Truk Lagoon claims the world’s greatest wreck diving and with over 60 ships plus aircraft, in a protected lagoon, the claim is justified. On this trip we were invited to join Max Gleeson (maxgleeson.com) and Lesley Hillyer (AquaSea) as they continued to work on Max’s second documentary on the wrecks of Truk Lagoon (more below). Martin, with his huge ‘underwater selfie stick’, also joined our group.
|Buddha, on the Oite|
We have been to Chuuk before, using different twin tank systems and although a simple back plate and harness was the better option, it still felt cumbersome in narrow doorways and corridors. This time we went side mount, I had my Stealth 2.0 Classic while Karen used a Stealth Rec wing fitted to her Classic harness.
In switching from cold water to warm, with different suits, tanks and side mount rigging, it took a couple of dives to get weight, trim and ‘boat procedures’ down pat. Operating out of the Blue Lagoon Dive Shop – our boat driver, Rhys, went from intrigued observer to expert assistant, helping to don tanks after just a few dives.
|Roller, near the San Francisco Maru|
Max’s second video will feature lesser known and deeper wrecks of Truk Lagoon. This worked well with our objectives to revisit the Oite and because I needed a better photo of a road roller lying on the sand with the silouette of the San Francisco Maru in the background. I'd taken a photo on the last trip, not thinking about the ship in the background (hence, I didn't get it right).
Cutting a long story short, these are the ships, our dive depths and some of our notes for those whom might contemplate similar (and there’s much more to see).
|Wreck||Our depth||What to see|
|Yubae Maru||30m||tableware and saki bottles, props sticking up|
|Patrol Boat||27m||limited damage, interesting valves and gauges|
|Nagano Maru||58m||trucks and road roller in the hold|
|Kiyosumi Maru||27m||torpedo holes at bow, a bicycle, coral decorated masts|
|Fujisan Maru||58m||a large tanker with fuelling pipes, signal light on sand|
|Oite||62m||one of only two destroyers in the lagoon|
|Momokawa Maru||36m||bridge telegraph and phono tubes|
|Shotan Maru||49m||vehicles in the hold, bullets, shells, pots and pans|
|Unnamed lighter||27m||(see below)|
|Amagisan Maru||38m||large forward gun, great exploring|
|San Fransisco Maru||62m||tanks, vehicles, road roller, engine room and lots more|
|Seiko Maru||41m||large decorated masts, bathrooms and mess, telegraph|
|Taiho Maru||44m||(see below)|
|Kensho Maru||27m||large engine room in excellent condition|
|Aikoku Maru||40m||manoeuvring helm and telegraph at stern, galley|
|Soporo Maru||26m||had to happen – 3m visibility, but clear inside|
Highlights for the trip were the Oite, San Francisco Maru and two wrecks that had not been visited by divers for many years.
|Tank on San Francisco Maru|
The Oite is (was) a destroyer and the speed boat in the lagoon, with a slender hull and with two large props, after the engines, fuel and munitions there must have been little space for the crew (respectfully, some are still there). With a limited run time it was exploring on a schedule (luckily, we did two dives on her), but we located a gun in the wreckage of the upturned bow that we hadn’t seen before. The stern section, upright, has a large gun and anti-aircraft guns that make for great photos. The San Francisco Maru was great, as always, and I got the photo of the roller.
The first of the two ‘new’ wrecks, was the Taiho Maru. Blown in two but Max and MacKensey (our guide) found her rear half. Rumour says it lost popularity as a dive site many years ago because the leaking aviation fuel burned divers’ exposed skin – fair enough! The water is clear now and this wreck, lying on its port side, has one of the most photogenic props in the lagoon.
The second ‘rediscovery’ was an unnamed lighter, a maintenance vessel and water pump. It also has a pretty prop, partly buried, with a huge coral fan nearby. The pump control room near the bow was fascinating, full of gauges, valves, and pipes going in every direction. We found navigation lanterns and much of the compass, including brass gimbals and the large glass dome.
Side mount proved a great choice for exploring. With much of the wooden decks rotted away it was easier to slip between the steel framework than it had been before with twins, or to roll 90 degrees and just swim through narrow doorways. Sometimes it was the camera arms that were more difficult to get through windows, when you don’t really want to touch the wreck – to preserve both it and yourself. Both Stealth rigs are very streamlined, meaning minimal exertion and less air consumption at depth – I’ll use it again next time.
Back to Max’s videos. The first video (volume 1), includes some history on Operation Hailstone (why the wrecks are there) and features 15 of the more famous and popular ship wrecks in the lagoon, plus a chapter on aircraft. It is a great video and it might also be the best ‘dive trip planning tool’ that you’ll ever see. Max and Lesley have done an amazing job organising, filming and putting the video together. I’m looking forward to volume 2, and Max has already offered a teaser on Vimeo.