Ras Sudrah

November 2005 (Eid holiday)
Under Construction

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A story of rocks and a steamer

Distance from Muscat: about 550km single way.


How to get there: . To preserve the site I will only provide location details after specific request.

To reach the nearby Nafun coastline follow take the Nizwa Highway from Seeb and near Izki turn south to Sinaw. At Sinaw roundabout (Shell Petrol Station) turn to right, through centre of Sinaw, going straight over the two little roundabouts. This will take you on the road to Duqm, a long boring drive just west of the Wahiba's, but getting more interesting once you pass Hayy (petrol station and junction to Masirah and Bar Al Hickman -if you would want to go there, petrol stations @ Shell station N21 27 20.1 E58 14 37.9 and Shell station at Hayy N20 46 49.1 E58 17 04.8. Some 20km before Duqm is the junction on gravel track to Nafun (@ N19 52 34.0 E57 40 51.1). See also Huqf Dec2002.
 


Eid holiday 2005. We decided to drive south with friends and put-up camp on a lovely beach we had seen before, but never explored fully.

The campsite is also close to the Huqf area and we had planned some daytrips to the Al Khlata outcrops, trying to round back via wadi Shuram and that's what we did (the route in red on the map).

The beach was indeed lovely. More: it homes a magnificent steam engine, probably rusting in peace since the early 1900's. This story is therefore partly about rocks and partly about steam engines: the story of a wreck.

 


Balancing rock on a hill of the Precambrian Shuram Formation, nodding the way to the secluded beach near the fishing village of Ras Sudrah.
View over the abrasion platform close to our campsite. The cliffs at the back show the transition from the Precambrian Shuram Formation (base) to the massive limestones of the Precambrian Buah Formation.
Campsite: a lovely secluded bay between rocky headlands and in front a nice sandy beach

Tour of the Southern Huqf (205 km), from Duqm to the pavement of wadi Al Khlata (near 19 45' 55.4" N // 57 26' 7.7" E) and the pavement at Ain Hindl (20 01' 30.3"N// 57 27' 1.9" E) , subsequently via junction @ Huqf Sabkha (20 10' 15.1"N // 57 30' 10.8" E) near Amin Hill (black) to the large stromatolites in the Buah Formation and back to the beach via wadi Shuram and main road to Duqm (20 08' 57"N // 57 43' 10.3" E).

Wadi Al Khlata, bullet-shaped stone, scratched and shaped by moving ice, see also Souther Huqf

Ain Hindl glacial pavement, deep grooves in the Khufai Limestone caused by grounded ice.
Health Warning: This trip through the southern Huqf goes into uninhabited desert with soft sands and sabkha. Never travel in these areas alone and prepare yourself properly (check out what you need here). Leave your itinerary with friends and make sure that somebody knows when to action if you do not return in time. The desert is an unforgiving environment. It looks easy from a modern air-conditioned 4WD car, but if that fails you are suddenly back to basics!

Check this link before you go

 


Large stromatolites in the Buah Formation (wadi Shuram), see also Southern Huqf

On top of the limestone cliffs of the Buah Formation

Large stromatolities in the Buah Formation
The next day relaxing on the beach, but also exploring the area.

The remains of a steam engine are left high on the rocks. They comprise a single boiler and what looks like two triple expansions steam engines that powered a twin screw ship, probably made of wood (schooner or barge?). Normally these engines would have been salvaged, but the remoteness of the site probably made that impossible. The local fishermen must have been stripping the more mobile parts of the ship (wood) as very little else but the heavy machinery remains. We found the remains of the anchor and other parts in little caves.

Excellent websites explaining the development of such steam engines can be found at:

http://www.njscuba.net/artifacts/obj_engine.html

with also a link to a description of boilers

http://www.njscuba.net/artifacts/obj_boiler.html

and

http://www.twaintimes.net/boat/sbpage4d.htm

and

http://www.steamboats.com/museum/engineroom6.html

Comparison with this material makes me believe that the wreck dates from the early 1900's when steel ships took over. The boiler is a very typical Scotch boiler that have been around for quite a while. Steam engines florished from the 1860's and were replaced by steam turbines in the early 1900's.

The rusting steel is peeling off (wood-like fashion), which is typical for "hammered carbon steel" of the industrial revolution period.

A piece of history that belongs in a museum. Working on the story!!


Boiler with clearly visible the two furnace doors (at lower left) leading to the furnaces, heating the water that is running around inner tubes through which the hot air from the furnace is channeled for the exchange of heat. Tube outlets clearly visible above the furnaces. That's where the chimney would have been connected. This is a typical scotch boiler as shown below, introduced already from 1860's.


The anchor, found in one of the caves at the back of the cliffs, probably salvaged by local fishermen, but too bulky to move anywhere else

View on the two  triple expansion steam engines with rods connecting to the two crank shaft driving the two screws.
 

The machinery is very rusty, except for the copper parts. One piece still shows the cast of what must have been “Glenfield”, but the last “d” is not readable anymore. This probably refers to Glenfield & Co. of Kilmarnock. A company still in existence, making valves, but which used to also produce steam engines


Triple expansion steam engines came into exitence at the end of the nineteenth century. They were replaced by steam turbines in the early 20th century, but remained in use up to the 1940's. Note the small -high pressure- chamber in front, with subsequently lower pressure -bigger- steam chambers to the back.

View from back to front with two propellor shafts connected to the two steam engines and the boiler at the back.
Most of the wreck has disappeared and the vessel was therefore most probably made of wood (schooner or tug?).
Rocks, machinery and good company.

Now the story of the steam engine. Research on-going.

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@ J. Schreurs November 2005