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.The 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.