Finding The Rosalie Moller
The first trace on the Decca screen was simply unbelievable. We passed over the objective from side to side and I stared in disbelief at the image before me. It looked like one of those child’s drawings – a “V” shaped hull with a box representing the bridge and a funnel on top. For a moment, I thought someone below decks was feeding a computer image onto the screen – but then it was gone.
Excitement mounted as this information went out – but we had nothing to throw into the water to mark the spot. Then Geof Loe came onto the bridge. He and his wife Trudy were the second pair of technical Divers and, having spent 15 years in the Royal Marines, Geof was quite expert with GPS and Decca. With Geof and Chris working together with the Skipper and Ali Baba how could we miss. Very quickly our two hours were up – though we carried on with comments like “but we’re almost there.” Unfortunately, more than a little discontent was beginning to appear amongst some who were not taking part in the search. Then we passed over the shipwreck again and once again we were astonished by the picture on the screen. This time the trace was from end to end and another child-like drawing appeared – a long object on top of which was a box and a funnel. Our boat was barely moving. Chris punched-in the co-ordinates, the Captain scanned the horizon for transits and I took bearings on various distant points and then, yet again, it was gone again – but now we had a plan.
Chris got into the inflatable and directed the crewman to the very spot where the cross-hairs on the GPS met – and they anchored . We now had a fixed datum point within 100m of the wreck (that being the level of accuracy of the GPS). The Captain slowly conned the boat around the Inflatable until we were stopped right over the wreck. Down went the big anchor and the inflatable was recalled. The first two Divers were Chris and his technical diving buddy – Peter Watts. I handed them both a laminated copy of the photograph of the Hubert requesting they try to identify any key features. It was now after 1100 hrs and this was the first dive of the day. The plan was for them to spend 5 mins searching – unless, of course, they found the wreck, in which case they would spend 20 mins on the vessel before surfacing.
The Captain maintained way on the Boat – lest we should pull free from the wreck in the gentle current, and then we waited. Many optimistic comments were aired as our two colleagues were almost “willed” to find the vessel. After 25 minutes – a good sign in itself, they surfaced and began what seemed to be an agonisingly slow swim back to the stern of the Miss Nouran. Many questions were hurled in their direction – none were answered. Finally, they were standing on the Diving platform and fending this broadside of questions at close quarters.
“It’s a Reef!” they said and I was shattered. Not being one who is able to hide his emotions, I tried to change the subject and looked at Ali Baba and said “These people must go Diving!” He agreed and began to think of “where.” Just then, unable to contain the deception any longer, both Chris and Peter laughed and with the biggest smile I shall always remember Peter shook me by the hand. “Congratulations, Ned you have found your wreck!” he said. Then he produced the laminated picture – “straight out of the photograph!” he added with great pride and began to point out certain features that were still there – right below us.
The effect was immediate. Excitement on board – and, therefore, our morale, had been through a phase of extreme peaks and lows and now everyone caught the fever as we all prepared to get wet. The crew were equally as pleased and had all contributed to our success. The Captain – however, thought first of his boat and asked if the anchor was secure. Having been told it was, he switched off the engine.
The next pair into the water were Geof and Trudy and some minutes later I followed. One of the first things that Peter had seen as he dropped onto the wreck was the masthead lamp – still at the top of the forward mast and I was ready to take it’s photograph. Five, ten fifteen metres – “should be in sight any minute” I thought. Then it was thirty and even forty before I finally saw the seabed – with Miss Nouran’s large “grappling iron” style anchor ploughing a light furrow through the soft mud as the gentle current moved her through the water.
Unbelievably, the anchor had pulled free! That furrow, however, lead all the way to my shipwreck and perhaps it was only just out of sight. Then I thought of the others who were a few minutes behind me and pondered whether to go or stay. Just then, out of the gloom, came Geof and Trudy making it quite clear that they had also missed the wreck.
Back “upstairs” I prevented the others from a wasted journey and once again morale hit rock bottom whilst the search was resumed. By now it was 1 pm and the level of discontent from one quarter in particular was such that I became quite concerned. After all, I was not a paying guest and I did not wish to spoil another person’s hard earned holiday. I called the divers together and asked them all what they wanted to do. The sentiments expressed from a single source were too strong to ignore – he wanted to leave the site immediately and go Diving elsewhere and we did just that!
Personally, I was gutted. I simply could not believe it. We had just found something very special and within an hour of this important discovery I could only stare at the furious wake created by the twin engines of the Miss Nouran at full speed as we steamed away to find another Dive Site!!! We dived the site known to many as “the Freighter at Gobal Seghir.” Incidentally, I subsequently identified this particular wreck as the Ulysses which was lost in 1887 – but that is another story! It was an excellent dive on a most interesting and photogenic wreck and I studied my fellow passengers with interest. There was no doubt that morale was at rock bottom – despite the many brave faces on display. That night, we anchored at Bluff Point and enjoyed the delights of yet another night-dive on that very small wreck.
The following morning was Wednesday and, once again, the dawn was greeted with the deep-throated roar of the twin engines as they came to life. For almost an hour, Ali Baba, the Captain and myself discussed the possibility of returning to the Rosalie Moller before deciding against the idea. Strange as it may seem, even I was against it – but then, I was hatching another plan. In the meantime, it was full steam ahead for that veritable ship’s graveyard – Sha’b Abu Nuhas Reef. Already it was Wednesday and, this meant it was the last full day’s diving. With outgoing flights on the Friday, Thursdays are always limited – so we had to make the most of today. The first dive was a visit to the Greek freighter – Chrisoula K. Shane and I dropped down next to the rear mast and then visited the starboard gangway before rounding the stern to find the propeller. Entering the ship through a large tear through the port side we swam through one of the main holds above a cargo of Italian floor tiles. Eventually we came out on the starboard side and then made our way right up to the Bows before finally returning to base.
By the time breakfast was over, the Miss Nouran was positioned over the Carnatic and once again we were first in. This is another, quite outstanding example of what the Red Sea is able to offer – especially when you consider she went down 130 years ago this year. We even discovered a working porthole – though, for me it is the stern which provides the most photogenic aspect of this truly magnificent shipwreck..
The overall route of the Miss Nouran is something akin to a big circle – working her way from Hurghada during the first half of the week and then slowly back again during the latter part. Our last night at sea, therefore, was spent at Giftun island where we enjoyed a really fabulous night dive and encountered some very different creatures altogether – including a large sleeping Turtle. Thursday was a beautiful day and we were able to sample the delights of two more outstanding Reefs – Elsomaya and Abu Ramada before the Diving was complete. By this time we were back in radio range so I contacted Mohammed Reda – the local Manager of Diving World. I informed him of our discovery and, as my plan began to take shape, I emphasised the importance of the find to the Company and how I needed to return to the wreck. He then spoke with the Captain and Ali Baba before relaying our news and my request to London. The response took a little time, but when it came, it was just what was needed. After my second week of Diving was over I could have the Miss Nouran for three days to explore the Rosalie Moller! This was fantastic news – but better was to come. Firstly, I would be accompanied by the same Captain and Crew – and my diving partner would be Ali Baba. Then, Geof and Trudy extended their own holiday to join me – and if that was not enough, Chris and Peter decided that they would go back to the UK on schedule only to return one week later to make the Dive Team complete. Needless to say the Rosalie Moller was never very far from my thoughts during those days. Friday was Christmas Day – though I have never experienced such a non-Christmas in my life, and a very busy day it was too. A change of boat, new people to meet, another night on shore and, once again we were off. That journey, however, is another story and by New Year’s eve we were, once again, back in Hurghada and on New Year’s Day I was waiting to welcome old friends back onto the Miss Nouran.
By now, I had logged 42 dives and exposed over 60 rolls of film – but, more than anything else, I still had a date with a mast-head lamp. Geof and Trudy turned up – fresh from their week in the South and we swapped stories until Chris and Peter arrived. We were also made especially welcome by a crew who had become old friends – and took a great delight in sharing our excitement. This time, we had sufficient buoys and line. Chris and Peter had brought a number of reels and I had borrowed some other items from Divers met during the intervening week. We made a jablix from a water bottle and generally got everything ready. Once again, we departed on the Saturday morning just as soon as the vessel was refuelled. Although the weather had varied during the past fortnight, today it was perfect and the sea was like glass. Within two hours we were approaching the general area and, this time, we all knew what to do – the Captain was at the wheel with Ali Baba right beside him. Chris sat at the open window with the GPS, Geof manned the Decca and I looked for my compass bearings and made notes. Below us, Peter and Trudy were ready with jablix and buoys.
I noted down “search commenced 1255 hrs” but then everything happened so quickly I had no time for any more notes until I wrote down “Divers in at 1355 hrs!” It had taken us precisely one hour from commencing the search to putting the first pair in and, once again, this was Chris and Peter. They had a choice of two buoys and the one they selected was soon permanently secured to the stern of the Rosalie Moller. We then waited until they sent up a delayed SMB from the bows. This was the signal for the remaining two teams to go into action. Geof and Trudy, having recovered the spare buoy, fixed it to the bows – replacing the SMB. Having given them a generous head-start, Ali Baba and I then followed them down – he with the mooring line – which he again fixed to the forward anchor chains, and me with my camera. As we descended, I suddenly saw Peter’s masthead lamp – just as he had described, sitting proudly on top of the forward mast and it really did become the first photograph I took.