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A unique wreck expedition

Thursday 5th June-Sunday 15th June 2003 (11 days)

Leader: Charles Hood

Group size limit: 16 divers plus leader

At the end of the Second World War the US forces took their revenge for the devastation of Pearl Harbour. In what the Japanese believed to be safe water, the pride of their fleet lay at anchor in Palau. Over a two day period one of the fiercest air strikes of the war took place. The US navy continually shelled the enemy vessels until every one had been destroyed and sunk. Today the wrecks remain in this area, which is often described as having the world's richest diversity of marine life. Indeed, it is this biological marvel that makes these wrecks differ dramatically from other wreck sites such as in the Red Sea. Whether it is a Zero (a Japanese fighter plane), the freighter Teshio Maru, or the 500-metre long tanker Amatsu Maru, the aquatic life surrounding these wrecks is stunning. Few people dive these wrecks and so diver damage over the years has been very limited. Some ships were salvaged in the 1950s but most remain intact and of supreme interest to wreck divers.

Not only is the aim of this expedition to explore the wrecks, but also to photograph them. Charles Hood will offer expert advice and an optional wide-angle photography workshop. Each evening divers will meet in the Barracuda Bar at Fish 'n Fins. There will be evening reviews of the day's shoot for those who wish to join in. Furthermore, talks and films on the wrecks, their demise and current condition have been organised as 'aprez dive' entertainment. Or, if all this is too much, just relax and enjoy a beer.

Many of the best wreck sites are known only to local skippers and divemasters who have experience of these waters. The wrecks are generally in clear, warm water at a depth range of between 20-35 metres. There are also great sites in shallow waters for the third dive of the day. This Divequest wreck expedition offers a unique opportunity to visit these little-dived wrecks, and is only possible because we will charter our own dive boat, which is small enough to navigate these wreck sites, and use the expertise of local guides.

Helmet Wreck lies on a sloping bank in Malakal Harbour, with her stern in 21 metres and her bow in around 33 metres of water. Still holding her cargo, the ship is of particular interest for the war artefacts and ammunition. There are three holds, one in the stern and two in the bow, with the ship's superstructure and engine room in between. The holds contain mines, carbine rifles, ammunition, stacks of helmets and gas masks and depth charges. The forward hold contains three large aeroplane engines. The galley has pots, pans, bottles, cups, dishes, claret glasses, a coal burning stove and sundry other utensils. This wreck is yet to be identified. It is thought that if the ship's bell can be found, a positive identification of the vessel may be possible.

Chuyo Maru is a 280-foot standard D freighter. It is heavily coral-encrusted and has a healthy fish population. The bridge is at 20 metres and the deck at 30 metres and is incredibly intact, though the wooden decking has disappeared due to the action of marine worms.

The wreck of the Iro is perhaps one of Palau's best-known wrecks and is located close to Koror in a well-protected site. The Iro was an oiler and a small slick still forms, but it does not appear to harm the marine growth on the ship. Fish life is very prolific on this lovely wreck. Built in 1922 and sunk in 1944, Iro was the subject of some salvage after the war. It is possible for divers to swim through the hole in her bow where a submarine torpedo tore a hole. Its sister ship, Sata, lies close by and upside down, but is deep.

Gozan Maru was discovered in 1984 by Francis Toribiong. The ship is in good shape and lies listing heavily to port in 8-25 metres. The shallow part of the hull is highly coral-encrusted with brain, plate and star corals. There is good anemone growth and, of course, excellent and photogenic anemone fish dancing around and peeping from the corals. The foremast is home to a healthy population of invertebrates and clams, whip corals and bubble anemones are found here. The holds are empty, but a massive hole in the second hold supplies evidence that it was a 1,000-lb bomb that put the ship down. The upper bridge and rear of the boat are explorable with care, but the engine room is very dark and full of loose wires and fallen pipes. With the added problem of disorientation from the listing position of the boat, it is easy to run into trouble in this area.

The remnants of the Jake-Aichi Seaplanes sit barely beneath the water, nestled between the Rock Islands. The Jakes were built by Aichi in 1938 and were almost brand new at the start of the war. Their function was to act as an attack plane (each plane carried a crew of three and a cargo of bombs) and also to act as long-range reconnaissance planes. The best specimen is near a cave and the wings can clearly be seen just below the water. The engine has fallen forward but the pilot's seat is intact and the floats of the plane are clearly distinguishable. Lying in 20 metres is a Zero fighter plane, shot down in a WWII fight. The guns and wings are in place but the plane is upside down. Glassy Sweepers occupy the cockpit and schools of Eagle Rays are found here.

Other possible dives include Buoy #6 (excellent for night diving), Amatzu Maru, Urakami Maru, Nagisan Maru, Kamikaze Maru, Teshio Maru, Ryoku Maru, Raizan Wreck, The Refer (refrigerated coastal freighter), T1 and the Destroyer Wakataki.


Thursday 5th June: Midday Malaysia Airlines flight from London (Heathrow) bound for Manila via Kuala Lumpur.

Friday 6th June: Early afternoon arrival in Manila and transfer to the Manila Regency Hyatt for an overnight stay.

Saturday 7th June: Morning flight to Koror, arriving in the afternoon, and transfer to West Plaza Desekel Hotel for a seven nights stay. Check into Fish 'n Fins to set up gear and for a dive briefing.

Sunday 8th June-Thursday 12th June: Five days of diving the wrecks of Palau.

Friday 13th June: This last, non-diving day will include a land tour of Peleliu Island. Peleliu was a major battlefield during WWII and here you will visit abandoned tanks, the Japanese Caves and the landing beaches amongst other sights of note.

Saturday 14th June: Morning flight from Koror to Manila, arriving in the afternoon and connecting with an onward Malaysia Airlines flight to London via Kuala Lumpur.

Sunday 15th June: Morning arrival at London (Heathrow).

£2155 (non-divers: £1380) London/London


· Scheduled flights London (Heathrow)/Manila/London (Heathrow) with Malaysia Airlines.

· Scheduled flights Manila/Koror/Manila by Continental Micronesia Airlines.

· Airport transfers in Manila.

· 1 night room and breakfast on a twin/share basis at Manila Regency Hyatt

· Airport/hotel transfers in Koror.

· 7 nights room-only accommodation on a twin/share basis at West Plaza Desekel Hotel, Koror.

· 5 days of diving (3 boat dives daily), dive guide, cylinders and weights and lunch with soft drinks on diving days.

· Optional Wide-angle Photography Workshop.

· One copy of 'Desecrate One' by Klaus Lindemann ­ this extensive book tell the story of the wrecks in Palau and their history.

· One copy of the documentary video 'Lost Fleet of the Rock Islands' by Tim Rock.

· Services of Charles Hood as group leader.

Please note: there is currently a US &#3615 Koror State Diving Permit fee, payable locally.

Single Occupancy Supplement: £252. Please note that, while we will endeavour to find a room-mate for those on the expedition who are travelling alone and would prefer to share accommodation, in the event of a rom-mate not being available the single occupancy supplement will apply. Room-mates will be allocated on a first-come first served basis.

Deposit: £300

Note: Available, but not included in the cost of the trip, are Nitrox fills (32%, 36%, 40%) and double tanks (only a limited number of manifolds available, so please provide your own to ensure that you can use twin tanks). An additional fee, due to the extra weight in the dive boat, is payable locally for divers using twin tanks on a single dive. E-6 processing (US &#3610 per roll) and night dives (approximately US &#3660) are also available.

For details of the accommodation and flights, please see the Palau entry earlier in this brochure.

Extending your holiday: Flights to and from Koror are operated on Wednesdays and Saturdays from Manila, so it is quite simple to extend your holiday if you wish. See the Palau section of the brochure for rates for additional nights.
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