Diving the wrecks.
September 2001 and May 2003 saw us visiting Chuuk Lagoon Micronesia, to dive the historic wrecks located in and around the lagoon. We spent 7 days aboard the S.S.Thorfinn, a 58m/170ft steam powered converted Ice Class Antarctic whaler. On our September 2001 we arrived 2 weeks after the September terrorist attacks in the U.S. This saw us sharing the boat with only 6 other guests, 4 Poms and 2 Canadians; it sleeps 22 - so we were looked after very well by the 21 crew. The May 2003 visit coincided with the war in Iraq which meant not many people were travelling and we had the Thorfinn all to ourselves as we were the only guests on board.
Although the day was action packed, we never got tired. This was due to the great attention we were given by the crew. Not once did we have to lift a finger to carry any gear, tanks etc. They passed cameras, torches and equipment to us in and out of the dive boat, and up and down from the Thorfinn. All we had to do was show up on time and roll into the water.
Our guide Bettewien was great and put us at ease on the deeper dives with his quiet gentle nature.
All the dives were guided and where possible (on most dives) we penetrated the wrecks. Our guide Bettewien was great and put us at ease on the deeper dives with his quiet gentle nature. He monitored our air consumption, depth and bottom time closely during the dive. He wasn't, however, overly controlling and let us explore the wrecks in our time and at a pace that was comfortable for us. His air bubble rings kept us entertained during the 10@5 safety stops.
The diving itself was fantastic! The water temperature was a constant 28°C no matter what the depth. There was no swell or surge and only an occasional wind chop. On some of the dives there was a very slight current, which wasn't difficult to swim against. The visibility was excellent, although not the 'Gin Clear' waters that places such as Palau are renown for. There are a lot of particles in the water which makes photography tricky due to the flash reflecting back off the particles and showing up as white spots on the shots.
Not only were the wrecks fantastic but the fish life was exceptional. There are Chromis of all sorts, including Green Puller (Chromis viridis) and Blue-green Puller (Chromis atripectoralis), Dascyllus everywhere especially Three-spot Dascyllus (Dascyllus trimaculatus), Headband Humbug (Dascyllus reticulatus) and Humbug Dascyllus (Dascyllus aruanus), some of the Pink Anemone Fish (Amphiprion perideraion) are residing in the biggest Magnificent Sea Anemones (Heteractis Magnifica) around. We saw heaps of Tall-fin or Teira Batfish (Platax teira), huge schools of Big-eye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus) and a plethora of Blue Damsel (Pomacentrus coelestis).
Our Three Favorite Wrecks
San Francisco Maru - this shipwreck was initially discovered by Jaques Cousteau during 1969, at which time it was not dived. It was located again during a 1973 fathometer survey and the ship's bell was used to confirm its identity. It is one of the most spectacular shipwrecks inb the world and often called the "Million Dollar Wreck" by divers speculating at the worth of the military cargo aboard. Read More
Although the Hoki Maru is badly damaged in the forward sections, the aft No. 5 Hold contains items that can be found nowhere else on the wrecks of Chuuk; building equipment and trucks. There is an airport mule (tractor), and a row of trucks (about 3 ton in size) all stowed neatly together side by side at lower level. The wheels still rotate freely after 70 years submerged. Perhaps the most exciting find in the holds are two still intact John Deere bulldozers. Read More
The Shinkoku Maru is one of the most interesting in the lagoon with vivid corals, and fish life along with fine arrays of shipboard artifacts. Night dives are supreme and rank with ‘best ever’. The soft corals and hydroids that emerge after dark turn Shinkoku Maru into a hanging garden and her medical bay is an interesting diversion along with arrays of engine and docking telegraphs on an upper bridge level. Read More