Base of the aft mast of the Rosalie Moller

THE ROSALIE MOLLER IS ONE OF THE FINEST WRECKS IN THE RED SEA, arguably the best in an area that boasts some superb dives.
Two of her most recognisable features are the graceful and sturdy masts topping her decks. These provide divers with a convenient visual reference on descent and ascent, and are at a good depth to allow for a deep stop at the end of a dive.
Unfortunately, these masts are just too convenient, and too many dive boats tie into them. As more and more boats visit the wreck and use the mast-tops as a handy point for their mooring lines, so they are starting to show signs of strain.
The water behind Gubal is usually kind to divers, with slightly reduced visibility by Red Sea standards, but only the most gentle of currents under water, if there are any at all. The wind can be a different thing entirely, and it isnt unusual to see the surface of the sea looking angry, with the wind and swell pushing heavily at the hull of the diveboat, and making it pull and tug at the mooring lines tied in to the masts.
If more than one dive-boat is tied onto the wreck, the later arrivals usually run a line to the boat that was first to arrive, increasing the tug on the masts.
Last time I visited the Rosalie Moller, ours was the second boat to arrive. We put a line onto the first boat there, and then tied to one of the sturdy winches beside the aft mast as soon as possible, to take the strain off that mast.
It was as well we did, because the boat ahead of us had already put in three lines, a bow and stern mooring line and a descent line from the dive-deck, all tied to the top of the aft mast.
The mast was creaking and moving in the water, and the plates at the base were starting to show signs of separating.
If the practice of mooring to Rosalie Mollers masts isnt stopped, they wont stay standing for much longer. It is also important to prevent the first boat to arrive tying into the wreck, with subsequent arrivals tying to the first boat. Each must use its own lines.
Even better would be for mooring points to be sunk into the seabed beside the wreck. Then no lines need go ontoit at all.

IF ANYONE NEEDS A LESSON, look at the damage being done to the Thistlegorm across the shipping channel.
Recently some thoughtless, or just plain stupid, dive guide looped a rope around the intact paravane on the starboard deck of the ship.
The resulting stresses have broken the paravane in two and deprived future visitors of the sight of this piece of essential wartime mine-sweeping gear.
The masts of the Rosalie Moller are far more than just a feature of the wreck - theyre home to a wide variety of marine life. Every inch is encrusted with growths supporting a diverse array of fish life.
As you swim back to either mast at the end of a dive, they seem to sway and shimmer in the water, more like something alive than cold metal structures.
As you get closer, the movement changes subtly, becoming that of countless small fish swirling in dense shoals around the mast-bases and the tall upright tubes of the masts themselves.
Patrolling the perimeter of the shoals are the predators, jack and tuna, circling as they eye their prey, then picking out a single small fish and darting in to take a meal. The shoals of small fish panic and split open to allow the predators to pass through harmlessly, wheeling in near-perfect unison to avoid the attack.
Sometimes the hunter swims away satisfied, on other occasions the shoal protects its own and the hunter goes hungry. Either way, the shoal returns to swirling in a dense pack around the masts, and the predators resume their endless patrol.

SOMETIMES, ESPECIALLY AS YOU MAKE YOUR WAY slowly up the masts at the end of a dive, a tuna or jack will lurk behind you, using your bulk to hide its own stealthy approach. It will then dart over your shoulder in an explosive blur of bright silver, plucking a little fish from the water as neatly as you might scoop a thrown ball out of the air.
The first time this happens its startling, and its over before you even have time to understand whats happening, much less watch the action.
When at last you reach the tops of the masts, you find that these support their own populations.
The aft mast boasts a small number of velvetfish, usually stationary and hiding in the marine growth. If you spot something that looks like a piece of cardboard being tossed around in the water, look more closely and you might notice the eyes and long dorsal fin of one of these well-camouflaged little fish.
Keep looking closely, because regularly seen are flabellinas, supremely colourful nudibranchs less than an inch long, usually found in the marine
growth at the base of the mast and near the tops. If youre lucky, you may see them mating.
In the metal mast tops small marine growths and corals have taken hold, and in the growth are countless small holes, each of them home to a tiny blenny.
These small fish usually rest well inside their holes with only their heads exposed. If theyre startled, they disappear inside until theyre sure the danger has passed, then cautiously re-emerge into view. Being fish, their attention span is very short, just a few seconds or minutes, and the patient diver can easily pass a two- or three-minute deep stop watching these cheerful little creatures.
Even the practice of tying-in to the mast tops has provided a habitat.
A number of large ropes have been threaded through convenient points, and either broken or been cut to leave trailing ends that have begun to fray. Look carefully at the fraying rope and you will see a variety of small, leafy-looking filefish using them as camouflage.
For a diver interested in marine life, or a macro photographer, the masts of the Rosalie Moller can provide a rewarding dive in their own right, and for any diver they can provide a fantastic end to every dive on this superb wreck.
It would be a tragedy if the masts were to be lost to the lack of care of a few dive-guides too lazy to take their lines somewhere more appropriate.

The story of the Rosalie Moller
Rosalie Moller was sunk by a bomb from a German Heinkel He111 as 8 October, 1941, slipped into 9 October.
The bomb dropped neatly between her hull and the best Welsh coal packed into her aftmost hold.
When it exploded, the coal absorbed enough of the blast for the ship to be almost undamaged, though it blew a great V-shaped gash in her side that extended below the waterline.
All three holds were full of the same coal, and she was effectively open from stem to stern below deck level.
Water flooded in to fill the spaces between the nuggets of coal, and then rose until she had no option but to sink.
The violence of the bombing must have been oddly counterpointed by the peaceful way she slipped below, her hull grounding on the good holding ground into which her master, an Australian named Byrne, had gratefully ordered her starboard anchor to be dropped two days earlier, after an epic voyage around Africa.
By the time Rosalie Moller had been ordered to Suez, and ultimately Alexandria, the Royal Navy in the Eastern Med badly needed to refuel and re-arm, and its need for coal was
desperate. Built in 1910, she was an old lady by July 1941, and took more than two months to sail round Africa and up the length of the Red Sea.
Two days after switching off her engines the bomb found her, killing two crewmen and making the rest unemployed. It was usual practice then to stop a seamans wages if his ship was sunk, and expect him to make his own way home aboard another vessel.
Today, the wreck of the Rosalie Moller sits perfectly upright and is still just about intact, its only damage that great gash in its side and its funnel toppled to port, though it still sits roughly in place atop the wreck.
The railings around the decks are almost entire, every set of steps leading from one level to another is in place and the deck-mounted equipment is clearly visible, though wherever the decking was made of wood, it has rotted away.
The wreck looks spectacular.
the top of the same mast
a pair of flabellina nudibranchs
view from the mast base
A piece of cardboard No its a little velvetfish.
Rosalie Moller has become a revered Red Sea wreck site - but not, it seems, revered enough.