Truk lagoon & Palau

Reports on our previous club dive trips and some of our day diving activities

Truk lagoon & Palau

Postby Geoff Roberts » Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:32 am

Fantastic wrecks now bored with ships telegraphs, guns, munitions , aeroplanes.
Good job it's not a club dive as 50 metre plus dives have become routine.
Just relaxing in airport lounge in Guam en route to Palau.
Further taunts to follow.

The Usual Suspects
P.s.
Palau
Mantas Grey Reef sharks John Wayne's giant clam big schools of fish
Blue corner Blue hole tunnels More wrecks swim throughs lunches desert island beaches with fresh coconuts
Photos and more gloating to follow
Geoff Roberts
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Re: Western Pacific

Postby Jim Oldham » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:31 pm

Sounds very reminiscent of Ecky Delph, but a bit more expensive. :)

See you lot when you get back.

Regards,

Jim.
Jim Oldham
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Re: Western Pacific

Postby Maria H » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:20 pm

PART 1 - TRUK LAGOON
It took almost 2 years of planning and anticipation. Then 3.5 days, 4 planes, 2 overnight stays, including a day at the Blue Lagoon resort overlooking Truk Lagoon, 7000 miles, 10 hours time difference and we were finally onboard the SS Thorfinn and ready for the check-out dive. - phew!!

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Was it worth it? You bet :D

WEEK 1 - TRUK LAGOON

SS Thorfinn was our home for the week. Unusually, this liveaboard stayed at anchor in the same spot all week, and all diving was from 2 large tenders. With only 10 divers on board, there was lots of space on the Thorfinn and the tenders. Each tender went to a different dive site, so there were never more than 6 divers plus dive guide on the wreck.

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Almost all of the dives were better than any wreck dives I've ever done, so where to start?

The Nippo Maru was a passenger and cargo freighter that was converted to carry water. This is every wreck diver’s dream – sitting upright in about 35m, with a small tank on deck, and the ships telegraph in the wheelhouse. Odds and ends included gas masks and binoculars. We were treated to a fly-past by an eagle ray as we returned to the shot line.

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The Fujikawa Maru is an epic dive. Sitting upright in a depth that allows a reasonable dive (I clocked 29 metres), and covered in hard & soft corals, we saw a lathe and pillar drill in the engineers workshop, zero-fighter aircraft in the hold, 4” shell cases, rifles, and oil drums. Fish-life included jacks and tuna. We had a night dive on this same wreck and stuck to the deck and superstructure, admiring the many soft corals, tiny shrimps and other marine life.

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Old habits die hard, and it wasn't hard to find Stuart: just look for a cloud of silt!

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The Hoki Maru lies upright, with significant bomb damage. The holds contain construction equipment (trucks, bulldozer, roller). The wreck is covered in marine life.

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Sankisan Maru lies upright, but is missing the aft section that was believed to have being carrying ammunition when a bomb hit. The hold contains plenty of ammunition, allowing us to spell out our names in bullets! In the midst of all the munitions, Pete pointed out some cute little blue shrimps, and the mast was covered in beautiful corals.

Aikoku Maru was my first non-training dive on Trimix. Wow – what an amazing dive, and why did I leave my camera on the surface? We dropped on to the collapsed remains of the bridge, and moved on to the deck where a plaque and a statue of buddah have been placed as a memorial to the hundreds who died on the wreck. A few bones also lie around as a sombre reminder. The Aikoku was carrying various high explosives, and the resulting explosion when she was bombed not only blew off the entire forward section of the ship, but also destroyed the aircraft and blew a crater in the sea bed, making this the deepest wreck in the lagoon. There is a huge gun on the stern deck, plus anti-aircraft guns. The stern gun was the subject of an interesting conversation between Ivan & Stuart: Ivan: “what is narcs like?” Stuart: “Did you see that gun on the Aikoku?” Ivan: “No”. Stuart: “That’s narcs”!! A further dive on this 2 days later allowed Ivan to see the gun. You can see how easy it is to overlook.......

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Shinkoku Maru lies upright, covered in corals. A grey reef shark cruised by on the starboard side, and a leopard shark relaxed on the seabed. As we swam through the wreck, we saw the operating theatre, complete with skull. Rifles and the usual “Japanese garden” of artefacts that have been picked up by divers and then deposited near the shot line. Not one but 3 telegraphs on this wreck!

Yamagiri Maru lies on her port side and is covered in life. There is a huge hole midships where she was hit, and her most interesting feature is the huge 18.1 inch armor piercing shells she carried for the dreadnoughts Yamato and Mushashi (which had wisely departed Truk before Operation Hailstone)

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San Fransisco Maru. This is the wreck that prompted me to do a Trimix course, yet we dived this on air when we realised that the trimix had been blended with an MOD of about 20M, despite costing enough to settle the Micronesian national debt :o We descended towards the bow, and saw 2 small tanks on the starboard side and one on the port side, along with a large gun, with visible swivelling mechanism. In the midst of this impressive wreck, I couldn’t resist giggling when the dive guide beckoned me over to point out a cute white nudibranch.
By the way, the vis was pretty amazing - the photos below were taken in 50m!

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Just in case you're now bored of hearing about shipwrecks, there were a couple of aircraft: the Betty Bomber, crashed on landing approach. The cockpit, fuselage and wings are about 100m away from the engines. Emily Bomber is larger than the Betty, with 4 engines. The wreckage was covered in beautiful soft corals.

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The final dive at Truk wasn't a wreck, but a Shark Feed

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Summary
Wow - what a week! Truk is definitely in my top 2 dive locations, alongside Galapagos. It's expensive and a gruelling journey to get there, but it's well worth it. The Thorfinn is a comfortable boat, and provides the opportunity to do up to 5 days a day, on a different wreck each time. In practice, most of us did 3 or maybe 4 dives each day, but we were able to pick and choose which we did. It was so good that even Stuart did 3 dives some days! I did a modest 21 dives out of the total 31 available.
Maria H
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Re: Western Pacific

Postby Maria H » Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:40 pm

WEEK 2 - PALAU

I first heard about Palau almost 20 years ago from a rather rich (& know it all) American who'd "been there, seen it done it" and rated Palau as the best place he'd dived. So..... would it live up to its reputation?

We had planned 4 days diving in Palau, with the first and last days free. We were based in the Landmark Marina Resort. Rooms were comfortable, with balconies overlooking the marina - and the municipal rubbish dump :shock:

The diving
Diving was arranged with Fish n Fins, who were the original dive shop in Palau. They have several fast day boats as well as 2 liveaboards.

First dive was at German Channel, a cleaning station favoured by mantas and sharks. I was reminded what graceful creatures mantas are. It was disappointing to see some of our fellow divers ignoring the instruction not to approach the mantas, and so chasing them off in their quest for a good photograph. Stuart was moved to say that he felt privileged to be in the presence of such graceful creatures (the mantas, not the photographers).

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Blue Corner is one of the epic dives that has given Palau a world-class reputation and we were not disappointed. We hooked in and watched the action as sharks, bumphead parrotfish, Napoleon wrasse, a shoal of unicorn fish being chased by the sharks, butterflyfish, chevron barracuda, triggerfish and then we drifted over the plateau and saw a pretty purple anemone, and the most enormous giant clam I have ever seen – it must have been a metre or more and prompted the older members of the group to comment about John Wayne. I had no idea what they were talking about :D

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Similar dives on other corners resulted in sharks, barracuda, Napoleon, tuna, jacks, unicorn fish plus shoals of small blue fish. Turtles were seen on top of the reef.

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No 6 Buoy is the wreck of a Japanese anti-submarine vessel. If we hadn’t been spoiled last week at Truk, we’d have been more impressed, but this was in a sheltered location and so somewhat silty. The highlight for the guys seemed to be admiring the dive guide’s bum as she duck-dived in to a hold!

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Blue Hole. We swam across the shallow reef to descend through a hole and drop down a “chimney” to about 30m, where there is an exit to the reef. Looking up, the light is amazing, with the light blue of the hole contrasting with the inky blue of the cavern, and shafts of light filtering down. We then exited to a beautiful wall dive, complete with huge gorgonians, soft corals and loads of pretty fish.

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Iro Maru. A large wreck with remains of the bow gun turret, plus a stern gun and turret. Viz disappointing.

Siaes Tunnel. An enormous underwater cavern with 3 openings into the chamber from the reef wall. We entered at around 30m, and the cavern is well lit by sunlight, and the bottom slopes up towards 2 windows out on to the reef wall. This was followed by a gentle bimble along the wall.

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The landside topography of Palau is amazing. To get to the dive sites, we had to pass through the Rock Islands, and our boat captain clearly enjoyed himself weaving in and out at high speed! At one point he seemed to be heading straight for land, but he obviosly knew about a gap between the trees that appeared at the last minute.

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We lunched on one of the Rock Islands between dives

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and Stuart & Pete provided the cabaret: "I need a dollar, a dollar's all I need" :lol:

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The hotel staff and locals were friendly, and someone on our table made the mistake of showing an interest in what the Taiwanese group on the next table were eating. Being hospitable types, they brought it over and offered to share it with us. It was fruit bat soup! I didn't get a photo of the soup, but here's its friend in another restaurant:

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We think it rains in Lancashire, but it's nothing compared to the tropical downpours. Travelling back in the boat at more than 30 knots, it felt like we were being shot-blasted!

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By the end of the holiday we’d been on 9 separate flights and spent more time in airports than I care to remember.

So… was it worth it??? Would I go back???? You bet!!!!! :D

Thank you to Geoff for making this happen, and to the rest of the Usual Suspects for an epic dive trip. The Usual Suspects were joined in Palau by James from Westhoughton and Ed from California. A great time was had by all.

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Truk and Palau took me from 6 to 8 out of the Fifty Places to Dive Before You Die, so only another 42 to go. I'm open to offers :D
Maria H
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