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General Information - 2007-02-01 — Truk 2006

2007-02-01 — Truk 2006

Fujikawa Maru planeMark Harris asked if I would like to assist in producing part two of his documentary, "Silent Wrecks of Truk Lagoon", spending three weeks filming WW11 shipwrecks in Micronesia. So last 30 November, I was waiting at Cairns airport for the cruel 0135 am flight to Guam. We didn't panic when the 130 Japanese school kids lined up in front of us, after all, our flights were booked, weren't they? Continental staff told us they had overbooked, and one of us would have to wait for the next flight, in thee days. Guess who stayed.

I was accommodated at the Cairns Colonial club, and spent the first day booking tours, and roaming around Cairns. Boring. The next day I went out to dive Thetford Reef with Tusa Dive. Vis was poor, and fish scarce, definitely not worth the $200! The crew were great, and I had my own guide so I wasn't stuck with the other 20 divers. To finish the day they served Tim Tams as we motored back, but when I tried to bite one I realised they had come from the fridge, and caused some pain in a tooth. Day 3 and I was on a bus tour of the Daintree area, which included croc spotting on the river. OK, but a poor substitute for Truk!

Fast BoatOnce again back in the queue for the 135 am flight to Guam, imagine my demeanour when I successfully got a seat, but was told one of my bags would go stand by! Problems solved, I joined Mark and his dad, Brian at Chuuk. Now lets clear this Truk/Chuuk thing, Chuuk is the name of the state, but Truk is still the name of the lagoon! As it turns out, the weather had been wind and rain for the past 3 days, and would be the same for the next 3 days. This didn't stop diving, but made good footage hard to obtain.

Our base was in the middle of the main city, Weno, at the Truk Stop Hotel, having comfortable, air conditioned rooms, and the dive operation on site. Weno is a dump, the main street has potholes and poor drainage, there is no garbage collection, and there are derelict cars everywhere. The cars come from Japan, as only cars less than 3 years old can be used in Japan, and are sold to Pacific Islanders for the transport cost, around US$300. If a car requires repairs over $300, it is cheaper to get a new one! We ate in the Hotels restaurant, which has good American style meals, which definitely expand your waistline!

Gosie Maru skullTruk Stop has 2 dive boats, Bottom Lover, a 42 ft twin diesel cruiser, and Fast Boat, a 24 ft Banana boat with twin 90 hp four strokes. As Fast Boat had fuel problems, even though we had small crews, we went out on the much slower Bottom Lover for the first 10 days, until it blew an engine. We then had to use Fast Boat, with a deckie constantly pumping a fuel bulb to keep the port engine going! It worked though, and we were able to push on with the filming schedule.

Over the thee weeks of diving we visited the Kansho Maru, Nippo Maru, Gosie Maru, Kiyuzumi Maru, Fujikawa Maru, Hoki Maru, Heian Maru, Hanakawa Maru, Unkai Maru, Amagisan Maru, Momokawa Maru, Sankisan Maru, Hino Maru, Seiko Maru, Sanfrancisco Maru, I 169 Submarine, Suzuki Sub Chaser, Betty Bomber, Emily Float Plane, and Shark Island. The most surprising was the rarely dived Hanakawa Maru, which is a very similar dive to the Fujikawa Maru. As the Hanakawa is situated off Tol Island, a longer distance than most others, and the locals aren't that friendly, even our guides didn't really know what we would find. The holds were mostly full of drums, with a lot stuck to the ceilings, and the engine room was quite cloudy, but there was plenty to discover in the superstructure, and the topside of the wreck was richly grown over with soft corals. The forward mast provided a spectacular deco station, and the huge school of trevally, which circled divers, will remain in my memory. So will the sore tooth I suffered with for the first two weeks!

Emily float planeThe weather came good during the second week, but deteriorated for the third. Vis was poor on the wrecks in the repair anchorage, requiring many return visits to get the required footage. The SanFrancisco Maru was not on our schedule, but we made it a special dive to celebrate my 1000th logged dive. It truly is one of the best wrecks in the world, and still has a deadly amount of ordinance in hold one. Mark got onto diving with twins on this trip, and loved it so much that he racked up 3½ hours deco on the Amagisan Maru! He didn't surface from his 2.00 pm dive until after dark, which made the trip back through the maze of coral reefs interesting! Vis varied from 5 to 30 metres, but all dives had some biological matter drifting by.

Nights were consumed reviewing the days footage, and transferring sequences for later editing. Planning the days shooting took place over breakfast, when we had an idea of the weather. Days where we required models were set up in advance, and everything was scripted. My role was more flexible, and after completing the planned sequences, I was free to explore and find new "points of interest". This meant a lot of solo diving. We aimed to keep to sites less than 50 metres deep, except for the blast hole on the Seiko Maru, and the holds on the San Fran. All dives were deco dives on air, so it was common to spend up to 3 hours submerged each day (more for Mark!).

We had a day off near the middle of the trip, and a couple of days at the end to tour the local islands to film old Japanese buildings and infrastructure. Some of this required trekking through the jungle, in hot and humid conditions, thankfully there is no malaria, poison spiders, or snakes in Chuuk! We found some tunnels which Mark and Brian explored, as they had a torch between them, revealing generator sets and equipment still hidden inside the mountains. There are Japanese buildings everywhere, most now utilised by the Trukese, but many are bomb damaged.

Lantern Blast HoleThe pressure was on in the last few days to complete the filming schedule, but we made it. It would have been preferable to be able to access a couple of the wrecks in better vis, but clever editing will sort that out. Truk is the wreck diving capital of the world, but I was ready to go home at the end of 3 weeks, so with a minor delay leaving Chuuk, we were back in Oz for an overnight stop in Cairns. Now my last trip turned sour when the flight from Cains was cancelled with mechanical failure, and you can imagine my disgust when the same thing happened again! This time the problem was a faulty fire sensor in a luggage hold, which caused us to be disembarked, and wait a couple of hours before they came up with a solution. For some reason, everybody thinks I am a jinx with air travel and weather!

I got home in the early hours of the day after I was due, but I had made it! Mary got me up early so I could get all my clothes in the wash so we could start packing for our liveaboard trip on Jervis Bay. But that is another story of bad weather!

Published in Fathoms, the Official Journal of the Victorian Sub-Aqua Group
February –March 2007 edition, Page 24.

Safety in Diving

Published on: 2007-04-16 22:55:29 (1870 reads)

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