The Brothers are some considerable distance away from the mainland and it took 5 hours of sailing through quite rough seas to get there. During the course of the afternoon, the wind had got up and therefore the normal sailing time of early evening was postponed in the hope that the sea would calm down a bit – it did not and hence when we finally set off at midnight, the boat was pitching and rolling a lot. Despite all of this, lying flat down in a bed in the lower deck rather exhausted from travel and diving ensured that I slept through most of the rough seas. One of our number less fortunate than I in getting to sleep, described it as like being inside a washing machine – how he knew this I do not know but the furniture sliding over the floor above the cabin and the crash of china and pans falling to the floor was quite noisy to say the least.
The Brothers are two islands out in the middle of the Red Sea - one of our number described the Brothers as volcanic basalt pillars with a coral topping and that it was the Basalt which caused them to survive in an otherwise unmarked sea. Recent surveys have shown that they are connected deep underwater by a ridge between them but this will never be seen by a diver. There is no vegetation on either island, Big Brother has a manned lighthouse and Little Brother a few stone cairns.
The manned stone lighthouse was built in 1883 and is 35m tall. It flashes every five seconds and is said to be visible for 17 nautical miles – this has not stopped ships from hitting the island though and there are two named wrecks and at least one unnamed wreck on the steep walls of the island.
The island is much larger under water than it appears from above and there are plateaux
at each end. That to the south is quite deep at around 30m and that to the north shelves from shallow down to 7m before dropping. It is usual that the prevailing current sweeps over the plateau and hence rib entry near either plateaux has to be very negative in order to get to depth as quickly as possible. The normal mooring point for liveaboards is in the south west corner of the island.
Briefing was at 0530 in order to get an early start because there were 6 other dive boats tied up to Big Brother (meaning that if we were all in the water at the same time, this would mean 120 divers) and 2 boats tied up over at Little Brother. The Brothers are popular and this is their greatest weakness together with the fact that the weather there can be very unpredictable and thus restrict diving.
The plan was to go off the stern, use a pulling line (a thin line tied to the boat at one end and a reef / wreck or whatever at the other end along which you pull yourself to save fining against current) to get to the reef and then go down to depth onto a shelf to look for the sharks which often congregated there, then explore the coral garden and look at what fish their might be.
Whilst I did see a shark at depth and a few fish, my big problem was that I was under weighted because I chose to use my 5mm wet suit for the first time for many dives and had not added enough weight to compensate for the increased buoyancy. The safety stop was particularly difficult and I had to do it under a ledge using the ledge to keep me at depth – a lesson learnt. I did see a lot of other divers however – too many.
Hence there are no pictures from this dive, I spent all of my time trying to stay down.