Cat Vince, Steve Wasilewski-Norman, Roger Bray, Mark Sales, Nick Tucker and Sam Richardson gathered together at Heathrow on 31st January 2017 to fly out to The Federated States of Micronesia to dive the Truk Lagoon. It took four days from arriving at Heathrow to boarding the SS Thorfinn at Chuuk. We had an overnight stop in Manila and on Weno Island in Chuuk en-route to the liveaboard. We finally boarded on Saturday 4th February and had our first two dives of the holiday that day with the Fujikawa Maru and the 'Betty' Bomber. With each diver going down with a set of twin 11s on their back and an 11L stage cylinder for most of the dives, small spaces were a little more problematic. Having been warned of the very small space to exit the 'Betty' Bomber, the majority of us decided to squeeze through anyway, with Cat having to be unstuck in order to make it through the gap. The wrecks were all stunning and covered in coral growth and fish life. With being the base of the Japanese Imperial Naval Fleet in the pacific during the second world war, Chuuk was a key strategic point for the American's to disable. In February 1944 the Americans launched a three day attack, Operation Hailstone to sink the fleets stationed at Chuuk.
Day two saw Cat, Steve, Roger and Nick dive the San Francisco Maru - whose deck was at 50m which boasted of tanks resting on the deck and trucks in the hold. Cat racked up 38 minutes of decompression at 6m, but this was one of the favourite wrecks of the week. Sam and Mark dived the Heian Maru and spotted a ray as they came out a swim through. The Shinkoku Maru whose position has created the optimum conditions for thick coral growth and tonnes of marine life, with sitings here including a titan triggerfish, pufferfish and a lionfish, concluded the days diving.
Day three was a three dive day with the Seiko Maru whose deck lay at 40m, with a large torpedo hole in both sides of the second hold aft of the bridge house from where the bomb went straight through. Some of the other holds contained large torpedoes which would have caused devastating damage to the ship had the bombs struck her in those holds. The second dive of the day was the Unkai Maru a ship which was originally British before being bought by the Japanese before the Second World War. She lies with the deck around 30m and gas masks and large shoe soles can be seen in the holds. The last dive of day three was the 'Emily' Flying Boat which was more reef than wreck, we dived this around sunset and the amount of marine life on this dive was truly spectacular with Bannerfish, Anglefish, Pufferfish, Humbugs, Glassfish, Damselfish and Moorish Idols everywhere. This was another of the favourite dives of the week.
Day Four saw us dive the Nippo Maru which had a fascinating engine room structure to navigate with the exit through a torpedo hole onto the sand. There was a light tank and a couple of truk frames on the deck at 40m with gas masks in the hold. During our deco stop a school of around 20 full sized Barracuda swam past completely unbothered by the ten divers nearby. Dive number two of the day was the Kiyosumi Maru which lies on the bottom completely on her port side. The visibility wasn't as good with this dive (but still good compared to the UK). We were able to swim through the large torpedo hole in her starboard side into one of the holds and out through the top of the hold to the other side. The engine room was tricky to swim through due to the very small spaces. By the entrance to the engine room, there was a large number of sake bottles with a femur on a doormat. The final dive of the day was the Hoyo Maru, a ship which was resting upside down on it's bridge house split in two with coral growth covering the keel.
Part two to follow ...