Truk Lagoon 2010

Over Easter I was fortunate enough to go wreck diving in Truk Lagoon. The trip had been planned for a while, and 22 of us chartered the Thorfinn liveaboard. Getting there from Hong Kong took the best part of a day. We set off on a 4:30pm Cathay flight to Manila before changing to Continental Micronesia. Continental Micronesia aren’t my least favourite airline, that accolade goes to aeroflot in the late 80′s, but they’re certainly down there. Having a monopoly doesn’t give them much incentive to improve, and sure enough they haven’t. Anyway, after the usual chaos at the transit desk and security checks in Manila, we arrived in Guam at 4:30am local time, fought our way through immigration and yet more security checks, then had to hang around for an 8:20am flight. Thanks to Catheryn, here you can see the Captain diligently performing the pre-flight checks:

Captain performing pre-flight checks (Photo: Catheryn Chu)

We arrived at Chuuk at 10am local time, having travelled for almost 20 hours. Fortunately only Robert Ho’s bag was damaged this time. Last time I did this trip we had 3 or 4 casualties. And the first time I went, they offloaded all the dive bags in Guam because it had been raining and they were worried about the extra weight. So perhaps Continental Micronesia are improving after all!

We were met by Captain Lance Higgs from the Thorfinn, and some of his crew. It took two runs to get us and all our gear to the wharf where the Thorfinn was tied up, and since the Chuuk roads were in a dreadful state, we’d have been quicker walking. We’d have been up to our knees in mud as well, so I think all of us were happy enough to stick with the van. Sadly the area around the airport looked even more run-down than on my previous visit in 2006.

On board Thorfinn we met Cindy, one half of the husband and wife team who organise the diving and everything else. She’s a Brit and her husband Rob is an American. They are both experienced divers, and while Cindy likes fish, Rob’s passion is cave diving, and he had a wealth of great stories. They were very organised, yet very friendly and accommodating. I would say they are a valuable addition to the Thorfinn.

We were on-board a day early because of the way the flights had worked out, and were very fortunate that there were only two existing customers there. Consequently everyone had cabins, except for me and Rita, who selflessly sacrificed ourselves by sleeping on other people’s floors.

After an extensive briefing and a brief lunch, we were all ready for the 2pm dive.

To be continued…

S.S. Thorfinn

The S.S. Thorfinn was built in Norway in 1954 as an Antarctic whaler. Captain Higgs eventually acquired her and used her in a variety of roles before converting her into a diving liveaboard. She can take 22 guests in 11 cabins, and is spacious and very comfortable. Charters are usually for 7 days.

The Diving

They offer up to 5 dives a day, and the dive times are usually 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm and an 8pm night dive, after dinner. Diving is done from tenders, which take divers out to the various wrecks. That means that fewer divers on each wreck. The Thorfinn will move during the week to allow you chance to dive a different group of wrecks. All in all, it is a  flexible arrangement and worked very well. Having smaller groups on each wreck is a definite plus. A few years ago while we were diving on the Heian Maru the old Truk Aggressor turned up.  Trying to get out of a narrow hold, while 20 Aggressor divers were barging their way in was no fun at all.

Captain Higgs imposes some rigid safety stops to avoid the risk of DCI. These consist of:

  • 18 metres: 1 minute
  • 9 metres: 2 minutes
  • 5 metres: 10 minutes

Given the amount of diving available, these seem to be sensible precautions, and have been in operation for a number of years.

Trevor and Neil on safety stop

Trevor and me on a safety stop (photo: Lau Wing Kee). This must be on the San Francisco Maru, as Trevor had to borrow a regulator immediately before that dive, which is why his octopus is dragging

About Neil Hambleton

I am a British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) Advanced Diver and an Open Water Instructor. I have been diving since 1992, after joining South China Diving Club (SCDC), which is a Hong Kong-based branch of the BSAC. Having moved to New Zealand, I am now a member of BSAC New Zealand.
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