July 24, 2000
Jonathan Bird, Director of Photography
We weren't going to do it, but how could we resist? We hadn't planned to dive the Prinz Eugen, a 697 foot Heavy Cruiser sunk at Kwajalein, because it really had nothing to do with the battle here. But Mark convinced us that it was something we wouldn't want to miss. I have to admit, it was a cool dive and I'm glad we did it. Whether we can find a way to work it into the film is another story.
The Eugen (pronounced OY-gen), a German cruiser, was involved in sinking the HMS Hood during WWII along with a more famous ship, the Bismarck. Unlike the Bismarck, which was sunk by the British, the Eugen got away. After a long and courageous career, the Eugen was surrendered to allied forces in Copenhagen at the conclusion of hostilities in the European campain. She was then sailed to America, refitted and refueled, and from thence towed to Bikini Atoll, where she survived two atomic bomb tests. After being towed to Kwajalein to be "decontaminated," she finally sank unexpectedly near a shallow beach. Nonetheless, she is so long that while the screws are high and dry, the bow is about 110 feet deep. By the way, radiological testing a few years back revealed that there is no longer a radiation hazard in diving this wreck.
The wreck is completely upside down, but the massive superstructure protrudes so much that you can see everything underneath the hull. The massive 8" guns rest on the sand, still connected above to their swivel mount. You can swim into the wreck, but everything is upside down. The floor is above and the ceiling is below. This wreck is huge and has passages going way back into God-knows-where. There are a few local divers out here who know this wreck like the back of their hands and have penetrated deep within her using blueprints to find their way. We were content to just take a look around outside and poke our heads into a few rooms, just a few fin kicks from daylight. A big wreck like this is dangerous. A single misplaced fin kick can disturb enough silt to block the light and leave a diver lost. The silt is incredibly fine, but when undisturbed it settles out so that the visibility inside the wreck seems endless. We can see as far as our light beams extend. The long corridors beckon us to swim in further, but we resist. We are not here to spend time and effort penetrating the Eugen, even though we do have the proper gear (wreck reels, tons of lights, redundant scuba gear, and an exceptionally long gas supply).
After our dive on the Eugen, we needed to head back to the Akibasan Maru to complete exterior shots. We were waiting for late afternoon so the light level would be lower and we could get more impact from our video lights. We were a little annoyed that the visibility has been down. The water is filled with a ton of mucousy-looking stuff. It's not plankton--it's just goo. (webmaster's note: it's organic matter that's important to the cycle of life but when you're a photographer, anything floating between you and your subject is goo) The doldrums have arrived here and the wind has stopped completely. In addition to being really hot, the water is sitting still, so the visability isn't clearing.