Although I have dived on Aqaba’s other military vehicle wreck the Tank many times, this really was something new.
We were given special permission to dive here before this site officially opened, and even our boat captain and the guides had never visited, so we were among the first to see the sunken military museum.
Visibility was less good than it might have been, but it wasn’t long before I saw a huge gun-barrel sticking up from the seabed.
To me, a child of the 1980s who had been obsessed with anything army-related, it looked just like the iconic British battlefield Chieftain tank. However, subtle differences made others doubt my ID.
In the end, with much deliberation and the help of a few military-vehicle geeks, we decided that the tanks were in fact Jordanian Khalids, modified Chieftains originally designed and built for Iran.
Just like a plane, tanks and helicopters are an unusual sight under water, so swimming around them seemed very strange. They are placed far enough away from each other that you can see only a few at a time.
I decided to start my tour at the shallower front of the formation, where they had placed the smaller armoured cars such as the Ferret, followed by the more modern-looking FV 104 Samaritan.
Most of the doors and hatches have been left open but it’s not really possible to penetrate these apart from the medical Samaritan, which has large doors at the back for ease of loading and unloading of patients.
Some of the auxiliary equipment had been left in place, including switches, dials, folding patient beds and even the rear-door toilet, which was funny to see. Hopefully it will survive the inevitable Instagram photos of divers taking a pew!
Clockwise from top: Ascending from a Bell AH-1 Cobra in the deepest part of the museum; two M42 Dusters with their AA guns pointed skywards; a diver peeks inside the open cockpit of one of the Cobras.
Behind these vehicles were the large battle-tanks onto which we had originally descended, leading to a South African Ratel with its unusual but distinctive angular front end.
The turret and gun had been removed, which made it easy to look inside to the troop-carrying area.
A Chieftain Armoured Repair & Recovery Vehicle or ARV with its bulldozer nose sat in tight formation next to the Ratel. As you poke around looking in all the nooks and crannies yet another sight comes into view – a couple of large M155 203mm field-guns.
The highlights for me are two Vietnam-era Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopters, still looking menacing even under almost 30m of water. I could have looked around them for ages, but as they are at the deepest point, time wasn’t on my side.
With so many exhibits this site is huge, and could easily take several dives to explore. We dived here three times, but there was still plenty more to see.