In the words of Beachcomber, all real divers like to dive wrecks. This may be true, but the attraction of wreck-diving takes slightly different forms.
Some divers relish the painstaking research required to track down a virgin wreck and be the first to dive it. Others are happy to dive well-known wrecks and perhaps still find something new.
Technical divers are determined to push the limits of sport diving and are now accessing wrecks which only a few years ago would have been considered impossible without adopting commercial-diving techniques.
I am always keen to know the background and history of a wreck, but my main interest is in its photogenic qualities and the way in which the marine environment has invaded and engulfed its remains.
Recent wrecks often have an appealing graphic quality, but it is not until they develop as artificial reefs that the photographic opportunities expand.

One of my favourite wrecks lies in the waters of the aptly named Fury Shoal, just north of the headland of Ras Banas in the Egyptian Red Sea. Fury Shoal is an intricate pattern of reefs and lagoons which covers a broad area and has been a watery grave for several ships.
The object of my affections is the remains of a tugboat named the Tienstin, which struck the reef at a location known locally as Abu Galawa.
Although the name of this wreck is well-known, it is difficult to find reliable information regarding the age of the ship and the circumstances of the loss.
The locals seem to agree that she sank in the mid-1950s and the cause seems to have been a combination of bad weather and poor position-keeping, but quite why the tug was in the area remains a mystery. It must be assumed that she was on passage to or from one of the northern ports, but whatever the reasons, her position and condition make her a magic dive.
As its a tugboat this is quite a small wreck, but one of the attractions is that its size enables you to explore the whole site and get to know the major features in one dive.
The bow has ploughed into the reef and it must be assumed that the Tienstin sank fairly quickly, as the hull, keel and superstructure are all remarkably intact and are now protected by the surrounding reef structure. The hull rests at an angle of about 30, listing slightly to starboard with the stern firmly wedged into the sand at a depth of 18m.
At the midships section the keel is suspended above the seabed and there is plenty of space to swim through.

The orientation of the wreck and the depth produce an ideal dive profile, with plenty of time to explore the deeper parts. I like to start by swimming under the mid-section, which is festooned with black corals, small gorgonians and hydroids. A torch will help you find a number of nocturnal species in the gloom - look for decorator crabs in the black corals and even a school of six to eight flashlight fish (Photobletheron).
Lots of clams and tubastria corals cover the keel, providing cover for a number of different blennies and crustaceans, but be careful where you put your hands or knees on the sand and debris. I have seen two stonefish here on several occasions and lionfish are often found resting during the day.

The shadowy areas of sand are also an attractive resting spot for blue-spotted and electric rays and well-camouflaged crocodilefish, or flatheads.
From here you can follow the port or starboard side towards the stern, which makes a classic wide-angle composition.
The stern is covered in hard and soft corals, as are the rudder and single propeller, which are both mostly buried in sand.
Its worth spending a few minutes exploring here, as these features can make a nice composition with a diver in the background - dont forget to shoot from both directions, which will give a distinctly different feel to the images.
The surface of the propeller-blades is often home to the outrageously coloured nudibranch Chromodoris geminus, resplendent in yellow with bright blue spots to make a great macro shot.
You can choose to follow the port side of the hull, which is carpeted with hard and soft corals sheltering dozens of fish species, or follow the stern round to the remnants of the rear deck. The wooden decking decayed long ago, exposing the propshaft and deck supports.
There is a clutter of wreckage and ships fittings here, colonised by corals and sponges. They make interesting foreground compositions or frames for marine life with the bulk of the wreck in the background.

My next stop is normally at the rear of the wheelhouse and accommodation, where the bulkhead meets the deck. Here youll find one or two grey-coloured anemones, and these are host to some pretty eggshell shrimps which are happy to pose on the edge of the anemones tentacles, if youre patient.
Just to the port side of this point is the first of the doorways into the accommodation. Peer inside carefully.
The deck just inside the doorway has been filled by fine sand and silt and you will spot several burrows which are home to the elegant shrimp gobies Amblyeleotris randalli and their blind shrimp partners. Depending on the time of day you may see both together or just a goby, with its false eye spot on the tail peering out to see if the coast is clear.
It took me several visits to realise that both would appear together only early in the morning, when the door-frame casts a dark shadow over the burrows.
Later in the day, when the sun is higher, they can detect your shadow as you peer in, so dive early for some great shots of the shrimp frantically ploughing sand out of the burrow.
Forward of this doorway, the portside companionway is stuffed full of hard corals, including branching acropora and table corals. Each holds a frantic population of green chromis and anthias, all ready to dive for cover whenever you exhale.

Moving to the starboard side you will find the walkway less crowded by corals and the open doorways offer access to the remains of the accommodation and wheelhouse. The short mast from the top deck has collapsed and now hangs out over the starboard side with its own micro-reef system.
There is often a well-camouflaged bearded scorpionfish stationed halfway down the mast, watching his own personal larder of anthias and numerous pretty pixie hawkfish.
The wheelhouse area is empty except for a small school of glassfish, but can make a good internal shot if you meter the light levels carefully.
Perhaps the lack of fittings in the wheelhouse may indicate that the Tienstin sat on the reef for some time before she sank.
There is access to the lower deck and engine room but this is a tight squeeze and not really worth the effort.
Exiting the wheelhouse, you can explore the corals on the top deck and roof of the accommodation. The remains of the funnel still stand proud, but peer carefully in here, as it is normally home to a large green moray eel.
Almost every square inch of steelwork is covered by corals and populated by numerous reef fish.
Getting close will reveal dozens of slender pipefish weaving their way through the tangle of growth, as well as skittish chestnut and mimic blennies.
Look carefully among the table and acropora corals for nervous lemon gobies and the splendid leopard-spotted blenny. These characters take patience to capture on film but there should be time; the water depth here is only 6-8m.
Ahead of the wheelhouse are the remains of the foredeck, which is now open, giving access to the forward hold if you make a careful entry between the corals. On the bow, the main deck winch almost touches the surface and is barely recognisable because of the heavy growth of hard corals.
From this forward hold area it is possible again to make your way through to the engine room, but its hardly worth it when there is so much more to see outside on the wreck.

Emerging from the forward hold, I generally make my way back onto the port side of the hull to seek out the life among the dense growth of corals. There are many territorial species such as the deep red coral trout and spotted hawkfish, which will eye you up nervously, and shyer species such as the masked pufferfish, often found wedged under the small table corals or queuing patiently at a cleaning station.
There is also a surprisingly good population of pixie hawkfish skittering between the corals and they all seem to want to pose for the camera.
Following the port side up onto the reef brings you to the hawse-pipe and the anchor chain leading back towards the seabed. Perhaps this is a clue as to the cause of the wrecking - the Tienstin may have been secured by only one anchor before heavy weather caught her crew unawares - or was this a final effort to save the vessel from striking the reef
This wreck is becoming more popular with divers visiting Fury Shoal but their visits tend to be fleeting, this being regarded as just one point of interest on a reef tour. So if you encounter a group on your dive, be patient - it will normally depart quickly and leave you to enjoy the less obvious features among the corals.
The Tienstin also makes a fantastic night dive. You will find prawns, decorator crabs, lionfish and morays all out hunting. The wreck is a good spot for seeing octopus at night, blushing several colours in your torchlight as they search the nooks and crannies for a meal.
As you leave the wreck, look out for squid hovering on the edge of your boats pool of light, waiting for luckless fish who are also attracted by the glare.
Even Beachcombers wreck-hardened real divers couldnt fail to be charmed by this bijou tug and its dazzling coral apparel.

  • The Tienstin can be dived from dayboats operating from the Marsa Alam area, RIBs from Marsa Wadi Lahami and from a number of liveaboards. Tour operator Oonasdivers can arrange trips (01323 648924, www.oonasdivers.com)

  • The
    The timbers of the stern deck have decayed, exposing the main hold and propshaft running back towards the single screw
    The wreck is suspended above the sand, leaving plenty of space to swim beneath it; the deck supports and rigging make ideal frames for the coral growth and perhaps a diver in the background
    the remains of the main mast...
    are home to this bearded scorpionfish
    The portside walkway is stuffed with corals, including these acropora, over which green chromis dance
    the engine-room intakes now collect only water and fish life
    several table corals on the starboard side and top deck give protection to lemon gobies
    the only inhabitants of the bridge area are a small school of glassfish and the odd hungry lionfish