TRUK LAGOON has got to be the best wreck diving I have ever do in my life! GODS HONEST TRUTH!!! This place is everything and more it is cracked out to be.
Anyway - 9 days diving - 15 wrecks dived - 26 hours accumulated dive time - what a trip!!!!
I wont bore you with the finer details of travel but it wasnt as bad as imagined. 2 days travel there . Auckland - Brisbane - Cairns - Guam - Chuuk. The layovers weren't that bad and in general it was pleasant enough. Apart from the lack of travel allowance! I tell you what NEVER travel Quantas if you can avoid it. What a pack of wolves!!! They have a 20kg restriction no matter what! We flew from Cairns to chuuk Air Continental and they had a 32 kg allowance which was more appropriate. Thank God we got an air NZ lady that checked us in as per usual we (as divers go) were traveling a little on the heavy side. There were 5 of us in total Pete Steggle, Mike Zehnpfennig, Gareth Bellamy, Steve Huckle and myself so it was a nice small trip. Anyway 122kg later overweight we got let off with it so a big thanks to the nice Air NZ lady!!! The biggest restriction these days is the weight allowance.
Of course for some ungodly reason we ended up flying on the anniversary of 9/11 so when we went through Guam (the largest army outpost outside the US) they were on orange alert! The two dodgy people that always seemed to get a grilling was Mike and Pete S!!!! The sound of latex rubber gloves being put on is an unmistakable sound!! ( I don't think Pete S and Mike will forget it in a hurry!)
For me this was 15 years in the making this trip. When I learnt to dive in the UK I remember my instructor going on and on about truk as being the wreck mecca on the globe. Being a bigger trip, price wise, I kept on exploring the closer south pacific wreck areas over the years. Now after day one of the trip I realized that we just dived a 550 foot ocean liner and that was probably going to be the only dive we did on it! I have been to the Coolidge 5 times now each 10 day trips - over 120 hours on one wreck and here we have about 6 ocean liners - AND ALL SHALLOW enough for recreational nitrox diving. This is another misconception about Truk - it is NOT all DEEP diving!! Infact I was amazed that this place hasn't been tapped into more.
When they said it was the diving mecca they weren't wrong. This place can cater for relatively new divers right up to the rust fanatic.
For the recreational diver ...
You will have a ball. You don't have to have thousands of dives under your belt with massive deep diving skills to enjoy truk. The life on the wrecks are incredible and you wont leave a wreck without being rewarded by a sighting of long tailed spotted eagle rays, sharks, and schooling jacks. Over 95% of the diving offered by operators in Truk is recreational diving based so put that myth to bed that truk is deep and only for techo divers!!! I would recommend doing your nitrox course though as you can really get the benefit out of it. You will be able to come here for years and still not be able to see all the wrecks. And the beauty is that they are all different and have different characteristics
For the extended range diver/rebreather/techo
Again another thing that I learned early on in this trip was that there is SO MUCH completely untouched diving in truk. Even after all this time. Because of the nature of Truk catering for so long only for the recreational diver things are beginning to open up for the technical diver now. Which means............... ITS PLAY TIME!!!!!
Our good hosts Eamon and Judi Guilfoyle from Truk Lagoon Dive Centre couldn't have been more accommodating. Eamon and Judi had already started the ball rolling with the technical diving side of things and have 5 sets of manifolded twins, helium, LOADS of O2 AND a Haskel booster!!! And also now Truck Lagoon Dive Centre is totally rebreather friendly now. They will have tanks for inspos and you can organize sorb for your trip. SO NO leaving your breather at home from now on. They will also be organising tech packages focusing on the deeper wrecks for longer bottom times. Here boats will go out for the morning and you can do 40-50-60-100minute bottom times on these 65-45m wrecks and be back for lunch and just do one of those a day.
I am still totally gobsmacked at how totally untouched these wrecks are. But understandably what happens is that people have such a short period of time on the wrecks they spend it being guided to the main attractions round the ship and with most of these ships being over 100m long its a good swim!!!
Usually my first port of call on these wrecks is the engine room ( thanks to Mike Z who got me into liking looking at marine engines- and explaining what I was looking at) These places just have not been penetrated. Massive rust stalagmites hang from the rails, ceiling and other appendages. These are extremely brittle and as soon as you touch one or even bubbles hit them they fall off so I can honestly say that the inside of these things are not dived at all. In the superstructure of these massive ships are so many artifacts you dont have to look very hard to come across, binoculars, totally pristine porcelain, personal effects, glasses, etc etc. It is now my focus to head back to Truk annually to explore these wrecks and get to know them a little more each time so if you are keen to come along and be a part of the team - recreational or techo you will have a blast!!!
STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION so bear with me....
Here are the wrecks that we dived during the week. and some comments about each dive.
DAY # 1 Bright sunny day
11 sept 2006
First shake down dive was on the Kansho Maru. After traveling two days once we got there we just had to get into the water.........The dive had a really accessible engine room. The mere mention of the engine room sent Mike Z into eutopia! What ever you do DON’T mention engine rooms!!!
RIO DE JANIRO MARU
DAY # 2
Bright sunny day
12 Sept 06
Dive # 1
Rio De Janiro
(Pete S swimming past on of the props!)
Ocean liner. The sheer size of the thing was amazing. The biggest thing that jumped out at us on this dive was the two props. The ship lies on her starboard so the props, telegraph on bottom of stern, stern gun. Engine room. 6” gun barrels, saki bottles, 6”guns
(this was a great dive! picture taken by Gareth of me picking up a telegraph off the floor - I couldnt resist!!!!)
Dive # 2
Probably one of the most famous wrecks in the Lagoon and the most dived. When ever I hear that I am diving a place that has been dived a million times the shine goes off the site immediately but this was a totally different story. The wreck was fantastic. The engine room was really easy to penetrate and inviting. Being quite shallow you can spend hours on the wreck ( as we did!!). Descended through the third hold into the galley, into the engine room and squeezed through a bulkhead into the workshop. Various tools are plain to see, a lathe, grinder, drill, glass tubes ( not sure what these were for). Cargo hold had Zero fighter planes. Really interesting, gauges in teh cockpit, barrels of avgas did this dive a few times and was great.
(Zero planes in the forward holds)
(looking down on the main engine casings while Pete S swims past! massive things!!)
Dive # 3
Descended through the huge torpedo hole from the hull, Smaller liner, torpedo launcher on tracks, saki bottles, toilets.
DAY # 3
Tropical wet sun ! "Pissing rain"
Dive # 1
This was an amazing wreck. The viz was excellent. Moored about 20 off the bow she was lying pretty much upright. With one of the anchors out (port) with a slight list to port. Awesome viz, tank off the port side sitting forward of the bridge, howitzers just to the starboard of hold 2 just aft of the bridge, great engine room gaining access from the port door aft of the bridge. In the door and first right into the engine room. This had fantastic views of staircases with light entering the skylights which access could not be entered. Very impressive gauges with jap writing on it. Life on this wreck was the best so far, jacks circling the forward masts, Barracudas, and two longtailed eaglerays which Gareth and Practically whole
Dive # 2
Nice shallow wreck, plenty life on it. Not so for penetration Huge torpedoes in # 2 hold. Here there were great opportunities to see what was inside the torpedoes. Interesting
Dive # 3
This was an impressive dive. Above main engine room I noticed massive conrods and pistons. Top of the mounting was open showing piston casings where it was obvious maintenance was taking place. Probably one of the most shocking sights of the dive was the human kcull in engine room which was embedded into one of the machine mountings. Other human remains lay on ledges. Another grim reminder of the terror of death.
(Stark reminder of the ravages of war - Human Skull wedged in the engine room of the Yamigiri)
Also the largest shells to be made and fired from a ship - 14”shells. These things are MONSTERS! Lots of other gear, ships propeller in aft hold 3. Amazing forward hold with vertical girders packed with aquatic life. A great dive
Day # 4
Ex NZ ship “Hauraki”fairly deep dive 38m. Planned a 45 minute bottom time out the water in 90minutes. Engine room was really tight. Mike and I squeezed through a hole and down into the main compartment.
Mike did his ear
Day # 5
SAN FRANSISCO MARU
58m tmx 17/40 bottom time 40 minutes. 110 min run time.
( front view of a truck - petrol or water carrier)
This wreck is by far one of the best dives I have done. Descending into the blue, the wreck came into view at about 20m as we were descending. Hit the decks at about 43m. Straight aft towards the engine room. Skylights were open and inviting. Entered the engineroom by the starboard door. Dropping into the engine room three floors till we got to the boiler room. Heaps of gauges with “Hamburg” inscribed in them. Main drive conrods and additional pressure gauges.
Lots of line left by divers. Cut a few of them to get past. Really bad etticate Lining off and cutting the line for others to get caught on in the future.
(the hang was worth every second of the dive!!)
Bottom of engine room opened out aft into hold 3. This is why they call it the million dollar wreck as there was so much ordinance in it! Rifle amo, small, big bombs you name it. Then ascended and swam forward to hold 2. Here two tanks on starboard were seen. One tank in the port side too. Isuzu trucks just below into the hold. Rotary engines were visible. More bombs!!! Then up to hold 1. Here there were piles upon piles of semicircular mines stacked from ground to roof in the 1st hold. Again 3 inch shells
DAY # 6
16 sept Beautiful day
Dive # 1
(second dive on it)
Went with one of the guides this time heading back into the engine room and to the back to check out the telephone box. Everything was still there with th mouthpiece and head set, all enclosed in the wooden box.
Dive # 2
Loads of corals, engine room was good, very open for inexperienced divers. Went into the stores area noting heaps of tooling and engine accessories. Went aft to the galley. Quite tight to get into it. Then down a set of stairs into the washing area. Then forward down a long corridor with massive pipes draping down. Through a doorway toward the port and into a store room, Heaps of clothing, bottles, shoes.
Beautiful bridge area completely covered with life, great telegraphs (2) and a voice communication spout.
Massive bat fish at the deco stop. This was a big wreck with heaps of life on it.
Dive # 3
Shark cleaning station. Interesting to see how they respond at this cleaning station. I have never seen this before and a unique opportunity to witness animals in their natural habitat getting cleaned. Great opps for getting close for video.30-40 Grey reefies and black tips on average
DAY # 7
17th sept Beautiful day. CALM
Dive # 1
(telegraph of the Nippo)
The viz wasnt as good this time as the first time but what a great wreck to dive. Another hour bottom time with 100 minute runtime. Went into the wheel house in about 30m, telegraph still there, nice and clear also the stearing colum with wheel ( wood all gone but the brass outer ring still there.
Dive # 2
How I love to rummage around in the silt. Under everything there lies loads of good finds. Found a whole stack of PRISTINE white china plates plates with imperial star. This was a nice find. Left them out for all to appreciate and the next time I dived it a few days later they were gone!!!! Will teach me to leave gear out for all to see. Next time I will hide them!! GREAT engine room - tripple expansion steam. All the gauges still there. Cooool
(Gauge from the Unkai )
(really nice lanterns from the unkai)
Day # 8
SAN FRANSISCO MARU
(truck in forward hold of the san fran)
This was again a fantastic dive. The three of us descended first and made a great meal of maximizing our time underwater. 40 minutes at 60m total run time 120 minutes.
Went for the torpedoes this time in the third hold. Then back forward through the accom block, main bridge area and into hold 2 where the trucks were. Again the second time round was better as we were more aware of where things were. I also got a better look at the trucks. Three of them in a row. Two petrol dowsers with the really big traditional water cooler grills in front and the big lights.
Then (under the direction of one of the guides) we were again on the hunt for porcelain. Below the trucks we headed under the tank on the port side. Here we had to skim over bombs galore and finally into the area. My right hand armed with a glove I drove it slowly into the silt and fossuked around feeling for anything smooth and round! Came across heaps of glasses which were unmarked. Glancing at my computer I saw we had an hour of deco so headed for the line. Up over the bridge taking one last look at wreck before our lengthy deco on the line.
(deco on the san fran)
Another great dive.!
Day # 9
(stern gun Aikoku)
Pete S had a bit of delly belly so sat the day out so Gareth and I went in style. There were only the two of us on the boat while the rest of the party went out on “Bottom lover” sheer luxury!!
57m for 60minutes total run time of 131minutes. Viz was at its worst barely hitting 5-7meters.
This was one of the weirdest dives I have ever done. With over 730 Japanese who perished when she went down it was abundantly obvious this wreck saw a lot of terror. Completely blown in half from the bridge forward the aft section was a mangled mess. Swimming aft more of the wreck became more recognizable. Once an ocean liner this wreck saw some action. I have never before actually had a bad feeling about a wreck but this wreck gave me the heebie jeebies. It took a lot of time for me to feel more comfortable with going on. Dropping into the second hold where they converted it into accommodation. What a humbling experience. Hundreds of Japanese tropps perished here and you could see scorched walls, and remains within the holds. Scorched walls, blown out bulkheads, showed what force raged the ship when they were hit by allied forces. I respectfully exited the hold with a great feeling of loss and how ugly war really is.
I then ascended out of the hold and entered through a doorway on the port side into the boat deck. All the way forward dodging cables, and other obstructions. Here I observed accommodation blocks, toilets, baths, etc. Access is really restricted and easy to become caught. Be carefull if having a look around in here!
Swam sternwards to check out the stern gun still pointing up. What a great sight.
Came back across the top of the wreck now heading forward to observe pom pom guns on the starboard side of the wreck. Back across all the debris, up the line and a long deco.
(pom pom guns Aikoku)
Dive # 2
What a great dive, have to think more about what happened on the dive as I dived the Nagana the next day and I didnt write anything down on the Momukawa - THats teh problem with diving so many world class wrecks - you cant remember what you did on what~~~
Day # 10
(DEAD calm) 57m 58 minutes runtime 145 minutes Tmx 17/40
You know when you start a day and know that something amazing is going to happen? Well this was one of those days. This wreck has not been dived too much so we had to do some hunting! With a GPS mark, grapnel and the strong smell of crude oil pointing us in the right direction we went about “fishing for a wreck”
The day was so dead calm we could even see dollops of crude oil hitting the surface. After about 45 minutes dragging for the wreck we dropped it at the best known place and Pete S went down to scan the bottom for it. The plan was once he found the wreck he would boost a boy to the surface. Second wave – Mesley was then thrown into action here I went down to secure the anchor to the wreck. Armed with breather, stagee, video camera I descended down the line. Hit the bottom of the anchor and untied the reel line where Pete did his circular search. It ended up that we were about 20 meters from the wreck.
Slightly listing to port I dragged the anchor to the base of the huge hull. Looking up to the top of the deck from the ocean floor I popped the bag for the third wave to come down – Gareth! With mountaineering precision I scaled the starboard side of the wreck with the grapnel finally securing it on the deck. Phew!
The viz had been not the best over the last two dives ( Aikoko and Momakawa) with round about 8-10m viz. This was much better. At around 15m. It now has become tradition to give the engine room a good going over first on the dive so I didn’t want to break tradition. I descended through the skylights all the way onto the top of the triple expansion steam engine casings. Squeezing through a rail, down onto the second deck of the room where a workers vice came into view, a common sight now in all these engine rooms. I followed the steel pathway leading round the engine. Again sighting familiar objects, crack casing, conrods – massive conrods. I could almost imagine the slow movement of the long vertical shafts powering the propeller! Pressure gauges have now become a new interest trying to see if I can decipher where they were manufactured. So far this trip I have recognized gauges from Hamburg, Japan, and England. Interesting! Delicate rust stalagmites were prevalent showing that few had been down these narrow corridors. It was so nice to see that there was so much untouched wreckage in regions that have been so frequently dived. But I guess there were so many wrecks to keep people occupied there was little time to explore the deeper wrecks.
I then slipped out of a port door round the 54m mark. Out into the blue water. Just above my exit point was an open bulkhead on the port side. Had a peep inside to find a lantern storage room. About 10-15 of them lay in a pile. Untouched!!! Then heading forward towards hold 2. According to research there was a largely intact flatbed truck in this hold so headed to that. I was not disappointed! Sitting there on the port side pointing towards the stern waiting…….. All the glass was intact, one of the lights was missing and the right engine covers was missing. I brushed the light layer of silt from the windscreen almost expecting to see some grizzly reminder of what war leaves behind, but not this time. An empty seat! Back out and along the port side along the bridge area. The black coral was prolific. Almost like a forest of black coral trees, infact I couldn’t swim along the promenade decking as it was completely covered by black coral. Great!!
flatbed truck on the port side of wreck in hold 2
Wonderful engine room, steam, crank casing, rust stalagmites, port door main superstructure lantern locker, forward into hold 2 flatbed truck amazingly intact, Loads of black coral, everywhere, swam round the port side of wreck amazing life round wreck. Lost camera only found out when trying to take picture of truck, then retraced entire steps heading back through engine room, up, out, back along decking, then back to where I dragged the shot line up 15m the side of the starboard hull and there she was in all her glory!!! Back down to 57m and up the line to complete a good bit of deco.
(this shows you that noone goes into these wrecks in the deeper range - these pictures are rust stalagmites (if you know the technical name for them let me know) taken inside the engine room of the Nagana. I touched it and it disintegrated immediatly!~!)
Eamon (truck lagoon dive centre), Pete Mes (just another "Lust for Rust" member! ), Judi (truk lagoon dive centre) - new proud CCR divers
Pictures of the trip
The "Human Element"
Some moments captured on a dive during the trip.
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