Is it finally time to dive Truk Lagoon
A few years ago, we organised a dive expedition to Papua New Guinea (PNG). Our northernmost point of diving was the paradise island of Lissenung. This island is tiny, with small wooden huts in some trees on the beach. Everything in Lissenung is on the beach and has tree cover. It really is that small. Apart from the plethora of fish, coral and nudibranchs, what really got our attention, was the detritus of world war two. The harbour in front of Kavieng had a Catalina on the bottom along with an array of Japanese metal equipment.
One night in the sultry heat, we asked Dietmar, (the owner of Lissenung Island resort) why this was the case. He pointed to a map on the Bamboo wall of the dining hut.
“Kavieng is exactly 500 nautical miles south of Truk. It is the northernmost airfield in New Guinea. If you look at Truk’s location you will see that it was the natural supply base for the Japanese navy. They could carry on to Saipan and then Japan.”
Of course we should have remembered our history books, but the Japanese supplied their New Guinea Army through Kavieng. And when they were under attack by the allied forces, they fought off attack after attack from Kavieng. The tactical, technological superiority and professionalism of the US forces prevailed and the Japanese were defeated across the pacific. Peace eventually prevailed. But what got me thinking was Truk. What was so special about Truk and the Japanese supply chain? This forgotten lagoon in the middle of nowhere was turned into a major dive site. The fascination continued and I found myself reading more and more about Operation Hailstorm. Everyone says that the US navy were after the warships, but when you read the history of the defeat of Japan it is obvious that the US had a dual policy of blockade and fight. The US submarine fleet kept Japan completely isolated at the end of the war, and the 1 million Japanese soldiers in China were powerless to defend their homeland, as every ship which put to sea was sunk. The sinking of the Japanese merchant marine fleet in Truk Lagoon effectively neutralised thousands of soldiers on small islands around the pacific. The US forces could then ignore islands at will, and attack those that they chose.
Truk was on my radar but not really on it, because I thought that I would never get there. All of my visits to Micronesia had been to Yap and Palau, and perhaps I was interested more in life than death. But a chance meeting at the DEMA dive show changed all of that. One day Maria the owner of Kosrae Pacific Tree Lodge took the empty space next to us on the show. After three days of chatting and drinking coffee in between meetings, she invited us to come and see her lodge and dive centre. The easiest way to Kosrae was via Truk. So I found myself planning to visit Kosrae. But standing next to me, was my friend Cliff of the Truk Odyssey.
“If you visit Kosrae, you would be very welcome to see the Odyssey” he said. And the brain started to work on expanding the Trip.
“If you go to Truk I would like to come with you” said a voice behind me.
Stevie Macleod the owner of the Workshop at Al Boom divers (Dubai) had overheard.
“And I think I know a couple of others who might wish to join us. You see the wrecks of Truk are not still wrecks, they are also vibrant reefs full of fish. Diane would love this.
Doug Bennett the owner of Reef Encounters International (Japan) strolled over.
“Hey Raf, if you go to Truk, then I want to come too with Maggie” .
I sat down and took out my notebook and started to write down names. After a few minutes, I had a think and turned to Cliff.
“Cliff when do you have a whole boat available? I think if this continues I might need the whole boat”. Cliff beamed from ear to ear, his kind invitation to an agent to inspect his boat, had morphed into a massive booking in five minutes.
“Hey who flies to Truk?” said Stevie?
“Well we use Air Niugini” Is said to him.
“Well you can add that on for me”.
We all packed our bags and flew back to our respective nations around the world. Everyone else got to run their dive centre or workshop. I, on the other hand, found myself at my desk ringing Air Niugini and asking for fares to Truk from Manila and Singapore with a Port Moresby (Hoskins) stopover. Since this all came about, we have packed our bags a few more times, and I have seen the inside of a few aircraft. Turkey, Indonesia, the Antarctic, ST Helena, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania are all lined up before we will eventually board that aircraft to Truk, but it is now only 13 months away, and we are almost able to book flights. Now all I just need to head down to Mike’s Dive Store for that 3mm suit and some replacement fins and I will be ready.
And you dear reader? Would you like to join us? We only have three spaces left, so you would be welcome. We will be in Truk from 22-29 August 2020. We will be at Walindi Plantation the week after that, and if anyone lasts that long, we will have a glass of bubbles in Cairns or Singapore after that. Ping me an email at Info@orientafrica.com and I’ll send you some details.
All images courtesy of Truk Odyssey- as we have not been there yet!