x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Glory story of sunken ship begins to unravel off Ajman coast

Thanks to curiosity and detective work, a UAE team of divers has identified a ship that sank 23 years ago in the Arabian Gulf. With video

The 55-metre Ajman Glory was first discovered 12 years ago by Chris Lobel, a diver from the Desert Sport Diving Club in Dubai.
The 55-metre Ajman Glory was first discovered 12 years ago by Chris Lobel, a diver from the Desert Sport Diving Club in Dubai.

Thanks to curiosity and detective work, a UAE team of divers has identified a ship that sank 23 years ago in the Arabian Gulf.

The wreckage of the 55-metre Ajman Glory was first discovered 12 years ago by Chris Lobel, a diver from the Desert Sport Diving Club in Dubai, and he named it Isobel, after his wife. The coaster, so-called because it hugs the coast rather than going out to sea, was also called the Thinner by the same divers because its cargo looked like paint thinner.

Mr Lobel,who left the UAE in 2009,  made a drawing of the craft and kept it at the diving club. He has spent the ensuing years trying to once again find the boat that sank 15 kilometres off the coast of Ajman.

Then, this year, a group from the World Sea Divers was diving a wreck in the same area. At the time, the divers  were not aware of Mr Lobel's prior discovery in the same area.

The World Sea Divers called the ship Mullah. They happened to give the coordinates of the mystery wreck to the Sharjah Wanderers Diving Club this summer.

And then things began to come together and the club dived the wreck several times over the summer.

"When you start, you don't know how good the coordinates are," said Ian Hussy, of the Sharjah Wanderers. "We've been given coordinates for other boats in the past and it turned out to be nothing."

 

 

 

The team knew they were in the right spot when the echo-sonar signalled a positive find.

They found the top of the boat 20 metres below, with the bottom resting on the seabed. The hull was heavily encrusted and teeming with marine life.

"The first time we went there we had no idea what it was and thought it was just another shipwreck," Mr Hussy said.

But the Wanderers began to think there might be more to the story, and shared their find with Brian Lugg, a member of the Desert Sports Diving Club – the same club Mr Lobel had been a member of.

Mr Lugg realised that the two ships might be one and the same.

He studied the old sketch Mr Lobel had made, and there was an obvious resemblance.

Nelson McEachan, the wrecks officer of the UK Hydrographic Office, formally identified the link between Mr Lobel's description of the cargo of the "Thinner Wreck" and the cargo carried by the Ajman Glory on its last journey.

"People dive for different reasons," Mr Hussy said. "I dive wrecks with a bit of history to it. When we started to realise it was a dive no one knew about for 20 years it suddenly became more interesting. Wrecks sunk deliberately for fish are quite nice but not as compelling as one that has a bit of history to it."

The Sharjah club started to search for old photographs of the ship and dived the site several times to look for similarities.

Mr Hussy said they found the six drain holes along the sides of the ship that had been described.

"The remains of the four vertical pipes in front of the bridge, the trapezoidal cut-out at the bow, the anchors, the remains of the masts, the lifeboat davits and other features were all noted exactly as they appeared in the photographs," he said.

The club passed the information for final verification to the UK Hydrographic Office. In an email to the club, Mr McEachan wrote: "I have looked at your dive report on the BSAC 406 website and I agree that this is the long-lost Ajman Glory. A first-class job, so please pass our thanks to all the divers involved."

The Ajman Glory was on its way from Hamriyah, Sharjah to Bandar Abbas in Iran when the crew abandoned her on August 28, 1989. The dive team found no evidence of how she sank. They found a dent on the port side of the stern but it was well above the water line and could have happened months before she sank, Mr Hussy said. The weather recorded the day the ship sank, was one of the calmest days that year.

The boat, which was originally called The Dollard in 1957, had changed hands six times before being registered in Ajman as the Ajman Glory in 1989.

"We are quite pleased and for the divers, it's somewhere else to dive," Mr Hussy said. "What is satisfying to me is the Hydrographic Office is changing the charts in response to what we have found."

eharnan@thenational.ae