THERE ARE FEW TIMES SS Turkia’s sinking in the Gulf of Suez is still not clear even after 76 years. Some sources say that a fire in the third cargo deck was the reason why the 91-metre ship sank; others say that a German warplane bombed the wreck, similar to the famous SS Thistlegorm. What we do know is that the ammunition in her cargo caught fire, causing a big explosion that led to her 24-metre plummet, where she can be found today. This is an excellent depth for divers, especially those using nitrox. The wreck lies 14 hours by boat to the north of Hurghada, Egypt, which keeps the wreck out of reach for most liveaboards. As such, not many divers visit the wreck, which makes it excellent for marine life and the preservation of the fully intact wreck – a rare sight for wrecks in the Red Sea.
Under the name of the Livorno, the ship was originally built in Hull, England in the year 1909. She was formally used to service between Hull, London and the Adriatic for trading cargo. After her first year, she sailed between Hull, Constantinople, Novorossick and Odessa, as well as between St Petersburg and Cronstadt. During World War I, the ship was used to trade along Manchester, Liverpool, St. Petersburg and Riga. After the war, she was involved in a variety of routes carrying perishable fruits and bulk cargos such as coal. After a hiatus from 1920 to 1935, she was sold to Greece and used under her last name, the SS Turkia.
Since her last voyage, the ship sits upright on sand between 10 and 24 metres. Although the hull is still quite intact, the surrounding seabed is full of bits and pieces of the wreck, which is an exciting sight for divers to discover. Like the Rosalie Moeller, the bow of the SS Turkia looms high above the sand, wrapped in fishing nets from the endless attempts of fishermen to trap the mass of marine life that hides along the huge cargo decks of the sunken ship. Hundreds of barracudas and trevallies, unlikely to be found elsewhere in the Red Sea, have made their home here in the middle of the Gulf of Suez. The density of the sheer mass of fish is so high that divers sometimes can barely see the actual wreck. Diving between the schools of fish is like entering the portal to discovering what hides within.
The large cargo deck contains an endless mass of tyres, possibly as replenishment for the troops during World War II. Swimming through the spacious engine room, divers will emerge out of the other cargo deck, where some ammunition and intact grenades can be found. The deck is covered in a mass of mussels that have crusted over vehicles used as transporters carrying fuel and ammunition. Intact bottles of wine can be found on the upper deck and inside the small cabins. The SS Turkia truly contains some treasures which are rarely found in wrecks from its time.
The visibility in the Gulf of Suez is not as good as in the other parts of the Red Sea, making it difficult to capture the whole wreck at once. For photographers, it is best to concentrate on the bow and stern of the wreck. There are also interesting highlights inside or up on the deck.
When To Dive
The best time to dive is during the high season in Egypt, which is between June and October. Outside of those months, the wind can be quite strong and the waves are usually very big in the Gulf of Suez at that time.