July 16, 2000
Mark Miller - Wreck Historian
Today our trusty vessel, the Spare Time, was in for scheduled maintenance, so we were working from a pair of smaller boats. Peter Rejcek, Associate Editor of the Kwajalein Hourglass (the local newspaper) and Brian Greene, a marine zoology student from the University of Hawaii, joined us for the day to follow our adventures.
Our day's efforts focused on the wreck of the freighter Tatayama Maru, an armed merchant ship that was sunk in the air attack of January 31, 1944. A bomb pierced her hull only a few a feet away from a cargo hold containing tons of high explosive shells destined for the defenders of Kwajalein.
Unlike the damage we saw on the Shoei Maru, where the entire stern of the vessel was destroyed, these shells did not explode, and are visible today, spilling out of the ship and onto the sandy lagoon floor. The ship lies on her starboard side in 130 feet of water, and offers many interesting sights. Our first dives were rewarded when we found and documented human remains, bottles, and explosives. I was able to locate a partial skeleton inside the engine room, and beer and saki bottles in the forward cargo hold.
Jon and Tom examined the huge pile of ammunition in the aft hold. Gator covered the bomb damage that resulted in the sinking of the vessel. The thrill of discovery had everyone excited, and our surface interval seemed endless!
The weather had changed from the glass calm of the previous day to a light breeze that provided about one foot of surface waves. The visibility was wonderful, and the top of the wreck at 90 feet could be seen from the surface. The second dives allowed us to film more of the hull and the ship's huge propeller, as well as more remains and artifacts. A camera was mounted to a diver propulsion vehicle (DPV), and enabled us to better photograph the outside of the wreck. So far, the Tatayama Maru is one of the crew's favorite shipwrecks, and we all hope to return again soon and see what else this wreck silently holds in its tomb of blue.