Sunday, 10 May 2009

Akitsushima

Wrecks don't come much prettier than the Akitsushima. A seaplane tender, and the only true warship of the collection, she met her end that fateful day in September 1944 with the rest of them. The aircraft was never found, and stories about about its final location. Nevertheless, she makes a great external swim...her crane and radio tower as still in place, and one or two gun emplacements can still be viewed.

She lies at a maximum depth of 30 metres. The visibility isn't great outside, but gets much better inside. Just forward of her crane is a huge crack which spans the complete beam of the ship. It looks like she was opened up with a giant can-opener. Heading inside, it's a simple swim through her second level deck to her engine room. Being a diesel engine, she was never bothered by the salvage teams of the 50s and 60s who plundered the steam engines of these wrecks for their brass and aluminium. So instead of an empty shell, a diver is treated to a sublime penetration through the guts of the ship, complete with wheels, boilers, a maze of pipes, and even some intact guages in the control room. It's breathtaking; a dive through here is impossible without thoughts for the men who struggled to escape this iron coffin as she descended. The panic and confusion, combined with the rushing of water, must have been intense. It's not a pleasant way to die, thrashing around for a few desperate moments before unconsciousness provides mercy. The silence as you pass through these spaces once inhabited by Japanese sailors certainly adds to the atmosphere; alone with your thoughts.

Once is not enough inside these submerged leviathans. I could see Coron was going to dent my budget somewhat. But then, maybe I'd tire of them eventually and move on?

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