|In total contrast to the other wrecks on Abu Nuhas, the Carnatic is adorned with over a hundred years of coral growth of splendid colours and variety. The story of her demise is nearly as colourful and gave Abu Nuhas its name. This elegant P&O passenger mailship was servicing the route between Bombay and Suez in the days before the canal. It was after her sinking and the subsequent salavage operation to retrieve her cargo of gold coins and copper ingots that the reef got its name. Literally translated Abu Nuhas means "Father of Copper".
She lies keel on to the reef on her port side, her bow pointing in the same direction as the Giannis D (east). Like the Giannis D she is in 2 distinctive parts, the bow and the stern, both lying on their port side. With the machinery in the broken amidships section, the decking has now rotted away leaving a series of main supporting beams of the 3 decks. These decks are covered in a profusion of colour and life. Her ornate stern is very photogenic both inside and out, and the square portholes are evident. Her davits are also a feast of encrusting marine life, from soft corals to tiny pipefish and nudibranchs.
The highest point of the wreck is at the stern in 17m with the rudder and prop in 28m and a magnificent sight. One of the most superb images of the wreck is in the high point of the fore section, her starboard side where it meets the main deck. Here silversides and glassy sweepers seek shelter from the ever present prowling jacks. The bow itself still bears the graceful lines of a once proud and elegant ship, and is best appreciated from a few metres along the reef. Her bowsprit long gone, it is possible to look right down into the fore-section through the support ring. Her masts lie on the seabed away from the wreck with her primitive engine, gears, drives condensers and boilers to been seen.
The vessel: The Carnatic was a typical steam sailing ship of the 1860's. Built by Samuda Bros. she was laid down as the Mysore. She was 294ft long, 1776 tons and could carry some 250 passengers and crew. Although fitted with a primitive inverted tandem compound engine, built at Deptford by Humphrys and Tennat. Producing 1870 hp she had a top speed of 12 knots, although this was generally derived from her sails. A famous ship of her day and considered luxurious. Her maiden voyage in 1863 took her to Alexandria, and she was soon on the regular spice run despite having run aground on a sandbank.
The sinking: She left Suez on September 12th 1869 with 230 on board including 37 passengers and a cargo of cotton, port, copper ingots and 40,000 Pounds Sterling in gld coins. She was under the command of Captain P.B. Jones. In the early hours of the next morning the prevailing northerly winds had pushed her along and slightly off course. The fine weather meant that there was no surf breaking on the reef and the Carnatic struck the coral at 1.30am. Feeling that the ship was in no danger of sinking, the captain decided to await the arrival of another P&O vessel, the Sumatra due to pass by at any time.
After spending a second night on board, with meals served as usual, a squal blew up and the Carnatic suddenly rolled onto her port side and began to take on water and slip over the edge of the reef. Her mid section, with the engine mountings collapsed and the ship began to break in two. The stern slipping off the reef and sinking. As the fore section settled some boats managed to get away and over a period of hours rescued many of the people on board. The survivors made it to Shadwan where they were eventually rescued by the Sumatra. In all 27 souls were lost.