|The wreck of the Ulysses although rarely dived, is a firm favourite with those who do dive her. This is another vessel in similar style to that of the Carnatic and Dunraven. The Ulysses' beautiful rounded stern now lies in 29m embedded in sand, with her hull open to the sea lying on her port side. Her prop and rudder, still intact are covered in a luxuriant gown of soft corals and the hull and keel form a cave in which groupers lurk and are covered in coral sponges, hydroids and anemones. The hull itself forms a current point and is a great place to observe travellies and jacks patrolling out in the blue. The hull also forms a "V" shaped area with the reef and here resident crocodile fish can be observed along with superb fan corals together with their inhabiting long nose hawk fish. Some of the cargo lies scattered around the seabed, covered in lush soft corals.
Amidships and aft sections are totally accessible as all the planking has long since gone. In this respect she is not unlike the Carnatic, with iron cross braces for each deck forming a criss cross pattern. There are also branches of the delicate black coral growing here so care is needed when entering the hull area. In the bow section the almost obligatory glassfih hang in clouds with lion fish ever vigilant. Scorpion fish too are in abundance and the entire wreck is a delight for the photographer. Strong currents can be experienced flowing over the wreck so care must be taken. The shallows are teeming with life including tangs, surgeons and triggers darting in and out of the scattered remains.
The vessel:The Ulysses was one of the three vessels ordered for the rapidly expanding Ocean Steamship Company in 1871. Records from the Andrew Leslie Yard at Hebburn on the Tyne record that three vessels where ordered and the Ulysses was built in Yard # 130. The Ulysses together with her sister ships Hector and Sarpedon were to argument the already growing fleet of ships which included the Achilles, and Ajax. Ulysses followed Sarpedon of the stocks and was launched in 1871. She was described as an iron hulled single screw steamship in the archive journals and was 310ft long with a 30ft beam, a draught of 20ft and grossed 1900 ton. Like the Carnatic, she was rigged for sail with a single 2 stroke 2 cylinder compound steam engine capable of producing 225 HP, driving a single propeller.
The last voyage: Records from the Board of Enquiry show that she left London docks in August 1887 bound for Penang via the Suez Canal. Two days out of Suez found the Ulysses clear of Shaab Ali. The calm seas, and light air meant that the many uncharted reefs were invisible. No line of white surf, no sound of waves breaking over the reef. In the early hours of the 16th August the Ulysses struck Gubal Seghir. At first it seemed there was little damage and the pumps could easily handle the small amount of water entering the ship. A passing ship was requested to obtain help on arrival at Suez. Any suggestion to jettison cargo, was refused by the master, convinced the vessel would eventually be pulled free. For 4 days the vessel grounded on the coral, slowly the coral ground its way through the iron hull. By the 18th the wind had got up and the stern was down, her stern rails and steering gear awash. The following day, escorted by HMS Falcon, 2 barges with salvors arrived from Suez. Crews from all vessels now worked in the hot sun to unload the cargo, but soon the pumps failed. As the wind got stronger the barges moved inside Bluff Point for fear of being swept onto the reef by the increasing swell. This meant that the remaining cargo had to be man handled over reef, through the lagoon, across a sand spit over another reef before being loaded onto the barges. Despite these gallant efforts which lasted nearly 2 weeks, the ship began to slip back off the reef with her bowsprit slowly reaching for the sky. She was abandoned and left to her fate. By the 5th September the stern was on the seabed, 27m below and the ship broke her back, her fore section on top of the reef was relentlessly pounded by waves and has now become totally dispersed over the shallows.