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Thread: Truk Lagoon with a difference...

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    RBW Member jtresfon will become famous soon enough jtresfon will become famous soon enough jtresfon will become famous soon enough jtresfon will become famous soon enough jtresfon's Avatar
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    Truk Lagoon with a difference...

    Truk Lagoon… it has a certain ring to it, an aura of mystery and intrigue. Many divers have heard of it, a few have it on their must do list and even fewer have actually been there. So what and where is it exactly?

    Truk Lagoon, nowadays known as Chuuk State in Micronesia is located in the South Pacific. Geographically speaking it rubs shoulders with Palau, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, Yap, The Solomon Islands, Guam and so on. You get the picture, this is right smack in the middle of diver’s paradise. The water is a balmy 30 deg Celsius and the marine biodiversity and biomass is among the best in the world. But Truk itself is of course famous for its wrecks more than anything else.

    In 1944 Truk was a major staging point for the Japanese Navy and was home to the combined fleet, a huge armada of ships scattered throughout the various anchorages. Truk appeared largely invulnerable to bombardment by surface ships, but a photographic overflight by US bombers revealed the threat of aerial bombardment. Following the overflight most major fleet units were moved out and two weeks later a two day aerial bombing offensive was launched. The operation was called Operation Hailstone and was described as one of the most aggressive actions taken by US Forces against Japan.

    Over sixty ships, submarines and aircraft were sunk and the legacy of this action is that today Truk is a wreck diver’s paradise. It first came to the world’s attention in the 1970s after a documentary filmed by the legendary Cousteau team was released. Today many tourists make the pilgrimage to dive these amazing wrecks.

    Following a successful expedition in 2008, Pete Mesley already had most of the supplies in place for another trip in 2009. Pete’s trips cater almost exclusively for rebreather divers and their special requirements in terms of gases, cylinders and scrubber materials. Now while I am not an ardent rebreather fanatic who will advocate their use over any other system for any occasion, I do believe in using the right tool for the job. And there is no doubt that these machines are the perfect tool for exploring the wrecks of Truk Lagoon. The deeper and lesser dived wrecks can be explored at leisure without the same time constraints as open circuit. And of course the rebreathers offer almost unlimited bottom time on the shallower wrecks.

    So 2009 saw the meeting in Guam of three separate teams from around the world. The British team headed by Leigh Bishop, the Kiwi team led by Pete and including Simon Mitchell, and the South African team (including one living in LA and one in Perth). The trip got off to a sober start when the SA team member living in Perth was not allowed through Guam due to a visa problem and that was that, trip over for him. Also several members of the various teams were severely punished financially with excess baggage charges. Try bringing a rebreather and a full photo/video system on holiday and see what I mean!

    Arriving in Truk we were met at the airport and delivered straight to the Blue Lagoon Resort. After check in it was straight to the dive shop for kitting up in preparation for the following day. Pete’s organisation was magnificent and all gases and gear were ready as promised. The following day’s diving was a real eye-opener to the size and scale of these wrecks. The rough plan was max five people per boat and one boat per wreck to maximise enjoyment and minimise silting etc. We had a total of 23 planned dives each and unless one wished to repeat a certain dive, these could all be on different wrecks, which would still leave about 40 still to do! (Next trip is a must!) The morning dive would generally be a deeper one (max 62m) and then this was followed by an afternoon dive on a shallower (35m) wreck. The rebreathers allowed a bottom time of around 50 minutes on the deeper wrecks and around 100 minutes on the afternoon dives. We soon settled into a routine and got on with the business of diving and image making.

    Inevitably there were several setbacks and issues but on a trip of this duration and intensity this is to be expected. Two members of the UK team suffered floods to their video housings, one of them a very expensive piece of kit. One member of the SA team suffered a bend requiring chamber treatments and putting paid to the balance of the trip in terms of further diving. Almost all member from all teams went down with flu at some stage and most missed a days diving at the very least. But overall these were minor issues (except to those that suffered them!) and the trip was a great success.

    Blue Lagoon were fantastic, and both the resort and the dive operation gave first class service. The people were extremely friendly and helpful (too much so in one instance where a skipper had to go to hospital after picking up Nick’s rebreather!)

    The images (both photographic and mental) are enough to last for a lifetime. I found it very difficult to choose a favourite wreck as they are all so different and each offers something unique. The deeper wrecks tended to be less “worked on”, have better visibility and offer a more genuine experience. The shallower wrecks offered much longer bottom times and stunningly colourful coral growths, but the visibility was not always great and in several instances items had been “arranged” by dive guides for photographic purposes and I found this quite disturbing. It seemed fake and actually detracted from the experience of the wrecks. Luckily it happened only in a few isolated spots.

    One thing that quickly became apparent was that it is necessary to research the wrecks before diving to maximise the enjoyment and understanding of the dive. Also unless taking pictures as a reference, the wrecks quickly tend to blend into one another and it’s difficult to remember what was seen on which wreck. A lot of life was lost during Operation Hailstone and on some of the wrecks you can actually feel it… some of the wrecks are just plain spooky!

    Wrecks that were highlights for me include the Nagano, the Oite, the Hoki, the Nippo and of course the San Francisco. The best kept secret of Truk is of course that there is so much other fantastic diving other than the wrecks. There are caves, walls, shark cleaning stations and much more, but most tourists only want the wrecks. Our group was a bunch of serious wreckies who could spot a telegraph from 400 fin kicks away and liked nothing better than to spend hours scratching through tight places inside engine rooms. One very well known UK wreck diver and photographer spotted an anemone that had folded back on itself and was heard to comment on “the purple skin thing with wormy bits in the middle”! Those with more of a naturalist bent and who are not so wreck mad will be equally at home underwater at Truk, as the sheer abundance of marine life is fantastic. There really is something for everyone there.

    Of course all good things must come to an end and so it happens that I find myself back at home with a large check mark against one of my life’s ambitions. But somehow it does not seem real, I still have so much unfinished business in Truk! Oh well there is always next year!

    Some pictures can be seen at Truk Lagoon - a set on Flickr

    Regards
    Jean.

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    RBW Member diverchris is an unknown quantity at this point diverchris's Avatar
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    Re: Truk Lagoon with a difference...

    Jean,
    These are phenomenal photos. It brings back memories when I was there in 2007. If you don't mind disclosing how much the trip was, and your camera set-up.
    Thanks

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    RBW Member john.dryden is an unknown quantity at this point john.dryden's Avatar
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    Re: Truk Lagoon with a difference...

    Fantastic report Jean,
    Chuuk certainly is a special place, the diving is among the best I have ever done, in the most relaxing way.
    great to meet you, and safe diving to you.
    John

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    RBW Member jtresfon will become famous soon enough jtresfon will become famous soon enough jtresfon will become famous soon enough jtresfon will become famous soon enough jtresfon's Avatar
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    Re: Truk Lagoon with a difference...

    Quote Originally Posted by diverchris  View Original Post
    Jean,
    These are phenomenal photos. It brings back memories when I was there in 2007. If you don't mind disclosing how much the trip was, and your camera set-up.
    Thanks
    Hi Chris

    Going to Truk is not cheap. Travelling from SA meant that we had a total on 9 flights to get there and back. The flights alone came to around USD4000 including excess luggage charges. The trip cost USD2895 for the "Land Only" package which included the diving and accomodation. Further to that there were costs of around USD2000 for gas, sorb, cylinder hire, food, drinks and tips.

    My camera is a Nikon D300 in a Subal Housing with 2 x Nikon SB800 Speedlights also in Subal Housings.

    Regards
    Jean.

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    RBW Member diverchris is an unknown quantity at this point diverchris's Avatar
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    Re: Truk Lagoon with a difference...

    Thanks for the information.

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    Nick Cunningham-Moorat scunick is a jewel in the rough scunick is a jewel in the rough scunick is a jewel in the rough scunick is a jewel in the rough scunick is a jewel in the rough scunick is a jewel in the rough scunick is a jewel in the rough scunick's Avatar
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    Re: Truk Lagoon with a difference...

    Dude,

    You make me look good.... great trip... great photo's

    Cheers

    Nick

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    So Cal Tech Diver aainslie has a reputation beyond repute aainslie has a reputation beyond repute aainslie has a reputation beyond repute aainslie has a reputation beyond repute aainslie has a reputation beyond repute aainslie has a reputation beyond repute aainslie has a reputation beyond repute aainslie has a reputation beyond repute aainslie has a reputation beyond repute aainslie has a reputation beyond repute aainslie has a reputation beyond repute aainslie's Avatar
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    Re: Truk Lagoon with a difference...

    Thanks for posting that, Jean. One of these days I'll bug you for some hi def shots....

    Thanks also to Pete Mesley who ran an AWESOME trip, and to Simon Mitchell for standing duty listening to our whines about sniffels and aches... and profiding some real aid when needed. This was one great trip!
    Andrew Ainslie

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    RBW Member guscabana is an unknown quantity at this point guscabana's Avatar
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    Re: Truk Lagoon with a difference...

    Hello Jean, and thanks for the nice report.
    Which was the preferred choice: dive wet or dry? I know is 30c but with 2 hours dives...
    Im going there in October and need to overnight at Guam, any recommendation of a (cheap) hotel with airport pickup service, anyone?
    Regards,
    Gustavo

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    Ian Skipworth ianskip is an unknown quantity at this point ianskip's Avatar
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    Re: Truk Lagoon with a difference...

    Nice write-up Jean.

    It was great to meet all you guys. Really enjoyed the trip despite my damn bug.

    A couple of pics - Exquisite soft corals on Shinkoku Maru



    San Francisco Maru with Simon M modelling



    Cheers, Skip

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    RBW Member jtresfon will become famous soon enough jtresfon will become famous soon enough jtresfon will become famous soon enough jtresfon will become famous soon enough jtresfon's Avatar
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    Re: Truk Lagoon with a difference...

    Quote Originally Posted by guscabana  View Original Post
    Hello Jean, and thanks for the nice report.
    Which was the preferred choice: dive wet or dry? I know is 30c but with 2 hours dives...
    Im going there in October and need to overnight at Guam, any recommendation of a (cheap) hotel with airport pickup service, anyone?
    Regards,
    Gustavo
    Hi Gustavo

    I went with a 3mm surf wetsuit and a 3mm vest underneath. This was fine even for 3hr dives. Everyone in our group dived wet and nobody was cold. Also nice to be able to take a leak without worrying about P-Valves or nappies etc. One word of caution, my 3mm surf suit is now about 0.5mm thick after 10 dives to 60m... Andrew took a 7mm suit which is now about 1mm thick compressed neoprene!

    I also stayed overnight at Guam and used the Hilton which was reasonable and included airport transfers.

    Regards
    Jean.

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