Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Southern Egypt - Fourth Day

Early in the morning, with first light, I was waken up by Itsik, who let me know we reached our destination. Through the night, I was waked few times by the wind and once or twice by spray that reached the upper level (I guess there were few waves).

I got myself a coffee and went to the deck to see the captain direct the crew in mooring the boat to the Abu Kefan reef.

The reef here was similar to Elphinston in shape, but had a lighthouse built on it to signal for ships that made their way into Safga, a large egyptian port. After sunrise, I sat down and fixed the flash optical cable, and arranged for a cover for the wide-lens port. (And for a change it worked the whole day without problems).

Our first dive was supposed to start on the outer (eastern) wall of the reef and with the current go around its southern corner. However, when we were already suited up the zodiac engine starting causing problems. After few minutes of waiting with gear on, Peit decided to go with Plan B and dive from the boat. 

We reached the reef and started circling. There was a lot of caves along the walls with overhangs. 

We reached the south end were there was a nice plateau. 

We then started toward the other side, but run into a current which forced us back onto the west side again. We slowly went up along the pinnacles on top of the plateau.

Dive #12 : Abu Kefan,  200-30, 42:30min, max 31.3m, avg 18.2m.

After a short dive we continued a bit toward Safga to the wreck of the Salam Express. This was a large ferry that sank in 1994 with unknown number of people onboard (somewhere between 800-1200). They were pilgrims returning from Mecca during the Ramadan. We knew that the site was a contested one, because of the magnitude of the disaster. To our surprise when we reached the site there was a large number of boats parked over it, and more continued coming. Apparently the apprehension was not as much as our guides thought. 

We rested a bit before we continued with the briefing.
We started at the front of the boat.

And  down through the bridge.

Then along the sea floor next to the upper deck of the ship.

The area was full of debris from the wreck.

We went along the back toward the huge turbine. 

The cargo entry was long and dark and the inside was littered by luggage and personal belongings. It definitely felt like crypt, as Avi put it afterwards.

From the top we could peek into the windows of the higher-class cabins. 
Dive #13: Salam Express, 200-40, 44min, max 30.8m, avg 16.m.

When leaving, many of the other boats were already gone, and we could see the small reef that tore-out the bottom of the huge ferry.
From the Salam Express, we moved to a near-by reef that created a sheltered lagoon. We moored inside the lagoon. The water around was beautiful turquoise, indicating shallow sandy bottom. 

Boaz found on the front deck a flying fish that aparently we collected during the nigher travel.

After lunch, Avi, Ayelet, Inna, and me decided to go for a small dive while most of the others rested. We jumped from the boat to explore the small bays in the reef near us. These created cave like structures with nice play of light. There was not much life here, but still we managed to see a bit. 

Toward the end of the dive we stumbled upon a small wreck of a wooden yacht that lay on the bottom. Next to it was a white toilet seat. 

Dive #14: Shaab Sheer, 200-100, 50min, max 14.3m, avg 7m.

By the time we were back most of the others were watching a movie. When it ended we took the zodiac to the outer side of the reef. The plan was to go along it and then take a sheltered passage way into the lagoon. 

Upon reaching the bottom we saw several schools of fish that gave us a nice atmosphere. I tried to create compositions with the wide-angle lens, while the rest tried to enjoy the dive. 

We passed through cracks in the reef that led to some nice impressions. At some point we run across a giant morey that posed for us, before trying to retreat into the rocks. 

After this point we lost a pair that was loosely associated with us. Thereby followed a discussion whether they went the right way or the wrong one. In the end Avi went to the water surface to check the direction and distance to the boat. 

Dive #15: Shaab Sheer, 200-40, 53:10min, max 21.6m, avg 11.6m.

After a bit of a rest and uploading of pictures we went on a night dive. Unlike previous nights, this time only the three of us, Avi, Ayelet and me went as a group. Since this was our fifth dive of the day we decided to keep it shallow and did not go down to the bottom of the lagoon. Instead we followed the rope and explored the slopes of the reef. This area was quite bare of life at night (even to a surprising degree), but we did see many shrimps, cuttlefish, and boxfishes.

Dive #16: Shaab Sheer, night. 200-150, 27min, max 9.1m, avg 6.1m.

After dinner Avi gave a talk about what is known about exodus from Egypt. Avi is archaeologic by training (PHD) and so this was quite factual talk (even though at a popular level). I however, was very sleepy and dosed off. Thus, at some point I went upstairs to get some sleep. I started reading (reading iPad is very convenient in the dark as you don't need a lamp), and the book kept me a wake for a while.

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