Red Sea Wrecks: The Carnatic

The Carnatic is one of the famous wrecks of the Sha’ab Abu Nuhas Reef in the Red Sea.

This 19th century British P&O cargo ship sank in September 1869 and lies at an average depth of 24 metres.  She is 90m in length, 12 metres wide and one of the Red Sea’s oldest wrecks.

Abu Nuhas Wrecks

Abu Nuhas Wrecks

At the time of sailing, she was carrying a cargo of £40 000 in gold coins, copper sheeting, wine, port, cotton and Royal mail as well as 176 crew and 34 passengers on board.

The Carnatic in her heyday

The Carnatic in her heyday

Due to an assumed navigational error, she hit the reef just after midnight on 12 September 1869 in calm conditions and became stuck on the shallow reef top.  The Captain made the decision not to abandon the ship as he knew that another P&O vessel (the Sumatra) was soon due to pass them in the opposite direction en-route to Suez and he would be able to seek assistance from them.  After a perilous night on top of the reef, the Sumatra had still not arrived and as conditions were still calm and the Carnatic was still in a fair condition, the Captain decided to ride out another night on the vessel.  After about 36 hours, however, the Carnatic gave up her battle against the elements and broke in half.  The passengers and crew abandoned ship using 7 lifeboats and some tightly packed cotton bales as flotation devices and made for Shadwan island 2 miles to the south.  Once they reached the island, the cotton bales were used to keep them warm and to make a fire. Unfortunately, the lives of 26 crew and 5 passengers were lost.

Carnatic Wreck

Carnatic Wreck

Her wooden decking is since gone and it is possible to safely swim between her iron skeleton.  The inside of the stern is full of glassfish, which are beautiful for photography.  Her boilers can be found amidships and the bow section is littered with the remains of broken bottles which are left over from her cargo of wine, giving rise to her other name “Wine Wreck”.

The Carnatic is a beautiful relaxing dive, with lots of nooks and crannies to explore.  Maximum dive time is 60 minutes.

To dive this fantastic wreck, join us on our next Red Sea livaboard safari.  You can find all the details on this page here.

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  1. Video - Diving the SS Carnatic Wreck | Indigo Scuba | July 16, 2015