The Freak Storm that Left the Hercules C130 a Real Wreck

On November 16, 2017, Aqaba created a new dive site and sunk an old Hercules C130 transport aircraft. It took a lot of preparation to prepare the plane for sinking and much coordination between the Royal Jordanian Navy, the Aqaba Port Corporation, and ASESA, the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority. They placed it 300m/984ft off the shore at a maximum depth of about 16 meters. King Abdullah II spearheaded this project to promote tourism and create an artificial reef for fish to inhabit.

Some people are naturally skeptical about artificial reefs and wonder why people would want to put things like planes underwater. Because artificial reefs soon become a habitat for new marine life, they create popular destinations for divers. They also divert pressure away from heavily visited coral reefs. Too many divers in certain spots can eventually cause damage. So many believe that artificial reefs can create a win-win situation for the environment and the economy. And it was with this intent that Aqaba decided to sink the Hercules.

They placed the plane in a location near the M42 Duster tank that was easily accessible from shore  or boat by divers and snorkelers. At that time, the plane was fully intact and quite a sight to behold underwater. 

Inside Hercules C130
Photo: Torbjorn Gylleus / DYK - The Scandinavian Dive Site, used by permission
The Freak Storm that Left the Hercules C130 a Real Wreck 1
Photo: Torbjorn Gylleus / DYK - The Scandinavian Dive Site, used by permission

Hercules C130 2017

Hercules C130 2018

Underwater enthusiasts thoroughly enjoyed exploring the plane and seeing the plastic skeleton in the cockpit. They dressed this skeleton in a flight suit and helmet which was a bit eery. The helmet remains, but the flight suit is now missing. Because the plane was sterilized in preparation for scuttle, it looked quite a bit different from what it did shortly thereafter. The plane soon became filled with many fish and soft corals. The shiny exterior and interior soon became covered with algae and other marine life. But one freak act of nature changed with this amazing site from a scuttled artificial reef to a real wreck.

On March 17, 2020, a strong storm hit Aqaba with gale-force winds. Unfortunately, the aluminum fuselage could not withstand the tumbling of the huge waves and the plane broke into several pieces. The plane doesn’t look anything like it did when it was first sunk. The wings sank to the bottom and the body was torn in two. And the nose of the plane was torn off and is now sitting on another location of the site. However, much of the plane is still filled with life! There are fish making it a refuge and soft corals continue to grow on the wings. The tail has remained intact and is still a sight to behold by both snorkelers and divers.

The Freak Storm that Left the Hercules C130 a Real Wreck 2
C130 Wreckage photo by Catherine Hoelzer

The plane wreckage remains a special artificial reef in Aqaba. Although the site lost some of its original charms, it is still regularly visited by divers and snorkelers. And thankfully, there are many photos and videos of the original site to help us remember what an amazing underwater attraction it was for a few years.

If you will soon be visiting Aqaba and want to visit this special site, please contact us at Deep Blue Dive Center to book and our guides will happily show you around. You can also visit the M42 Duster, commonly known at “the Tank” at the same time. Or enjoy Seven Sisters near the Tank, which is beautiful reef that is filled with tall pinnacles inhabited with glassfish and anthias. Unfortunately, some of the pinnacles were also broken by the storm but they are still covered with much life. If you’ll be staying for several days, be sure to check out the dive sites here and start making plans.

The Freak Storm that Left the Hercules C130 a Real Wreck 3
Inside C130 2021 photo by Catherine Hoelzer
The Freak Storm that Left the Hercules C130 a Real Wreck 4
The Tank photo by Brett Hoelzer
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