The Wingate Reef is located close to the harbor entrance of Port Sudan.
It became known by Hans Hass, who dived there at the "Umbria" – Wreck in 1948. Due to the nearby harbor, the visibility on this reef is often poor.
Because also the biodiversity of underwater fauna and flora is not outstanding, at the Wingate Reef is rarely dived, except at the “Umbria".
Beautiful and highly recommended are the night dives at the Umbria.
Location: Wingate Reef
Maximum depth: 38 meters
Minimum depth: 5 meters
current: Low to medium
Visibility: Due to the sediment-rich environment usually only moderately
Boatyard: Reiherstieg shipyard, Hamburg
Building Number: 444 Flag
Italian shipping company: Lloyd Tristino, Italy
Length: 155 meters
Width: 18 meters
Side height: Unknown
Draft: 5.83 meters
Load capacity: 6,219 tons
Survey: 10,076 GRT
Power Unit: 2 x 6 cylinder steam engine (Reiherstieg Machine construction)
Power: 4,300 hp
Speed: 12.5 knots
Captain: Lorenzo Muiesan
Cargo: Munitions, bombs, cars, aircraft parts, cement bags
Last ride: From Naples via Messina to Aden and Calcutta
Cause: Self scuttling
In May 1940 rages the WW2 in Europe. Despite the Balkan conflict, there was no open confrontation between fascist Italy and the British Crown at this time.
The "Umbria" was loaded at the end of May 1940 in Genoa, Livorno and Naples with various war materials to supply Italian troops in Aden. In 1935 the ship was already converted from passenger steamer to material and troop transport ship and previously used for such trips.
In the 5 holds more than 360,000 bombs and 60 boxes with incendiary bombs are packed with other explosives. Furthermore cars, aircraft parts and bags of cement and other building materials.
The route leads the "Umbria" via Messina in Sicily to Port Said, from where it should go through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to East Africa.
After arriving in Port Said on June 3rd they stash another 1,000 tons of coal and 130 tons of water. 23 British Navy soldiers and 2 pilot go on board here. In anticipation of the entry into the war between Italy and England, the canal passage is deliberately delayed. So the "Umbria" leaves Suez three days later with its explosive cargo.
From now on she follows the gunboat "Grimsby". It stops the freighter amounting to Port Sudan with the reason to be in British territorial waters. On June 9th the "Umbria" drops anchor at the Wingate Reef.
Under the pretext to search for smuggled goods, 22 soldiers are brought on board by the New Zealand cruiser "Leander", under the leadership of Lieutenant Steve.
They occupy instantly strategically important points and start a time-consuming search.
In the afternoon captain Muiesan experiences in his cabin from the radio, that Italy will proclaim the state of war at 19.00 and is to be expected with the first military actions at 0.00 the following day.
Muiesan knows, that he doesn`t have to waste more time to avoid that the strategically important cargo falls into enemy hands. Together with the first officer Radolfo Zarli and the flight engineer Carlo Costa, he plans the scuttling.
The difficulty was the unobtrusive evacuation of the crew.
Finally Muiesan proposes Lieutenant Steve to carry out a rescue exercise – he approves this in the hope of being able to continue to hold "Umbria". While the Italians start the exercise, Steve achieves on the bridge the news of heavy flooding throughout the ship.
After a few minutes, with increasing list, he realizes that he can no longer prevent the sinking. Furiously he and his soldiers take part at the "rescue exercise".
Aboard the "Gimsby" he announces to Muiesan the entry into the war in Italy and that he gave the order to scuttle.
Before the outbreak of war he goes with his crew in captivity to India.
Despite the dangerous position in the harbor of Port Sudan the "Umbria" is not recovered. Around the wreck, with its still partly protruding davits, a prohibited zone is pronounced and then left to oneself.
Nine years after its demise the "Umbria" awakens the interest of the 30-year old Hans Hass. His contacts with the governor of Port Sudan affords him to dive at the "Umbria".
His photographic and film material contributed significantly the myth of the wreck.
Meanwhile, the "Umbria" is one of the most famous wrecks in the Red Sea.
Located within sight before Port Sudan it is mostly dived at the beginning or the end of a dive safari. Although the collecting passion of many divers has left their marks, the old lady with the explosive cargo has lost none of its charm. The place of sinking can be easily recognized from the four davits on the starboard side that protrude out of the water. The sediment-rich bottom, the near location to the harbor entrance and the slightly current often contribute to decreased visibility.
The ship lies on its port side in a 75 degree angle. The intact bow is followed by three fore holds. Mid ship one finds the crew quarters and the bridge, to the rear two more cargo spaces and the quarterdeck. Both, the cargo spaces and the mid ship structures, can be comfortably explored.
Due to the extreme skew and the dangerous cargo, it is required to extreme care when touching objects. Approaching the bow of the "Umbria" from the open water, the towering bow steven with the flag staff distinguishes mystical from the greenish water.
The two anchor chains running to the bottom, because "Umbria" was moored when she sank. The anchor winch and the rail are covered with coral.
The deck planks are partly still in a remarkably good condition. The small hatches are an indication of the age of the ship. In the first hold, whose access is located on the foredeck, in addition to the ubiquitous ammunition there are wooden boxes, electrical material and aircraft tires.
In the second, a bit larger one, there are bombs, grenades and stick grenades. From the explosive separated detonators are almost distributed in each loading space. The third cargo area is the most visited.
Besides cement bags and other building materials one can find wine bottles and jam jars.
A narrow passage back- or starboard leads to the first platform in the mid ship area, where are three vehicles.
The Fiat 1100 Lunga specifically designed for off-road use in the Italian colonies. Unfortunately a lot of divers already left their marks at the vehicles. The fine sediment leaves the visibility to zero already after a short time - if possible this ship part should be visited by small groups at longer intervals.
The mid ship section with the bridge and its superstructures can be easily explored also by snorkeling.
On Starboard 4 empty davits protrude out of the water. On this side is also a single bath room with toilet, bath and an enamel washbasin.
To the huge engine room you can either pass through one of the open skylights behind the chimney or through the access from aft workshop. The multistory space is easy to dive in the upper sections, the lower remains for experienced divers.
Duckboards isolate the various aggregates. On the seabed towards the port side of the superstructure, lie wind sleeves, derricks, the broken chimney and a lifeboat.
Toward the stern, two other cargo spaces follow. They are spanned partially by the overturned derricks. As well as in the front holds one find ammunition, construction materials and various military equipment.
The single-level structures between the fourth and fifth hold housing the galley and some store rooms.
At the rear meanwhile the planking is missing. The red soft coral on the railing and the deck struts provide the necessary color. The rudder and the exposed control chain can be well recognized. Below the railing the enormous rudder blade and the starboard screw impress. The port propeller is sunk in the bottom. Under the rudder there is a huge artificial cave that can only be left by two outputs. The twilight contributes to a mystical mood.
Original Photos of Umbria