Big Brother Island

Big Brother Island is considered to be one the most beautiful diving spots in the world. It is nearly 500m long and located about 35nm northeast of El Quesir. The island is the top of a pinnacle that extends from about 800m below, this gives it also its strong feature, very steep reef walls that extend down very quickly - so watching your depth is an absolute must here.

 

Big Brother Island, EgyptThe island lies exposed in the middle of the Red Sea and is plagued by strong winds and currents, often resulting in dives being aborted at the Brothers. The strong currents on the other hand bring in a lot of nutrients, which means the coral growth and diversity is fantastic, plus it also attracts an abudance of fish life, oceanic white tips, grey reef sharks, hammerheads, barracuda and tuna are a selection of the larger fish frequenting the reef.

 

The reef is also famour for its wrecks, the Numidia and the Aida, lying to the north west. Both wrecks are diveable, but lie quite deep. The Numidia lies between 10m and 80m, at a steep angle in the reef. The top of the Numidia looks like it is "cemented" into the reef. Watching your depth and ensuring that you stay well within in your NDL limits is vital here. The same applies to the Aida. The Aida lies a bit further towards the reef on the southern side of the north-west tip of the reef. The top of the wreck is at about 33m and her prop around 65m. Again it is vital that divers keep a close eye on their depths, their NDLs and breathing gas.More about the wrecks in the article below.

 

In addition, Big Brother Island has a lovely shelf area at around 40m on its southern tip. This dive is usually done straight off the dive boat.The shelf is relatively protected, but just off it, there is a nasty circular current, which can be quite scary. In this circular current (or washing machine as one dive guide discribed it), there is a good chance of seeing sharks. 

The Aida

The AidaThe Aida was built in France by Atel & Chantiers Del La Loire in Nantes in 1911 (The same yard that build the French dreadnoughts). It was commissioned by the Egyptian Ports & Lighthouses Administration as a combined cargo and passenger ship to supply the lighthouses in the Red Sea. It is interesting to note, that the Authority also authorised the Aida II and Aida III  much later (in 1962, and the ships were still seen to support the lighthouses today - the last confirmed sighting of the Aida III was in 2007)

 

The ship weight 1,425 grt and measured 75m by 9.7m. A single triple expansion engine powered the single screw. The Aida has quite an eventful history. The ship was attacked on the 6th October 1941 but unlike the Thistlegorm and Rosalie Moeller, she was under power and not at anchor. The captain was able to avoid the torpedo through a last minute course change, which resulted in the bombing pilot (and his He111) to actually crash into the mast of the Aida, causing severe damage to the ship. She made for port and was repaired and became a cargo ship for the Egyptian Navy after WWII.

 

On 15th September 1957, with 157 military personnel on board, the Aida set sail for Big Brother. Unfortunately, a fierce storm and strong winds hit Big Brother and while they were trying to dock, the ship struck the reef and was holed. A Norwegian tugboat came to help after it received the distress call and took 77 passengers on board, the remainder were evacuated onto the island itself. The ship drifted slowly along the reef and all attempts to save her failed. Eventually, she sank slowly and eventually broke in two under her own weight, with the bow stuck on the reef and the remainder slipping down the reef.

 

The bow of the ship is completely gone, washed away from the wind and the waves. Parts of the engine are still visible at 7m depth and the stern lies between 33 and 65m depth. A fantastic dive, but only for the more experienced divers due to its depth and strong currents.

The Numidia

The Numidia - Wreck MapThe Numidia was a british general cargo and passenger ship built in 1901. At 6,399 tonnes, 138m long, 16.7 wide and 9.2m high made out of steel with a 3 cylinder triple expansion engine producing 415 n.h.p, and cruising at 10 knots, she was considered a modern addition to Anchor Line Fleet based in Glasgow.

 

Anchor Line was already well established for running regular services to North America from Northern Ireland and Scotland. The new ship was to add a further capability to India with Bombay and Calcutta being the primary ports. To ensure best success, the line put veteran captain John Craig in charge. 

 

The Numidia - Photo

Her maiden voyage was uneventful. For her second voyage, she was loaded with construction stock for the Indian Railway. She left Britain, sailed through the Mediterranean and through the Suez Canal. On the night of the 19th to 20th July, the beacon on Big Brother Island appeared on the horizon. Course was set and the Captain left instructions to hold course for the next few hours and retired to his cabin. At approximately 2 a.m. the ship ran full speed in front of the Big Brother reef. Even though never proven, it is likely that second mate James Tulloch, fell asleep at the wheel.

 

Firstly they tried to move the ship of the reef, but that failed. The crew and passengers were evacuated to the island, and the majority of the cargo was loaded onto other ships. Several weeks later under constant battering from the wind and waves she broke in two. The stern slipped down the steep slope, the bow has been worn away completely, making it feel that the ship is concreted into the reef.

 

Diving is usually challenging. Strong currents flow across the wreck and her 80m maximum depth requires special training and considerations. For the majority of divers, a gentle drop from the reef down onto the bridge (the davits along the superstructure here are the probably the most photographed davits in the world) and to the top of the engine room. A drop on top of the first cargo hold and you are already at 45m - swiming across and ensuring not getting any deeper allows you to get to the top of the mast at 45m. This dive is fantastic, but does require a bit of planning and consideration - especially if you wish to stay at depth for more than 3 or 4 minutes.

Key numbers

Dive type: Wreck & Reef

Length: -

Depth: 20m to 80m

Visibility: 20m+

Location: 26°18.71N, 34°50.79E

Difficulty: 5 Stars

Dive: 4 Stars

 

Dive Log

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Big Brother Island

The Aida

The Numidia