Saturday, 6 August 2011

MV. Salem Express


Old photos of the MV.Salem Express


Originally built in the French shipyards of La Seyne in 1964, the ship was launched under the name Fred Scamaroni in 1966 and was a roll-on, roll-off ferry for vehicles and passengers. During subsequent years the vessels name was changed several times, to the Nuits Saint George, Lord Sinai, Al Tahara and in 1988 to the Salem Express. 

Photo by/ Alexander Range

The Salem Express is a big wreck that makes for a very eerie dive.  You cannot help but be aware of the massive loss of life here as you swim over the lifeboats that lie on the sea bed.
The Salem Express is arguably one of the most controversial wreck dives in the Red Sea due to the tragic loss of life which occurred when she sank shortly after midnight on December 15th 1991. 
Photo by/ Alexander Range
Photo by/ Alexander Range

At 100m long, with an 18m beam and 5m draft she was a sizeable vessel. Her bow encompassed a lifting mechanism designed to pivot the entire forward bow upwards, whilst ramps were then lowered allowing vehicles and passengers alike to embark through her nose, directly forward of the raised bridge section on her upper deck. This lifting mechanism was to become a major contributing factor in her tragic loss some 25 years after her launch.

Photo by/ Alexander Range
Photo by/ Alexander Range

In the early 1990's the Salem Express was operating as a passenger ferry, based in the port of Safaga and on the evening of December 15th 1991 was returning from the port of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Reportedly heavily overloaded with several vehicles and hundreds of pilgrims returning from their holy pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, she was nearing the end of her journey and approaching port Safaga from the southeast. A storm had been building for some hours and was now blowing at gale force when the Salem Express struck the southeast part of a reef chain known as Hyndman Reef with catastrophic force. Striking the reef on the starboard side of her bow, slightly below the bow door, she not only ripped a hole in her side, but the entire bow door was forced upward.

Photo by/ Alexander Range
Photo by/ Dani Weinberg
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad
Photo by/ Alexander Range

Her forward motion only served to increase the upward pressure on the door until it was fully open and forced thousands of gallons of water directly into her hull. It is reported that she sank fully to the seabed in 30 metres of water, close to the reef she had struck in as little as 10 minutes, where she rests today on her starboard side with her bow door gaping open. The severity of the storm and the fact that the tragedy occurred a good hour from the port in the dead of the night made rescue operations virtually impossible, although heroic attempts were made by many vessels based in Port Safaga. The demise of the ship happened with such speed that none of the lifeboats had time to launch and most of these now lie with the ship. The massive loss of life alone makes this one of the worst tragedies in the Red Sea.  

Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad
There is no exact manifest of the number of passengers who were aboard the vessel, but it is widely believed that she was extremely overcrowded with passengers packed on her upper decks as well as lining her corridors. The final death toll was placed at 470, with 180 passengers and crew miraculously surviving, many reaching shore under their own steam. 

In the Memory of Captain. Ismail Marzouk

Ismail Marzouk, one of Egypt’s leading technical diving instructors, has died on the 2nd of Augest, 2011 in Daedalus, during a wreck dive. He was 32. His body was never recovered.
As a young Cairo law student, Ismail was active with the socialist movement, before moving to the Red Sea where he worked in eco-tourism, learned diving and quickly became one of the most prominent IANTD instructors in the Red Sea. His hospitality, sense of humor were unmatched. His home in Hurghada. Ismail, who passionately supported the revolution, has also been active in the ongoing efforts to unionize Egypt’s divers.
He is survived by his wife, Jude, and baby daughter, Aisha. He will be terribly missed by his family and friends. Rest in peace, Ismail.

Facebook memorial page of Ismail Marzouk: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ismail-Marzouk-Memorial-Page/156141721129601

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