With its hull breaking the surface, the Birchwood 2 lies in a sheltered bay at Ras Shuker. With a maximum depth of only 12 metres, it offers a great introduction to wreck diving, but also has great potential for photography and supports a unique ecosystem.
The origins of this wreck are unknown, as are the details of how it sunk.
Constructed: not known
swim-throughs from the weather deck into the holds were easily accomplished and here we found, like the Hamada in southern Egypt, bags of polythene granules hard against the port hull.
The focus was easy to access and explore and her winch gear, like many parts of the wreck, was covered in the sponge and encrusting corals. Her bow appeared intact and a deep scour ran along her keel, becoming circular by her prop and rudder. Her starboard running light lay protruding from the sand. Rounding the stern revealed two access doors at deck level into her engine room, with stairwells leading down into the lower levels – earmarked for a future visit.
Right image: A picture which sums up the excitement of an undived virgin wreck. A diver explores the wheelhouse of the Birchwood 2 – a wooden wheel, although showing signs of decay, is still perfectly formed.
The wheelhouse was to prove beyond a doubt that this was yet another undived wreck – the hammering hordes from Hurghada have never seen this. The ships wheel and compass binnacle was still in place and the telegraph lay below on the sand clearly showing its Dutch origin.
With limited time we managed one additional dive on the wreck – at night and what a gem that was. Hundreds of nudibranchs, some species new to me despite my many years in the Red Sea, sea hares and shoals of rabbitfish huddled together everywhere. Three snowflake morays shared a single hole although the giant version was missing. Lionfish hovered over the sand in search of a small fry and there were many to choose from. Almost every surface of the wreck was alive with anemones, sponges and small crustaceans. The brilliant reds, oranges and greens highlighted by torch beams Wrecked: not known
Length of ship: approx 50m (165ft)
Wreck location: Ras Shukier, Egypt.
Depth range of wreck: surface to 12m
The Wreck Today
Lying to the north of Ras Shukier port, in a large bay with three other wrecks, was a small 50-metre motor cargo ship on its starboard side in 12 metres of water. Totally intact, it was difficult to see why she had sunk. The early morning light streamed into the holds and bathed the entire wreck and it was easy to make out her features.
A shoal of juvenile barracuda circled her mast complete with radar array and aerials.
Just forward of the superstructure itself, at the aft of the vessel, was an intact crane – obviously used to serve the hold. The gantry was covered in life as we were to find out during a night dive. Superb