Truk Lagoon Trip Report
FEBRUARY 25 - MARCH 4, 2018
By Brook Peterson
For many, a visit to Truk Lagoon is a bucket list destination. There is really no other place in the world where one can find such a rich source of WWII history beneath the watery depths of the sea. More than 40 ships are buried in depths ranging from the surface to beyond 200 feet deep, creating memorial graves for the Japanese soldiers who died on them. The ships are an underwater museum and contain explosives, detonators, mines, munitions, torpedoes and shells that are still live. Many artifacts can be found inside the holds including automobiles, tanks, airplanes and the minutia of every day life on a ship. Human remains are still found on many of the ships as well, creating a deep sense of loss and respect for the casualties of war.
Artifacts including human bones
A Human Skull
Truk Lagoon (Chuuk) is about an hour flight from Guam and is serviced by United Airlines. The same runway that was used during WWII is in use today. From Los Angeles, flights are routed through Hawaii, Guam, and then on to Truk. Lights on the runway are not bright enough for planes to land at night so there are no flights before or after dark.
We arrived at 10:30 in the morning where we were greeted by the Odyssey staff. They seemed to know everyone who would be spending the week on their boat by sight. Perhaps it was because the only non-native people on the plane were those who would be diving the Lagoon. We were transported to the Blue Lagoon Resort where we would spend the day relaxing and enjoying lunch at the seaside restaurant. We were a group of nine people and all but one of us were on the same plane, so we naturally stuck together. We met a group of divers who had just spent the week on the Odyssey and who enjoyed themselves so much that they asked if there was room to spend another week. Since our group didn’t fill the boat, we were joined by five others. The Odyssey was anchored in front of the Blue Lagoon resort, and we boarded at 5pm.
After receiving our cabin assignments, we were invited to dine in the upstairs dining room. The cabins were very spacious with king sized beds in most rooms and plenty of room to move about.
Let the diving begin! Our first two dives were on the Kiyosumi Maru, an armed transport merchant cruiser. The ship lays on its port side in 120 feet of water with the starboard side in just 40 feet. The ship contains a bicycle, large drums, airplane propellers, pots, pans and human remains. The mast is covered in soft coral and other growth. There is no current in the lagoon, and the shallow depth makes the dive easy and comfortable.
Barrels (LEFT) and a bicycle (RIGHT) in the hold of the Kiyozumi Maru
After a delicious lunch, the Yamagiri Maru is our afternoon destination. This ship was a passenger and cargo ship that had been converted to a military transport. The ship has huge holes mid-ship that represent its death blows. Except for armor piercing shells, the holds are empty. Some beer bottles can be found scattered around and human remains as well. The ship sits in 50-110 feet of water. Some divers did an additional night dive on this ship totaling five dives for the day.
A Resident Lionfish on the Yamagiri Maru
Breakfast is served daily at 6:30 AM with the first dive of the day around 8:00. The Odyssey moved to the I-169 Sub during breakfast. This was the first deep dive of the week with the submarine laying in 120 feet of water. The tale of this ship’s loss is a sad one as the sailors were trapped for several days before their rescue was abandoned. Divers were able to hear knocking inside the sub for three days but were unable to raise her and soon the knocking subsided. A recovery mission took place just a few years ago to collect the remains of the soldiers and properly bury them in Japan. The sub is home to several anemones of unusual color.
I 169 Sub
Flourescent Anemone near I-169 Sub
Next was the Shinkoku Maru which was a favorite of all divers on the boat. The Shinkoku has an operating room, baths, toilets and lots of personal effects. There are some lovely sky lights in some spacious rooms with several floors of ladders and walkways that make a very photogenic scene. We spend the rest of our day there with several divers doing a night dive on the shallow deck.
Corals Cover the Mast of the Shinkoko Maru
Stairs leading down into the Shinkoko Maru
The day started out on the Seiko Maru, a cargo ship laying in 30 to 160 feet of water. Although the cargo holds are empty, the ship had personal effects as well as china, bathtubs and bunkrooms.
The Betty Bomber was the second dive and is an airplane sitting in 55 feet of water. She is remarkably in tact with just the nose of the plane sustaining severe damage. The two engines came off the plane and lay next to each other about 200 feet from the plane.
The rest of the day was spent at the Fujikawa Maru, one of the most iconic of the wrecks in Truk Lagoon. This wreck contains the famous R2-D2 compressor, along with a stunning engine room, a phone booth, and lots of artifacts.
The Famous R2D2 compressor
This day’s dives consisted of three ships: The Hoki Maru with a cargo of bulldozers, the Rio de Janeiro Maru, one of the lagoon’s deepest wrecks full of ammunition and beer bottles, and the Sankisan Maru, with its interesting cargo of Izuzu Trucks. These wrecks were fairly deep with cargo holds ranging from 100 to 140 feet deep.
Shells and other munitions
This day started with the Nippo Maru, a water carrier and cargo ship sitting upright but listing portside. This ship has a tank aboard, along with munitions, guns, and personal effects. Crew quarters are easily accessible, and the ship contains hundreds of beer bottles.
The Heian Maru came after lunch. She was a luxury passenger liner which had been converted to a transport ship. Several fires burned hotly until the ship sunk with evidence of molten glass demonstrating the severe heat generated from the fires.
One of the BIG guns
Crew Quarters Bathtub
The best was saved for last as divers were given the choice to dive the San Francisco Maru or the Kensho Maru. The San Francisco Maru is a decompression dive, but many of the divers on this trip made the dive. Known as the “million dollar wreck” this ship is one of the most spectacular wrecks in the lagoon. The cargo consists of trucks, bombs, tanks, a steam roller, torpedoes, munitions and more. Dives are only 15 minutes on the wreck with the rest of the time being spent in decompression but most divers thought it well worth the dive.
Those who dived the Kensho Maru saw a telegraph, binoculars, radio equipment, and a strong box on the bridge with many beer bottles in the hold, their wooden crates rotting away.
Telegraphs can be found on most ships
The day ended at 3:30 when the Odyssey returned to its anchorage in front of the Blue Lagoon Resort. Passengers stayed aboard for the evening, disembarking the following morning for their various destinations.
Truk Lagoon is a mecca for underwater photographers. The wrecks and coral growth on the ships give a hauntingly beautiful opportunity for image making. All the photographers on this trip were well satisfied.
HOW TO BOOK A TRIP TO TRUK LAGOON
Bluewater Travel can book you a resort or a liveaboard in Truk Lagoon for the same cost or less than booking any other way. We know the diving, accommodations, and when to go better than anyone else! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book your next dive trip to Truk Lagoon.