The steamship Aida was commissioned in 1911 by the Egyptian Ports & Lighthouses Administration and built by Atel & Ch. de la Loire in Nantes, France. It was designed to be a combined cargo and passenger ship and was used to supply the lighthouses in the Red Sea. The first 30 years of the ship’s service passed without notable incident. It is only in 1941 that it reappears in the records of Lloyd’s Register of Shipping: when the German Wehrmacht launched an aerial assault on ships in the Red Sea on 6 October of that year, it was spotted by a Henkel He 111 and attacked with torpedoes. In contrast to the Thistlegorm and the Rosalie Moeller that lay at anchor during the attacks, the Aida was sailing at full speed and was, therefore, a much harder target. The captain avoided a direct hit by changing course at the very last moment, and the surprised pilot crashed his plane into the ship’s mast. The ship itself was badly damaged but could be salvaged and repaired. After the Second World War, the British left it to the Egyptian Navy as a cargo ship. It was in this capacity that the Aida set sail for Big Brother Island on 15 September 1957 with 157 military personnel. Fierce storms lashed across the Red Sea that day, and while trying to dock at the pier of the lighthouse, the ship struck the reef and sprang a leak. Immediately water poured in and began to weigh down the stern. A distress signal was sent out, and the Norwegian tugboat Bergehus came and took aboard 77 of the passengers, while the others were evacuated to the island leaving no dead in the accident. The ship drifted slowly along the reef, but all attempts to save it failed, and it slowly sank onto the northern plateau, where its bow got caught. Once the load became too great for the hull, it broke in two in front of the central superstructures. The ship’s stern sank into the depths while its bow remained on top of the reef and was gradually destroyed by the wind and waves. Today, only its engine lies there at a depth of 7 m.
IV/ Exploring the Wreck The first remains of the Aida can already be found at a depth of 7 m, where the engine and the last remains of the bow A lie right on top of the reef. Below them on the western face of the northern plateau, lie the hull and stern keel downwards on a ledge. At a depth of 33 m, you will reach the point where the hull broke A. The central superstructures A that start here are badly damaged-only the gangway on the port side is reasonably preserved. Further on lies the quarterdeck A, whose wooden planking has rotted away a long time ago allowing an unobstructed view of the steel structures. If you enter the wreck here A, you can swim through the engine room A and exit the Aida through the place where it broke A. Heavy winches are found on the deck in front of the cargo hatches, and the mainmast has broken off, while extended davits are found at regular intervals along the railings, and the remains of the helm can be seen in the depths at the stern. The propeller lies at the lowest point of the wreck at a depth of 65 m and is therefore accessible only to technical divers.
The entire wreck is richly covered with corals, which make great photos when illuminated with dive lights. Unfortunately, diving to the Aida is reserved exclusively for experienced divers because of the depth and strong currents found here.
Tips / Hazards
• The actual shipwreck starts at a depth of 33 m • Strong currents possible • Be sure to bring along a dive light to enjoy the corals’