Continuing their quest to explore the worlds most famous shipwrecks
the 'Starfish Enterprise'
deep wreck diving team focus on the treasure ship 'Egypt'. Leigh
Bishop was with the team and
brings to the surface the story of one of history's most outstanding
salvage feats as well as the
first images of the wreck taken with a 35mm stills camera from
a depth of 420ft.
Egypt Navigation bar
Gold Fever-online article
| History |
2001 Expedition | 2002
Expedition | Wreck Images
| Expedition Images
2001-2002 Teams | Safety
Logistics | Gas
Diver magazine article
|Tales of shipwrecks laden with
hidden treasure, shipments of gold and silver are enough to
conjure the imagination of even the casual diver. Technically
speaking there is perhaps no lost treasure that remains inaccessible
to man for all time, there are however treasures that take
vast reserves of courage and ingenuity to recover. It was
just so with the gold of the lost wreck 'Egypt'. Browse almost
written on treasure and you are sure to
SS Egypt decorated in her hospital ship
colours during WW1
find a section on the 'Egypt'! On the 19th May
1922 'Egypt' left Tilbury bound for Bombay on what would be her
very last voyage. Having made her way west through the English
channel she then turned south into the Bay of Biscay on a bearing
for Cape St Vincent & Gibraltar. Three days into her journey
and 25 miles off of Ushant north west France she encountered dense
fog, so thick infact that she almost came to a standstill. Now
within a venerable position of a main trading route she had no
alternative but to make slow headway whilst sounding her whistle.
At 7.00pm she was suddenly rammed by the French cargo steamer
'Seine' whose bows were strengthened to deal with Baltic ice,
'Egypt' heeled over from the impact and sank within 20 minutes.
||Like thousands of other ships she perhaps would
have long since been forgotten even today, that is had she
not been carrying about 10-tons of silver and 5-tons of gold
bars as well as a large amount of sovereigns! In 1922 a fortune
estimated at £1,054,000 today almost 80 years on the
equivalent of over $ 56 million dollars! Over £36 million!
The wreck now lay at the bottom of the Atlantic at a depth
of 420ft, over twice that any diver of the time had ever been
to! The underwriters had no alternative other than to consider
the 'Egypt's' precious cargo as lost. In August of 1930 using
the traditional method of toeing a suspended cable between
two vessels over the seabed proved successful in
| locating the wreck. An Italian company named
Sorima led by a man called Quaglia took up the quest. Although
at the very cutting edge of salvage sorima was now faced with
their most challenging operation to date. The wreck lie upright
on an even keel her strong room where the bullion was stowed
in a small narrow chamber 7m long three deck levels down at
the bottom of the ship. The first gold was not recovered until
June 1932 by the end of the month the operation amassed a
pile of ingots and coins. Quaglia reported to Lloyds in London
and was given a heroes welcome, the world was intrigued by
the feat and newspapers around the globe ran the story.
David Scotts impression of how the wreck
would have looked back in 1932.
By 1935 an estimated 95% of the treasure had been
recovered. sorimas operation was a story of ultimate success a
story still regarded within the marine recovery business as one
of the greatest salvage feats of all time. It is now said still
unaccounted for amongst the wreck lie 14,929
sovereigns, 17 gold bars and 30 silver ingots. Click
here to see one of the recovered sovereigns.
Weather in the Atlantic had opened a window
in order for the Starfish team to explore the wreck.
|For the 'Starfish
Enterprise' a scuba exploration attempt on the wreck at
such depth was considered a serious team undertaking. The
very success of previous 'Starfish' expeditions lies very
much at the center of team effort with its core point being
that of safety. With such facts high on the list 'Egypt' 2001
expedition leader Chris Hutchison had plenty to think about.
"We would adopt a similar method to those applied to
the Britannic dives of 1998 in that a certain amount of the
team would hit the wreck at any one time the remaining team
members would then carry out safety duties over their colleagues."
Exclaimed Chris. In the case of the 'Egypt' a maximum of seven
divers would descend on the wreck the remaining team in support
|After the initial dives the Starfish team soon
established that the wreck infact did not quite lie in a position
across the tide but more so NNE by SSW with her bow located
at the far north west end of the site. Progress was made good
along what can be described as a very intact bow foredeck
then without warning the wreck dropped away to seabed level.
Her port side hull however remains very much intact and all
interior deck levels along its internal structure have broken
away again down to seabed level. From the bow the bridge was
unclear if there at all, infact past a distance of where it
should have been the deck dropped down a level and a short
distance the diver met a cargo hold. The holds hatch combings
appear intact, as were small oblong brass windows alongside.
A cargo hold with intact hatch combing and
skylight window located close to the seabed at 420ft depth..
Steve Wright and Richard Stevenson on the
bridge of the expedition vessel Loyal Watcher maneuvering
the ship across the position where Egypt sank in 1922.
|2001 Egypt expedition leader Chris Hutchison
had chartered Loyal Watcher for the expedition and skipper
Steve Wright hooked into the bow section of the wreck at 420ft
depth soon after arriving on site. A four day window during
June allowed the Starfish team to make the first technical
dives to the wreck as well as a comprehensive survey of the
wreck to the areas explored. Deep wreck photographer Leigh
Bishop was able to bring to the surface the very first images
of this famous treasure ship. The entire expedition is documented
here on deepimage, by using the above sub menu navigation
bar you will be able to learn more about the wrecks history.
There are also image galleries of Leigh Bishops photography
both above and below the water that capture the Egypt story
during 2001 as and when it unfolded.
The observation chamber of the Sorima salvage project aboard the