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Coron Wreckdiving

by nate on March 15, 2010

The landscape around Busuanga Island is exquisite but the history of Coron Bay is what has put the island on the map, especially for wreck diving. The historical chapter relevant for divers began September 24, 1944, when a US Navy force of fighters and dive bombers attacked a Japanese supply fleet of up to 24 ships at anchor in Coron Bay and around Busuanga Island. Whether the fleet’s location was discovered when an aerial surveillance team noticed some islands moving, or whether Japanese radio transmissions were intercepted is still under debate, but the results are history; with over 20 wrecks laying quietly at the bottom of the bay, becoming artificial reefs and becoming home to thousands of fish.

We did three wreck dives that took us about 1.5 hours west of Coron Town. Becs and I went with Nitrox for our first wreck dive. Akitsushima: a 118m Japanese war ship, lays 35 meters deep. As we descended, a dark shadow suddenly became a sting ray about 1.5 meters in diameter hanging out on the ocean floor just beneath a hole in the ship. Watching it swim away was quite a sight. I was especially excited when I learned that we were going to penetrate the wreck, diving through a hatch, navigating through the engine room, and through the length of the ship’s body. The first entry was a bit tight and required us to get over our nervousness, concentrate and just go for it. We saw the massive guns and some ammunition still sitting next to the station. The ship was heavily bombed and it lays on its side, so much of the dark murky interior has a gentle blue glow as light leaks in through the massive holes.

The next wreck was Okikawa Maru (former Taiei Maru), a navy oil tanker, 160m long sitting upright at 25 meters. As we descended near the rear of the ship, the massive 8 meter tall rudder became visible, and gave us a sense of just how big this boat really was. We entered through a narrow opening in the crankshaft and swam through to enter one of the massive oil drums. At some points, the ship actually felt like an enormous abandoned building that we were floating through weightlessly. We then traversed along the side of the tanker to find some of the most beautiful and colorful nudibranchs I’ve ever seen. We played with some beautiful flat worms, hovering through the water in a magical way.

The final wreck was a small gun boat in about 10m of water. Extremely shallow, but a nice and easy third dive of the day. Our dive operator Sea Dive, packed an extra free beer for everyone on the boat, as the return trip granted us a great closing sunset to a wonderful day.

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