So after catching different airlines flying to Hong Kong the dive group all met for a beer on Monday 6th Feb, in the Novotel in Kowloon, looking forward to the next stage of our epic journey to Truuk Lagoon which was to be started early Tuesday morning. We all met looking not so bright eyed or bushy in tail at the All Nippon Airlines check-in desk ready and sort of excited for the trip ahead but more so for what we knew was to follow.
On we flew to Narita Airport, Tokyo, and waited for a few more hours in uncomfortable chairs for our next flight to Guam, then in the evening off to Guam on a United Airlines flight. We all arrived in Guam the early hours of about 2am with another 6 hours layover and time to chec out more uncomfortable chairs!
The end of our travelling was now in sight, we all boarded the short hop of a flight to Truuk looking like the grateful dead. The flight was packed with locals who come to Guam for their big shopping trip! It wasn’t long before the views out of the windows of the fringing reefs and coral islands soon pepped us up for the landing on Truuk (now called Chuuk).
The airport is a small affair and we were met by the Master Liveabords rep, Aaron, who earned the nick-name “$50” for his entrepreneurial skills! The luggage is delivered to the baggage “carousel” via a fork lift!!! Most of which consisted of large cool boxes containing foodstuffs, which was another interesting view of island life.
Off to the boat which was recently re-fitted and was a pleasure to behold after over 24 hours travelling, we met the crew all of whom were very friendly and one of the best crews that I have been on a liveaboard with. Once allocated cabins and dive kit sorted we had some lunch and a briefing regarding the forthcoming 10 days on board and diving……. Yes we were going diving…. Yippee ! We then actually had a training re the emergency alarm and muster stations which again was well done and a pleasure to see, not had to do one of those on a Red Sea trip before.
Finally we were going to get wet! Into the water we went and dived on the Yamigiri Maru, lying on her port side in 15–33 meters of water. Just a gentle dive with the need to check your weighting which was less arduous than the Red Sea as the salinity of the sea water is less in the Pacific.
Almost all the wrecks in Truuk Lagoon are “Marus” which means freighter in Japanese, all the wrecks were sunk over the 17-18 Feb. 1944 in a devastating attack by U.S. Navy forces, and so each wreck is a time capsule as to what it contained and was doing on those day in 1944. The Yamagiri has massive 14” Naval shells for the Japanese battleships which left the lagoon prior to the U.S. raid, also a road roller and other construction equipment probably for making and repairing runways on the occupied islands. This wreck is also Infamous for the skull of a Japanese sailor who died in the attack that is now wedged into the engine room pipes and gauges.
Once the dive had finished it was the obligatory post dive de-brief at Beer o’clock followed by dinner. After this and due to the amount of travelling by 8pm we were all “cattle truuked” so we retired to the land of many nods ready for a full on dive show for the next 9 days!
So Up early at 06:30 for briefing at 06:45, slightly more hospitable than the 05:30/06:00 wake up call in the Red Sea. So up, check the Nitrox in the tanks – usually 29% to enable a bit of depth. Then briefing with a cuppa in hand. We dived the same wreck, Yamagiri again and saw more items in the holds.
Later we were off to the Shinkoko Maru, which was a Oil tanker and was equipped to re-fuel the naval warships at sea, we gained entry to the engine room through a massive hole caused by a torpedo strike which leads to the engine room, also saw an intact sickbay and operating table, and a few assorted bones! The wrecks are in such good condition and no one has removed interesting stuff from the wrecks, which is great!
The next day was a unique opportunity to dive Submarine wreck, the I-169, which was actually sunk in April 1944 when the U.S. Navy paid a return visit, to make sure that the Japanese hadn’t repaired too much. The Sub crash-dived upon the alert being raised, but left important valves open and the front section/torpedo room flooded. The Sub could not re-surface and the land based personnel realised that something was wrong when it failed to surface, the sailors on board the sub in the rear engine room kept knocking to let other know that they were still alive but all attempts to raise the sub failed, eventually no more was heard and so the hull was depth charged to prevent it being raised by the U.S.
This actual sub took part in the raid on Pearl Harbour, where one of it’s sister boats was sunk. It is the only Japanese sub wreck that can be dived, so an interesting piece of history once again. The Sub is in reasonable condition but no penetration is allowed.
Next up was the Kiyosumi Maru, a larger merchant vessel converted with guns and a torpedo launcher to an Armed Merchant raider, with plenty of 55-gallon drums that contained aviation fuel, spare propeller blades for aircraft and other paraphernalia.
Last dive of the day was on another Tanker wreck that is now upside down and appears to be a massive reef with the large amount of growth now on it. Although due to a bomb damage and hole entry can be gained into the engine room. Then after a quick shower and change it was dinner, the food on board was fabulous and loads of it! A few beers followed…
Saturday saw us diving on the Nippo and then the Rio de Janeiro Maru’s with two dives on each. The Nippo has a battle tank on the deck and three large artillery guns and lots of bottles of beer! The Rio has large deck guns and again a very large quantity of beer bottles, the ship was on fire in the front holds causing shells to exploded and so leaving a tell tale hole in the side showing that the shell went from inside to outside bending back the hull plating.
Sunday we dived the Hoki, which contains a large bulldozer, many trucks, tractors, the bridge area was destroyed when the aviation fuel the ship was carrying in the forward hols exploded and tore the decking back over the superstructure like opening a tin can.
We then dived three different aircraft wrecks lying quite shallow (compared to the rest of the shipwrecks) in less that 20m of water, first was a “Betty” bomber a twin engine land based aircraft, which one could swim through from front to back, it was amazing to see the aircraft in such good condition, next was a large ”Emily” flying boat, basically a Japanese version of Short Sunderland flying boat, float planes and flying boats were used extensively by them to ferry people and small amounts of freight around the Pacific islands without the need for the building of a runway on the land.
Next up was a crashed Zero fighter, which was upside down and appears to have been shot up by the attacking U.S. Navy planes as it was attempting to get airborne.
Monday 13th Feb saw us do 4 dives on the Fujikawa Maru, probably one of the most famous wrecks in the lagoon. Inside the holds are the fuselages of Zero aircraft, spare aircraft parts, wings, belly tanks, and propellers. We also went and explored the machine shop with lathes, pillar drill and a famous air compressor which looks like R2D2 or Bender!
The next day dives were on the San Francisco Maru, another famous wreck very deep and 50 meters to the deck, so a very quick visit is all that was possible but we saw the famous three tanks resting on the deck, the holds are described as containing $1,000,000 worth of munitions the ship was that full with ordinance. But with a very short bottom time we just did the tanks and the bow gun. Next was the Seiko Maru .This contains the well know Japanese torpedo known as the Long Lance, as it was bigger and better than anything the U.S or the Royal Navy had in their arsenals at this time. After this was the Sankisan Maru, which contains bullets by the billions, truck chassis, machine guns and radial aircraft engines and lots of small medicine bottles.
On Wednesday 15th Feb we dived the Amagisan, Gosei & Unkai Maru’s again all in a brilliant condition and containing numerous munitions for the war. The 16th we dived the Momokawa and Kensho Maru’s again all in a fabulous state, which we just don’t find here in the U.K.
On our last day of diving Friday 17th the 73rd anniversary of the U.S. Navy raid and sinking’s My buddy Howard and I just did two dives on the Heian Maru as we felt that 36 dives in 9 days was more than sufficient! The Heian was a passenger and cargo liner that was converted to a Submarine Support ship and therefore contains periscopes, torpedos, medical kits and beer bottles; this is the largest wreck in the lagoon.
Later this day we went for a walk onto the old airfield at Eten Island which is now completely overgrown in lush tropical vegetation, including bananas, and coconut trees, we walked into this to find the old control and command building which was made from re-enforced concrete and still stands today despite numerous bombs being dropped on it, next door to this building are two huge bunkers which appear relatively intact, now being used by the locals for accommodation.
All in all this was a brilliant trip and I am pleased that I went, it is not the easiest place to get to or from but the diving was amazing. Please see the photos published to detail what I have attempted to describe above