July 22, 2000
Jonathan Bird, Director of Photography
Today we went back to the Akibasan (Ah-KEE-bah-san) Maru. If you've been following the adventures here, you know that we did this wreck very early in the expedition and made some interesting finds in the holds. We were unhappy with the quality of images we were able to obtain using conventional scuba gear. So we headed back for another dive using the rebreathers.
On the way we decided to take some time to shoot some surface stuff on the boat and enlisted the help of Brian Greene. Brian, who grew up on Kwajalein and is visiting for the summer was kind enough to drive us around on his cool converted coast guard Zodiak so we could get some shots of the spare time.
We decided to do the dive a little later in the afternoon in order to have less light on the exterior of the wreck. But, when we got to the wreck and ready to go in the water, clouds had rolled in and the wreck ended up being a little darker than we planned! The plan was for Mark and Tom to explore the wreck together. Mark would lead the dive and Tom and I would follow him into the second cargo hold to shoot the pontoons there. Meanwhile, Gator would go around to hold #1 and get a shot of us coming through the bulkhead from hold #2.
This was a fine plan, but tough to pull off on camera because of the incredibly fine silt and rust in the wreck. Although the rebreathers will limit the bubbles hitting the ceiling, they can't do anything for the accidental fin kick in the wrong place. Just one wrong kick will send a ton of silt into the water and fill the hold with backscatter--a term photographers use to describe what small particles do to the light from strobes and lights when they reflect it back into the lens.
We were glad to be using Force Fins for this shoot. The small, manueverable blade of the Force Fin is ideal for navigating within the confines of a silty wreck. Tom and Mark found the pontoons and even managed to locate some Japanese writing on them. We're getting this translated now and we'll update it as soon as we hear back.
The dive ended when our computers started beeping and telling us it was time to go. Rebreathers and nitrox can prolong the bottom times, but no matter what, the dive always seems to go by way too fast and we must reluctantly leave the mysteries of the wreck to head back to the sun, but not before we spend several minutes on a safety stop at 15 feet.