During August this year (2006) Teresa and I joined Nick Jewsons expedition to dive SS Egypt. Unfortunately we were not blessed with ideal diving conditions and only managed one visit to the wreck. It would take us five hours to get to the Egypt and shot the wreck, which lies in about 128 metres. After four and a half hours in the water it was another long trip back to Cameret so the weather forecast for the day had to be ideal.
The text below was used with kind permission from Clyde - Built Database http://www.clydebuiltships.co.uk and http://www.clydesite.co.uk
The following © The Dictionary of Disasters At Sea
The P. and O. liner Egypt, Capt. A. Collyer, left Tilbury for Marseilles and Bombay on May 19th, 1922, having on board 44 passengers and 294 crew, of whom 208 were Lascars and other Asiatics.
In addition to her other cargo the Egypt carried a consignment of gold and silver totaling £1,054,000 in value. On the evening of the next day, in the neighbourhood of Ushant, the liner ran into thick fog and after proceeding for some little time Capt. Collyer stopped his engines and lay to. The sound of another steamship's siren could be heard gradually approaching but the fog was too dense to locate her. Suddenly she appeared on the port beam of the Egypt., going very fast, and within the short space of 15 seconds struck the liner on the port side between the funnels with terrific violence. The stricken ship at once began to sink and a dreadful panic ensued among the Lascar seamen, who rushed the boats. Several of the European members of the crew followed their example and all orderly methods of saving life went by the board. The heavy list to port also created much greater difficulties for those who were striving to preserve some sort of discipline, and impeded the proper launching of the remaining boats.
Within 20 minutes of the collision the Egypt sank, her list being so great just prior to her going that all boats, rafts and deck fittings were cut loose so that they might float when the wreck submerged. By this action the lives of many
During January 2007 I was fortunate enough to spend 4 weeks in Florida. While on a weekend visit to the Keys I came across a small diving museum. Amongst its exhibits was one of the observation chambers used during the gold salvage attempt.
persons were saved. There are several instances of individual heroism, such as that of an army officer who jumped into a boat and forced its Lascar occupants to return to the side, eventually getting 70 people away in safety. Meanwhile the vessel which had done the damage, the French steamship Seine, 1,383 tons, La Pallice to Havre, took the survivors on board and conveyed them to Brest.
Fifteen passengers and 71 of the crew were lost with the ship, and one person died in hospital. Capt. Collyer remained at his post to the last and was picked up in the water by one of the boats. The position of the vessels at the time of the collision was about 20 miles off the Armen Lighthouse, the disaster occurring about 7 o'clock in the evening.
The task of recovering the specie lost in the liner marked a new era in the science of undersea salvage. The work was taken in hand as soon as possible, but not without misgiving, for the vessel had sunk in 60 fathoms of water, a depth beyond that at which diving operations could normally be carried on. From 1923 to 1928 various companies conducted a search for the wreck, but without success. In June, 1929, the Italian Society for Marine Recovery, directed by Commendatore Giovanni Quaglia, took up the search. After many disappointments extending over 15 months the wreck was located at a depth of 360 feet. The ship was lying on an even keel, with masts and funnels still standing, and on a smooth sea bed. The patent diving suit carried on board the Italian salvage ship, Artiglio, enabled a diver to descend to this great depth in perfect safety and later to recover nearly all the specie. Blasting operations opened up a way into the ship's hull through which the treasure was eventually extracted.
The cost of the salvage from first to last to the Italian company alone was £200,000, but a great task had been achieved and much valuable experience of deep sea diving had been gained. An idea of the immensity of the work may be realised from the fact that it did not finally conclude until 1933, or nearly five years after it commenced. Taking into account the fruitless years of search by the French and Swedish companies from 1923 onwards, quite ten years had been spent on salving the Egypt's cargo.
Previous update by Paul Strathdee
Last updated: by Bruce Biddulph from the original records by Stuart Cameron
I managed to get about 17 minutes of interesting footage of the wreck. The clip below is about 3 ½ minutes. Click on the projector icon for a tour of the upper midsection of SS Egypt.