Diving Truk Lagoon
Board: Macro Economics
The ship has three news channels: BBC Worldwide, CNN and Fox News (to provide comic relief to Canadians who are feeling sorry for themselves because of the sudden influx of Asians into British Columbia, the Quebecois, the dropping of LuLu-Lemon stock or some other imagined important Canadian self-absorption.
I see you guys are taking good care of the equity market and turning me into some sort of a seer about waiting until late October before re-entry :-)
I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.
I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move – Robert Louis Stevenson
There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it – Charles Dudley Warner
My sister Wendy sent me the following comment after reading about the popularity of Spam in the Marshal Islands and elsewhere in the South Pacific:
“The popularity of Spam in the South Sea Islands is because its taste resembles human flesh (described as “corpse-like”). The Islanders traditionally enjoyed this taste even after cannibalism was banned in the 19th century and still do.”
I think it simply became popular during the second World War when it was distributed by GI’s.
Maybe both are true.
We travel for days at sea to travel between the far flung dots of the Pacific Ocean and I marvel at Magellan and the unknown explorers in twin hulled canoes who have done the same trip without the knowledge that there was anything on the other side except more water.
Chuuk (also known as Truk), Micronesia 10/8 Tue Noon to 6:00pm This is a tender port
Chuuk, with its vast, shallow, beautiful lagoon is a Mecca for wreck divers. A major shipwreck site from WWII, Truk Lagoon is unquestionably the world's best shipwreck diving destination. The Fujikawa Maru is often singled out as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world. However, apart from scuba diving, there is not very much to do in Chuuk. There are no real beaches on Weno (although some of the outer islands which can be reached by boat do have beaches). None of the hotels on Chuuk even has a swimming pool. For non-diving spouses, a trip to Chuuk can be a dull and tiresome affair. While fortunately I am not a non-diving spouse, unfortunately my wife is. I will be diving at five locations that I perceive as unique in the world along the route of this trip. Some of the passengers “live to dive” and will be diving at as many as 16 ports. As in investing, we each have to try to understand our emotional pain threshold (in this case typified by the expert application of guilt based on my having fun while she’s not : -).
I had booked a two tank pair of dives – the first on the Fujikawa Maru and the second a shallower dive over another ship and an airplane. There were a number of people from the ship going – some who had booked along with me and some who had booked separately and just shown up out of the blue. Since most had come in pairs, I was buddied with an “upper middle age” lady who had the physicality of the Graf Zeppelin (or a small planet?). As I was concerned about the short time we had, I was timing the various legs of the outgoing trip and eventually pointed out to the rest of the divers that if we took the second dive, accounting for the mandatory rest period in between , we would arrive back at the ship +/- 5 minutes of sailing time (so the second dive was scraped).
Even though this was supposed to be a tender port, the ship’s captain somehow found a parking spot against the pier (though he had about 3 meters of water under the keel, so he had to come in very slowly – with great eruptions of mud).
After a bit of a “firedrill” I ended up on the “wrong” fiberglass bathtub of a boat in a pair heading out to the dive shop. Ours had a single life ring attached to the ceiling above a net and tied off with rope on both sides. If our boat went down, I’d grab my snorkel, I guess, because there were no life preservers to fight over. I generally take my fins, goggles, snorkel, a “shortie” wet suit and an octopus (air hose thingie) as I hate to put things into my mouth that multiple strangers have been chomping on for a couple of years, but I hadn’t had a chance to get mine serviced so I’m renting one along with the rest of the gear. There is a mandatory $30 diving license required which adds to the cost of diving, but “in for a penny, in for a pound” (soup to nuts, the dive cost me about $140, but it’s a good deal cheaper than flying here for one).
I’ve been certified for a long time (first in the early 1980’s by CMAS, the French scuba organization and then by PADI, in the 1990’s in Australia), but I’ve only gone on about 30 dives (fortunately mostly in iconic dive locations scattered around the world). I do not “live to dive”, but rather dive opportunistically if I happen “to be in the neighborhood” of a special site. It’s been about two years since my last plunge and by all rights I should take a refresher session, so, while I’m not going through that “time wasting” motion, I am paying extra attention to the location of all the various buttons, buckles and do-dad’s on my rented equipment. Interestingly, most of my diving has been done with metric gauges and it takes a bit of getting used to the feet and PSI numerals on my depth and air readouts.
The entry from the boat is basically sitting on the gunnel and then flopping backwards into the water. I’ve been a bit concerned as I’ve been fighting a head cold, so I took some anti-histamine the night before the dive. Fortunately, my sinuses cleared enough that I was able (with a bit of occasionally painful pressure equalization in my ears – by pinching my nose and filling my head with compressed air) to descend. It’s only about 25 feet down to the top of the Fujikawa Maru’s superstructure. The ship has fore and aft gun turrets, a “working” engine telegraph and so on its deck which is at about 50 feet. As I descended, I was greeted by a marine turtle the size of as coffee table (someone I spoke to later said they saw one of these flopping around in the back of a pickup truck so I guess they are part of the food supply). The ship is covered in a wide variety of soft coral and sea anemones and swarms of colored fish swim through this artificial reef. The visibility is not bad considering that it is overcast above.
I realized that ours was one of three dive boats, but what I didn’t realize was that some of our group had cancelled and the third boat was filled with a bunch of young Japanese loaded with high end video equipment and floodlights. OK, so admittedly my mother might have dropped me on my head when I was young. I saw a group of divers swim into the interior of the ship (sort of an artificial cave) somewhat deeper than where we were swimming. I waved my “buddy” down, but either she didn’t see me or felt more comfortably near our dive master. So long story made short, I followed the Japanese kids into the ship. I found myself in a dark corridor with divers wearing strange (from the standpoint that it wasn’t the stuff we were using) equipment at the other end. After my tanks hit the top of the passageway a couple of times I realized that I was being particularly stupid. If I hung up, the kids ahead wouldn’t know I was here, nor would my group (which were on top of the deck about 20 foot above me). At the first opportunity I swam out of the ship through a gaping hole in the side and re-joined the dive master who seemed relieved to see me show up again (I don’t think my buddy realized that I had vanished for a few minutes and just recently re-appeared). This is probably one of those things you don’t want to try at home without specific wreck diving training and a buddy who really cares about where you are (she told me later that she was reluctant to enter the ship and followed my progress on the outside of the hull) – on the other hand a reasonable case could be made regarding my lack of sanity in not hanging around my buddy. Anyhow, all dive locations print hyperbole about how unique and wonderful they are. In this case, it’s true – while I can’t vouch for any of the sites we didn’t visit, if they were anything like this one, this is one heck of a dive destination. While I’m not claustrophobic and I didn’t panic, the bit of an adrenaline rush that I got when I realized that I was basically abandoned inside of the ship is something I will make an effort to avoid repeating in the future.
After the dive, we headed to the shop to pay the tab (after removing the cost of the second dive) and then were boated back to the ship. While waiting for a spot to disembark I noticed that there were numerous small boats acting as ferries to bring people out to the nearby islands. As it poured all day, anyone who was not a diver or snorkeler ended up back on the ship as there really wasn’t much to do.