Truk Lagoon Diving 2017April 7 2017
Truk Lagoon, also known as Chuuk Lagoon is part of the Federated States of Micronesia.
During WWII the protected bays of the archipelago was used by the Japanese Imperial Navy as a waypoint to the USA and Asia.
After Pearl Harbor, the US intelligence found out about the location and in February 1944 the US started Operation Hailstone as a revenge for Pearl Harbor.Read background
Accept contributions for your expediton by providing us a few details. We will create an account on your behalf at WePay. If you haven't already registered with WePay, they will send you an email to complete your registration.
Dive Log day 6 dive 2
The last dive of this trip. Used as a cargo ship for 'special cargo' by the Japanese Imperial Navy, she was struck down by two dive bombers. Today there is a huge hole visible amidships that would certainly have caused her sinking.
Most of her holds are empty but she still carries 18.1" armor piercing shells that weigh 3,219 lb. and could be fired 23 miles.
Access to her engine room with her triple expansion engine and giant tools still mounted to the wall is easily accessible.
Dive time 45 min, max depth 27m
Dive log day 6 dive 1
San Francisco Maru
Friday has come and it's our last dive day. The first dive today was being planned since early this week.
The San Francisco Maru is arguably THE wreck of Chuuk lagoon. 117m long, sitting in just over 60m of water.
She's called the Million Dollar Wreck because when she sunk she took her full cargo of bullets, bombs, mines, trucks and tanks with her to the bottom of the sea. Her holds are still packed to the brim to this day.
Her foredeck is in about 45 to 50m of water. If you want to spend any time on her you want to put some planning into it. With a common dive computer, you have less than 6 minutes of No Decompression time and that includes the descend.
We planned a dive for about 15 minutes. Given the full week of diving we had behind us, the international travel before us and the training experience level of the involved divers, this was the safe choice. It still gave us a runtime of about 60 min based on the plan.
As we only had one dive on her, the plan was to descend (planned were 2 min), traverse forward over the bridge onto the forward holds where trucks were kept, past the 3 battletanks on her foredeck and around the bow with the impressive gun.
We had 5 divers plus our very experienced dive guide. Everybody had enough air to run the decompression independently on air and everyone had an independent air source.
After everyone was ready, we descended along the mooring line and pretty much followed the prearranged plan. There was so little time to see her full beauty but just enough to follow the advice of a diver who did a lot of dives on her: When you reach the bow, swim out a little, turn around and look back.
An impressive site for sure. 15 minutes and a single dive do her no justice.
We have to come back!
Dive time 65 min, max depth 50 m
Dive log day 5 dive 3
The 3rd dive of the day took us to the Hoyo Maru a former tanker. Capsized when she sunk and upside down in 30 meters depth.
On the attack or when she sunk, her stern almost broke off and lays in only about 3 meters. We followed her keel over the hard coral encrusted hull and made it to her starboard side down towards her deck. The superstructure is either buried in the sand or crushed for the most part. Crossing underneath her in the twilight just in front of her bridge and made our way shallower and towards the stern. There are giant holes into her cargo holds and diving into the cavernous expanse hidden in the darkness has an eery feel to it.
Crossing back across the hull we made our way to a hole big enough to drive a truck through. Difficult to say if it stems from a torpedo or bomb blast. Descending through the opening we entered into a storage area which contained all kinds of artifacts including a spare (ship) propeller blade.
Dive time 47 min, max depth 30m
Dive log day 5 dive 2
On February 17th 1944, the Gosei Maru was one of 4 cargo ships in the Sixth Fleet Anchorage selected for attack.
Today, her bow lays in about 36m with the ship on her port side with a heavy list. When she sunk, her holds were mostly empty except for some long lance torpedos which still can be found in her holds and on the sand around her.
Her stern is fairly shallow and the propeller/rudder area is covered in a great variety of corals and swarmed by fish.
Dive log day 5, dive 1
There is a lot of confusion about the Sankisan Maru. Some sources say that the Sankisan Maru was launched 1942 in Japan. Other sources point to an American vessel, the Red Hook that was captured by the Japanese in 1942 and renamed as Sankisan Maru. Lost in the fog of war is also the story of how the ship we now call Sankisan Maru was sunk.
Fact is, today the wreck sits in about 27m depth. Her aft section is totally blown apart. What is left of her holds is heavily loaded with ammunition, truck and airplane parts.
Her superstructure and part her masts are covered in beautiful soft corals and are home to a wide variety of fish species.
Dive time 50 min, max depth 25 m.
Dive log day 4, dive 2
The second dive took us to the Heian Maru. She was a large passenger/cargo liner. With 55m she is the largest wreck in the lagoon.
During her naval career, she was used as a submarine tender and had lots of spares for subs. Her storage is full of torpedoes, periscopes and communication equipment.
Today she lays on her port side with a depth to the bottom of about 34m.
Being one of the largest ships, she's got the biggest propellers as well. Both are out of the sand and her separated by her giant rudder.
Dive time 60 min, max depth 27 m
Dive log day 4
Another day, more dives!
The morning dive took us to the wreck of the I 169 submarine. This particular wreck has a pretty haunting story attached. During an US air raid in April 1944, the sub tried to escape the planes by quickly diving. Once submerged the crew realized that a valve on the storm ventilation tubes wasn't closed properly and the sub couldn't surface anymore. Rescue divers could make contact with the crew inside but attempts to raise the sub failed and all hands were lost. Later the Japanese used depth charges to render the sub useless.
Today the conning tower and the forward section of the sub is blown off and the stern is heavily damaged.
Dive time 45 min, max depth 31m
Dive log day 3
After we already did 3 dives that day, plans were put in motion for a night dive. The Fujikawa Maru was chosen as we were diving her before and she is compared to the other wrecks not that deep. Driving out to her position at dusk it was amazing as always on how the divemasters and skippers find the location with a pinpoint accuracy. They are not using any GPS, there are usually no surface buoys indicating the location and still, the boat is driving to the location of the submerged mooring line within a meter or two.
Upon descend, we still had some light. That quickly faded though and the wreck was cast in eery blackness. Following along we went to check out two of the cargo holds, one containing mainly old fuel tanks the other one the Zero fighther planes that we saw on the day dive.
Coming back to the ascend line it was completely dark. It's always a very different feeling today swim in the absolute darkness. I love to turn off the torch on the safety stop and just be one with the ocean.
I left my camera on the surface, so no pictures this time.
Dive time 45 min, max depth 25m
Dive log day 3
The second part of the day was a bit different. We went to see two of the plane wrecks close to the old airstrip.
The fist one was the "Betty bomber** and the second one the Emily sea plane. While the first one was shot down, the second one was sitting on a mooring when the US attack started and was sunk I'm place.
Sadly, someone had the need to scratch their name into one of the wings
Dive 1, time 25min, max depth 20 m
Dive 2, time 25min, max depth 15 m
Dive log day 3
The first dive today took us to the Nippo Maru, one of the fairly famous wrecks. Her upper deck is quite busy with anti airplane guns, trucks and even a tank. It's a fairly deep dive with depth to the seabed of over 40 m. After descending on the mooring line we headed towards the stern, past the anti airplane guns and the bridge towards the trucks and tank on the foredeck.
It's a great dive and again, an impressive dive. Because of the depth and size of the wreck, it's impossible to see all of the wreck in one dive without ranking upon lots of deco.
Dive time 50min, max depth 40m.
Second dive took us to the Kensho Maru, a passenger and cargo ship.
Besides a slight list to Port she's standing upright in about 40m of water. Her bow gun is fully covered in corals. We passed the cargo holds and made our way into the engine room midships. A small passage way gives way to the expanse of the engine room with boilers and gauges still in place. For being at the hart of the ship, there is a fair amount of light coming in through the angled glass roof that looks a little bit like a greenhouse roof.
Out of the engine room, we kept on going towards the stern. Parts of the stern section of the ship is actually blown off. Right in the middle of the stern there is a gapping hole, big enough to drive a car through. As far as I could gather, a bomb hit her right up her tail end.
Dive time 55min, max depth 31 m
Exciting day. The first dive took us to the Rio de Janeiro Maru. A Passenger Liner converted into carrier.
Today, she's laying on her starboard side in a bit over 30m of water.
Opon descend we made our way towards the stern. The port side screw is looming above the rudder and beside the growth one could think it just been turning. Parts of the name plate is still visible, just reading RIO DE. Going forward we pass the stern gun to get to the cargo holds. Still plenty of sake bottles line the floor and machine gun barrels lining the walls. Continuing forward to the stern we came across blast holes, explosions on the inside of the ship that ripped the hull.
Dive time 56 min, max depth 28 m
The second dive took us to the wreck of the Shinkoku Maru. She was an oil freighter carrying vital oil and fuel for the Japanese Imperial Navy.
Besides being fully overgrown with soft corals she doesn't have as many external features. Well, that's not quite true, her size is impressive.
The bottom lays in 38m, the bridge is in about 12m depth.
Dive time 55min, max depth 25m.
Today's dives were spectacular. And they were only the checkout dives!
First dive in the morning took us to the Fujikawa Maru. Built as a cargo ship in 1938, she was converted to an armed aircraft transport carrier.
In one of the forward cargo holds are 4 disassembled Mitsubishi Zero fighther planes.
An impressive ship, her keel in over 30 meters of water, with pretty much every surface being covered in a thick growth and beautiful soft corals.
Dive time 47 min, max depth 28m.
Leg 3 of 3 - Were here!
After flying over parts of the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea, stopping over in Port Moresby (Papua new Guinea) for a few hours and another 3 hour flight, we finally made it to Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia.
Tomorrow morning: Dive Plan!
Follow along on this expedition for a deep dive into history.
Truk Lagoon is well known and well (scuba) dived, nonetheless it's exciting to explore the many shipwrecks that are slowly rusting on the sea floor.
My trip will take me from Sydney, Australia to Brisbane and then onwards via Port Moresby to Truk Lagoon.
The picture is of the bow gun of the Fujikawa Maru, one of the prominent wrecks in Truk. (Via Wikipedia)