The car community has been in mourning lately. With the sinking of Grande America, a roll-on/roll-off cargo ship that caught fire and capsized in the Bay of Biscay, the automotive world lost a fleet of Audi RS4 and RS5 vehicles, alongside 37 Porsches; four of which were the last units of Porsche’s 911 GT2 RS. Not only that, but the earliest surviving MG J2 Midget was also consigned to a dark and watery grave.
However, losing vehicles to the briny deep is nothing new. The Grande America may recently have left a sour taste in the mouth of us petrolheads, but its numbers pale in comparison to that of the Blue Belt – a Sudi-Aarabian cargo ship that ran aground on the 6th of December, 1977.
Striking the Sha’b Suadi Reef, 50 miles north of Port Sudan, the vessel eventually slipped off the embankment and sank, regardless of efforts to refloat her. The Blue Belt’s cargo included 181 cars, six trucks and various trailers – all of which went down with the ship, the majority of vehicles crushed within the sediment.
That said, before the resurrection was finally deemed impossible, the vessel’s fleet of cars – all of which were Toyotas – found themselves shoved overboard and scattered across the seabed in an attempt to shed weight and save the ship.
Some 42 years later, these Toyotas remain partially recognisable to those who dive upon the wreck site. Resting over a large area, between 85 and 255 meters in depth, the vehicles have mostly been reduced to bare components by four decades in salt water. Despite suffering such deterioration, those with a keen eye can still make out the original model and trim specification. Anoraks such as ourselves. Check out that Corona steering wheel!
While the bulk of underwater Toyotas sport only their rusting chassis, several engine blocks and front fascias remain visible. Although we doubt these surviving plinths of 1970s car production will last much longer under the surface. For now though, it’s probably the most reliable vehicular-based reef out there.
Perhaps one aspect to take away from this story is the desperate need for further safety enhancements when transporting cars in such a fashion. According to various reports, over 5000 cars were lost to Poseidon last year. Should you fancy yourself a new Audi or Porsche, there’s at least 2000 of them out there, under the waves. There are some 1500 Nissans out there, too.
Yet, these vehicles remain untouchable due to the severe depths at which they now reside. The Red Sea Toyotas, however, are perfectly accessible to experienced divers. Apparently, it’s the only place in the world where you can explore a shipwrecked car carrier.
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