Tim and Ted Devlin
Trip to Truk, Palau, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan
May, 1997

2-3 May 1997, North Brunswick to Guam: 06:00 left No. Brunswick. 07:30 United flight to Chicago (2 hours) 10:00 United flight Chicago to Honolulu (9.5 hours). 14:30 Continental Micronesia flight to Guam (7 hours). Crossed International Date Line and got from 2-May to 3-May without a sunset. Stayed at Mai Ana Airport Hotel.

4-May, Guam to Chuuk (Truk): Up at 05:15 for 07:05 Cont. Micronesia flight to Truk. Arrived 08:30. Met Truk-Continental Hotel drive at airport and also "Ray" from Blue Lagoon divers offering afternoon dive. Got settled in hotel (very nice), 2.5 miles from airport on main road (poorly maintained) through town. Located Micronesia Aquatics Dive Shop (more below) at edge of hotel grounds. We are scheduled for diving with them tomorrow. Arranged for 13:00 pickup at hotel dock today to dive with Blue Lagoon. Snorkeled off hotel beach for a while.

On February 16-17, 1944, in "Operation Hailstone", Task Force 50 of the U.S. Navy used airplanes borne by new, fast carriers to sink most of the Japanese fleet at Truk. The island was not invaded, simply neutralized and bypassed. A total of 220,000 tons of shipping was sunk. Truk is now one of the best sites in the world for wreck diving.

13:00 With Blue Lagoon, one-dive trip is $40 plus $7 for bouyancy compensator per person. Kete (dive guide) and Ebo (boat driver) picked us up in a small boat with 2 engines - no sun cover. Lots of sun-block. 20-minute boat ride to site of FUJIKAWA MARU, It is a 6,938-ton aircraft transport, 435' long, sunk upright on almost level bottom, 70' to 90' in the deepest holds. We swam into several holds containing: a Japanese-Zero fighter aircraft, 55-gal. Drums, beer bottles, artillery shells. There were rice bowls on the bridge and elsewhere. Large deck guns, fore and aft, were encrusted with coral. Abundant coral and wildlife on deck and superstructure.

People: On plane from Guam met other divers headed for live-aboard trips on THORFIN and TRUK AGRESSOR. On hotel beach and later in bar met Sarah who won a 1-year travel/diving scholarship for underwater photography. Also in bar we met Gil and Mike from Ft. Lauderdale. Pleasant talk until 5 pm when they left to board the AGRESSOR. Walked to Japanese Restaurant near hotel. Food not great. Managed a decent night's sleep. Only minor jet lag.

5-May, Chuuk: Breakfast at hotel (thin coffee) with Clark and Chineina Graham of Micronesia Aquatics. Clark talked about his history. Iowa State, Peace Corps. Posted to Truk. (U.S. was being criticized for neglect of its protectorate responsibilities in Micronesia.) He married Chineina and settled there to work on Marine Archeology and with students at Xavier High School - a magnet school for all of Micronesia. Clark runs classes and H.S. research projects on underwater biology and archeology He founded SHIP, the Society for Historic Investigation and Preservation which helps in the protection of sunken ships in Truk Lagoon.. Talked about Xavier H.S. and Jesuits on Truk & Palau.

At 09:00 boarded 25' Yamaha boat with 4-poster sun canopy, 2 engines. Stingray and Lorenzo were dive-guide and boat driver. 30-minute ride to SHINKOKO MARU, a 10,020-ton naval tanker, over 500' long, which served the Japanese fleet in the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is sunk upright with the bottom at 130' at the bow sloping upward toward the stern. We stayed at 90' to 60', starting at the bow and swimming along the deck. Abundant coral and fish of many varieties, colors, shapes - 6' shark at the stern. Went into the bridge and other areas. Saw many artifacts: bowls and other crockery, phonograph records, books in a chest on the deck with one opened with Japanese printing clearly visible. Big deck guns fore and aft - killing machines now shrouded with rich, thriving undersea life.

Had lunch and snorkeled at the site of the SUZUKI MARU (according to our guide - haven't found name in literature) a 934-ton destroyer/sub-chaser sunk in shallow water.

In the afternoon, we dove to the HEIAN MARU, 11,614-ton submarine tender which had been a passenger liner before the war. Over 500' long and sunk on its side in 130'-deep water. Huge masts now horizontal in the water. We started at the bow and swam along the deck (a vertical surface now). Deck guns have fallen away. About halfway back the former cabin-area/superstructure was gutted by fire in the battle, but the walls and rectangular ports remain. I started deep and swam up the forward face. It was like flying up the side of a 10-story apartment building and peering in the windows. We swam down a long companionway through the superstructure and found 40'-long periscopes - spare parts for subs. We continued along the deck and swam over the stern and down to a huge flat surface which I recognized after a moment as the rudder - it seemed about the size of a tennis court..... Well, maybe half a tennis court. Below it, one of the twin propellers was intact with three 6' blades. The huge drive shaft emerged from a graceful curve in the hull. We swam along the hull which sloped upward. It was sparsely encrusted with coral and reminded me of Shrine Ridge and mountan vegetation in Colorado, except that the 5'-square hull plates were clearly delineated. Stopped briefly to visit some soft coral - 3"-long brown waving tubules with bulbous orange end. A 2"-long colorful fish claimed it as his garden.

Back at hotel by 14:15, got a ride to town. Walked from post office to airport checking shops. Ordered two "Chuukese Mu-Mu" dresses to be made. Dinner at Truk Stop. In bed by 8 pm.

6-May, Chuuk to Guam: Breakfast and journal writing until 08:30. Went on land tour of Truk with Henry. Present points of interest like the Supreme Court for the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and WWII military relics: Nefo Cave and Gun. It has 6" bore, over 15' long, with 7-mile range aimed horizontally. Great for surface targets, but useless in air attack. Xavier H.S. was originally the Japanese communication center for the island. Roof repairs cover two bomb hits. Henry talked about government, politics and education in the islands. Also, overharvesting of fish by Japan, Taiwan, etc. Back to hotel. Rested, packed. Henry took me to shop to fetch the Chuukese Mu-Mu's. To airport at 16:30. Flew to Guam, overnight at Mai Ana.

7-May, Guam to Palau: 07:00 flight to Palau with brief stop at Yap. Yap is part of FSM. Palau is not; it is an independent country. Interesting transport from airport on Babeldaob Island to main town on Koror Is. New concrete/rebar cantilevered bridge collapsed last September. Now use ferries. Scheduled pontoon replacement. Got to West Plaza Seaside Hotel near T-Dock before noon. Cab to center of town ($2 for short rides, $3 for longer.) Lunch at Phillippine Restaurant opp. post office. Milkfish and a veggie/pork/shrimp dish, food is a big improvement over Truk. Some discussion about whether we should shop around for different dive shop. Need mobility for today to scout around; rented a car (Mazda). Sam's Dive Shop on Malakal Is. looks like a good professional operation, so we'll stick with them. (Another reason: the young woman working the desk was charming, pretty and an articulate spokesperson for the shop.) Drove further out Malakal Is. to Marine Hatchery - sea turtles, giant clams, coral fish. Trying to offset overharvesting of lagoon by Taiwan, etc. Drove to Palau Pacific Hotel - nice but expensive, and a long drive from town. Visited Splash dive shop there. Checking out rentals for underwater video. Bought underwater light which proved useful.

Back to Malakal Is. and Beach Bar. Talked to two ex-pat sailboat types. One a pharmacist who migrates around the islands. Previously at Samoa. He is in Palau to help write the drug laws. Also met another diver from Marshall Islands. He spoke of diving on the sunken Saratoga Bikini Lagoon which has recently been declared safe and opened. Dinner at our hotel - not great.

8-May, Palau: Took photos of sunrise from T-Dock. 08:30 dive guide, Frank Ladner, arrives with Sam's van. Drive to Sam's dock, get B.C.'s and board the boat. Frank is an underwater photographer and asked if we minded having him photograph our dives today. He will edit a 20-minute tape with best material, some stock footage, and music. If we like it, we can buy a copy for $65. Ted and I are delighted since this relieves us of the burden of doing it ourselves. Other divers on our boat: Anik (?? sp) and H.B. from Harvard Business School and Phillipine couple. Boat took a brief tour past Rock Islands for Frank's pictures - like another planet - sheer vertical walls at base, rounded at top, covered by jungle. Eroded at waterline by molluscs so that they have a mushroom shape. Where a bit of rock face shows through the vegetation, it looks a bit like canyonlands, but the jungle and the broad expanse of ocean changes the character completely.

45-minute trip out to dive "Big Dropoff" near Ngemelis Is. A shallow reef next to the island ends in a cliff which angles outwoard - 120' deep near the island and 300' deep further out. Steel chain and mooring ball marks site of an old (pre WWII) German bauxite mine. We dove to about 60' and saw 3 sleeping sharks below on the sand. Worked our way along the wall using the tide to carry us. Abundant fish, clusters of tiny (1 cm), multi-colored coral and large coral (red, purple, blue) sea anenome + clownfish. I'm using my air faster than I used to. Ted is in good shape and stays down 20% longer.
(50 min, 70' to 40')

Lunch and snorkel on nearby shallow reef. Lots of 6" to 10" Tridacna (giant clams) iridescent blue, green, violet colored flesh (one brown). I guess the large ones have been harvested.

"New Dropoff" is a nearby, somewhat similar site with more current when we were there. Book says cliff goes down to 1000'. More wildlife here. Hung on to cliff edge to watch a 5' shark trawling around the schools of fish. Video pictures of sea anenome with clownfish biting my fingers.
(50-min, 60' to 40')

Jellyfish Lake is a land-locked lake connected to ocean through porous rock. Stingless jellyfish in huge numbers live there and migrate with the sunlight. We stopped there and climbed over the ridge with snorkel gear. Near surface, the jellyfish are a translucent orange color from thumbmail to dinner-plate size. In the few cubic meter around me I estimated a thousand of these animals. Dive about 10' below surface, and you find a colorless, almost invisible species.

Back to hotel. Rest. Dinner at Fuji Seafood Restaurant - Fish/Vegetable Saute ($7), and Tempura Mix ($10) and San Miguel beer ($3). Shopped at dept. store for food, sandals, postcards, maps.

9-May, Palau: Up at 06:00, breakfast in room. Writing this journal. Van at 08:30. Dive guide is Fern, boat driver is Francis. Blue Hole is NW of Ngemelis Is. Dove into hole, down to 95' for a few minutes exploring - 3 sharks plus a variety of medium to small fish. Emerge from side at 45' on wall. Swam with current along wall to Blue Corner. Rich hard and soft coral, many fish on wall and outward from it, several more shark. Fairly strenuous swim - we traveled 800' mostly along the wall but some on flat portion of reef. Spent some time holding on to watch the show of wildlife. Grouper, unicorn fish, jacks, etc.
(50 min, 60' to 40')

On way to lunch site, passed through an area inhabited by 3- to 4-dozen dolphin. Francis circled the boat for about 20 minutes while they played with it - swimming along the bow, circling around, jumping, etc. A real, unexpected thrill. Lunch. Snorkeled on reef near two small islands.

At Blue Corner we saw more shark and several sea turtles. Many fish. Words would sound the same as above, but this was an excellent dive.
(60-min, 70' to 40')

Evening: Rest at hotel. Rendezvous with Harvard folks (now including Lisa who is taking qualifying lessons with Fish 'N Fins) at the Pirates Cove for dinner. Ted and I shared sushi, rice and a whole, grilled unicorn fish. (I met your cousin earlier today.) Good meal, good company.