From the photos I’ve already posted here of the Truk Lagoon shipwrecks, you might be forgiven for thinking there was very little for your average reef-loving diver to look at. The insides of the wrecks are dark and rusty (albeit filled with interesting things) and the deeper wrecks like the San Francisco Maru get less light and less coral encrusting them. This post is to correct those illusions – the Truk Lagoon wrecks are covered in tropical coral and very active fish life. In the shot above you can see the small fish swarming around the kingpost pair, ready to dart back into the protective corals should the predatory trevally swim by.
Most of the shallower wrecks have at least one mast or kingpost and where the ship is sitting upright these provide a brilliant alternative to blue water deco. I didn’t have the weight allowance for a macro lens on this trip and it would have been a travesty not to take wide angle wreck shots on every dive. On the other hand, I can see the attraction of spending an underwater hour or two carefully looking through the coral life for interesting critters.
The corals seem to be attracted to the steel superstructure of the ships. The planes and plane parts we dived on were made of aluminium and definitely didn’t promote the same growth. In this shot of the Betty Bomber above you can clearly see most of the metal structure of the plane, in spite of her position in shallow sunny waters. The soft coral that has managed to get started has found a crack or rivet hole to anchor itself on her wing.
On the deck of the big ships, the lifeboat davits were invariably providing support to a whole community of reef life. The pink soft corals look especially good against the blue water. It was frustrating trying to light large structures as my strobes only have a range of a meter or two underwater. The coral coating continued well down into the blue beyond the reach of my lights. It would be interesting to set up a strobe bar and some underwater lighting assistance to adequately light a lot more of the coloured superstructure.
In the meantime I had to settle for lighting smaller subjects with hazy blue outlines in the background. These are the railings on top of the bridge of the Nippo Maru. She sits on the bottom in 50m and the corresponding coral growth is slightly less prolific. It makes it easier to identify ship features under the growth and doesn’t stop rust being turned into brilliant colours. You can see the identification problem in the photo below – this is bow gun and foredeck of the Fujikawa Maru, weighed down under 70 years of organic growth.
Diving in Truk Lagoon was sobering at times. The stark evidence of the resources and human lives funnelled into causing death and destruction contrasts with the atoll’s current peaceful ambience. On two of the wrecks we dived we were able to smell fuel oil on the surface before getting in. Seeing the damage done by torpedos and swimming past human remains left me with a few contemplative afternoons. It’s good to balance that out by seeing nature reclaiming these massive war vessels as marine ecosystems form around twisted metal.