Location 16 feb 1871 Length 78 m
Launch 28 jan 1881 Width 10 m
Lost 270 46.686N, 330 52.551E Displacement 1449 tons
Difficulty Simple Min Depth 0 m
Current Light, sometimes strong Max Depth 20 m
Night Dive Possible Lights daytime Not Necessary
Other points of interest Usual some current which is very nice to make a drift dive along the beautiful reef.


The ‘Kingston’ was built in Sutherland and was launched on the 16 of February 1871. It was a so called ‘iron screw brigantine’. In short, we put an steam engine on board sailing vessel because sailing was cheap and sails always work. Sailors of that time did not trust that fancy steam stuff for a bit!

The steam engine was developed around 1840 and in the years to come perfectioned. In the beginning it was cumbersome but later they became better and better. However, sails were in the beginning the main way of propulsion. Around 1865 it was just in between, as was the design of the Kingston.

The was equipped with a 2-cylinder compound steam engine with a power of 130 HP which could give her a top speed of 11 knots.

One of the major problems was the pollution of the sails and occasionally even set them to fire!

The ‘Kingston’ main task was to supply coal to coal storage bunkers to the many ports around the Mediterranean, the middle east and the Orient.

The loss of the Kingston

In the morning of the 28 January 1881 the ‘Kingston’ left Cardiff heading for Aden.

After an uneventful journey, on 20 January 1881, the ‘Kingston’ left Suez direction de Strait of Suez.

Just as the previous part of the journey the captain was navigating this part all by himself. Never once he asked his shipmates to check his navigation. However, he made a small error so the ship was a bit more east than he thought it was. After the Strait of Gobal all the dangers were passed him. He gave instructions to the shipmates and went to bed. Short time after, in the early morning of the 22 of February, the ship ran ashore at Shag Rock. Immediately the captain was once again on the bridge and took over command. At first the damage seemed minor. The only problem was that the ‘Kingston’ was solid stuck on the reef.

In the morning another ship came by en reacted to the rocket fired to attract its attention. However, also with the help of this ship they could not get the ‘Kingston’ of the reef.

The helping ship went with the promise to send help from Suez. After two days the situation was getting worse. The stern was now almost completely under water. The captain ordered the ships boats into the water and alongside. Eventually the water reached the boilers and the ship lost power and his pumps. That was the end of the ship. The captain ordered every man into the boats and off in a distance from the ship. Slowly they saw the ‘Kingston’ slid away into the water.

The Legend of the Sara H

The name ‘Kingston’ name was long forgotten. One knew an unknown wreck on Shag Rock. A photographer was writing a book and saw the unknown wreck and decided to call it the ‘Sara H’. The name of the captain of the safari boat was David Hillel and Sara was his wife. This name stayed around, even after the real name of the wreck was known. Even today people are using it as the name for this wreck.

Diving the Kingston

Normally a dive to the Kingston is started on the deepest point at around 20 meters, the propeller. Especially when there is a strong current, the safari boat will moor in the middle or at the end of Shag Rock.

The dive is especially awesome when you can finish it width a spectacular drift dive to enjoy the magnificent table corals Shag Rock is famous for.

Bur first the wreck. After 140 years the wreck is in a remarkable good condition, although especially the last years a lot of damage is done by visiting divers. As said, you find the propeller on 20 meters, but apart for a nice photo for your Facebook profile, there’s nothing much to see. We ascent to the rear deck. The whole wreck is beautifully overgrown with corals. Swimming from the stern to the front we find a spare propeller on top of the iron skeleton of the ship. (Of course, all the wood is long gone) Just after the propeller we find the condensers and the boiler. All the cokes are still in the wreck but of course overgrown with hard corals.

After looking around and enjoying the wreck we let us flow by the current. Almost directly we see after 50 meters a mast and a water tank. These are not from the Kingston but belong to another unknown wreck. When you look to the reef you can see another propeller. At low tide this one is visible above water. When you should go on top of the reef you can still find steel sheets and a part of a keel. But those are hardly interesting so do not spent too much time there!

From that point you will see the most beautiful table corals until it is time to surface. Luckily, because you will have spent most of your time above the 10-meter waterline, this will be a very long dive.


Although not Flora Shag Rock is well known for its beautiful hard corals and especially the table corals. Table corals with a span of over three to four meters are not an exception!


On het Kingston live a bunch of very territorial doctors fish. Also, you will find some triggerfish. Of course, under the sheets of steel Moray eel will hide and every now and then you will see turtles here but for sure on the reef itself.

Often you will find dolphins swimming by. There are a lot of groups flooding around hunting.

Often the males will drop by and come to investigate that strange bubbling fish with tanks on their back.

Sometimes the will stay with you for a very long time to enjoy the attention they get.

Want to read more about this beautifull wreck ? Buy the book from Ned Middleton ISBN9781898162711