Last week, Chuuk State marked the 70th anniversary of a World War Two battle that put the Micronesian archipelago in the history books and left a legacy of underwater monuments that have attracted scuba divers from throughout the world.
70 years ago, on February 17 1944, carrier based American fighters and bombers launched “Operation Hailstone”, an attack on the Japanese fleet in what was then called the Truk Lagoon.
It was a major Japanese naval and supply base. After 2 days of bombings, Japan’s 4th Imperial Fleet was destroyed. U.S. forces sank 12 Japanese warships and 32 merchant vessels, as well as downing 275 Japanese aircraft.
In the process, they transformed Chuuk Lagoon into the biggest graveyard of ships in the world.
Last week, Chuuk State marked the anniversary of that battle, which is an often forgotten chapter in chronicles of the Pacific war.
Japan’s ambassador to the FSM, FSM President Manny Mori and the U.S. Ambassador to the FSM were on hand as “Wreath of Peace” was laid on the waters above the wreckage at the bottom of the Chuuk Lagoon.
Dianne Strong is a retired UOG professor and a writer, who is in Chuuk this week for the event.
“Truk is the forgotten battle of World War II,” said Strong explaining that “there was no amphibious followup. It was an aerial attack that lasted 2 days, February 17th and 18th 1944. You go to museums all around the world, take a look at the Pacific history, Truk is never mentioned.”
But she says, the people of Chuuk haven’t forgotten “because they have the underwater legacy of all those sunken ships.”
Roughly 29 Americans died during the battle, a negligible loss compared to bloody battles else where which claimed thousands of U.S. servicemen.
But Strong points out that it was a significant strategic victory, which paved the way for the invasions of Saipan, Tinian and Guam. The battle was an important “stepping stone on the way to Tokyo.”
Today, the lagoon is an underwater museum of historic ships and airplanes.
“Beautiful artificial reefs that are 70 years old”, said Strong. “The airplanes, the “Emily Bomber”, the “Betty Bomber”, ships, a destroyer, just beautiful reefs. So I love, not just the history, but these beautiful artificial reefs. We call them ship reefs.”
Strong is the author of “Witness to War”, a recently published book on the late Kimiuo Aisek who, as a 17 year old Chuukese youth watched the attack that sent the Japanese fleet to the bottom and later made it his life’s work to lead divers from around the world in the exploration of the wreckage of war at the bottom of the Chuuk Lagoon.
“From tragedy can come beauty”, says Strong. And Kimiuo Aisek helped bring attention to the beauty left at the bottom of the Lagoon in the wake of the battle.
Kimiuo’s legacy, says Strong, is the opportunity he created for his people.
“The Truk Continental Hotel, which was purchased by him, is now the Blue Lagoon resort, the Blue Lagoon dive shop. And his memorial museum which is going up .. more than 130 people are employed in these enterprises. They’re not going to Guam. They’re staying home, making minimum wage and living their lives in their home.”
“I hope people realize that there are Chuukese that can succeed wherever they are and that we should honor Chuukese.”
Kimiuo died in 2001 at the age of 73.
Diving with… Ana and Miguel, Siladen Resort & Spa, Indonesia
In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…
Ana and Miguel
What is the name of your business?
Siladen Resort & Spa
What is your role within the business?
Co owners and General Managers
How long has the business operated for?
Almost 20 years.
How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?
Miguel has dived since 1993 and Ana has dived since 2002. We are both Open Water Scuba Instructors.
What is your favorite type of diving?
We love all dive types, especially wall diving for the wonderful corals and looking out into the blue wondering what other animals will come up next. But as an UW photographer and videographer we both love critter hunting in the sandy slopes. We are both very fond of night dives as we always find interesting animals and different behaviour.
If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?
We have a wonderful location in the heart of Bunaken National Park and we have an amazing team that provides the best service to each guest. We are a fun dive resort; we constantly strive to be as sustainable as possible and safety is our number one priority. If you like sea turtles and beautiful coral reefs you cannot miss this area for diving or snorkelling.
What is your favorite dive in your location and why?
If we have to choose one wall we would say Mandolin as it has beautiful and healthy corals with a wonderful and shallow reef top. We love to search for turtles in the overhangs, look for long nose hawkfish in the black coral bushes, admire the schooling snappers, and spend a long safety stop on the coral gardens on the top that are full of anthias. For critter hunting and night dives we both love Bolung. Here we can find frogfish, ghostpipefishes and nudibranchs, plus at night we often find decorator crabs, octopus and even stargazers on its white sandy slope.
What types of diving are available in your location?
There are very shallow coral reefs surrounding all five islands within Bunaken National Parkpark — beyond the shallow reef, the seabed drops away very quickly, forming the beautiful walls that Bunaken is famed for. Many of these walls are vertical with huge caverns and overhangs, however some are more gentle slopes that allow more reef building corals to form. On the North Sulawesi mainland there are black sand sites that allow amazing muck diving. Close by, we also have white sand sites, which offer some beautiful coral reefs and gentle slopes. There is even a fairly intact (entirely sponge encrusted) wreck within easy access of the resort.
What do you find most rewarding about your current role?
Working together in a dive resort that welcomes divers and snorkellers from around the world and sharing with them our passion for diving, snorkeling and uw photography and video is a great pleasure. Besides we have the privilege to dive and snorkel at world class sites every week.
What is your favorite underwater creature?
We both love cephalopods in general for their intelligence, capacity to camouflage, change colors and patterns…. We are fortunate enough to have many encounters with cephalopods in this area, from the tiny bobtail squid to the wonderful broadclub cuttlefish, the flamboyant cuttlefish, squids and Ana even filmed reef octopus mating. We could watch cephalopods for ever. And although we see them often, Ana has a soft spot for turtles.
As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?
The biggest problem we all face as divers and nature lovers is climate change and pollution. We need to work on these issues locally but even more importantly we need to address these issues worldwide.
Is your center involved in any environmental work?
Yes, we clean our beach daily and we organise very frequent island clean-ups. Not only do we clean this area, but we also separate the garbage trying to send as much as we possibly can to be recycled. We often have activities together with local school children to help bring awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution. We reduce our single plastic use as much as possible and all our vegetables and fruit peel leftovers are composted. We also protect the nests of turtles that hatch on our beach.
Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?
We are partnering with Coral Eye Resort in Bangka Island so that guests can have the best service in the best areas of North Sulawesi. We are getting one more boat; we want to make sure our boats are never crowded, besides we keep working to maintain and improve all our facilities.
How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?
The industry is doing well and I am happy to see that there are more and more avid snorkellers and not only scuba divers. We would like to see more ocean protection worldwide to ensure the future generations get to enjoy the beautiful reef corals and marine life around the world.
Finally, what would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?
We give you a chance to explore some of the best snorkelling and diving sites in the world while providing you with comfortable accommodation, wonderful food and the best service. Staying in Siladen Resort & Spa you can do up to four dives or snorkelling sessions every day with very experienced guides, while staying in a safe and comfortable resort that aims to provide the best service to each guest.
Where can our visitors find out more about your business?
Visit our website www.siladen.com, find us on Instagram and Facebook (Siladen Resort & Spa) and contact us:
WA +62 811 44300641
Jeff chats to… Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust about the Big Shark Pledge (Watch Video)
The Big Shark Pledge aims to build one of the biggest campaigning communities in the history of shark conservation. To put pressure on governments and fisheries. And make the positive changes required to safeguard awesome sharks and rays.
Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.
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