Beneath the crystal-clear waters of the Egyptian Red Sea lies a hidden piece of history, the Hey Daroma. This passenger/cargo ship, originally known as the Lairds Loch, embarked on a journey that took it from the shores of Scotland to the warm waters of Eilat, Israel. Over the years, it underwent transformations and experienced remarkable events, making it a subject of intrigue among divers and maritime enthusiasts. In this feature, we delve into the fascinating history of the Hey Daroma, its journey, and the mystery surrounding its sinking.
The Lairds Loch’s Early Years
The Hey Daroma began its life as the Lairds Loch, a passenger/cargo ship constructed at the Androssan Dockyard in Glasgow, Scotland. Launched on March 9, 1944, and completed in August of the same year, it measured 275 feet in length, 41.2 feet in beam, and 12.1 feet in draught. Powered by two 8-cylinder Atlas Polar M48M diesel engines, it could reach a speed of 13 knots.
The ship primarily provided cross-channel service between Derry, Ireland, and Glasgow, Scotland, offering accommodations for hundreds of passengers, including First Class quarters. For over two decades, it faithfully plied this route until the service came to an end on September 10, 1966.
Transition and New Beginnings
Following a brief overhaul at the Androssan Dockyard, the Lairds Loch switched its route to the Glasgow-to-Dublin overnight service, offering reduced passenger rates. However, in June 1967, it was replaced by the Irish Coast. The Lairds Loch spent the remainder of 1967 in layup and resumed service in late 1968, this time carrying only general cargo and cattle on the Derry route.
Hey Daroma’s Israeli Adventure
In January 1969, the ship was sold to Sefinot Ltd., an Israeli company. It departed the Androssan Dockyard on January 7, 1969, bound for Eilat via the Cape Town route, and was renamed Hey Daroma. This new chapter saw the Hey Daroma providing service between Eilat, Israel, and Sharm EL-Sheikh three times a week, taking approximately eight hours for the journey.
The Hey Daroma’s service in the Red Sea was not without incident. In November 1969, while moored in the port of Eilat, the ship fell victim to an explosion caused by limpet mines attached to her hull. A second vessel, the Zim Line freighter Dahlia, was also targeted. Though it was suspected that Egyptian Special Forces might be responsible, the true culprits were never definitively identified. Fortunately, both ships emerged with only minor damage, and the Hey Daroma soon resumed its regular routes.
The Tragic End
Tragedy struck on the evening of September 3, 1970, when the Hey Daroma, carrying a cargo of water, struck an inshore reef near Nabq, just north of Sharm EL-Sheikh. The ship’s crew was safely rescued, but attempts to refloat it failed. Ultimately, the Hey Daroma was declared a total constructive loss and remained grounded on the reef until it finally sank in 24 meters of water at coordinates 28.05N/34.27E.
Diving the Hey Daroma
While the ship lies in relatively shallow waters, it’s not easy to see due to its proximity to a much larger shipwreck known as the Million Hope. However, the area beneath the stern of the Million Hope may still reveal some remnants of the Hey Daroma. Despite the limited visibility, divers can explore the fascinating world of these two shipwrecks, witnessing sea life and remnants of a bygone era, serving as a unique underwater time capsule.
In conclusion, the Hey Daroma’s journey, from its origins in Scotland to its final resting place in the Red Sea, is a captivating tale of maritime history and intrigue. Though not easily visible, its legacy lives on, waiting to be explored by intrepid divers and adventurers keen to unravel the secrets of the deep. The Hey Daroma remains a reminder of the rich tapestry of human endeavors and the mysteries that lie beneath the surface of the sea.