Monday, 14 December 2015

Things that annoy me today

Things that annoy me today, people that complain about the speed of the wifi and then go on FaceTime and drag what little bandwidth there is down off the scale.

Asked his wife to google to see if there was a place in Chuuk that did take out pizza, because it's not on the hotel menu. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

What about the weather

To describe Chuuk as a tropical paradise would not be an understatement. Palm fringed beaches, giving way to rain forest covered hills. Rustic and remote houses nestling on the waters edge, the sound of birds and the lap of waves. But be prepared it can rain!! Buckets of the stuff, most days there are a few heavy showers ie 10 to 20 minutes of torrential stair rods. Every now and then it sets in the clouds come down and the heavens open. Coming back from a dive a few days ago the boat lost all reference point, given that this part of the lagoon has 3 large islands only a few miles apart it was quite an unexpected experience

Another few days and some interesting diving

The last few days have been a little different as the dives have been with some single tank divers who are over here for a about a week as part of some other diving round the Pacific. Quite good for me as I got to hear about different sites in Guam and Yap which are both on my to dive list. 
One thing that is painfully obvious very quickly is that many divers do not grasp the sheer quantity of wrecks in Chuuk, magazine articles can just not do it justice with a few photos and descriptions of the signature wrecks just does not prepare you for the abundance and variety. Many come for a week here or the liveaboards and can only scratch the surface and not get to know any of the wrecks at all. 
This was brought home for me diving the Sankisan yesterday, 3 years ago when I was here last it was the second wreck that we dived on. An upright cargo vessel that has been blown in two just aft of the Bridge when an American bomb hit an hold carrying explosives, her aft fragments are in a 24m wide explosion crater 180m away. The front sank in about 30m of water with the forward holds containing, trucks, plane parts, and more bullets than I have ever seen in my life. Truly quite a memorable wreck, lots of life, artefacts and an interesting story. But I didn't remember one thing about it from my first trip, which just shows how overwhelming coming here can be. 

Friday, 4 December 2015

Independent diving with Blue Lagoon

I'm now diving independently with the Blue Lagoon dive centre which seems to be working ok. The first day I had the boat to myself we went off todo some of the plane wrecks the are off Etan Island, the first one we dived was a Betty 2 engined bomber which is about 150m off the island and sits in about 20m and is mostly intact from the wings back, considering the plane must have crashed quite hard as the engines are about 50 on from the plane where the sheared off and carried on and the nose is also quite damaged. 

The second plane was the Emily flying boat which is a large 4 engined plane which sits between Etan and Dublon island the wreck is upside down and very broken up but this is probably not due to a high speed crash as all 4 of the engines are still in position along the wings only having fallen from the wing as the steel bolts holding them  to the wing corroded over the years and the propellor blades are still straight and not bent back as they would be if it had hit the water hard.    Many parts like the instruments have been pulled from the wreck over the years and now litter the sea bed around the site making it well worth a rummage to see what can be found and identified. 

Plane wrecks make a nice change from some of the ships, partly because they are compact and good to dive even when the visibility is quite poor, also being aluminium there is less corrosion and marine growth or coral so even the smaller parts are easy to identify even if they have been removed by divers and dropped around the wreck over the years. 

Odd things about Chuuk

It's been a few days so here are a few more Chuuk facts. Number plates appear to be optional. I have not seen a car with a front number plate and quite a few with no rear plates as well, I suppose on such a small island there would be no escape any way and most of the traffic drives at walking pace. 
I had a trip into Weno the nearest town a few days ago and that was an interesting experience. It's about 5k and took about 30 minutes. There are only two smooth sections of road and they are no more than 100 yards long the rest is pitted with deep ruts and holes some s few feet deep and around 20ft long so it's very slow progress, made a bit worse bey being stuck behind the school bus, just like the one in the Simpsons, for part of the way. 

Weno as a town is all low rise max 2 story buildings,  a few hotels and shops, most are more small road side stalls but there are a couple of larger convenience stores but nothing like you would see in the UK, more the Tesco Local than a supermarket. There is also a small port and a water taxi dock given the state of the roads many people just travel by water, both around the island and to some off other local islands in the atoll. 

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Lust4Rust a 5 star setup

Had a few days off the blog with the end of Pete Meslys Lust4Rust trip people have started to leave a big bunch left on Sunday and a few more today, there are now only 5 of the original 33 left and on Friday it will just be me.

A few things about Lust4Rust. The setup Pete has at the Blue Lagoon Resort is really very good and while the main facility's are there for those who want to do the deeper wrecks both OC and CCR there is provision for those coming out diving single tank on air or nitrox, and the boat spilt up provides different groups with wrecks with in the limits of their diving. Most boats only have around 6 divers and only very occasionally did two boats have to go to the same wreck and then there was alway an arrival time difference to ensure there was no over crowding.

Gas fills have been spot on with the O2 membrane unit and trimix bank that now provides O2 at around 94% and 16/45 trimix fills have been very consistent and even my Poseidon didn't complain once . 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

End of the lust4rust trip,

Final dive for the folks from Black Cat Divers who initially invited me to join there Lust4Rust trip about 18 months ago so a very big thank you to Jez & Michele for thinking of me.

The dive was on the Nippo Maru a 107m cargo/passenger vessel fitted out to supply water to Truk and some of the tanks still remain in the forward holds. When she was sunk she also had a deck cargo of trucks, a 2 medium tank,105mm howitzers on the aft deck and artillery equipment, shells and mines in the aft holds. 

The wreck sits in about 45m of water so is a very relaxing dive on a rebreather over an hour investigating the wreck including the engine room which can be exited quite low because of the torpedo hole in her side. Both the holds and accommodation areas are all very easily accessible with plenty of light and alternative exits clearly visible. The bridge on this wreck is very open with large windows to swim through and still as the wheel pedestal and engine room  telegraph.

All in all a very nice wreck to be finishing the Lust4rust trip on.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Finally dived the IJN Oite today

The Oite has been one of my must see wrecks since the last time I was here in 2012. And couldn't dive it because no trips were going that way. 

The wreck is about 12 miles away on completely the opposite side of the lagoon to all the others and takes over an hour in the dive boat to get there. The trip is well worth while as the wreck is sitting on a flat sandy bottom a little over 60m deep, split in two just in front of the bridge with the stern section upright and the bow about 20m off and inverted. There are so many interesting features on the wreck it is hard to single them out but the midships main gun and the anti aircraft guns are all clearly identifiable along with the depth charges and launchers on the stern.  Because the wreck is so deep decompression starts as soon as you reach the wreck so time is very precious once you are there even so getting an over view of the wreck still resulted in over 100 minutes of  decompression time for less than 40 minutes diving the wreck.

In many ways the story of the Oite is a very sad one as she really should not have been in Truk at all. The ship was on its way to Saipan with the cruiser Agano when about 160 miles from Truk the Agano was struck by a torpedo from the American submarine Skate. The Agano did not sink quickly and the Oite had time to rescue around 450 men and transfer fuel from the stricken vessel. After the Agano sank the Oite was ordered to return to Truk, unfortunately arriving just as the American air raid was taking place, she was ordered to turn round but by that time the ship was inside the lagoon and spotted trying to make her escape. A torpedo struck her amidships and secondary explosions, possibly from the boilers blew the vessel in two sinking her in seconds. Only around 20 of the Oite crew and those rescued  from the Agano  survived and today their remains can be found littering the wreck site, making it a very sobering dive in reflection. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

A less dived wreck the Seiko Maru

Bit of an unplanned dive yesterday our group were scheduled to dive the Unkai Maru but just as we arrived the Odyssey which is one of the Truk Lagoon liveaboards was just dropping her divers in on the at wreck so we asked out Guide Tryvin for an alternative and what a good choice it was. The Seiko sits upright in 50m a few miles from the Unkai so it did not take long to get there. But the Seiko was a real treat, not much cargo in the holds, just a few long lance torpedoes stored upright in no 1 hold and some wheels and oils drums in no 4,  but lots of marine life. 
She was a relatively modern ship when she was sunk in 1944 and was power by a steam turbine and coal powered boilers in an all aft engine room which was still accessible. The mid ships officers quarters are entered with a bit of a squeeze with a rebreather and bail out cylinder, but one in bathrooms, galley and radio room were all easily identified. The bridge was open and still had the telegraph and steering position but the wooden wheel had obviously rotted away. The bow has an interesting jury rigged old field gun encrusted in coral, rather than the normal fixed guns we been seeing on some of the other wrecks. 

There was no diving for anyone in the afternoon with the Lust4Rust island barbecue, which kept us all entertained with beer, wine, food and crab racing. The island also had a small nursery of young black tip reef sharks from about 30cm to 1m long so it was quite entertaining watching them harass the schools of small fish in the shallows.  

Monday, 23 November 2015

San Francisco again

Back out to the San Fran again but this is no hardship, if I could only ever dive one wreck ever again it would be the San Fran. As it was the second dive it was not as rushed and I spent almost all the time in the forward holds thick have the trucks, bombs and beach mines and on the 3 tanks. Every time you dive this wreck you find something new. 

As it was another long deep dive I went for a paddle around the resort in one of the Blue Lagoon kayaks, not as easy as it sounds as they only have single blade paddles so lots of time going round in circles. I did finally get a close look at the landing craft off to the right of the jetty and was surprised to find it was ex US Army no Japanese, there is also a bulldozer half in the mangrove which I had not noticed before. 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

First dive on a navel vessel

Back to two dives today, the first one was on the Hoki Maru, which was the ex New Zealand ship the Hauraki that was captured by the Japanese raider  Aikoko Maru in 1942. The 137m cargo ship, sitting upright in 50m of water. Much of the front end of the ship has been destroyed but what is left is very interesting, with holds full of aero engines and bulldozers, trucks and tractors in hold 5. The 2 hour dive was very pleasant with som of the best visibility that we have had all week at around 30m.

In contrast the second dive on the  Fumitsuki a 98m Destroyer and  one of the few navel vessels in the lagoon had very poor viability at around 10m, but this did mot detract from what is a very pretty little wreck. The front 30m has broken up and lies on its side but the rest of the wreck is upright. She is very obviously built for speed has very sleek lines and twin screws, well armed to as it is possible to see her guns and torpedo launchers. The ship was undergoing repairs when the Americans struck and unable to escape being sunk in Operation Hailstone.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Deeper dives continued.

This mornings dive was on he Amagisan Maru another cargo passenger ship around 137m long and one of the largest in the lagoon. Bombed and torpedoed in the American attack she sank at the 6 th fleet anchorage close to Uman Island and is about 30 minutes From the Blue Lagoon dive centre and a bit longer on the way back as we stopped a couple of times as the outboards were slowing down with a bit of water in the fuel. Any the dive is another deep one at around 60m to the seabed with the wreck sitting on her port side and stbd side at about 30m the engine room was easy to penetrate through the skylights but some what silty inside, there were however some quite interesting swim throughs and equipment to look at if you were brave enough to enter. Following the engine room the accommodation can be entred with many artefacts such as bowls and cups left in the galley. The holds contain a car and radial aircraft engines as well as som munitions. The ship has both a bow and stern gun which make for nice photographs as they are well covered in coral & matine growth. 

Returning to the shot line we were accompanied by about 1dozen bat fish who seemed quite entertained by swimming through out bubbles as we moved up the shot line and hung for out 70 minutes of decompression stops.

As this mornings dive was another quite long one I've sat out this afternoons dive as I will be here for a bit longer than the rest of the divers so here are some odd facts about Chuuk.

Being an American protectorate, the use US dollars and drive on the right, all well and good but most of the cars seem to be japanies imports so are right hand drive which makes for some odd motoring. The blanket speed limit seems to be 25mph but with the state of the roads your lucky to get any where near that. The Blue Lagoon resort is only about 2.5 miles from the airport but getting here took 20 to 30 minutes which will give you some idea, I'm sure they are in a much worse state than they were 3 years ago when I was here last.

Friday, 20 November 2015

The dives just keep getting better.

Today's first dive was on the San Francisco Maru. One of the most famous and best dive in the lagoon. Sitting up right in a out 60m of water makes this a deep dive and ideal for the rebreather, giving plenty of time to look at the tanks on the deck at 50m and still have time to explore the holds.  The San Fran' is a 117m long cargo passenger ship and some times called the million dollar wreck because of all the items packed on board. The iconic image is of the 3 Japanese light tanks that are just  in front of the mid ships accommodation but there is very much more.all the holds are crammed with large and small munitions, beach mines, torpedoed, bombs, trucks and weapons of war.
The dive today was a long one even using the rebreather, 40 minutes on the wreck required over an hour of decompression stops and most of the divers were in the water for 2 hours but on this occasion I don't think anyone minded the deco and all would have liked to spend more time exploring this wreck, the visibility was also much better at over 25m which made finding your way round very easy. 

The second wreck today was the Kiyosumi Maru which could not be more different to this mornings dive like many wrecks she is resting on her side after suffering both torpedo and bomb damage in the American attack. Slightly longer than the San Francisco at 137m and siting  on her port side with sea bed at 30m the Stbd side is at around 14m and more like a reef than a wreck with both hard and soft corals she is a haven for juvenile fish of many types. Some artefacts still remain in the holds including bicycles oil drums and propeller blades. Some human remains are still on the vessel including a skull that is attached to stbd side of the hull in one of the holds.  

First of the deeper dives

First of all a big thanks to Craig of Black Cat Divers for letting download the Poseidon config software onto his Mac so that I could change my gases on the Rebreather this morning. Deeper dives require trimix gases and the Poseidon rebreather is a little unique in needing a Bluetooth link from a Mac or PC to set it up. Most other units can be changed on the hand sets which would make things much simpler. 
So on with the diving.

Our first dive this morning was on the Aikoku Maru which sits upright in 63m of water so is quite a deep dive at around 40m to the top of the bridge and a little over 50m to the holds This ship was Japanese merchant raider, and quite large, originally she was 150m in length but everything forward of the bridge was destroyed in the catastrophic explosion that sank her in seconds during the American raid on Truk. So sudden was the sinking that the anti aircrafts guns still point to the sky as if still fighting her last battle. Part of the vessels role during the war was also as a troop transport and many hundreds of Japanese soldiers died instantly in the blast. Their remains littered the accommodation areas and in 1984 approximately 400 were removed and cremated before being laid to rest at the Tomb of the unknown soldier in Tokyo, there are however some remains still onboard and like any war grave she should be treated with respect.

Diving rebreather is perfect for this type of wreck, as it makes 40 minutes on the wreck and a total run time of 100 minutes very practical, diving open circuit the decompression obligation increases so and the amount of gas you need to carry becomes prohibitive.

The second dive was a bit of a washout for me due to a rebreather problem so I'll end today's entry here. 

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Bit windy

More like Babbacombe than Truk Lagoon today. Tropical storm In-Fais blowing through so no diving. The Hotel has put tape on all the big windows in the event they blow out so I guess they are expecting it to get bad. The time has not been wasted though Pete M has started his very informitve talks on Truk Lagoon history and wrecks. Really good start today on the Japanise occupation and the American air raid that sank the ships here.

Today's big disaster has been my MacBook failing to boot up for some reason. Having tried all the usual tricks I'm still left with a brick so I'm not sure how to progress this one. The main issue is I cannot change gasses on my rebreather without it so it could be a dive stoping issue :(. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Second day diving

The first dive today was on the Momokawa  Maru which is a small freighter around 100m long. The ship survived the first days attack by the Americans but was bombed again on the second day of the operation, she sank on her port side and sits in about 40m of water. The accommodation area is easily accessible but a little disorienting as every thing is on its side and artefacts can still be seen. The exit is through the bridge which still has the helm and telegraph. The ship was partly unloaded when it sank and only the forward holds have any equipment in them but artillery shells and plane parts can be seen. 

The second dive was on the Gosei Maru which is another small freighter  around 80m like the Momokawa she is also resting on her port side. The vessel was sunk on the first day from a torpedo which struck no 1 hold on the stbd side. What makes this wreck interesting is the way the is resting on a slope with the bow at 36m but the stern is only in about 13m so the props and rudder sit around 8m because of this the aft part of the ship is covered in soft coral and very beautiful and home to schools of many small fish. 

Tomorrow should prove to be an interesting day, there is a tropical storm heading this way and to be honest it's already quite windy and just started to rain, so diving is unlikely but it should prove to be an interesting experience none the less so I'll keep you posted. 

First Days Diving

Finally got wet :) check dive on the Heian Maru which is a 155m cargo liner that was used as a submarine tender. The wreck is on its port side and provides a number of swim throughs into the holds and various passageways. Lots of artefacts including periscopes, and torpedoes.

The second dive was on the Fujikawa Maru a 130m wreck sitting upright. Since my last visit there has been a lot of damage to the midships accommodation which has almost completely collapsed in to the engine room which was very sad to see. There are a lot of interesting features on this wreck the breach loading guns on both the fore deck and stern which were made in the UK in the late 1800s. In the holds there are a number zero fighters that were being unloaded when the Americans struck. 

General diving suff. While there are a number of divers on the Lust4Rust trip Pete has split the divers in to groups with similar equipment and ability so there are around 6 people on each of the dive boats and only one boat goes to a wreck at any one time which works very well. The visibility is not quite as good as my last trip at around 15m, the temperature in the water is around 28deg which is very present considering the air temperature is around 32deg which gets hot & sticky in a wet suit on the way out to dive site.

Monday, 16 November 2015

First day at the Blue Laggon

No diving today, most guys are quite knackered from the flights so most people used the time to sort their kit. The setup with Lust4Rust with separate areas for the OC and rebreather divers who always have so much more equipment. 
Pete did a good pre trip briefing mostly focusing on using conservative dive profiles and padding out deco to avoid any DCS issues which considering the remote location and lack of medical facility's. 

On the diving side the Poseidon is all together and functioning which is a plus. The only minor niggle is having to change the O2 settings using the Bluetooth link to 94% which is just within the limits so fingers crossed it won't drop much as the trip progresses. 

Back in Chuuk

It's been a few days so there are a few updates. 
Leaving the hotel proved interesting as the Dusit was hosting a dinner APEC conference. All very but but with dignitaries from the president down arriving with police outriders and security motor convoys trying to leave and get through it all too a bit longer than usual.

The flights from Minila to Chuuk via Guam with United were both on time which was a surprise as both were overbooked and the staff were looking for volunteers to get later flights with a cash uplift. The Chuuk flight from Guam is an island hopping schedule with mostly locals so some of the things being carried were a little odd but the 4ft teddy bear with its own seat in business class really was a supprise. 

Friday, 13 November 2015


Manila hasn't changed traffic jams, car horns and scary taxi rides but every thing has gone as planned. A trip to Phil Tec this morning to order and arrange shipping for 100kg of sofnolime to Cebu for the diving after Truk and a lazy afternoon by the pool at the Dusit. 

Phil Tec seem like a nice outfit and well set up to support both OC & rebreather technical diving with what appeared to be a good stock of equipment and spares. The staff couldn't have been more helpful and friendly even if was a Saturday. I think my 100kg of lime has reduced their stocks but I won't need it until January so plenty of time to get it shipped. 

The pool at the Dusit is a nice relaxed space apart from the sounds of traffic which to be honest is hard to escape anywhere in Manila, there is also a new gym since my last visit but I have no plans to visit that 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Rather large bus

Check in Terminal 2 Heathrow

Well isn't this place swish. Recently opened and very much along the style of T5. Lots of automatic checkins and fast bag drops, which is all very well if things go smoothly but they didn't.

The main issue is because my flights have all been booked separately, I have a single ticket out to the Philippines and because this doesn't show my follow on flight to Truk I should have a visa. The other thing is I have a bit of excess baggage, which I have pre booked but its not showing on my ticket :(

The good news is I did finally get checked in it just took about 30 minutes longer than it should have done. So thanks to the very helpful person on the Singapore Airlines checkin.

On the plus side there are NO hold ups, first time in ages where I have gone straight through from checkin to departures without having to queue for ages so well impressed.

Once inside and much like T5 there are lots of high end shops and concessions which even if your not buying do make it pleasant to stroll round while your waiting for a flight.

Only down side so far is a lack of power points as I could do with charging my laptop but thats a small price to pay.

First Steps

For those of you that didn't know, and there can't be many people left. I retired from BP in September and now plan to get some serious diving in.
Almost 2 years in planning but ticking off most of wreck diving "Bucket List" the first stop will be Truk Lagoon and not for a whistle stop tour, 2 weeks with Lust4Rust then another 5 weeks diving with Blue Lagoon.

After Truk it's 8 months based in the Philippines with trips booked around the wreck diving hotspots of the Pacific, but more of that later.

And yes there is a spreadsheet which will not surprise many people.