4m long, 16.7m wide and had a draught of 9.2m. The Numidia was owned and operated by the Anchor Line at the time of her loss.
The Loss of the Numidia
On 28th February 1901 the Numidia set out from Glasgow on her Maiden voyage. She was a well-found ship and the lengthy journey to Calcutta and back was an excellent opportunity for both Captain and crew to get to know this brand new vessel. Her second voyage, however, would prove to be her last.
On 6th July 1901, the Captain ordered the mooring lines slipped from her berth in Liverpool and stood beside the Pilot as the vessel moved slowly into the River Mersey and then out into the Irish Sea. The Numidia was carrying a general cargo of 7,000 tons and a crew of 97. There were no passengers.
The ship cleared Suez in the early hours of 19 July 1901. They made good time and by 7pm that evening, Shadwan Island was already abeam. The weather was fine with a fresh breeze from the NW. At 11pm the course was altered and at 1am on the 20th the light on Big Brothers island was sighted off the port bow. Observing the bearing, the Captain altered course again and informed the “officer of the watch” this would take the ship over one mile to the west of the Island. He then left the Bridge leaving instructions to be called when the Light was abeam. At about 2.10am the Master was awoken by the shock of his ship crashing onto rocks. Hurrying to the bridge, he found his ship hard aground on Big Brothers Island – almost directly below the Lighthouse!
After two hours of trying to get off the rocks the engines were stopped. By this time the ship was taking on considerable water although the pumps were coping. At 7.30am dispatches were sent to Suez for urgent assistance and most of the crew were landed on the Island. Other vessels then arrived and every effort was made to refloat the Numidia without success. Eventually realizing his vessel was lost, the Master allowed his crew to be rescued – although he remained on the island for a further 7 weeks – during which he supervised the salvage of most of the cargo before the Numidia finally sank.
Diving the Numidia
This is a dive to set the heart racing and one of the most incredible shipwrecks available to Divers. She defies all the known laws of gravity and lies “up” the reef at an almost vertical angle. After nearly 100 years underwater she is, of course, now an integral part of the reef itself and will never move.
At a depth of only 8m the Diver will find the Bows are well broken and marked by a pair of Railway Engine Wheels originally carried as deck cargo. From here, the ship quickly takes on its original shape and the Diver is soon descending to deck level. The first thing that most Divers comment on, however, is the absolute colour that now adorns this vessel. Hard Corals and Soft Corals have colonized this ship in a manner similar to the wreck of the Aïda – making them amongst the most beautiful shipwrecks in the world. The railings, masts, lifeboat davits, windlasses and deck winches are all still in place – having become part of a living Reef of such vibrancy that it is easy to lose sight of the fact that this is a “wreck dive!”
The wooden decking has, of course, gone and, of course, the cargo was salvaged. This, however, provides an incredible opportunity to investigate a large ship at whatever depth suits the personal requirement. Forward of the central bridge are two cavernous cargo holds with ventilation hatches along the starboard side. The decks are now a square pattern of steel in between which is the lower half of the forward mast
Immediately behind No 2 Hold is the raised central “castle” with its accommodation and what remains of the Bridge. Having been constructed of wood on a steel floor, all but the basic outer framework has rotted away. We are now at a depth of 50m and the remainder of the ship lies in very deep water.
Immediately behind the bridge is the ship’s funnel which has fallen over to one side. Here several lifeboat davits are swung out. The Engine Room is immediately below. Further aft are Nos 3 and 4 Holds – and the decking is very similar in appearance to that nearer the Bows. Once again, the Diver will find the lower half of an equally stout rear mast – also defying gravity, along with all the attendant deck winches. The stern is raised and provides a beautifully rounded poop deck below which the single large propeller is found at a depth of some 80m.
Apart from the damage encountered at the Bows, all metal structures are fully intact throughout the ship and they are all covered in the most exciting arrangements of Hard and Soft corals – which only begin to fade in their intensity from 50m downwards. The largest Grouper are also a feature of these deeper aspects of the wreck.
As I said – this is a dive to set the heart racing…
This particular trip is open to all levels of technical diver and even entry level technical courses can be taught on board. The bonus of the wrecks that will be dived is that they fall between the depths of 15m – 75m, plenty for all levels of technical divers. For more information on the next technical trip to the Brother Islands contact us on Tekstreme@emperordivers.com.
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Cat Braun – Tekstreme Technical Manager.
Ned Middleton – http://www.touregypt.net/vdc/shipwrec.htm
Duncan Spenceley – http://www.redseasnapper.com