BUCKET LIST # 5: A huge wreck reveals itself on the seabed. Strong currents move the rusty hull, which spits out mud from all the cracks. The visibility is poor. At the bottom, at 30 m depth, is a dark narrow hole almost overgrown by corals. Here the torpedo entered, that sunk Fujikawa Maru on 18 February 1944. The big question is what 70 years on the seabed do with 7,000 tons of steel . A knife rusts after a day in salt water. The neighboring vessel collapsed last year and the bridge of the ship suffered the same fate earlier this year. All instincts screaming abort, but a little curious voice says «continue, continue into the dark hole … “. MICRONESIA 19.03.2014 .

Inside the torpedo hole

Inside the torpedo hole

Pacific’s worst reputation
- Are you going to CHUUK as a tourist ?!? The question was asked countless times and it felt like I said I would seek political asylum in North Korea. Chuuk has a special reputation and guide books describe the place as prescription medicine, with large warning triangles.

Chuuk is often described as a lawless western town in the 1800s. When night falls over the dusty streets, the law-abiding citizens nail the windows, hide their loved ones and from saloons drunk cowboys falls out with guns in their hands. Chuuk has correctly enough no cowboys, but was known to have islanders who liked to serve each other knuckle burgers and throw stones at each other’s cars, after consumption of the local moonshine. The city is better now, but the rumor is unfortunately very much alive.

But Chuuk also carries a secret. It is said that history is written by the victors and therefore Chuuk is a dusty chapter in the history of WWII. It was Japan’s equivalent to Pearl Harbor and was the scene of history’s greatest massacre of ships and aircrafts. The lagoon has the dubious distinction of being the world’s largest graveyard for ships, which makes it a unique paradise for adventurous wreck divers.

Operation Hailstone 17-18. February 1944

Operation Hailstone 17-18. February 1944

Operation Hailstone 17-18 . February 1944
Imagine a peaceful Pacific island in February 1944. Bing Crosby are toping the charts on the radio. The sun shines on a cloudless sky. A fresh breeze blows between the palm trees on the white sandy beaches. Out of nowhere the allied forces attack the Japanese base in the lagoon to Chuuk. Within two days 16 warships, 32 merchant ships and more than 250 Japanese warplanes were destroyed.

Chuuk was an important logistics center and the main base of the Imperial Japanese fleet during WWII. The place was a critical airbase to cover the Marshall Islands and secured support for the southern and central Pacific. The allied attack 16-17. February 1944 changed everything and was an important milestone in the War of the Pacific.

The number of fatalities is uncertain, but we know that some ships, like the destroyer Oite, had rescued 523 survivors from the cruiser Agano, when it was bombed and sank. Only 20 survived.

Overall it’s about 60 ship wrecks in the lagoon, making it the world’s largest ship graveyard. In addition, it is the final resting place of an unknown number of aircraft and unfortunate sailors.

Rust or holes after bullets and torpedoes?

Rust or holes after bullets and torpedoes?

The Lord works in mysterious ways
Apart from diving, Chuuk had as much exiting to offer tourist as a steakhouse has to a vegetarian. So I had time to ponder. Ponder over something a researcher I met in Palau the week before told. About the Pacific Islands selling votes in the UN in exchange for much needed aid. I needed more information but had no new sources. For some strange reason fate threw me to the mother of all sources, a unique opportunity for a burrowing amateur journalist. A possibility I would not take advantage off.

– Meet our finance minister, said my new friend Jackson, who I met on a flight to Chuuk. I sat at a plastic table in the restaurant to Truk Stop, an old hotel , which also had a dive shop and bar . Around me sat the six men, who collectively had the titles Minister of Finance, World Bank representative, senator, congressman, deputy ambassador and a few local politicians.

After various intake of  Bud, Bud Light, Tequila and betel nuts

After various intake of Bud, Bud Light, Tequila and betel nuts. Finance minister (far left),

The senator could have been extracted from an Asian mafia movie , with his smooth hair and gold chain. The finance minister, however was an older gentleman, with a body that indicated that he enjoyed good food, messy hair and worn, dark blue polo shirt. He resembled a disorganized,  unmarried mathematics teacher than the finance minister and representative of the World Bank.

Anyway, I was in heaven. All the questions I had. How did Palau secure a new parliament building in exchange for supporting Taiwan’s independence, how did they exchange votes in the UN with donor-funding, did countries often changed side after receiving aid and was this corruption?

The danger of following local customs
The first thing my extra stringent senses observed was that the senator drank a mixture of red wine and Sprite, while the finance minister quenched his thirst with Budweiser Light and tequila shots.

Had this been in Norway, I might have said an inappropriate phrase, but as a guest in another country, I respected their customs. They offered me the drink and I accepted a small one. A small one became two small ones, which turned out to three, four is a nice number, five comes before six, Snow White and the seven dwarfs, eight means prosper in China, et cetera .

I remember becoming more comfortable and asked one brilliant question after another, about corruption, aid, GDP and all I had thought about last week. The finance minister and other politicians scratched his heads, laughed, drank and responded remarkably honest. For a coup – a bunch of drunk and honest politicians.

The brain is a wonderful tool for acquiring knowledge, learning languages ​​and solving logical problems. Unfortunately, it also has its limitations. The brain is often a bottleneck when drinking , where new knowledge is competing for space with alcohol, where everything will give way to the latter.

The next day a small gook licked his wounds. Apart from a pulsating headache, the brain was completely blank. But dig get flashbacks of an amazing evening with new acquaintances, and that is often at least as important as new knowledge.

Meet fortunately with the finance minister again under more sober circumstances, which gave me the data I needed (read: Palau and the 11 other hookers in UN). For the record: The finance minster was an incredibly down to earth, thoughtful and intelligent guy.

The inside of Fujikawa Maru

The inside of Fujikawa Maru

Continue into the dark hole …
Back to the seabed. 30 meters depth. Poor visibility. A dark torpedo hole on a 7,000 tons rusty , dilapidated wreck. A small gook swims hesitated outside, while a little voice says «continue». The little voice wins once again over reason. I enter the hole and disappear into the darkness.

On the inside of the hole, the steel is twisted by the torpedo. Further in it’s just dark. Many divers have ended their days in wrecks because they have stirred up much mud and not found the exit. I change swimming style and navigating calmly further into the ship.

In the next 45 minutes I explore room after room and move between floors. The strong currents makes her creak and she spits out mud and sand from rusty cracks. Small glimpses of sunlight through cracks and holes provide a magical atmosphere.

At several tables there are bottles of sake. Ammunition is spread over floors. In a cargo center in the wreck, we find the holy of holies, several Zero fighters with machine guns. Fujikawa Maru was requisitioned by the Japanese Navy in 1940 and converted to a cargo ship for fighters.

The evening's menu: Assorted femorals and some bottles of vintage seawater

The evening’s menu: Assorted femorals and some bottles of vintage seawater

The weak light beam from the lamp provides enough light to give an impression of the ship and life onboard. But it also tells how the ship ended her days. Several walls have torpedo holes and remains of skeletons are scattered around the wreck. Japanese sailors who fought for their families, their nation and their emperor. I dive on a rusty wreck, but I’m also a guest in the shipwrecked sailors tomb .

50 minutes later I break the surface with a mixture of an adrenaline kick and relief.

Schizophrenic or self-actualizing
The little voice in my head served me this time the inside of Fujikawa Maru, that The Times ranked as one of the top 10 wreck dives. The voice has previously secured a lifetime of amazing adventures, from powder skiing in the Himalayas and expeditions in the Amazon and Galapagos , to close encounter with mountain gorillas in Rwanda and hand feeding tiger sharks in Fiji.

Chuuk is the world's capitol of ship wrecks

Chuuk is the world’s capitol of ship wrecks

That little voice has also resulted in lost teeth, broken ribs, broken back, concussions and countless morphine injections. But it has gotten smarter over the years. It has learned. Gone are the days it shouted jump from unknown cliffs down to the sea. Now it whisper check the depth before jumping. It says put on the seat belt, no matter how dilapidated taxi is in India. And no matter how safe or hazardous the next adventure seems, it tells me to check accident statistics or talk with the locals. The voice has become calculating, it has become a grown-up.

It was also the same voice that told me to take an education, invest in real estate, take care of mother when she got sick and now told me to pack my bag and start on my life’s adventure. Pursue my bucket list and also visit every country in the world. The voice representing my goals and dreams. I have learned that it is important to listen to your inner voice, in order to realize yourself and find happiness .

What does your voice tell you and do you listen to it…..?

 

————————————————— BILDER ———————————————————————–
Want to see a 3 minute diving guide to Chuuk, Micronesia, press here.  

All wrecks become part of the coral reef after a while.

All wrecks become part of the coral reef after a while.

Chuuk has some amazing soft and hard corals

Chuuk has some amazing soft and hard corals

A curiosity still intact on deck

A curiosity still intact on deck

Lots of unused ammunition

Lots of unused ammunition

One of many Zero fighters in the middle of the wreck

One of many Zero fighters in the middle of the wreck

Incredible beautiful corals are a bonus to all wreck divers who dare to visit Chuuk

Incredible beautiful corals are a bonus to all wreck divers who dare to visit Chuuk

The locals were incredible sweet and generous. This is a family who invited me for lunch several days and wouldn't charge for the meals

The locals were incredible sweet and generous. This is a family who invited me for lunch several days and wouldn’t charge for the meals

Had it been a competition to find the world's worst roads in the capital, would Chuuk clearly competed for the title!

Had it been a pool to rank the world’s worst roads in a capitol,  Chuuk would clearly competed for the title!

My second and more sober meeting with the finance minister. Incredibly down to earth and nice guy who taught me how to chew betel nuts

My second and more sober meeting with the finance minister. Incredibly down to earth and nice guy who taught me how to chew betel nuts