Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Diving in Majuro

Though we did a lot of work in the 10 days that we were in Majuro (repairs, provisioning, Marshalls paperwork), we managed to fit in 4 dives.

The first dive we did was in the South Mooring field. There are a bunch of sunken ships, some of which the moorings were tied to. So after a short talk with Matt Holly, who's mooring we were on, us and Westward II did a dive on the wrecks. We tied our dinghies to an empty mooring, went down the mooring line to the first wreck, and then followed Matt's lines around to several other wrecks. (Matt has conveniently tied the wrecks together with 1/4" line, so once you've found one, it's easy to find the rest. There was a small island freighter, a fairly big fishing boat, a ~50' steel sailboat, and (I forget the other one). In a 40 minute dive we managed to survey all 4 of them. Starting mooring waypoint: 07-06.166N / 171-44.220E.

Those wrecks were interesting, but not "historic". Dave was keen to dive on some World War II era stuff, especially the Hellcat he had heard about. An American guy named Matt Holly had done a document for the Marshall Islands Historic Preservation Office in Majuro, detailing all the wrecks he had found in the Majuro lagoon. We had this document, but the Hellcat wasn't in it (it was found while Matt was searching for a commercial ship's anchor, after the Majuro document was produced). Nobody seemed to have a waypoint for it (at least no one that was willing to give it to us). But Dave had a discussion with Mike Terlep, the Chief Archaeologist for the HPO. Dave invited him to go dive on the Hellcat with us, if he could help us get a waypoint for it. Mike used his contacts with other divers on the island to get the exact waypoint for the Hellcat. Dave and Stephen from Westward II took Westward's dinghy out with a fish finder in it to verify we had the right location. (There are a lot of dive "waypoints" floating around the Marshalls diving community that are plotted off old paper charts and end up being pretty much useless).

So the 5 of us set out the next day--a fairly windy and overcast day--to dive the Hellcat. Matt's research indicates this was a disabled/scrap plane that was probably just pushed off the back of an aircraft carrier. It is nose down in about 110 feet of water, but the tail sticks up to about 60 feet. With the correct waypoint it was easy to locate. We had to use Westward's 22-lb danforth to anchor near it, 200 feet of line. Our "dive anchor" (a small folding anchor we usually hand-place on a rock) was completely inadequate. Dave and Mike both took pictures of the Hellcat. We'll share them some day when we have time and internet. Waypoint 07-05.468N / 171-22.304E in 105 feet. Drop your anchor well upwind of it so you don't damage the wreck.

The 3rd dive was on the Martin Mariner. This is a World War II era big seaplane. Matt's research indicates that it had been bombed and sunk while on it's mooring. The waypoint given in the HPO document plotted in the middle of the street, so we knew that wasn't right. Dave got some directions from Matt (500 yards off a hotel), and in a certain depth water. We dropped anchor where we thought it should be, and luckily ended up right next to part of the wreckage. (Visibility inside the lagoon isn't that great, so if we HADN'T lucked out, it would have been tough to find.) It was just Dave and I on this dive, so we wandered around taking pictures of the widely scattered debris. Unfortunately, this wreck is in an area where fishing boats sometimes anchor, and we could see the wide swath that the current boat's anchor line was making. The "Historic Preservation Office" isn't doing a very good job of preserving these "historic" wrecks. Waypoint 07-05.570N / 171-22.587E -- anchor just N and E of this waypoint, not on it, in about 60-65' sand.

Like everywhere in the Majuro lagoon, we found lots of other debris, and sometimes it's difficult to tell what's part of the wreck, part of another wreck, or just "trash heap".

The final dive we did was on "The Parking Lot". This is a World War II dumping ground, where a bunch of no-longer-needed trucks were pushed off a barge in about 40-60 feet. It is 1.5 miles NNW of the yacht mooring area. Tie to the pole on the reef at 07-07.25N / 171-21.04E, then go out in the sand S and E of the pole--look for piles of debris, or lines running across the bottom. Once you find one, there is usually a line to another. We found a number of trucks, but since we DIDN'T follow the lines around, Matt says we missed a couple. But we did see an old fire truck, and an ambulance, and a jeep or two. There was also a variety of modern-day junk scattered around on the bottom--several washing machines, etc.

Matt's place--just inshore of the South Mooring Field--has some other interesting stuff on the bottom. We snorkeled a more modern Beech light twin airplane at approx: 07-06.304N / 171-22.429E in about 20 feet of water.

There is a bunch of more stuff to dive on in the Majuro lagoon, but we just didn't have time. We hope to come back later in the summer and dive on the DC-3 (off the yacht moorings at Enemonit (sp?)).

There is a guy that will rent gear and fill tanks, located just to the N of Matt's place on shore. His name is Brian. He also works on the Indies Trader (dive boat to Bikini Lagoon), but I think he has someone minding the compressor when he's away on dive expeditions. Cary off Yacht Seal also will do paid dive expeditions, if you'd rather go diving in a proper dive boat instead of your own dinghy. Contact Cary and Karin on VHF Channel 68, on the Yokwe Net (6224 at 0745 local), or by email at yachtseal@hotmail.com. There is also at least one other dive operation I found on the internet, operating out of the Marshall Islands Resort (MIR).

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