Wreck of the Jolanda: Strange cargo

On April 1, 1980 a Cypriot cargo ship called the Jolanda was en route to the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba. As the vessel passed by Ras Mohammed, the cape at the tip of the Sinai peninsula, it encountered very rough seas and ran aground on a reef.

The freighter took on water and sank, coming to a rest on the edge of the reef near a steep dropoff, where it reportedly teetered for several years. Finally, in 1986, a storm took the Jolanda the rest of the way over the ledge, and she sank out of sight into the depths.Wreck of the Jolanda, Red SeaThe Jolanda was carrying containerized cargo, some of which spilled out onto the reef as the vessel broke up. For years, the containers and some of the cargo remained as the only sign of the wreck visible to divers at sport diving depths. We first saw the remains of the Jolanda's cargo in 1989. By that time soft corals already were growing on the broken containers.

For quite awhile, lines and cables attached to one of the more intact containers were used as a mooring for visiting dive boats. This photo was taken in April of 1991, eleven years after the Jolanda sank. On a return visit in late 1995, this particular container was gone, too.
These days not much of the Jolanda's cargo containers remain, but some of the freight that was inside the containers still can be seen littering one section of the reef. No, you're not seeing things. The Jolanda was laden with bathroom fixtures -- toilets, sinks, and bathtubs.
For decades, this cargo has been a source of amusement for divers, and especially for underwater photographers. Nearly everyone who has dived on this reef has taken a souvenir photo of this cargo.

The reef where the Jolanda sank used to be called Turtle Reef. Later it was renamed Jolanda Reef after the famous shipwreck. The name may sound a bit familiar to those who have been reading The Right Blue for awhile. It was mentioned in the story of an exhilarating dive we made in some crazy currents at Ras Mohammed.


  1. Fascinating! Toilets at the bottom of the sea - who knew?! :-)
    I love the pic of the wreck - such amazing colours.

  2. The coral are beautiful - it seems they don't like the toilets - none are growing there. Is the surface too smooth for them to latch onto?

  3. I'll never quite understand why we leave such things out in the ocean. We made that mess, we should clean it up! It's not like the fish can.

  4. Hi English Mum, Kathy and Dawn (AntiB) - Yes, seeing toilets underwater is quite a surprise at first. They definitely look out of place on what is otherwise one of the nicer reefs in the area.

    Kathy, I think you are right -- the glazed surface of the fixtures is not conducive for things like corals to grow on. Only algae manages to take hold.

    Dawn, if you could see the location here, you'd appreciate why this wreck's cargo was left where it was. I can't imagine how it could have been salvaged. But the shipwreck itself, and the large containers, have long since slipped over the side of the dropoff into the abyss.


  5. That is crazy Bobbie, toilets at the bottom of the sea, you must have got a chuckle every time you dove there.

  6. Hi Bernie -- Well let's just say that it made for some unique underwater scenery!



We welcome your comments and invite your questions. Dialogue is a good thing!

Bobbie & Jerry