Yellow Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis)

Wordless Wednesday
Watery Wednesday

What: Yellow Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis).
Click here to learn about this fish.

Where: I took this photo at Puako reef,
off the coast of Hawaii's Big Island.

Aulostomus chinensis
Click on the photo to enlarge.

Diving the Wreck of the Dunraven in the Red Sea

by B. N. Sullivan

DunravenThis is the third post in a series about the wreck of the Dunraven, a 19th century cargo ship that sank in the Red Sea on April 25, 1876. The ship went down after hitting rocks off the coast of the Sinai peninsula. The rocks pierced the forward section of the vessel's hull, causing it to fill with water and sink. The first photo on this page, at right, shows divers examining the large hole in hull that ultimately sank the Dunraven. (Earlier this week I wrote about the history of the ship and how it met its end, and some wide-angle photos of the wreck. )

Today's topic is diving on the wreck of the Duraven. The photos in this post have been reduced in size. If you click on the photos to enlarge them, you will be able to see more detail.

We have dived the Dunraven on a number of occasions. As wreck dives go, it is a fairly easy one. It does not really require specialized wreck diving skills, however divers who visit the Dunraven should get a detailed briefing ahead of time from a qualified dive guide about what to expect, especially if they intend to penetrate the vessel. Prior to the dive you should know about the layout of the vessel, the route you will follow, and the conditions at the site. If this information is not volunteered by your dive guide, ask!

By the way, the bottom at the site of the wreck is at roughly 30 m (100 ft), so divers who visit the Dunraven should be prepared for that depth.

As the Dunraven sank, its water-filled hull capsized, and it settled onto the bottom upside down. Today the ship's inverted hull is split in two at about the midpoint of its length. The opening there makes for easy entry to the inside of the wreck by divers: A standard dive on this wreck entails entering there, swimming forward through the wreck, and exiting through the hole in the bow that was created by the impact that sunk the vessel.

Here, divers are approaching the large break in the middle of the hull, where they will enter the wreck:

Dunraven

The inside of the wreck is dark, so it is necessary to bring along bright hand-held lights in order to find your way through the vessel, and also to see features of the ship's interior, its boilers, and the marine creatures that now call the Dunraven home.

Some of the divers in our party did not want to penetrate the wreck. I took this photo from inside the wreck while they were peeking at us from the outside, through a hole:

Dunraven

Large, dense schools of Glassfish live permanently inside the Dunraven. Divers must swim through these schools of fish as they pass through the wreck. Also seen frequently inside the wreck: Squirrelfish, Bigeyes, and Lionfish.

In the photo below, divers are swimming through a swarm of Glassfish and exiting the wreck via the hole in the bow:

Dunraven

Having been at the bottom of the sea for well over 100 years, the exterior surfaces of the Dunraven are totally encrusted with corals. Many small creatures live amongst those corals, and it is worth taking the time to poke around to find creatures such as Nudibranchs, and Pipefish. You might also spot a bottom-dwelling fish such as a Stonefish or Scorpionfish alongside the hull where it touches the sand.

Here is a photo of Jerry swimming along the bottom, outside of the wreck of the Dunraven. You can see how the hull is completely covered with marine life:

Dunraven

One word of caution to divers who intend to visit the Dunraven: the area is prone to strong currents. Here is Jerry, swimming near the Dunraven. You can see by the angle of his bubble stream that he is swimming across a substantial current:

current

When a current is running, a good way to dive this site is to have a boat drop you right over the wreck site, and then pick you up 'downstream' at the end of the dive. It is important, in such cases, to descend to the wreck quickly, before you are swept away. A good plan is to explore the wreck, and then ride the current while gradually ascending along the face of the nearby reef wall to a downstream pick-up point.

The beautiful reef wall that is adjacent to the wreck of the Dunraven is very lush. The wall is well populated with fish, crustaceans and corals of many types. You also may encounter larger fish in the area, such as Napoleon Wrasse, Barracudas, Sharks and Stingrays.

Related:

The Dunraven, a 19th Century Shipwreck

Wordless Wednesday
Watery Wednesday

What: Wreck of the Dunraven, a 19th Century British cargo ship.
Learn about this shipwreck here.
(Come back on Thursday for a post about diving on the wreck of the Dunraven.)

Where: I took these photo in the Red Sea,
near the southernmost tip of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Dunraven

Dunraven

History of the Dunraven, a Shipwreck in the Red Sea

by B. N. Sullivan

Dunraven wreckA popular dive site in the northern Red Sea is the wreck of a ship called the Dunraven. This shipwreck is located near the southernmost tip of Egypt's Sinai peninsula, close to a landmark called Beacon Rock (AKA Sha'ab Mahmoud), near the mouth of the Gulf of Suez.

Today we will review the history of the Dunraven. In the next two posts, we will present more photos of the Dunraven, and tell about diving on the shipwreck.

The Dunraven was a British cargo vessel that was built, operated, and sunk in the late 19th century. Over the years since the vessel's remains were discovered by divers, many stories have been circulated about the history of the Dunraven. At one time it was thought to have been either a spy ship or a treasure ship associated with Lawrence of Arabia. These stories later proved to be false. Instead, it appears the Dunraven had a far less romantic history.

The Dunraven was built in England, at Newcastle, and launched in 1873. Like many of the most modern vessels of that era, she was powered by both steam and sail. The ship was nearly 80 m (260 ft) long, with a beam of just under 10 m (33 feet).

The Dunraven plied the route between England and India. On what turned out to be her final voyage, the ship had carried timber and steel from Liverpool to Bombay, and was making the return trip laden with general cargo when tragedy struck. According to historical data about the vessel compiled by Ned Middleton, the Dunraven left Bombay on April 6, 1876 loaded with cargo bound for Liverpool. The ship, with her crew of 25, crossed the Indian Ocean in good time and entered the Red Sea, stopping at Aden for coal. She continued northward through the length of the Red Sea, apparently headed for the Suez Canal.

DunravenIn the wee hours of April 25, 1876, the Dunraven, running at full speed under steam power, was approaching the mouth of the Gulf of Suez. As the story goes, a sailor on watch spotted a large dark object, and thought it was a buoy. The Second Mate also saw the object and thought it was a boat.

In any case, the Captain ordered the engines stopped, but it was too late. The ship hit what turned out to be rocks, and the hull was breached at the fore compartment (see photo at left).

Middleton writes:
The steam pumps were immediately set to work and a fruitless attempt was made to heave her off by means of a kedge anchor. By 7am, the water reached the engine room and put out the fires. By midday the starboard side of the upper deck was under water and the Master and crew took to the lifeboats. They remained with their doomed vessel and at 4pm an Arab Dhow came alongside and took the shipwrecked mariners on board. It was only at this time that the Master of the Dunraven was made aware if his actual position - off the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsular.

At 5 pm, the Dunraven slipped off the reef and sank in 15 fathoms (27 m) of water. For three days the Dhow lay at anchor over the Dunraven until Captain Care and his crew were transferred to the passing Italian steamer "Arabia" which conveyed them to Suez. The Peninsular and Orient steamer "Malwa" later transported them all back to England.
Tomorrow, we will post some more photos of the wreck of the Dunraven for Wordless/Watery Wednesday. Then, later in the week, we will tell about diving on the this famous shipwreck in the Red Sea. Stay tuned!

Dorid Nudibranch from the Celebes Sea

Wordless Wednesday
Watery Wednesday

What: Macro photo of a Dorid Nudibranch (Chromodoris coi).
Learn about this nudibranch here.

Where: I took this photo in the Celebes Sea
at Sipadan Island, off the coast of Borneo.



Chromodoris coi
Click on the photo to enlarge.

A Lizardfish with Bling

Wordless Wednesday
Watery Wednesday

What: Close-up of a species called the 'Slender Lizardfish' (Saurida gracilis).
Check out the iridescence!

Where: I took this photo during a night dive in the Red Sea
at Tiran Island, off the coast of Egypt.


Saurida gracilis
Click on the photo to enlarge.

The Blog Carnival of Aloha Celebrates Midwinter in Hawaii

Mauna Kea with snowEvery month, our friend Evelyn hosts the Carnival of Aloha on her blog, Homespun Honolulu. As the name suggests, life in Hawaii us the theme of this blog carnival.

Our article Perceived Risk, and Point of View, which is about our reflections on scuba diving vs. hang-gliding, is featured in the February 2009 Carnival of Aloha, along with six other articles about diverse aspects of life in Hawaii.

By visiting this month's Carnival of Aloha, you can read about Haleakala National Park on Maui, and attend the Chinese New Year celebrations in downtown Honolulu. You can sample a local treat called malasadas, while you learn about birds called white-eyes (one species of which lives in our islands). And last, but certainly not least, you can learn a few things about Hawaii's connections to the new U.S. President, Barack Obama, who was born in Honolulu and spent a considerable portion of his childhood and adolescence there as well.

Go and have a look!

As always, we thank Evelyn for graciously hosting the Blog Carnival of Aloha every month.

About the photo:
This landscape typifies winter in the minds of those of us who live on Hawaii's Big Island. Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, is the tallest mountain in Hawaii, rising 4,205 meters (13,796 ft) above sea level. Its name means "white mountain," and in winter you certainly can see how it got that name.

We can see Mauna Kea from several spots in our garden, and from one of our kitchen windows. I took this early morning shot from our neighbor's field. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can spot the astronomical observatories on the summit.

The Channel Clinging Crab (Mithrax spinosissimus)

by B. N. Sullivan

Mithrax spinosissimusWe were on a night dive in the Turks and Caicos Islands when we came across this crab. Meet the Channel Clinging Crab (Mithrax spinosissimus), the largest species of Caribbean reef crab.

How big is he? We estimated that this crab's carapace measured about 15 cm (6 inches) across. If you could measure across its spread-legged footprint, however, it would easily be over to 30 cm (12 inches).

We were scanning around with our lights across a sandy area off the coast of West Caicos, when we saw this crab gallumphing along, hunting for his dinner. I had been shooting macro photos earlier that day, but for some reason I did the night dive with a wide angle (15mm) lens on my camera. As it turned out, that lens allowed me to get these wide angle close-up shots of this crab.

We located this crab out on the sand flat, at a depth of about 15 meters (50 feet). I maneuvered around in the dark to position myself to intercept its path. I lay down on my belly on the sand just a meter or so in front of the critter, while Jerry shone a small beam of light on it so that I could set up the shot. I waited, and when the big crab was right in front of me, I snapped the shutter release. The result is the first photo on this page. By chance, I managed to capture him just as he began to raise one of those claws in defense!

Mithrax spinosissimusOf course, as soon as the camera's strobe blasted the poor crab with bright light, he decided to leave in a hurry. I tell you, he 'turned on a dime' and retreated quickly, but not before I was able to capture an image of the posterior of his carapace and those wonderful, bristly, spidery walking legs!

We know this species by the common name Channel Clinging Crab, but it turns out that it has several other common names, including Reef Spider Crab, and Spiny Spider Crab, among others. The crab's scientific name is Mithrax spinosissimus, and that designation stays the same, independent of the common name, which varies from place to place. This crab is a 'true crab' (as opposed to, say, a hermit crab), and belongs to the Majidae family.

Majidae tend to have long slender legs -- just like this example -- which is why the common names of many species in this family include the word 'spider'. Majids also tend to have little hairs or bristle-like structures on their carapaces. Bits of material -- algae, sponge, and so on -- attach to those hairs and act as part of the crab's camouflage.

Note that the walking legs of this species also are rather hairy, and are covered with 'stuff' while the business end of the crab -- those impressive claws -- are smooth. [Click on the photos to enlarge.]

Like so many reef creatures, this species forages mainly at night. During the day, they hunker in the reefs, under ledges, and in cavelets. Because of their size, they can't wiggle into small cervices like so many smaller species can do. Still, they can be difficult to spot during the day, since their decorated carapaces blend so well with their surroundings.

These crabs inhabit a range from the sub-tropical western Atlantic to the Caribbean. They can be found in reef areas along the coasts of southern Florida, through the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, and throughout much of the Caribbean.