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!!
Was it worth it? You bet
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.
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.
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.
Old habits die hard, and it wasn't hard to find Stuart: just look for a cloud of silt!
The Hoki Maru
lies upright, with significant bomb damage. The holds contain construction equipment (trucks, bulldozer, roller). The wreck is covered in marine life.
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.
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.......
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!
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)
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
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!
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.
The final dive at Truk wasn't a wreck, but a Shark Feed
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.