After an epic 2 weeks, 23 different wrecks and nearly 4,000 photos I’ve made it home from Truk Lagoon. As I churn through the photos (Why do I have way too many “final picks”? How does one choose between a giant propellor shot and a well lit cargo hold interior? How many trip photos can one reasonably ask friends and family to look at?) I was struck by how much I learned about ship layouts during my visit.
The normal wrecks dived in Melbourne were mostly scuttled in the 1930s or 40s. This means both that anything interesting was removed first, and they’ve had a lot more time to break down. In many cases all that’s left is the hull and some of the superstructure. Whereas in the balmy waters of Truk Lagoon the wrecks went down with everything and in some cases everyone on board and most of it is still there. This means cargo holds full of munitions and vehicles, galleys with stoves and crockery and engine rooms with walls of tools.
Diving large intact shipwrecks every day gave me a chance to develop some wreck identification skills. In particular once my models arrived for the second week I was able to add some off camera strobes to the adventure and get much better photos away from the daylight zone. This opened up cargo hold interiors and in particular engine rooms.
Part of the joy of wreck diving for me is the three dimensional environment. Being underwater lets me move through space like I’m flying, and flying is more fun when there’s more to do than skim over flat bottoms. While the cargo holds and twisted superstructure provides great scenery, the working heart of the ship comes equipped with stairs and gangways. Now that they’re underwater, I could fly through the massive machinery designed to push thousands of tonnes of ship through the oceans.
Engine rooms also provide for recognisable tools and unrecognisable banks of equipment. In the photo above, the middle dial shows the tilt of the ship from port to starboard. In this case she lies on her starboard side and the little dial is wedged all the way over to one side. In other places the gauge faces were visible, or red/green glass of status light reflected in my strobes, or banks of fuses were still in place. Off camera strobes and bubble-free diving made a big different to the photos I was able to get, although the wrecks weren’t as silty as I had expected. Being this far into the interior of the wreck made the ocean feel a lot more like a nice dark cave with interesting decorations. I look forward to having some more rusty experiences in 2016.