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.
Indo siren destroyed by fire
Indo Siren, a vessel from the Master Liveaboards Fleet, has been destroyed by a fire this morning. Thankfully, all guests and crew members are safe.
Master Liveaboards have released the following statement:
During our current cruise in Raja Ampat, on the morning of 30th November, a fire broke
out on Indo Siren. At the current time we are still assessing the events around the incident,
and will be working with authorities, so cannot currently comment further.
All guests and staff departed the boat, without further incident. They are now with our
ground crew who have organised accommodations while we assist with all their other
needs going forwards.
We are currently evaluating the issues created by the fire on upcoming trips. Guests who
are likely to be affected by enforced cancellations or changes will be contacted in due time
when plans are finalised.
We are incredibly grateful that this incident was not more serious and that everyone who
was onboard, both crew and guests, are safe and well.
The healing powers of adaptive diving
PADI highlights how scuba diving helps enrich and heal lives
This International Disabilities Day (3rd December) PADI is reminding the world of the healing aspects that the ocean (or any body of water) can provide and how important it is for helping those with physical or mental challenges improve their wellbeing. From simply being within close proximity of it or diving beneath the salty surface for an underwater adventure, the ocean has the power to heal.
Regardless of your age, ability, or even limitations, the ocean can benefit us physically, emotionally and even spiritually. This is why PADI is on a mission to make those benefits accessible to all, with their Adaptive Techniques Diving Course in the hope that all of humanity can experience the full transformational power of the ocean.
While many are more familiar with traditional therapies, diving, mermaiding or freediving, has changed the lives of those around the world by connecting with the water and enabled them to conquer mental or physical perceived limitations.
The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course is unique in that it’s a pro-level specialty designed to educate and empower PADI Professionals who wish to make scuba and freediver training more accessible.
Through classroom, confined water and open water workshops, dive professionals further cultivate their ability to be student-centered and prescriptive in approach when adapting techniques to meet diver needs. This hands-on training increases awareness of differing abilities and explores adaptive teaching techniques to apply when training divers with physical and mental challenges. PADI Pros learn to adapt course content to accommodate virtually any student diver.
PADI Members Helping those with Disabilities
This International Disabilities Day PADI highlights a shining example of a member who is championing teaching those with disabilities how to dive.
DiveHeart Empowers Individuals Worldwide Through Adaptive Scuba Programmes
DiveHeart, a PADI Dive Centre founded by PADI Scuba Instructor Jim Elliott in 2001, continues to revolutionise the world of adaptive scuba. Using zero gravity and adaptive scuba, DiveHeart aims to instil confidence, foster independence, and elevate self-esteem among individuals facing physical and cognitive challenges.
DiveHeart has established Adaptive Scuba programmes across North America and the Caribbean and reaches global destinations including Malaysia, Australia, China, Israel, and the UK. Through a combination of donations, grants, and strategic partnerships, DiveHeart ensures inclusivity by providing services to children, veterans, individuals with ALS, autism, and others, irrespective of their abilities or financial means.
A significant milestone in DiveHeart’s journey was the hosting of the inaugural Adaptive Scuba Symposium in 2009, held at the prestigious Our World Underwater event in the Midwest. This pioneering symposium attracted a diverse array of experts, including researchers, physicians, professors, therapists, adaptive dive professionals, and participants from across the globe. The event delved into the current state and the future of adaptive scuba, scuba therapy, the adaptive scuba market, the latest in adaptive scuba training techniques and the latest in scuba therapy research.
At the forefront of adaptive scuba initiatives, DiveHeart offers specialised training courses for certified scuba divers to become adaptive dive buddies. Every diver with a disability is paired with two dive buddies to form a cohesive dive team, ensuring a safe and empowering experience.
DiveHeart further hosts regular pool diving programmes catering to divers of all skill levels nationwide and organises immersive week-long adaptive diving trips to ocean locations like Cozumel, Roatán, and others at least three times annually.
Jim Elliot, the Founder and President of DiveHeart, a scuba diving instructor since 1997, recognised the transformative potential of adaptive diving for individuals with physical disabilities. Witnessing firsthand the holistic benefits encompassing physical fitness, emotional well-being, and mental health, Elliot embarked on a mission to make scuba diving accessible and empowering for all.
DiveHeart remains committed to breaking barriers and creating opportunities for individuals facing challenges, enabling them to explore the vast wonders of the underwater world while unlocking their true potential. For more information on DiveHeart and its impactful initiatives, visit www.diveheart.org
People Who Have Healed from Diving
For people with disabilities—whether they use a wheelchair, have a sight impairment or a neurological condition like cerebral palsy—scuba diving can be a fun activity that offers freedom and mobility in the weightlessness of the water. PADI’s Adaptive Support Diver specialty is a course designed to teach friends and family adaptive techniques for diving with a buddy who has a disability. Many students take the course to support a particular person in their life, and the instructor can work with them on the specific skills they require.
Ryan Chen: Diving to Heal the Mind, Body and Spirit
Ryan is a PADI Open Water Scuba Diver who was in a tragic accident as a teenager that left him paralysed. He found healing and clarity through scuba diving with his dive buddy Kent Yoshimura – so much so that during one scuba diving trip he and Kent ended up creating their current company Neuro Gum – a collection of functional gum and mints that help you get energised, calm or focused that has now led him to be named on Forbes 30 under 30.
“Scuba diving was one of the ways I learned that I can do anything, I just have to do it differently,” Chen says, “Scuba diving is one of those things that can change your whole framework. There’s no cooler feeling than taking that first breath underwater. All of a sudden you have this superpower, to breathe underwater and explore.”
Scuba diving continues to be his physical and mental therapy he continually seeks out amidst his busy entrepreneurial life. Now, with Neuro a national success and leading wellness brand in the United States, Chen has kept up his diving, and remained close to PADI as an organisation. Neuro even has a collaboration with PADI’s coral reef restoration project coming up—a special pack of Neuro, with proceeds going to PADI’s non-profit foundation.
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