Thursday, November 23, 2006

Truk Trek - Truk Lagoon Dive Trip - Part 1

This was my second trip in four years on the Truk Odyssey. Over the course of the week we would do 20 dives. For a very detailed look at the history and diving there look at my first Truk Trip Report

Travel days Fri-Sunday morning.
Uneventful, but long. We flew down to LA and stayed at my cousins, then out again the next morning early. On to Honolulu, lunch on a 3 hr layover and on to Guam, another 5.5 hrs. Walked quickly to the next flight and arrived in Chuuk around 9:30 pm. Got through customs and had to wait until the last bag (mine) got taken from the plane. We were on board by 10:30.

Truk Odyssey Boat
There have been some fairly major changes in personnel on the Odyssey. Besides the crew Captains Lenny and Cara weren't on board. They are off building a new house in Colorado. Lenny will be back in March, but Cara has moved on to dry land it seems. The boat felt a little strange without their strong presence, but they had left it in the capable hands of young Capt Nick and crew. Overall, there was no difference in the diving or overall experience on board. The boat is aging and needs some new furnishings, I think the same bedspreads (and it felt that the same mattresses) were there four years ago. Still it's a huge, comfortable boat and one of the few liveaboards that you can dive from directly, without having to load into a dive skiff or inflatable. Great food and knowledgeable, good natured guides complete the picture.

The island state remains very poor and run down. Probably worse than a few years ago. The airport is still being worked on four years later. At least the waiting room has a/c and they have a back-up generator now. The people just don't seem to have much initiative and are upset that the western powers aren't giving them much of a handout now that they are independent. We learn that incest is fairly common-place. On the whole it has never recovered from the loss of pre-war prosperity they enjoyed while a large Japanese military base.

Nov 13 - Day 1
Dive 1 & 2. After a fitful 4-5 hrs sleep we were up, had breakfast, a dive brief and dove the Heian Maru. It's a very large cruise ship turned sub tender. I dove with guide Andy and we made it down to the huge screws, took a couple of shots and the camera battery died. Toured the periscopes and made the best out of a frustrating situation. Similar problems on the second dive this time with the strobes. It seems that all the batteries I charged in Seattle had gone flat. The Heian is large and has some interesting torpedoes to see, etc. but not much growth. Viz is poor, maybe 40' at most

Dive 3. We move onto the Yamaguri Maru and I finally get all the devices working and take some nice w/a with the dome lens, even in bad viz. The viz is worse so far this week than the last time, 30-50 feet at best. Paul and I ditch the guide and do a 70 min dive with brief deco. Some very nice soft coral and growth.

Nov 14 - Day 2
Dive 4. We move to the Fumitzuki, a destroyer and the only real warship to dive here that's in recreational depths. Paul and I split forward as the group goes aft, which works well and we avoid the herd. Coming back a giant stingray flaps past and I blow off some bottom time waiting for him to settle in and take a couple of shots. Having a hard time figuring out lighting with the dome lens, either too tight or not enough on the subject. By in large the photos go ok, conditions aren't best for the dome though.

We tour aft passing the group and take some interesting angles amid the wreckage. I turn and go up with 5 mins of deco, Paul stays a bit longer and amasses 20 mins. Killeen runs almost out of air and the guide shares air with her as he brings her back to the extra tank on the hang bar. I stop her buddy from going up too fast. These divers don't dive that often and the depths are stressing their experience. Everyone is ok, and a lesson is learned.

Dive 5
Shinkoko Maru. Paul and I wait and let the group go ahead of us, then drop down and tour the shallower bow area and main cabin areas a bit. Very nice growth on this wreck and interesting angles. Lots of beautiful soft coral and large gorgonians. I mostly continue to shoot w/a with the dome lens. Again the viz is quite disappointing, as it was very nice here the last trip. I experience a weird problem with the left 240z strobe either not firing, or not firing at full power. I finally recycle the power and it seems to work ok. Later I find that the full power setting is only giving out a very weak flash. A very large school of batfish entertains us eating jellyfish to our delight.

Dive 6
Decide to go smaller with the normal lens and we make it to the stern area. I shoot some great lionfish shots, maybe the best of the trip so far. They are around here, but not as prevalent as the Red Sea or Sulawesi where they are considered pests. Found the stern telegraph and take some shots of it, see a large puffer but couldn't get it to stand still. Checked out the king posts covered in beautiful corals. Many more soft coral colors here than Indonesia.

Dive 7
Night dive at 6 pm. Paul and I avoid the group again and drop on the wreck. I had remembered the night dives as the best thing here, and am not disappointed with all the coral open and covered in bright hues. I lose track of Paul and get turned around and never quite make it to the king posts. I found out later he had his lights fail. I putz around mostly just looking at all the colors and after thinking I'd shoot macro, and wishing I'd brought the w/a dome for the colors. Got attacked by a school of friendly batfish on the way up in the dark.

Continued to: Part 2

Photos: Truk Trek, part 1