The Pacific Ocean

Palau and Truk Lagoon Oct. - Nov. 2002.


My brother and I have long had the wish to go to The Pacific Ocean visiting the corals and the wrecks. Allthoug it was both expensiv and time consuming, we decided in October 2002 to finally make our ultimate trip to Micronesia on the opposite side of the globe.
We started from Billund in Denmark over Amsterdam to Manila where we stayed the night over, before taking the final hop to Koror on Palau - 1500 km southeast.


The liveaboard in Palau Lagoon was "Ocean Hunter" from the divecenter "Fish'n Fins", a nice little ship with captain, divemaster and cook. It could accomodate 6 divers, but we were just agreeable 4. Starting from a little marina on Koror, we "steamed" westward out in the lagoon, then south-west among all the small islands, until we reached the channel in the outer reef just north of the island of Peleliu - called the German Channel. And roughly the same route back for 7 days in total.


Ocean Hunter

The capital Koror- city and island - is situated south of the big island Babelthaub. Jellyfish lake is on the island Eil Malk, the big fish are gathering around the southern tip of Peleliu, and the caves are under the island of Auluptagel.


Preben

Henning

We met an allmost tame turtle. He obviously didn't mind having us swimming around taking pictures. He just looked at us, and then kept on feeding.


Red Gorgonia. (Fancoral)

Red Branching Sponge. (Cribrochalina sp.)

A stonecoral. (Acropora palifera)

Softcorals and a tubesponge.

Tubesponges.

Collection of Gorgonia, Softcoral and sponges.

The corals and sponges with their breathtaking beauty have allways captured my imagination. Their subtle individual grace, as well as the majestic impact they have in multitude.


Eagleray.

Gray Reefshark.

School of Bigeye Trevallies.

Napoleon Wrasse.

There were no Mantas in The German Channel, so we continued to the outside of the atoll - to the southern tip of the island Peleliu.
This site is notoriously known for its very strong currents, and thus attracting a lot of big game - strenuous, but a lot of fun.
Reefhooks are mandatory, or you would be blown off the reef and out into the sea.


Jellyfish Lake.

Chandelier Cave.

On our way back, we visited Jellyfish Lake on the island Eil Malk.
All the small islands in the lagoon, are made of fossile coral limestone and therefore quite porous - even cavernous. That's why Jellyfish Lake is level with the sea and sharing it's tide, but the water is brackish though. This little lake has evolved a species of non-stinging jellyfish, and in order to protect them, it's only allowed to snorkel there. Someone has calculated, that their number is 2 millions - well, anyway, we were literally bathing in a jellyfish-soup.

Another limestone island - Auluptagel - was definitely cavernous. The most famous cave is called Chandelier Cave, and is actually a series of 4 interconnected caves in a row. The entrance is few meters under the surface, and you can swim from cave to cave still deeper into the limestone rock. Every chamber is a spacious air pocket with beautiful stalactites covering ceiling and walls.

In some parts of the lagoon, the small islands are lying very close together, and the captain made a nice sight-seeing tour among them. These islets are very characteristic of Palau, domeshaped, uninhabited and wooded. And notice that the beating of the waves has undermined the coastline on every island.


After Palau we went via Guam to Chuuk, which the americans call Truk Lagoon. Another 2000 km further out in The Pacific. Chuuk is also an atoll about 10 km wide, but here the inner islands are of vulcanic origin.
Among these islands lies a sunken japanese fleet from World War II. About 60 cargo ships and many aeroplanes were gunned down in February and April 1944. They are mostly lying on diveable depths of 10-50 m, making up one of the worlds most famous wreckdiving sites.
We lived onboard 'S.S.Thorfinn' , which is a rebuild Norwegian steam-engined whaler from 1954. It was anchored up between the three big islands, and the diving was carried out from small motorboats. Once in a while it steamed up and moved a couple of hundred meters just for show.


S.S. Thorfinn.

The hand shows where the ship was anchored up.


Frontdeck anti-aircraft gun.

Superstructure.

A davit from the deck.

The visibility was not very good, which made the photographing very difficult. Close-ups was OK, but spectacular pictures of major parts of the ships was only possible on shallower parts, where the sun was the lightsource. Deeper down the range of the strobe was very limited, and the silt caused backscatter on the photographs.

Here are some reasonably clear shots. Two with sun alone and one with strobe on the foreground.

As you probably can imagine out of these colourless silhouets, the shallower wrecks have become beautifully overgrown reefs, not much iron is seen any longer.


We penetrated the wrecks, and took pictures of some spectacular details. Here is the engine-room telegraph on the bridge, a tracktor from the hold and a gizmo inside the engine room.

The penetration of most of the ships was easy, because of enormous bomb-holes in the hulls. It gave us access to the deeper compartments as well.

Furthermore a view from the bathroom and a sculptural piece of plumbing.


Previous divers have over time made a little exhibition of collected items on the deck.
And finally what was found in astounding amounts in every ship - sake bottles!
I wonder how the admiralty interpreted the emperors appeal to keep high spirits ;o)


Sea Grapes.

Different Algae.

Some wrecks are unmarked, but the chuukie divemasters were able to find them with astounding precision, just by looking around on the islands. But the very deep ones are marked with a big buoy on a thick rope.
Over time these ropes have become miniature reefs in their own right, here are three of them. It is interesting to study this miniature world while hanging on 5 m dekompression-stop, and sometimes a curious Batfish payed us a visit.


Fangblenny.

Batfish.


The last day we urged the captain to take us to the outer reef in order to see sharks. Well, there were not many, but we had a nice pic-nic on one of the small islands sitting on the fringe-reef of the atoll.

Goodbye Chuuk - we have a long way home!



Special Pages:

Anemonefishes.

Butterflyfishes (Sommerfuglefisk).

Flatworms & Nudibranchs (Fladorme & Nøgensnegle).

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