Truk Scuba Diving

On the morning of February 16, 1944, ‘Operation Hailstone’ saw allied bombs rain down on the unsuspecting Japanese ships and planes based in Truk. When the smoke cleared the following day, over 60 ships and 250 aircraft had been destroyed. Today, the remains are the foundation of a blossoming Truk scuba diving industry. And, why not? – The water temperature is a comfortable 80°F (26°C) year-round with visibility averaging 60 – 90 feet (18m -28m).

The Micronesian islands stretch from the Philippines almost to Hawaii, 1,800 miles (2,800km) away. Submerged 55 years in tropical seas, the ghost ships of Truk Lagoon are transformed into lavish artificial reefs covered with the most impressive soft corals in the world.

Fujikawa Maru – This 437′ (131m) armed aircraft ferry, sits upright in 110 feet (33m) of water with her rear mast protruding from the lagoon. Schools of baitfish swarm the masts attracting larger fish and a few patrolling barracuda. A large platform holds an almost unrecognizable gun draped in coral and sponge growth. Boxes of unused shells sit beside the gun ready for the next attack.

The ship is enveloped in waving soft coral branches, zigzag oysters, black coral trees, gorgonians and whip corals reaching out for passing divers. The passageways are heavily laden with marine growth and lead to the galley and baths with their tiled tubs. A commemorative plaque, placed in 1994, marks the 50th anniversary, and is dedicated to the preservation of and respect for the remaining ships, aircraft, and artifacts as a heritage for the people of present-day Chuuk.

Shinkoku – This happens to be the largest Truk scuba diving wrecks, and warrants several dives and even a night dive. A huge torpedo hole in the port side is responsible for her sinking. In the galley, plates and utensils lie around, with schooling fish lurking in the darkness. The wheelhouse is overgrown with soft corals and contains the sponge-encrusted telegraph. Inside, the operating room and pharmacy floors are littered with bottles. Care is needed as visibility drops to zero very quickly if divers stir up the 50 years of silt deposit.

The masts, cargo booms, deck railings and everything else between 40 and 80 feet (12m – 24m) are covered with orange cup corals, tube corals, branching soft corals and crinoids. At night the corals extend their feather-tipped tubes out into the nutrient-rich water, and many species of fish and marine creatures are active at night foraging for food and moving about the structure.

Sankisan Maru – A freighter, sits upright on a slope with the foremast in only 10 feet (3m) of water. The deck level is about 50 feet (15m), with the forward holds at 80 feet (24m). The rear half of the ship was blown off in an explosion when a bomb struck the munitions hold. Just beyond the bridge the Sankisan’s hull simply ends in a waffled, splayed-out tangle of steel. The remnants of trucks, ammunition, clips of ammo, and engines clutter the holds in the bow of this ship. One of the prettiest wrecks in the lagoon, the Sankisan’s decks, mast and kingpost are laden with anemones, sea squirts, encrusting and tube sponges, zigzag oysters, featherdusters, and swarms of blue, pink and purple anthias. This is a good dive for anyone looking for an easier Truk scuba diving adventure.

Fumitsuki – This destroyer wasn’t discovered until 1987. With the help of surviving crew members, the destroyer was eventually added to the ghost fleet. The ship is in good shape and sits upright with her bridge at 90 feet (27m) and the decks at 100 – 120 feet (30m – 36m). Schooling fish congregate around her bridge and black coral decorates the deck.

Betty Bomber – Nicknamed “Betty” by the Allies and produced in large numbers, these attack bombers were the most famous of the Japanese aircraft. They were deployed in all Pacific theaters throughout the war. The metal skin of this aircraft is relatively free from marine growth; the only coral on the wreck is around the open cockpit area. The interior of the aircraft is interesting; the fuselage structure is intact and various equipment and debris lie on the floor.

Yamagiri Maru – There are some huge artillery shells in one of the holds, destined for the battleship guns of the Yamato and Musashi. Three feet long (1m), 18 inches (½m) in diameter and covered with silt, they are easily recognizable. Scattered around the shells is a variety of equipment and machinery tipped over when the ship rolled on her side. The Yamagiri took many hits and sank in 110 feet (33m) of water on her port side. Portholes on the bridge make interesting photo opportunities with lavish soft coral and sponge growth.

Nippo Maru – Discovered in 1969, she was not identified until 1980. Since then, this wreck has become very popular due to an interesting cargo of war materials. The wreck sits upright in 130 feet (40m) of water, and artillery guns and tanks still sit silently on the deck waiting to be offloaded. The Nippo’s bridge contains the double handled telegraph — from the bridge, you swim through a passageway with cabins on each side to the galley, where pots and pans can be seen beneath the silt. The depths make this an advanced dive, and several dives are needed to see all the Nippo has to offer.

Plan your Truk diving adventure during the dry season. January – March the annual rainfall is 140 inches (3,500mm) and you want to miss as much of that as possible! Temperatures average 81°F (28°C) with accompanying humidity. Hotels are small and unadorned – there is a beach side hotel, the Truk Continental, on Moen Island. English is widely spoken and the US Dollar is used throughout Micronesia.