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STEVEíS LOGBOOK - TRUK LAGOON - 2001

MICRONESIA - PACIFIC OCEAN

 Saturday, March 24

                Yesterday was our first dive day and Spence and I made 3 dives.  Two of these were at night.

                Dive 1 - Fujikawa Maru.  This is the most popular ship to dive on in Truk.  It has thousands of artillery shell casings and huge piles of small arms ammo.  Many airplanes are in the holds with replacement parts such as wing fuel tanks.  One spot has several machine guns that divers have propped up against one another.  We did a deep penetration on this dive.  Our dive guide was very good and took us through the engine room and all about several holds full of munitions and supplies.  You would not want to penetrate as far as we did without a good guide who knows how to get out.  Water temp 84 degrees.  I am using the Light & Motion Hi 8 Video housing and should get some great videos this trip.  Max depth was 94í and the upper structures of the ship come up to 5í from the surface.  Total dive time 53 min.

                Dive 2 - Hoyo Maru.  This 470í long ship is upside down.  The hull has so much coral growing on it that you canít tell it is a ship in some areas.  Spence spotted a flat worm or nudibranch that would fly thru the water with its skin fluttering.  I found another of these during the dive and filmed both of them.  Beautiful soft corals with the night corals coming out.  69í, 51 min.

                Went back to Thorfinn and had our evening meal.  Turkey and dressing, apple pie for dessert.

                Dive 3 - 8:30 pm - Suzuki small destroyer.  We are using our Nite Rider rechargeable lights.  10/ 20/ or 30 watt power lets us choose what we need.  The dive boat we go on carries up to 6 divers.  The dive guide knows the wrecks so well he can actually stop the boat on them in the dark.  40í, 38 min.    Spence and I check out a video tape to play in our cabin (each cabin has a VCR player in it).  I lay down on my bed for just a minute when we turned on the video.  We didnít make it over 2 minutes before passing out.  I was up to watch the daybreak at 5:30 am.

 DAY 2

                Had a great breakfast.  The cooks make all the bread and muffins.  I waved at the cooks and they thought I was holding up 4 fingers.  They brought me 4 sunnyside up eggs on homemade bread toast.  Damn good.  The crew on the Thorfinn is spoiling us.

                Dive 4 - 8:00 am - Nippo Maru.  This is a great dive.  The Nippo has several large cannon on it.  On the deck were 3 small cannon that are anti tank guns on rubber wheels.  The bridge room still has controls in it like the engine telegraph.  A small tank is sitting upright on the deck and makes great photography.  There is also a big truck.  Our computers allow us to make long deep dives safely.  Captain Lance requires 3 safety stops for us to off-gas.  2 min. at 60í, 3 min. at 30í and 10 min. at 15í.  We do this even if the computers turn us loose.  This way we will be able to make 5 dives per day.  Our computers are what we live by on this trip and I am using the very best made.  My Suunto Cobra is air-integrated and conservative to make it the safest computer available.  It has a big display so I can read it easily.  I also wear a Suunto Spyder computer watch on my arm as my redundant computer just in case one fails.  I was 7 min. into deco on this dive.  141í, 40 min.

                Dive 5 - 11:00 am - Kiyozumi Maru.  Excellent penetration dive.  Ship is 450í long and lies on port side.  Has bicycles in hold #5.  Saw 2 torpedo launchers on deck. The most memorable sight on this dive was deep inside the ship.  Our dive guide showed us a Japanese seamanís skull.  Most bones were removed back in the 80s and cremated by the Japanese at ceremonies to remember their fallen.  85í, 52 min.

                Dive 6 - Shinkoku Maru.  Another penetration dive.  In the heads you see the white urinals on the wall.  100í, 48 min.

                Dive 7 - 5:00 pm - Japanese Emily flying boat.  This 4-engine big airplane is upside down.  The aluminum is holding up well underwater and I think the shot-down airplanes, of which there were over 250 in Truk Lagoon, will last better than the iron ships that are deteriorating fast.  49í, 45 min.

                Perry Massie arrives and is ready to start diving.  Perry knows that I was once a serious seashell collector when I was stationed in Hawaii in the 60s.  When we were in Palau a few years ago he saw me trying to buy a very rare shell.  I was unable to get one, but Perry stopped in Majuro on his way to Truk and found this rare shell.  Perry gave me a beautiful Golden Cowry.  Iíve wanted one of these for 35 years and now I have one.  I also am blessed with some of the best friends in the world.  Iíll put this shell in the dive store so others can see it.  Our dinner was quite special.  The crew was able to buy some Mangrove crabs for us to pig out on.  These are large crabs and excellent eating.

                Dive 8 - 8:30 pm - Kansho Maru.  Very dark night, no moon, just stars.  We did another penetration dive and too be honest, I donít like penetration dives at night.  I want to see sunlight shining in whenever I can.  We held very close to our guide to follow him out.  I can see how easy it would be to get turned around in these ships and not find your way out.  I donít really want any divers in these ships who canít control their buoyancy or stir up too much silt with their fins.  We are doing well in them and staying together inside pretty well so far.  I worry when I canít count all the heads I want too.  There is nothing I like less than a low-time diver who doesnít know his own limitations and we constantly have to find him.  I say ďhimĒ because it is always a guy who gives this kind of problem.  Girls stay tight usually.  79í, 42 min.

 DAY 3

                Dive 9 - 8:00 am - Destroyer Fumizuki.  338í long, sitting upright.  Many anemones growing on deck.  2 large deck guns and 3 torpedo launchers.  This is a sleek looking ship and was capable of high speeds over 30 knots.  I had 13 minutes indicated on my Cobra for ascent time (deco time). It took all of this before turning me loose to come on out.  120í, 50 min.

                Back on the Thorfinn, Perry, Spence and myself toured the engine room.  The engine is a steam engine powered by oil burning boilers three decks in height.  This engine is like the one in the Steve McQueen movie Sand Pebbles.  Capt. Lance Higgs knows this ship in every detail.  The Thorfinn is by far the most interesting liveaboard in existence.

                Dive 10 - 11:00 am - Yamagiri Maru.  This ship is 436í long, 58í wide, laying on port side.  She was a freighter and carried supplies for the huge battleships.  One hold has 18Ē diameter artillery shells, each weighing 3800 lbs.  These were the largest shells used by any ship in WWII.  We swam thru a huge hole blown in the ship by bombs in the attack.  Saw a red anemone. These are pretty rare and are bright red.  99í, 51 min.

                Dive 11 - Heian Maru.  This is the largest ship in Truk lagoon and is a great dive.  It has propellers that are about 20í across.  This ship was part freighter and part passenger liner.  We did deep penetration and saw artillery shells, torpedoes and one area had stacks of dinnerware.  She was used as a sub tender and has many spare periscopes on her.  84í, 53 min.

                Dive 12 - Betty Bomber.  This airplane is scattered and the dive is just a break from the deeper dives.  62í, 54 min.

                Dive 13 - 8:15 pm - Hoyo Maru again.  Night dive.  Iíve been here for 2 and a half days and have made 13 dives so far.  We donít go far inside on this dive but the guide does show us more human remains.  I saw a turbin seashell that has a cats eye operculum.  These are used to make beautiful cats eye jewelry.  62í, 49 min.

                The rest of our group arrived about 11:00 pm.  Barry Hocutt, Terry Banks, Rick Dennis, Charles OíQuinn and Billy Ashcraft.  Brings us to 8 for Southernís group.  The Thorfinn now has about 20 divers on her.  We will be using 2 boats for our group.  No more than 6 divers on a boat.

 DAY 4

                Dive 14 - 8:00 am - Hoki Maru.  One hold on this ship has a bulldozer and about 6 trucks.  450í long and 58í wide.  She rests upright in 160í water.  She was sunk by a torpedo bomber from the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill.  135í, 43 min.

                Dive 15 - Kansho Maru again.  Swam thru several rooms, saw big deck gun with ammo.  95í, 51 min.

                Dive 16 - Sankisan Maru.  This is one of my favorites.  Clearer water in this area and has the best soft corals growing all over it.  Many machine guns and hundreds of wooden cases of ammunition and fuses for shells.  Thousands of bottles and several trucks on deck.  75í, 57 min.

                Dive 17 - Dai-Na Hino Maru.  This ship is only about 5í underwater and is the one shown on lots of advertising for Truk Lagoon.  Our dive guide showed me 2 large lionfish and I took some good videos.  Lots of seashells.  54í, 55 min.

                Dive 18 - Sankisan Maru again.  Night dive.  Lots more color at night on soft corals.  Spence got to digging for seashells and found quite a few nice cowries and several cats eye operculums.  There are cone shells here that can spear you with their barb.  Some cone shells are deadly.  Some people have in the past put a little cone shell in their wetsuit so as not to lose it.  This can be a real mistake.

DAY 5

                Dive 19 - Amagisan Maru.  Deep dive.  Ship lies on side.  Has big gun.  This is one of the deep dives  you do to be macho.  It does not have as much coral or allow much time to explore.  The shallow dives are better.  151í, 38 min.

                Dive 20 - Gosei Maru.  Easy dive.  One of the best.  Swim down to and thru a hole blown in ship.  Saw big bombs with yellow paint and many torpedoes in hold.  Played with an octopus.  Saw a torpedo laying out in sand.  This ship lies on slope and comes up to 15í from surface.  Most of the ship is surrounded by hard corals in endless varieties.  114í, 54 min.

                Dive 21 - Rio de Janeiro Maru.  Converted passenger liner with huge engine room.  Easy to penetrate and still see way out.  Lays on starboard side.  Has 2 large deck guns.  96í, 50 min.

                Dive 22 - Small ship was subchaser.  Lays upside down.  Surrounded by lots of hard corals.  44í, 68 min.

 DAY 6

                Dive 23 - San Francisco Maru.  This is the deep one.  This one will narc you or bend you if you let it.  Great dive with 3 tanks on the decks and rows of mines in 1 hold.  She sits upright in 210í of water.  171í, 37 min.

                Dive 24 - Sankisan Maru yet again.  This is a real favorite.  Perry, Barry, Spence and I trying to find seashells.  They have found many cats eye operculums now to make jewelry.  77í, 51 min.

                Dive 25 - Yubae Maru.  Lies on side.  Has bottles, china and even phonograph records.  112í, 49 min.  On each dive today we must off-gas a long time at 15í because of the deep dives made before, especially the San Francisco Maru.

                We canceled our afternoon dive so we could go to Eten Island on a land tour and see the bombed out Japanese building.  We carried 2 bags of candy for the kids on the island.  That was barely enough.  The kids are plentiful, beautiful and wonderful.  Thereís not a lot to do for the locals on these little islands.  Having children seems to be a very popular pastime.

                Dive 26 - 8:30 pm - Dai-Na Hino Maru again.  Night dive.  Only Spence, Perry and myself make this dive.  Much better coral colors at night.  We dug around ship for shells and operculums.  Perry and Spence are getting good at this.  50í, 67 min. 

DAY 7

                Dive 27 - Seiko Maru.  Torpedoes in one of the holds.  2 nice engine telegraphs and lots of personal items.  141í, 45 min.

                Dive 28 - Kansho Maru again.  Went all thru engine room and personal quarters.  86 degrees.  84í, 38 min.

                Lunch on Thorfinn.  Fried rice on egg with spicy shrimp and salad.  Ice cream on pear.  We eat real good here and the crew is super nice and constantly working.  They treat us much better than we deserve.

                Dives 29, 30, 31 - Iíve entered a diving stupor mode.  So many dives so fast are running together.  Dive 29:  84 degrees, 88í, 52 min.  Dive 30:  62í, 60 min.  Dive 31:  46í, 63 min.

 DAY 8

                Pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage for breakfast.

                Dive 32 - Fujikawa Maru.  This is another dive that canít be beat.  All ships here are great, but several such as Fujikawa Maru, Gosei Maru, Sankisan Maru, Nippo Maru and San Francisco Maru are my favorites.  One hold on this ship has at least 4 complete Zero fighter planes in it.  Big bow gun is the best looking gun Iíve seen.  90í, 58 min.

                Dive 33 - Yamagiri Maru again.  Lies on port side.  This is the one with the huge 3800 lb. artillery projectiles.  We went thru a hole and down deep into the engine room.  Our guide took us thru a small hatch to where bones from a Japanese seaman are.  He was killed in an explosion.  You can tell this because his skull is embedded in the bulkhead several inches.  These wrecks hold visible proof of the deadly battle fought here.  The wrecks have also claimed many divers who didnít find their way out.  Penetration dives are very dangerous just like diving in caves.  Everyone needs to stay with the guide on these dives.  We donít want any independent macho divers here.  Also, if you are claustrophobic, donít go in these wrecks.  102í, 54 min.

                Dive 34 - Shinkoku Maru again.  Best soft corals of any wreck in lagoon.  Bridge has 3 engine telegraphs, compass stand and intercom tube.  Saw operating table and spotted eagle ray.  75í, 55 min.

                Dive 35 - Tug boat.  Near shore.  Lots of silt.  Not too good vis on this dive.  56í, 56 min.

                Dive 36 - 8:30 pm - Fujikawa Maru again.  Stayed in upper parts of wreck this time and looked for shells.  Saw live cowries and cone shells.  Cone shells are the spearfishing shells and can sting you if you put these in your wetsuit.  They have caused deaths.  68í, 46 min.

 DAY 9 - Saturday, March 31

                Dive 37 - 8:00 am - Shotan Maru.  Sits upright.  Saw cases of artillery shells.  Quick dive because of depth.  Not much coral on deep wrecks, but relics in better shape.  161í, 31 min.

                Dive 38 - 11:00 am - Gosei Maru again.  We wanted to go back to the Gosei and look for seashells.  Perry found a bunch this time and Bedowin, our guide, gave me several that he found.  We are taking only dead shells with no animal or crab in them.  We donít take any relics from the ships.  Dig around, find stuff, handle everything, just leave relics there when you leave.  56í, 75 min.

                Dive 39 - 2:00 pm - Shinkoku Maru again.  Saw large turtle on this dive and a shark.  This 500í long tanker was used to refuel the fleet that was attacking Pearl Harbor.  100í, 56 min.

                Dive 40 - Hoyo Maru again.  Last evening dive from Thorfinn.  The Hoyo is upside down and has big hard corals all over its hull.  Iím pretty tired now from all the gorilla diving.  Iíve never made so many dives so fast, but that was my choice.  Most divers have made about 20 to 30 dives on this trip, which is a hell of a lot.  Iím trying to get in shape for Alaska coming up in 2 months.  72í, 60 min.

                My face is broke out in small welts from jellyfish stings.  I react more to these than most divers.  Over the years Iíve become more sensitive to these stings.  We all wear full suits, fleece or thin neoprene with booties and gloves so the only place exposed is our face.  Saturday night BBQ on Thorfinn.  Ribs, chicken and fish on the barbee.  Some of the girls in the crew did some local dances for us.

 DAY 10

                Dive 41 - 8:00 am - Nippo Maru again.  Last dive from Thorfinn.  The Nippo was our choice for last dive.  This is a good looking ship.  It sank just right.  Has a tank on deck.  129í, 30 min.

                Take boat into Moen where Billy and Charles check into Truk Stop Hotel.  They go home in the morning.  The six remaining divers take boat with Bedowin and Narita and go to small private island for a few more dives and 2 nights.  This was a special add-on I arranged that is not normally available.  This island has one family living here as caretaker.  They have a good life.  No electricity or any other things that we consider basic.  Fresh water is rainwater caught in cisterns.  We brought 2 scuba tanks each from Thorfinn along with much provisions and 4 cases of beer.

 DAY 11

                I have made 3 more dives here bringing my total to 44 dives on this trip.  Spence also has 44 or 45 dives.  The beer is about gone now.  Spence and Perry are making a last dive.  They are looking for a Japanese 2-man suicide torpedo that was stationed here.  We saw some rails that were used by the torpedoes.  2 torpedoes and 4 men were stationed on this island.  We have dived all around this island now and seen perfect underwater fields of staghorn coral.  Sharks are plentiful here, we have had up to 6 at one time circling us.  These are not tame sharks that are accustomed to divers.  I doubt any scuba divers have been here within at least a year.  We saw giant clams, a sea snake, lionfish and of course the beautiful blue starfish.  We did the learning experience of dragging ourselves in full gear over the reef when the tide was out and water was 6 inches deep.  This was quite painful and lucky for us we all had on gloves and full thin suits.  Pity for anyone trying this with a shorty or just dive skins on.  I learned alot about diving reefs in the years I was stationed in Hawaii.  I look on yesterday as a refresher course.  We have been pigging out on BBQ chicken and pork chops that Narita and Nancita have cooked for us.  Spencer found the biggest shell:  it was a dead turtle shell about 3 feet long.  We have to leave it here of course.  They would arrest us in Hawaii if we brought it back.  Spence just threw it back in the sea.  Thatís a good law because divers would kill too many turtles and claim to have found them dead.  Turtles are abundant now at most sites I go, but that wasnít true 35 years ago.  Then, divers were killing everything they saw and turtles were rare.  Donít get me wrong, Iím not in favor of ďknow it allsĒ who really donít know, telling the rest of us how to make the world perfect according to them.  Thank God there are none of these types out here.  I think they mostly work in the Bahamas and Caribbean.  I wish we could send all of them to one spot so they could share their brilliance with one another and give daily commendations and awards to one another.  That way they would get what they want and be happy and we would be happy just to never see their sorry a**es again.

 Equipment that we used on this trip is what enabled us to dive as deep and often as possible.

                Almost all of us had 2 computers on each dive.  One of these was a Suunto Spyder or Stinger computer watch and the other a Suunto Cobra, Vyper or Favor computer.  Some of us still have the older Matrix computers.  We had some computers quit because of low batteries and I saw an old Skinny Dipper totally fail and a US Divers Monitor give it up.  Two computers are really needed on this intensive trip.

                Most divers on the ship had 1 or 2 cameras and we put them to a real test.  I had a Light & Motion video housing that worked good except for one of the lights has a broken wire in the cord so I could only use 1 light.  These cords are fragile and this is the 3rd time one has failed for me.  The housing worked great and didnít leak at all.  There are 2 teeny batteries in the backplate that are not mentioned in the operatorís manual.  These went dead twice and made it so I could not turn the camera on and off underwater.  I carry lots of spare batteries for this now.  Perry had his new Ikelite housing with a 3 chip video camera and Ikelite lights.  This package worked much better than the Light & Motion as far as the video results turned out.  He had no leaking problem.  The Ikelite housing has manual controls instead of electronic switches.  I like the manual controls better because they are much less likely to fail.  I donít like the latches on Ikelites because they could be accidentally opened with rough treatment on dives.  I think they should have a safety lock to prevent opening.  We also had several of the small Sea Life cameras on this trip.  They are very inexpensive and now have 3 extra lenses and a strobe.  None of these cameras failed or gave any trouble.  Iím anxious to see what kind of quality the prints are.  Four Sea & Sea cameras were on this trip.  Three failed.  Spence was the only one to not have his Sea & Sea camera fail on the trip.  I advise anyone who has a Sea & Sea camera to protect their investment by buying insurance that covers flooding.  Sea & Sea is not good about warranty work.  Usually when I send one in for repair, it is a total loss and as cheap to replace as repair.  One of the cameras on this trip did not flood, it broke an internal plastic part that Sea & Sea had just replaced before this trip.  They will probably warranty this problem again but that is little consolation to a diver who spent $4000 and flew 20,000 miles on a trip.

                All of our Aqua-Lung life support equipment, regulators and BCs, worked good except for Spence had an inflator valve stick on and he had to disconnect the inflator hose on a deep dive.  He reconnected and had no further problems.  A gram of sand in the wrong place can cause this problem.  Divers should practice disconnecting inflator hoses while under pressure to be familiar with this safety procedure.  We all had Aqua-Lung regulators and none had any problems.  Our new thin neoprene Xcel wetsuits held up to the abrasions of the wrecks and reefs real well.  I havenít had any come unsewn yet as I have with other suits we have sold.

                Thanks for Swim Ear used after each dive, we had no ear problems at all.  Sea Gold anit-fog gel kept masks clear for entire dives, instead of 5 minutes that using spit gives you.

 COME BY THE SCUBA SCHOOL

AND SEE THE NEW VIDEO AND PRINTS FROM THIS FANTASTIC TRIP.

ONE WEEK LATER

 4:00 am

                I canít sleep. My head is full of thoughts of the head of a Japanese seaman.  In Truk Lagoon several of our divers were escorted by our guide deep into the bowels of one of the sunk ships.  We let the sunlight behind and passed thru the hatches of several areas of the ship.  It is extremely dark here except for our dive lights and cameras.  We left the beautiful corals and fish behind and went into the brown, silt covered, rusty metal.  In one area that is part of the engine room a Japanese seaman died.  Of course millions of people die in wars, but this one person is in my mind right now.  He was serving his country by working in the engine room on this ship.  When our airmen attacked, he stayed at his station and tried to do his duty and keep the engines at maximum speed to try to avoid the enemy.  The heat in an engine room is intense and seaman wear only shorts and sweat profusely.  The boilers are heated by huge flames from the oil burners.  Itís like working in a giant sauna or steam bath.  That heat was nothing compared to when the torpedo came. The explosion that sank the ship, came into the area the seaman was in.  He was blown upwards into the bulkhead with such force that his skull is embedded in the metal overhead.  The heat of the explosion vaporized his flesh and left black burns on his skull.  His empty eyes look down on his pitch-black duty station that he will never leave.  The rest of his bones lie on the deck under his skull.  I visited this manís tomb not with an arrogant nature, but with a compassionate heart.  He died before I was born and I donít apologize for our having killed him.  That would insult our own young men who fought this war.  It was necessary.  But I am sorry that he did not get to go home and see his mother again.  He had loved ones at home.  Whether he was Japanese, German, American, or whatever, he had people who cared.  His life and all lives are too precious to be thrown away in war.  He didnít start the war or want to be in it. He wasnít one of the politicians who start wars but donít fight them.  He wasnít a high mukkety mukk officer who gets the glory.  He was just one of the little people, just like you and me.  He was somebodyís son.  Iíve got pictures of his skull, but I donít need the pictures to remind me of him. I have him in my head now and I wonít forget him.  He will once again remind me of the costs of war and that the price is too dear.

                We need to never be too trusting of governments because all the huge atrocities ever committed were done by governments that we allowed to be in charge.


BARRY'S WRITE-UP ON THE TRIP

Some of you were asking about my recent scuba trip to Micronesia, so I thought I'd just go ahead & write it all up. I hope you enjoy & I encourage anybody to go visit Micronesia if they ever have an opportunity....I'll certainly be visiting again. Get ready for a history lesson.......I hope you don't find it all too boring.
 
Left town on the 24th at about 5am & spent the next 20+ hours on airplanes & in airports. The trip out & back was the worst part of the whole thing. 8 hours from Houston to Honolulu & then immediately another 8 hours to Guam....yuck! Another few hours by plane got me to Truk or Chuuk as it's officially known, and another 45 minutes by boat got me the SS Thorfinn which was to be my home for the next 7 days with a number of other divers & close friends.
 
A little historical background......Truk Lagoon is like a 40-mile wide lake in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It's about 3800 miles SW of the Hawaiian Islands & is a placid lagoon dotted with many small & large islands, almost all which served as vital military installations for the Imperial Japanese Fleet. Known as the "Gibraltar of the Pacific", there were thousands of Japanese soldiers, sailors & etc stationed there from the 1930's until the end of WWII, with 15,000 there in 1944 alone. It also served as the home base for the largest battleship ever constructed, Admiral Yamamoto's "Yamato". All of the islands were built up with vast military installations including numerous fighter & bomber airfields, seaplane bases, sub pens, supply warehouses, torpedo bases, carrier docks, dry docks, fueling stations and the like. It was the primary base of supply for the Japanese navy for nearly 2 decades & had everything they needed to feed the imperial war machine. It was a huge installation covering many square miles & many different islands.....think of Pearl Harbor times 100!
 
As they war progressed & the US attained dominance, Truk became a primary target since the US felt that we could knock it out and cripple the Japanese supply line rather than fight island to island as we had been doing. On February 4th, 1944 the Japanese sighted one of our reconnaissance planes & guessed an invasion was imminent so they sent all the capital ships, including the Yamato, to nearby Palau. Two cruisers and six or seven destroyers were the only major naval vessels left in Truk, but along with them were over 80 various supply ships, or 'Maru's'. On February 16th & 17th the US task force, especially created for the mission, began "Operation Hailstone" & commenced the destruction of Truk & the massive supply fleet at anchor there.

American pilots flew 1,250 sorties during the two-day raid and dropped 400 tons of bombs on ships and another 94 tons on airfields and shore installations.  Nearly 200 aircraft were totally destroyed and another 200 or so severely damaged in the raid.  Japanese shipping suffered greatly as well with 32 transports sunk & 10 naval vessels sent to the bottom (two cruisers, four destroyers and four auxiliary vessels).  In all, 41 ships totaling 200,000 tons were sunk and another 13 damaged.  Japanese ground installations and supplies also suffered in the raid.  Three large oil tankers with a combined capacity of 17,000 tons were demolished along with 2,000 tons of provisions.

The US fighters & bombers made 30 strikes in all, each stronger than either of the two Japanese strikes on Pearl Harbor.  The US task force only lost 17 aircraft in the raids and 40 men were killed in action.  In addition, only one of the U.S. carriers was damaged, the Intrepid was disabled by a Japanese torpedo and had to be towed back to the West Coast for repairs. Ok....enough history, but look at those numbers! A huge, huge loss for the Japanese....and a bonanza for the Scuba diver!

We started diving the morning following our arrival & made almost 40 dives over the next 7 days. 5 dives a day starting at 8:00 each morning & lasting until well after dark each night. It was almost like work, but what a great job it was! I literally saw history come alive as we dove on the various supply & military vessels & inspected their cargoes. Words cannot adequately describe the scene as we dove into the hulls of these ships to see intact military supplies including whole tanks, intact Zero fighters, 18 inch artillery shells weighing 3800 lbs each, torpedoes, bombs, mines, machine guns, medical supplies, foodstuffs, thousands of Sake bottles, millions of rounds of small-arms ammunition still in the cases, spare parts like periscopes, massive propellers, engines, aircraft wings......literally everything that you could think of. I actually got to manipulate the stick in the cockpit of a complete Zero fighter! Of course, there were also the remains of many, many Japanese sailors & merchantmen.....that was a little spooky. Once we rounded a corner below decks on the Nippo Maru only to enter a room with skulls littering the floor, and another ship where the engine room suffered the effects of a 1,000 lb aerial bomb and the ship's engineer had literally been blown into the ship where his skull & skeleton became fused into the bulkhead. His skull is still there, a part of the ship now, and screaming as it has been for the last 60 years.....very intense stuff.

Enough of that, the sealife was also very intense. I've been diving now for 13 years & have visited quite a few different locales around the world, but there is nothing to compare to this site. Aside from the military stuff, the life around (and attached to) these ships is unbelievable. It was like the hand of God hand touched Truk & dumped Vita-Grow in the water or something. In every direction the sea was alive whether it was with fish, turtles, dolphins and sharks, or with beautiful soft corals, anemones, clams, and the like. There wasn't enough time in the day to see everything that you wanted, and every dive brought another adventure & something that you'd never seen before. I saw my first Lionfish, graceful & deadly, a sea snake, acres & acres of every type coral imaginable, seashells like never before, and anemones as big as I was. Again, words aren't enough to describe the underwater seascapes here that were a cross between a Walt Disney cartoon fantasy and a History Channel documentary.

Above the water, the land was gorgeous. Mostly jungle now, you have to go ashore & explore before you find the massive Japanese installations, shore batteries with their guns pointing to now nonexistent enemy planes, buildings with massive bomb craters in the center & hundreds of small caves with relics still lying about. The people of Truk (Trukese) are very traditional Polynesian with very little western influences other than some clothing (and I did unfortunately hear some rap music). They are a beautiful people and very kind, with the women & girls the more traditional wearing the gorgeous flowered dresses & usually wearing flowers in their hair & leis around their necks. They speak their own native language that was a joy to listen to only occasionally interrupted with a little English. I can only describe it best as something that sounds like birds twittering & it put a smile on your face just to listen to it. The dive guides, (by Trukese law, you must dive with a guide & they must be native) knew enough English to communicate a little about the dive site before you went in the water. Another amazing thing was the way they located the various dive sites by dead-reckoning. There usually was no buoy or anything visible there on the open water & they would use landmarks to get themselves positioned & either drop the anchor right on the ship, or dive in a take a look first......it was amazing.

The last few days we spent on a deserted island about 75 yards wide & 1/4 mile long doing some fantastic shore dives (including a couple of up close & personal shark encounters), eating barbeque that the locals fixed for us, and drinking some weird beer from the Philippines. No electricity, no nothing much at all except the palm and coconut tree covered island & a roof over your head at night while sleeping on your cot listening to the waves crash as a warm tropical breeze blew throughout the room.......it was very nice, and very relaxing.

As the trip wrapped up, we did spend a night at a real hotel in Moen City (on Moen, the largest island) & got to take a warm shower before flying out on the "Island Hopper" It was a Continental jet that stopped 5 times (Kwajalien, Majoru and Ponepae were my favorites) before finally getting into Honolulu 11 hours later....that was a monster flight too! We spent our last vacation day touring Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial, The USS Missouri and the surrounding area. The Arizona was a very moving site, and many of the visitors became emotional....yours included. Sorry...I'm like that sometimes at certain places. Ask my friend Bill about our trip to Gettysburg that time & my visit to the "Confederate High-Water Mark"....another story. Many long hours by air brought the trip to a close & left me with a massive dose of jet lag, a sunburn and a sore body from so much diving. I'm also left with the fresh memories of the most interesting & beautiful things that I've ever seen, and the most amazing vacation trip that I've ever taken.

Don't ever miss this opportunity should it ever present itself......especially if you are a Scuba diver. It really is an understatement when I say that you have no idea what you'll be missing... Many, many pictures are available & video is forthcoming, some of which you may see later on The Outdoor Channel. I'll post some of this year's pictures as time allows. In the meantime, here are some shots from the trip 2 years ago......

Barry


PLACES AND FACES OF TRUK LAGOON

1999 TRIP REPORT & PICTURES

2001 TRIP REPORT & PICTURES

2003 TRIP REPORT & PICTURES

2005 TRIP REPORT & PICTURES

 


A True Diving Pioneer Passes - Bill Tant - "Cap'n Scuba"

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