Diving the Wrecks of Truk Lagoon

When a former friend (Bob Thomas) and his buddy (Perry Massie) told us they were going to Micronesia to dive the WWII wrecks in Truk Lagoon and invited us to join them, we couldn't resist. The trip is organized by the Southern Skin Divers Supply folks and Perry has done it with them several times; it was the first time for us.

It's a long way to Micronesia - we first flew from Phoenix to LA, then Honolulu, then Guam and finally Truk (note: the new official name is Chuuk instead of Truk but most divers still use the old name). Here are some of us upon arrival at the last airport, as you can tell the long trip has taken its toll.

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We spent a week on the live-aboard dive ship S.S.Thorfinn, which is a converted whaler and quite spacious.

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The boat runs on steam power and once we got going we were given a tour of the engine room.

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The night of our arrival we were given a warm welcome by the crew (including the skipper) and we received basic instructions for life on board the boat. Then it was off to bed for a few moments - the time change was 7 hours and we were pretty much DOA (truth be told, most of us slept through at least part of the welcoming lecture). We needed to be up early in the morning for the first dive, though - and the first dive of the day is usually the deepest one so we certainly didn't want to miss that. Every day while on the boat five dives were available (four during the day and one night dive). Since we've never done more than 3 dives in one day up to this point, though, we usually only did about 3-4 dives each day. The Truk Lagoon was a major Japanese naval installation during WWII and in February of 1944 it was attacked by US airplanes, with dozens of boats sunk. Because the lagoon is relatively shallow, all of the wrecks are accessible to dives. Some of the wrecks are quite shallow, in fact, so much so that until a few years ago some of the masts were sticking up above water (before breaking off). There are a few very deep wrecks as well, some as deep as 180-200 feet. Every day at 8 AM, 11 AM, 2 PM and 5 PM (and 8 PM for the night dive), a group of us would assemble on either the port or staboard deck, get our wet suits and jump into one of the little boats that would take us to the next wreck.

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The crew took care of loading all of our equipment onto the shuttle boats, refilling the air tanks after every dive, and they even handed us dry towels as soon as we finished our dive and climbed back onto the boat - great service. Here we are in the little boat, taking off for the next wreck:

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During the week we had an opportunity to visit some of the little islands that comprise the Chuuk state; this also served as a good reminder that we were in the third world. The following pictures show the school and a few (fairly typical) island dwellings.
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During the week of diving we had a chance to see the following wrecks (see the literature or web sites about Truk for details):

Date Wreck name Type Depth (feet)
3/28Nippo Cargo Ship 100-165
Heian Luxury Liner 40-120
Fujikawa Cargo Ship 30-110
Betty Bomber Plane ???
3/29Hoki Cargo Ship 110-175
Kansho Cargo Ship 60-130
Fumitsuki Cargo Ship ???
3/30Fujikawa Cargo Ship 30-110
Yamagiri Passenger Liner 30-110
Hoyo Tanker 10-125
Kansho Cargo Ship 60-130
3/31Shinkoku Cargo Ship 40-125
Sankisan Freighter 50-80
4/1 Amagisan Cargo Ship 100-200
Gosei Cargo Ship 8-100
Rio de JaneiroPassenger Liner 40-115
Sub chaser Small Boat ???
Sankisan Freighter 50-80
4/2 San Francisco Cargo Ship 150-210
Dai-Na-Hino One Gun Boat 3-70
Shinkoku Cargo Ship 40-125

Here are some pictures (courtesy of Perry);the first one shows Peter aiming the gun and the second one shows one of the many critters we'd encountered:

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After a week of diving (we personally did about 20 dives each) we spent two days on a tiny island (about 100 by 800 yards) decompressing. It was time to relax, do some snorkelling and a few final dives from the beach. In the evenings we were treated to beatufiul sunsets (and - except for a few issues with cooling - the beer and booze were plentiful).

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The trip back home was largely uneventful - we stopped for one night in Guam but unfortunately one of us had a mild case of food poisoning so we didn't get see much of it. The next morning we flew on Continental to Honolulu and then on to LAX where we switched to Southwest for the final flight to Phoenix. Unfortunately, the 3 bags we checked in didn't make it. When we asked Southwest they told us that they had no agreement with Continental as far as checked baggage and that maybe Continental put our bags on an America West flight. When we discovered that AmWest also didn't have an agreement with Continental we went home and started making phone calls. Unfortunately, Continental was absolutely no help - they told us that the agent in Guam surely must have told us that the bags couldn't be checked all the way through (even though she definitely did tell us exactly that) or that we should have picked up our bags in LA (even though it later transpired that they never were in LA), and finally that Southwest is the airline that needs to initiate the search for the bags (which SW refused to do, and rightly so - they never saw the bags and they have no baggage agreement with Continental so it was just a ridiculous attempt by Continental to evade responsibility). In the end one of the kind folks at SW took pity on us and went beyond the call of duty, eventually discovering that the idiots at Continental put our bags on a direct ATA flight from Honolulu to Phoenix, but ATA had no idea what to do with those bags and sent them back to Hawaii. So ,after a few days of frantic calls and worrying (the bags contained a bunch of brand new - and very expensive - diving equipment, and other expensive and/or hard to replace items) we were able to pick up our bags at the airport. The attitude of Continental was quite appalling and we learned another valuable travel lesson. Beware!

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