Oct 042016
 
Stern of the HMS Southwold

The HMS Southwold was a WWII British destroyer. Built during the war and launched in late 1941, she was sunk less than six months later on March 24th, 1942. She was tasked with escorting the crippled HMS Breconshire to Malta after leaving the convoy. As she attempted to pass a line to the Breconshire, she hit a British mine. The resulting explosion in the engine room killed five people on board. With her back up generator fired up and crew working to plug the leaks, the Southwold was taken under tow by a tug. Shortly thereafter her hull began to split in half and the remaining crew were transferred to another ship as she went down. The split in the wreck means [read more…]

Sep 202016
 
Torpedos on the S-31 Schnellboot

Built in 1939 and sunk in 1942, the Motor Torpedo Boat the S31 had a short life. She had a thin metal hull with a mahogany wood coating, to assist her in slipping through mine fields. With 3 diesel engines on board she had a maximum speed of 38 knots carrying her crew of 24. In the early hours of May 10th the S31 was one of 7 MTBs lying in wait for the Welshman, who was expected to arrive in Valletta Harbour. The S31 had just finished placing a new minefield to the north west when she collided with a mine. Less than 30 minutes later she was underwater with 13 men still on board. The Schnellboot lies in [read more…]

Feb 022016
 
Munitions in the cargo holds of Truk Lagoon

The supply ships present at Truk Lagoon during Operation Hailstone in 1944 were in the process of loading and unloading their supplies. With the world at war, a lot of these supplies were munitions big and small. The photo above shows one of the front holds of the Sankisan Maru with thousands of bullets piled up. Diving over the piles of lead is a strange experience – these bullets never got to their intended destinations and now sit peacefully on the bottom of a tropical blue ocean. These massive shells are quick fire ammunition in brass casings. From the other end it’s easy to see that they’re still loaded and ready so go, despite being underwater for 70 years. I [read more…]

Jan 262016
 
Truk Lagoon Propellors

Propellors are one of the best wreck features to find underwater. They’re nice and recognisable and they always hang out in the same place. If they’re still somewhere down there, they’re usually fairly easy to find and identify. And the bigger the ship wreck, the bigger the propellor, right up to some very impressive sizes. There’s something about swimming between massive blades that could have quite easily chopped you up into little bits while in operation. A lot of the regularly dived wrecks out of Melbourne were scuttled and in some cases had their props removed before heading down to the ocean floor. Whereas the Truk shipwrecks went down with everything on board, so whether the propellors are present or not [read more…]

Jan 122016
 
Coral growth on the Truk Lagoon shipwrecks

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 [read more…]

Jan 052016
 
Engine rooms in Truk Lagoon

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 [read more…]