For the members of Sheephaven Sub Aqua Club, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of exploring the underwater world.
From the colourful reefs to the fascinating marine life, scuba diving provides an experience unlike any other. So, when there was an opportunity to join in a week-long diving trip to the Red Sea organised by Mevagh diver Dean Cullen, six club members dived at the chance.
The Red Sea is known for its crystal-clear waters, thriving reefs, and diverse marine life. Located between Africa and Asia, it offers some of the best diving opportunities in the world and is home to many wrecks which Sheephaven’s divers were lucky enough to explore including the SS Thistlegorm, Ulysses and Giannis D.
Main pic: Divers and crew on board M.Y. Charlotte on return to Hurghada Marina
Our first club trip abroad since 2019, it began with a flight to the coastal city of Hurghada in Egypt. From there, the group boarded a liveaboard diving boat that would be their home for the week.
The boat was equipped with everything the group needed, including comfortable cabins, dining facilities, and of course, diving equipment.
The group onboard set out with varied goals for the week – some keen to have the opportunity to build up hours on closed-circuit rebreathing (CCR) systems, while most of the divers simply buzzed with anticipation for the dramatic reefs, diverse aquatic life and challenging wrecks on the itinerary.
Air temperatures of 32 ℃ provided a warm welcome for the divers when they arrived on March 4th; unseasonably high for this time of year and a far cry from the usual Sunday Snorkel in Port na Blagh.
A delayed start thanks to some errant luggage didn’t dampen the spirits, and once clearance was received from the Marina Coastguard for M.Y. Charlotte to depart, the group wasted no time getting wet in the 22 ℃ Red Sea.
Across six days of diving, 19 dives were conducted. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the coral reefs in the Straits of Tiran where maximum depths of 41 metres were logged by some club members admiring the deep canyon on Thomas Reef.
The maximum dive time by Sheephaven SAC members was 76 minutes, conducted on a wreck known as ‘The Barge’. The wreck lies on a reef near Gubal Island, and is home to a vibrant spread of anemones, sponges, lionfish, and moray eels. Divers were delighted with the company of a few local dolphins which made a sprightly appearance nearing the end of their dive.
The northern Red Sea is famed for its wrecks, and though the group enjoyed exploring the Giannis D, Duncan, and Dunraven to name a few on the itinerary, the highlight of the fleet was certainly the SS Thistlegorm. Two dives were conducted giving the divers ample time to explore the various holds within the wreck containing BSA motorbikes, Bedford trucks, Lee Enfield rifles and a plethora of other World War II supplies.
Coral growth inside the holds is limited, but much of the outer superstructure of the SS Thistlegorm is adorned with rich blankets of colourful hard and soft coral, supporting the abundance of marine life that have made her their home.
As the week drew to a close, the group reflected on their incredible journey. They had explored some of the most beautiful diving sites in the world, some for the first time, and for others the allure of the Red Sea keeps enticing them back.
Club member John Joe Rowland first travelled to the Red Sea in 1993, marking 30 years since his inaugural trip. John Joe has served as Diving Ireland’s National Search and Recovery Coordinator for many years, and Search and Recovery is a core part of Sheephaven SAC’s activities.
Sheephaven SAR divers and snorkelers support the community year-round. Days before departing for the Red Sea, volunteers from the club were tasked to assist with two searches in the community. Both searches were successful and Sheephaven SAC wishes to extend its sympathies to the bereaved. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha.
Training continues in Port na Blagh each week and this past Mother’s Day was no different.
Two key goals have been set by the club this year: the annual Arranmore Fin Swim, and the challenging Tory Island Fin Swim which the club have tackled twice – first in 2003, and last in 2013.
Both events will be key fundraising efforts to support both the Search and Recovery Unit, and to purchase an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) for the club.
If you would like to get involved in supporting Sheephaven’s efforts, please contact us through the Sheephaven Sub Aqua Club Facebook or Instagram page.
– Ciara Corcoran, club PRO