The ship most likely was used for the transport of materials and equipment required for the developing oil industry in the Gulf of Suez and off of Hurghada. In 1910-11, the first oil field in Egypt went into production at the Gemsa Oil Field located at the entrance to the Gulf of Suez. Anglo-Egyptian Oil Fields Ltd., later commenced drilling in the area north of Hurghada in 1913, also mapping the west coast of the Gulf of Suez during its oil exploration.
The S.S. Zietieh was a steel screw steamship of 291 GRT built at William Walker Yard No. 93, Maryport, England for the Egyptian Oil Trust (Messrs Messrs Light and Fulton, London). Broadside launched in 1911 on the Ellen River, she was 37 meters in length and 6.7 meters in beam. Propulsion was provided by a single Scotch Boiler, provided by J. Ritchie & Company, and a double-expansion steam engine coupled to a single shaft and propeller.
The ship, a small Coaster, was built with a single cargo hold located forward of the superstructure containing the wheelhouse located just aft of amidships. Aft of the superstructure was a small stores hold for the ship’s supplies and equipment. A raised deckhouse was located aft of the stores hold which contained the engineering machinery, with crew accommodations located behind this.Ownership of the Zietieh was later transferred to Anglo-Egyptian Oil Fields limited, a joint Shell/British Petroleum venture, when the Egyptian Oil Trust was dissolved.
The Loss of the S.S. Zietieh:On 29 January 1915, the ship was at anchor at Ras Ziet (Ras being Arabic for “Head” or “Point”, and “Ziet” meaning for “Oil”) located near Ashrafi Island. During a routine boiler burner change-out a fire started in the machinery space. The fire went out of control and eventually the ship developed a port list, either from fire-fighting water accumulating in the ship’s bilges, or machinery breaking loose and shifting. The port list was severe enough that the ship starting taking on water over the port side, causing her to roll and finally sink to the bottom, spilling its cargo of train track rails on the way down near position 27.42.0N/33.41.6E in 12 meters of water.
The ship lies on its port side on a sandy bottom with a maximum depth of 12 meters. The starboard side of the ship is just 4-meters below the surface. At the bow of the ship is a raised foc’sle, comleted with the ship’s anchor chain still run out. Located on the foc’sle is the anchor winch, with a smaller winch located aft of this which would have been used for the onloading and offloading of cargo.
The cargo hold still contains some of the ship’s last cargo consisting of train track rail in 6 meter lengths. Some of the ship’s cargo can also be located on the seabed around 20-meters away. Aft of the forward hold is the ship’s superstructure and the remains of the wheelhouse, complete with an aft-facing helm station. All of the wooden decks and walls have long since deteriorated, leaving behind a skeleton of iron framework which makes penetration into the wreck extremely easy.
Aft of the superstructure is another small hold and then the ship’s engine room, which still contains the propulsion machinery, including valves, gauges, piping and ladders. Further aft on the fantail the steering quadrant protrudes from the weather deck and is covered, like the rest of the wreck, in corals. The rudder of the ship is still in place, as is the ship’s single screw. And finally, the ship’s funnel has broken off of the ship and in lying on the seabed off to one side. This looks to be a fun and easy little wreck dive for divers of any level!