Tuesday 2nd December
We mustered for breakfast and the dive briefing. Captain Mike gave the good news that the storm had passed us but was building to a Typhoon heading towards the Philippines. We may still get some wind and rain but he was expecting it to start to settle. The dive sites for today would be Fumizuki Destroyer and Shinkoku Maru.
The Fumizuki Destroyer is a 1,315 ton Mutsuki class destroyer launched in February 1926. She is 339 feet long with a beam of 30 feet and was powered by two Parsons-geared turbines – twin screw. She sits on the seabed with a 20 degree list to port at 38 metres, her bow at 30 metres. She is quite collapsed so penetration is not possible any more.
As we would only be here for one dive we opted to take a guide so we could see all the best bits. We descended and eventually the wreck came in to view. We headed towards the stern past a massive gun (4.7 inch) on the deck which you could easily miss due to the coral growth over it. Boxes of shells sat next to the gun ready to be loaded. We rounded the stern to see the propeller and on the sea bed was a collection of spanners neatly laid out.
By this point our no deco time was running low so the guide took us up over the stern to head for the bow. A bright red bubble anemone sat on the deck and the colour was almost fluorescent. A gorgeous wreck which has very clearly been claimed by the sea and colonised by marine life.
Every one safely back on the boat captain Mike set sail for our next wreck where the plan was to stay for the rest of the day so people could dive as much or as little as they wanted. The Techy boys were getting excited about another 5 dives!!
The Shinkoku Maru was to be our next wreck and we would be moored up overnight so everyone had virtually the whole day to decide when, where and how often to dive.
The Shinkoku Maru is a merchant tanker launched in 1939. She is 10,020 tons, 503 feet long, has a beam of 65 feet and was powered by a single screw, double acting diesel engines. She sits upright on the sea bed at 40 metres with her bridge super structure at 12 metres being perfect for a multi level dive. Captain Mike called us together for our briefing and played another excerpt from his documentary DVD which explained the fate of the ship and showed footage of the wonders that were in store for us! This is one of the premier wrecks in Truk Lagoon……..
Sticking to the same buddy 3 we planned our dive. She is a massive wreck so we needed to plan what to see. We decided to not take a guide for this one just to get the lay of the land, we could then get a guide later. We bimbled along the deck and checked out the telegraph
On our second dive on this wreck we where joined by another OV adventurer so we took the opportunity to take a guide as we wanted to see the operating theatre. The current had picked up so the crew laid a line from Odyssey’s stern to her bow so we could pull ourselves down to conserve energy. Once on the wreck the current was calmer and we stayed close to the deck for shelter and made our way to the super structure where there was a display of artefacts – bottles, lamps, pots and a tin box.
Wednesday 3rd December
We awoke to sunshine and blue skies – woo hoo! Today was going to be a good day! We would be dividing the day between the Yamigiri and the Rio de Janeiro Maru wrecks.
As soon as we had finished breakfast we slipped in to what was now a familiar routine of breakfast-briefing aided by pre-prepared white boards and documentary footage. We were thoroughly briefed and ready to determine our own dive plans.
The Yamagiri Maru is a passenger-cargo vessel launched in 1938. She is 6,438 tons, 439 feet long with a beam of 58.3 feet. The wreck sits on her port side at 35 metres. Highlights of the wreck would be the hold full of 14 inch bomb shells, telegraph on the stern and a swim through the blast hole.
We would be here for the morning and the recommendation was to swim over towards the stern, under the stern to see the props and then up to the superstructure to swim through the blast hole. Other things to look out for would be shells in the hold and another magnificent anemone.
We decided to do two dives here. Our first dive would follow the recommended route around the bow and then dive two would focus on the stern. Perfect.
We were joined by another OV adventurer as his buddy had a skin bend so was tucked up in bed with a bottle of O2. We jumped in the water and the wreck was visible making navigation easier. We were just above the blast hole on the hull of the wreck so we headed forward to swim under the huge bow which was awesome. We then headed along the deck level and swam through the hold and out through the blast hole. My first swim through a wreck.
Woo Hoo! There was lots of natural light flooding in making it easy to see the exit point and the debris strewn around. Where the deck has rotted away the deck beams are exposed and have been colonised by a variety of hard and soft corals. It is a lovely wreck with lots of anemones too.
On our second dive we were joined by a fifth OV adventurer and we planned to swim to the stern to find the fluorescent anemone. We descended over the super structure again and headed past the hold with the bomb shells. I had missed them on the last dive as I was looking in the bottom of the hold rather than up at the second level…. d’oh!
Bombs now seen we gently finned towards the stern admiring the view. The anemone was very small and it took at least 10 minutes to locate it by which time we had spread out so calling people back again was tricky. One of our buddies had also found something to share, a green flat worm, so we had a bit of a tag team going so both features were kept in focus.
While some where pre-occupied with small stuff some of us were treated to a swim past by a dolphin!! Captain Mike hadn’t mentioned these in the dive briefing!! Camera quickly switched to video to capture the moment while looking about trying to get other buddies’ attention……. unfortunately without success. Three out of five of us saw it and I have the video as proof! Cool!
As we swam back over the hull towards the superstructure we passed our first (and only!) moray of the trip poking out of some hard coral with a couple of transparent shrimps dancing away on its nose giving its teeth a clean. As we hung around on our safety stop I shared my video with my buddy!
After lunch we set sail for our next wreck location which was to be the Rio De Janeiro Maru, a Passenger Cargo Liner launched in 1929 and requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1941. This wreck was a 9,627 ton, 450 feet long with a beam of 62 feet, sitting on her starboard side with a maximum depth of 35 metres.
Once we were tied up we immediately started planning what we wanted to see. The plan was determined so that we could split the wreck into two halves. it was relatively deep so we couldn’t cover everything in a single dive.
The guideline was tied to the side (now the top) of the wreck by the superstructure. A soon as we jumped in to the water we could see the wreck providing our boat was swinging in that direction. Patience always prevailed and you were then back over the wreck again.
We had planned to split the wreck into two dives and explore her stern first taking in a couple of the holds. Then, later following afternoon tea we would jump again to explore the bow. Sorted.
We jumped and agreed to muster at the deco bar below the boat. For some this was straight forward but for others, due to the speed the boat was spinning at its moorings, this wasn’t possible. The revised plan was then to meet on the wreck at 10 metres. Once altogether we ascended on to the wreck and started swimming to the stern. There was some coral life but no way as prolific as some of the other wrecks.
As we got to the stern we dropped down to the propellers which were very impressive and finned along the deck peering in to nooks and crannies with our torches. One of the holds was carrying Sake bottles some of which are now scattered over the hold floor but others are still stacked neatly in their original boxes. With the volume of divers with torches in the hold it was quite bright so you could see the bottles clearly.
Continuing on we looked for the next hold which was supposed to have a deck gun but we couldn’t make this out in the gloom so carried on to the next hold. Before we knew it we were at the bow so the dive plan hadn’t really worked! Having seen everything we shallowed out and started our safety stop.
Exhausted but content we had seen what we had wanted we decided not to do a second dive and crack open the beer – this is a holiday after all!
Thursday 4th December
After 3 days on board we were settling nicely in to the morning routine of 6.30 breakfast followed by the 7.30 briefing. Captain Mike explained today’s itinerary….. Hoki Maru, Betty Bomber for the morning followed by the Fujikawa after lunch for the rest of the day.
The Hoki Maru from the dive map looked uninspiring as half the ship had been blown to smithereens and I questioned whether it was worth getting wet for. It was deep, only one of the holds was accessible and with a 30% Nitrox mix I was unsure on whether I would actually get to see anything. Captain Mike’s documentary did quite a good sales pitch for the wreck. Even without penetration the wreck was rich with marine life so I was convinced I should jump.
The Hoki Maru is a passenger-cargo motor vessel launched in 1921 as MV Hauraki in Scotland and was delivered to the Union Steam Ship Company in New Zealand at a cost of £317,600. She was captured by the Japanese in July 1942. She is 7,113 tons, 450 feet long, a beam of 58.2 feet and sits upright on the sea bed at 45 – 50 metres. Her bow was ripped apart by a massive explosion in the hold carrying fuel. The main attraction was a hold carrying trucks, a bulldozer and a steam roller.
We booked guide Ken to take us so we could make sure we saw all the best bits in the limited time we would have. The hold opening was at 35 metres so it was very close to my depth limit and as I dropped though the beams of the hatch my computer started beeping. I could see the bull dozer and some other bits of machinery so signalled that I would stay in this area while the others dropped down to the next level to see the trucks.
After a couple of minutes they reappeared pleased with what they had seen. We then followed Ken towards the stern and one of the boat derricks which is draped with a huge anemone….. beautiful.
Low on no deco time and air we finned over to the mast and the shot line for our safety stop. The mast in itself would be well worth a dive as it was covered in hard and soft corals, dripping in marine life. A short but a very enjoyable dive.
All safely back on board Captain Mike set sail for our next destination – the Betty Bomber. Our first plane of the trip.
The Betty Bomber is a Mitsubishi G4M Navy Type 1 long range Attack Bomber with a maximum speed of 265mph, wingspan of 82 feet and a range of 3,694 nautical miles. She sits on the seabed in 16 metres and is in good condition so this should be a nice easy dive after this morning’s deep one.
We decided to wait for the tech boys to jump before starting to kit up. The plane is only small so 16 divers crowded round would be a bit much…… I also wanted to try and get the money shot of the plane without any divers!. We waited 30 minutes and got kitted up and jumped in the water. The bow line was tied in near the plane so navigation was easy and as we descended the plane silhouette gradually came in to view.
There is very little coral growth on the plane but the fuselage was filled with tiny glassfish and other shoaling fish swam around the cockpit. After 20 mins we had pretty much seen everything, got our pictures so swam back to Odyssey with a safety stop on the way. The boat was swinging at its mooring as usual but the deco bar wasn’t down so we had to grab the ladders on the way past. Three out of our buddy four made the ladder but the fourth was now disappearing from view so I let go to keep him company for a few more minutes. Eventually the boat swung back our way and we both successfully grabbed the ladder.
Back on board the BBQ was out – burger and chips for lunch – yum! Proper diver fuel ready for multiple dives on the Fujikawa……..
The Fujikawa Maru is a passenger-cargo vessel launched in 1938. 6,800 tons, 436 feet long, a beam of 58.5 feet and was powered by a 6 cylinder diesel engine – single screw. She was requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy in December 1940 and used as armed auxiliary aircraft transport.
She now sits upright with her bow at 30 metres and her stern at 35 metres. When she sank her holds still contained cargo some of which were Zero Aeroplanes, shells, bullets, oil drums and more bottles. Her super structure has now collapsed so the engine rooms can nolonger be accessed.
As there was so much to see we decided to take a guide. Annette would lead the now buddy 6 on a tour of the main attractions and we would then do subsequent dives without a guide.
We descended all together and followed Annette towards the bow to see the deck gun. The wreck is heavily encrusted in hard and soft coral and fish life was plentiful with shoals of fish expanding and contracting around the gun. The telegraph was very clear and the brass very shiny from divers rubbing it clean over the years.
We dropped down into hold 1 to see the cargo of shells, barrels, propeller blades, gas masks, shoes and aeroplane spares. We finned through a doorway that led through into hold 2 where the Zero plane was sat surrounded by spare wings and other bits and pieces. As we came out of the hold and crossed the deck we passed the 50th Anniversary and Kimio Aisek dedication plaques. Next to this was another display of artefacts that have been recovered – gas cylinders, lamps, mess tins and yet more bottles. We finished our dive on the king posts which were again heavily colonised by corals and marine life so gave something of interest to see as we ascended to our safety stop. A very cool dive!
We decided to jump again at 4.30-ish which meant we would be doing more of a dusk dive. The plan was to investigate hold 4 which could be accessed by the blast hole in the hull. Three of the buddy team decided to take this route while the others gathered above hold 4 waiting to see their torch light. It was a little darker on the wreck than we had expected and I am sure there are rules about entering unfamiliar wrecks at night without a guide but the lads continued on anyway! Finally torches where seen – phew!
One of the dive guides saw us and came over and offered one of our buddies to go and see something with him so off he went. When the buddy 3 ascended from the hold it was noted that we were missing someone so thank goodness for slates! Fears allayed we grouped up to head towards the bow gun and then back up to the king posts where we were finally reunited as a buddy six plus guide.
After four dives I was done and ready for a beer with my dinner. The more hardy, dedicated divers opted for a night dive as well and once they were back on board the shark feeding off the back of the boat started.
Feeding frenzy! I’m glad they waited until everyone was back on board….