Ghubbat ar Rahib Bay
Ghubbat ar Rahib bay is a natural anchorage off the northeastern coast of Al Hallaniyah island. Large stone anchors discovered in the bay indicate that it has been used in the past as an anchorage and a British Admiralty chart based on an 1837 hydrographic survey also marks the bay as an historical anchorage. Depths in the bay slope gradually and uniformly to the north, while the fine, sandy bottom provides good holding for anchors.
The bay extends approximately 3.8 km from Ra’s al Hallaniyah to Ra’s Sayyir the low-lying eastern extremity of the island. Owing to its position in combination with the height of Ra’s al Hallaniyah (501 m) and other internal peaks on the island rising to 503 m, the bay provides natural shelter from winds SE through S, to NW, which includes the Khareef. However, the bay is fully exposed to the north and winds and swell generated during the northeast monsoon. A dangerous northerly wind, known as the Belatt, which originates on the mainland and blows across the full fetch of Khuriya Muriya Bay is almost certainly the wind that the caused the conditions leading to the wrecking of the Sodré brother’s naus Esmeralda and São Pedro.
Two known steel shipwrecks located in the bay were investigated as part of the overall project to document all cultural material that exists in the location. The City of Winchester was a 6,601-ton British cargo steamer captured at the outbreak of WW1 by the Imperial German Navy and later scuttled after 400 tons of her bunker coal was removed. The wreck now lies in the centre of the bay, approximately 1,300 metres from shore, at a depth of 28 metres. In late 1999 a 750-ton cargo ship Al Quasmi carrying 5-litre containers of oil ran hard aground and was left stranded in the southwestern corner of the bay. All that remains of this dismantled ship are some sections of the steel hull lying along the rocky shoreline and in the adjacent shallow water.
A high-resolution geophysical survey of the main anchorage area, encompassing 2.5 km2, was conducted at the start of the 2013 field season to map and investigate all anomalies that might represent archaeological material connected with the Portuguese squadron or other wrecks. The survey was conducted in the highest possible detail using sidescan sonar (Edgetech 4125; 400/900 kHz), cesium magnetometer (Geometrics G822), echo-sounding (Garmin 240) and sub-metre GPS positioning equipment (C-Nav 3050). The resolution and conditions were sufficient to detect seabed targets as small as 10 cm and magnetic anomalies of 1 nT. Only two prominent targets were detected by the geophysical survey, which were positively identified by divers as the remains of a small steam driven ship’s boat and a large iron anchor that was almost completely buried. Evidence collected by the divers strongly indicates that both objects originate from the City of Winchester and were lost during the action with the Imperial German Navy.