Truk Lagoon - a Trip of a Lifetime

During World War II, Truk Lagoon became the forward operating base for the Imperial Japanese Navy in the South Pacific and as such it was thought to be an impregnable fortress. More than 27,000 men were stationed there and the islands surrounding the lagoon were equipped with roads, bunkers trenches and artificial caves. There were five airstrips, a seaplane base, submarine repair workshops, a torpedo boat station and all defended with heavy guns, anti-aircraft guns and mortar emplacements. Some have described it as Japan’s equivalent of America’s Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. They even had time to remodel an island so that it looked like an aircraft carrier from the air!

Battle tank on the deck of the San Francisco Maru Battle tank on the deck of the San Francisco Maru

It was feared by the American Command because they considered that to take it would cost a lot in American lives

In February 1944, despite the main body of warships escaping to Palau after an American reconnaissance plane was spotted, a massive attack by American bombers flying from a task force of aircraft carriers destroyed the military effectiveness of the Japanese base in Truk (Chuuk)  with 32 Japanese merchant ships (operating as fleet auxiliaries) sunk. Operation Hailstone as it was known resulted in Truk becoming the biggest graveyard of shipping in the world.

One of the many telegraphs on the Shinkoko Maru One of the many telegraphs on the Shinkoko Maru

Given the poor state of the Japanese war effort in 1944, few of these vessels had much fuel in them and the amount of pollution was minimal. Though today, most of them are in a poor state, these wrecks make exciting dives and give an insight into life at sea during that period. Most of them are in water shallow enough to be accessible by any open water diver and some of them are metamorphosing into colourful reefs.

Sight glasses on the engine of the Kansho Maru Sight glasses on the engine of the Kansho Maru

It’s a long way to travel from the UK, via Singapore, Manila, Guam to Chuuk, but it’s a scuba diver’s trip of a lifetime and should not be missed. If you go, remember to go equipped with some sort of camera so that you can bring back memories of your experience. The most interesting parts of the wrecks are their engine rooms and cargo holds so you will need some effective lighting in order to capture rewarding images. You’ll need an underwater strobe together with an aiming light that automatically extinguishes when you take a still picture. For video, you’ll need powerful video lights that give even illumination across the field of view. A wide-angle or fish-eye lens is essential if you want to capture more than details, so don’t go without one.

Submarine periscopes in a companionway of the Heian Maru. Submarine periscopes in a companionway of the Heian Maru.

It’s a pity to go all that way and find that you regret saving the cost of the right equipment to take with you!

Come into Ocean Leisure Cameras and discuss what equipment you need to come back with meaningful images of your trip of a lifetime.

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