Diving the San Francisco Maru Part 2

Ohhh I am still going to San Francisco and I forgot the flower again. Well that can happen. But I am really excited as we zip over the flat water of the Lagoon. Today we’ll dive the afterpart of the San Francisco Maru. After diving forward sections three times already I want to view more. Not that I have seen the bow enough =).

As this is a deeper dive we work a plan with Raiko, our dive guide, that we’ll split off from rest of the group toward the after section. We descend with our group and as the wreck appears below, Raiko points out which direction we need to go and we swim off. Below and aft of the bridge there is a little house and I get curious so I shine my light in. The remains of a galley appear with an old pot on the stove and another upside down on the floor. The clock is ticking and we hurry on, being followed and inspected by a small travelley.

Getting to know the ships and layouts better I recognize the large engine room skylights, and peer down and start to see piping I realize it will require another separate dive to fully explore the engine room within, and I’m happy with the glimpse I get.

Hold No. 4 comes into sight and there are already bullets lying on the port side of the hatch. They are as long as my hand and as we descent we see all kinds of them. Machine gun bullets the size of my index finger. The same shells as above as long as my hand. And then below the tween decks are large shells the length of my arm. It is very impressive and in very good condition. Between the tween decks there is an ammunition trailer with wheels still in good condition. It is stacked with crates and crates of ammunition. We swim through to hold No. 5 and see boxes of ammunition perfectly stacked above each other. It appears not many divers come here, and I wonder if the other wrecks were like this 30 years back. Then suddenly I have the feeling that seeing gets difficult. Is it the depth? I glimpse around and see torpedoes and what appear to be torpedo warheads. Seeing is still weird and time is up anyway so we come up and suddenly everything is back to normal. Looking down I can see a brownish (orange?) haze hanging over the torpedoes and remember that Captain Lance talked about this phenomenon on other ships.

Must be the torpedoes than. What a relief. On the port side in the sand is another truck frame which looks in good condition but we are already swimming back to the mooring to perform our ascending safety stops.

I do understand how technical diving holds its appeal, in having 30 min or more compared to just 10 min bottom time suddenly seems a big advantage. But the Deco takes forever…..

I guess everyone has to find out what suits them best =)

Diving the San Francicso Maru #7

This is one of the best and most popular dives in the Lagoon. She was built in 1919 as a medium-large sized freighter. Having loaded semi spherical land mines in the bow and ammunition in the stern, she was bombed in the only place that did not erupt her out of the water.
A bomb hit her aft of the bridge where the coal used to be stored and sank her.

And that song : „If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair “ kept me company through the whole dive.

Today is the second time we are diving this amazing wreck and since she lies very deep I hope to get to dive her more often. Our bottom time is 10 minutes so we need to make the best out of the time we are having. Descending through the blue water the anchor line is the only indication, that we will find something in the great blue we are dropping into. Slowly the bridge and midship materialize and we immediately swim towards the foreship to make the most of our time. Three military tanks (Light Type 95 HA Go- Tanks) are to be found here. On the starboard side one tank seems to be mounting the other and the third sits on the port side. The hatch of the mounting tank is open and even though it is silty inside I can see the position the gunner had and the triggers. The murk half covers what appears to be a glass and I wonder what it was for.

In hold No 2 there are a lot of trucks which appear to be designed to hold either water or fuel and are in very good condition. The tween deck is still intact and I can see more trucks further down looking pristine. But I am the only one interested at the moment and checking my computer we only have 4 minutes left. I have a quick glance at the third tank and make my way to Hold No 1 which holds all the mines and some other debris. I see aerial bombs as well and taking my time I can see the remains of the wood that used to separate everything. Captain Lance told us that the hold used to be filled all the way to the top but dynamite fishers have taken them out to do their ugly business with it.
Again I get conscious of the ticking clock and ascend to have a look at the bow gun that is beautifully overgrown but still recogniseable. And than we ascend ascend ascend. On the safety stops I marvel at everything I have seen. Sometimes it is hard to not get mixed up between the wreck and how it used to be and the beauty of the marine life that takes the focus away from the fact that this reef is not entirely naturally grown.
Remember it is a long slow ascent from this wonderful deep dive.

Diving the Heian Maru # 6

Today we dove the Heian Maru, she was built in 1930 by the Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) and used to be a Passenger/Cargo Liner between Yokohama and Seattle. She was requisitioned by the Japanese government and assigned to the 6th Submarine fleet. Being first located in Kwajalein the 6th submarine fleet was assigned to Truk in 1944.

She got hit in the air attack on Truk on the first day and had a fire on board. Several torpedoes and bombs missed her that day. She wasn’t so lucky the next day being hit by one or two torpedoes and sank on the 18th of February 1944 at 15:08 o’clock taking 14 men with her.

Today it was overcast so the change in watercolour, that indicates we reached out dive side was not notable. We are here and well excited. Diving the Heian is very interesting as there is a lot to see. We swim from the stern towards the bow. The port anchor chain can be seen and the links of the chain are as big as my forearm. I had to look twice though to identify the overgrown structure as the anchor chain though. In hold No 2. old torpedoes can be seen with their pair of propeller blades stick out. 

We continue further and come to the engine room. I squeeze past the gangways being tilted at a 90 degree angle since she lies on the port side and get to see all the gauges and wheels and parts and things that make a engine. The size is amazing and my dive torch illuminates more and more details as it wonders up and down. A partial skull is to be discovered here. If crew or engineer no one can say. Further on we swim trying to make the most out of our bottom time. Rico leads us in another hold and up on one of the beams is a beautiful doctors case. Two syringes and some medicine bottles can still be seen. They were part of the medical supplies on board. 

We ascend to the starboard side and make our way back. Swimming all that distance makes me realize how big the wreck really is. We pass by the companion way and get to see the periscopes that were stored here. I nearly despair since it is hard to take a decent picture.

One of our last views is the ships name „Heian Maru“ before we have to surface. Thank you very much Heian Maru it was a great dive. 

Diving the Fujikawa Maru #5

A very special wreck for a lot of divers here. One of the books claims it is T H E wreck in Truk so of course we are very excited when we arrive on site. The sun is hiding behind a lot of clouds so there is not really a perceptible change in water colour but Rico the guide assures us we are here.

As we descend through a majestic shade of blue, the silhouette peels itself from the water. This time the anchor line is not tied to the wreck but a bit to the portside so we get an impression how huge she is.

She received a torpedo hit steaming from Kwajalein to Truk on the 11th of September 1943 but still made it to Truk (the repair can be seen in Hold 4 and 5). Another torpedo hit her during „Operation Hailstone“ in the starboard midship and even though the crew fought to keep her afloat, she sank in the night between the attacks or in the early morning.

We start with the aft holds were some 8 to 10 torpedoes are stalked at crazy angles. Those things are massive and I don`t want to imagine the damage they can inflict. Next we dive through the wall into the engine room which is just fascinating. Coming in though the side we first pass a workshop that has everything from a vice to a lathe.

    

Two storage rooms full of spare parts are on either side, but we leave these for later. We descend down the narrow gangways into the engine room which is in amazingly good condition. The water has a „white haze“ again and it is difficult to see even a couple of meters. Old gauges and switchboards appear and disappear and it is a little bit spooky. As the air we breathe out tries to rise back to the surface it makes a sound that one can only hope does not mean it will all crumple down upon us.

We turn around and explore the workshop a little better. I wonder if all those machines would still work when brought back up, they look very sturdy.

We come back to the light and make our way through some of the lower decks of the bridge with some officers bathrooms. There are 3 sinks next to each other and some toilets.

Coming out the far side we descend to the forward holds that are said to be the most interesting and I can only agree. On the bottom there are some Mitsubishi A6M Risen, the famous Zero fighter planes, they got disassembled for transport to having one wing and the main body, they are awesome and the cockpits are still just a maze of engineering.

We play around a lot and try to get the best photos possible. It is a lot of fun and we need to get moving. So there is one more hold with ammunition as long as my arm. Wondering what gun could possibly fire these I rise up out of the hold and come to the bow gun. And my question is answered. The gun mounted there is massive. The biggest I have seen yet, an old English cruiser gun of 6 “ (or 15,2 cm ) calibre from 1899.

The very bow holds the best surprise for me. There is a telegraph that can still be read, Fast forward and so on. An old gas mask is also perched there.

The gun is on 10 meters of depth so we still have a little time but we need to come up slowly. On the way we get to see a school of Jackfish. The big windlass on the forecastle entertains us with life as we come to the safety stop and then we have to come up.

I am so sure we missed a lot and could discover so much more. Could we dive here one more time? I wonder if I will ask this question on every dive now. So many corners haven`t been strafed by my torch yet.

Let’s see ….

Diving the Shotan Maru/Matsutan #2

There are two names to the wreck since the kanji letters can be either read Shotan or Matsutan. She is more commonly referred to as Shotan Maru however.

Another morning in paradise and another great dive. The sea is smooth and the 7 min boat ride to the dive site bliss. Just looking around at all the green Islands is beautiful. Now my eyes accustomed a little I can see more and more houses being hidden in the trees. Not that it is crowded with 48.000 population and most of them living in Weno (the main island).

Our wreck this morning is the Shotan Maru, she was a mass built freighter to replace those ships that were lost. Built in 1943 she came to Truk on 6th of February and when the attack hit her with a bomb or torpedo, her Captain appeared to attempt  to run her aground on the shore of Fanamu Island. She is very close to the little island in a fairly deep trough cloesby. Bottom time is 10 minutes so one has to pick up the speed a little.

On the forward holds there used to be 3 crane trucks. One is on the port side in the sand and another two have been knocked down into the forward hold below.  The hold is full of glass bottles (possibly SAKE) and various pieces of quad-packed artillery shells  for anti aircraft guns. In the hold closer to the bridge there are many hardened sacks of cement.

Over the bridge there is a nice array of beautiful pottery with a dark blue rim, on some you can still see the initials of the maker. Pottery is also scattered around the wreck in the adjacent reef. The aft hold is where the bomb that sunk her detonated taking out all of the bottom. So you can see the bedrock she rests on. The mast is still there but bend to the side. On the stern is a gun beautifully overgrown with coral. And than the 10-minute bottom time are up and we start to ascend swimming back to the chimney to see a little more life on the way up.

15-minutes of safety stops and a beautiful Nudibranch later we are back on the surface still marveling the 40 meters visibility and all the small details of the wreck.

Diving the Rio de Janeiro Maru #3

The Rio de Janeiro Maru was build in 1930 as a eight deck ocean liner by O.S.K. Line (Osaka Shosen Kabushiki Kaisha) and between the World Wars she served as a ocean liner, doing four month turns around the globe. So she ran around Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn every four months. How amazing is that! She was requisitioned for the war in 1940 and served as a submarine depot ship being reassigned as a transport in 1943.

Arriving on the dive site by boat one can already see the change in water color. She is lying on her starboard beam and the huge side is covered in coral. Diving to the stern first the propeller and rudder come into view, being bigger than a diver. The words RIO DE J….. can be spotted on the stern and coming further around we were greeted by the massive stern gun.

In the aft cargo hold there are hundreds and hundreds of beer bottles some are still in their crates and some of the crates are still stacked above each other. The next hold is full of coal and and some disassembeld guns are partly burried by it.

Next comes the engine room with huge Mitsubishi Sulzer twin diesel engines and very nice walkways. We had to squeeze a little but once through the gangway there is a lot of space.

The bridge has crumbled down after the last typhoon in 2015 and is a mess. Next come the forward holds that still have some bottles lying around (beer?) and were full of amunition which went off when the ship was hit by a strafing attack. The side is littered in shell plating the size of a fist, but we had to look for it amongst the coral. Small Trigger Fish like to make those holes their home so have a look out for them. As we come round a small Grey Reef Shark gets scared by us and shoots off. Some Bluefin Travelley start hunting and are joined by a medium sized Tuna. This all makes the safety stop very entertaining and I hope the shark comes back round but it keeps out of sight.

I really like this wreck, first of all due to all the empty beer bottles and me being Bavarian. But also because it lies shallow and we had a lot of time to explore everything and enjoy ourselves.