July 25, 2000
Greg "Gator" Brunshidle - Assistant Photographer
Boy, it was a beautiful day and I've been anticipating today's dives for several days now. I think my anticipation began when I first met Mark Miller in the Honolulu airport. He was telling me about some of his favorite dives in the Kwajalein area and I remember him telling me about the huge lionfish that patrol the Daisan Maru. I chalked it up to a "fisherman's" story but now we were on our way to the Daison Maru and I would soon see just how huge these lionfish were! We were joined by self-proclaimed fish nerd Brian Greene who had provided additional boat support throughout the project with his zodiac inflatable. Today he would help us as we explored some uninhabited islands looking for Japanese facilities from the war.
Using GPS coordinates and a depth finder to confirm the wreck's presence against the lagoon bottom we quickly found the wreck of the Daisan Maru. This 135 foot long former whaling vessel was sunk on the morning of January 30, 1944 by bombardment from the USS San Francisco. The Daisan was hit with 8" and 5" shells while apparently attempting to flee from the lagoon and now sits in 150' of water.
I have to admit that by this time I've had my share of diving wrecks. I like fish, invertabrates, and coral. All this rusty metal was beginning to stain my new O'Neill wetsuit! But diving the Daisan was going to be different. Mark had promised me beautiful black coral , gorgonians, and those "huge" lionfish. We quickly donned our gear and in two groups began our descent to the Daisan.
As we neared the bottom we easily saw the Daisan to our left. The Daisan is considerably smaller than some of the other vessels we've dove and with the excellent visability we were able to see the entire ship in one view.
Today I was diving with expedition leader Tom Krasuski and our mission was to film wide-angle shots of the wreck, look for signs of damage, and film the lionfish. We began with the boiler-plate shots of Tom approaching the Daisan, swimming over the ship, swimming out of frame, etc. I noticed immediately that this ship was different than the other wrecks we've been diving. Almost everywhere I looked there was marine life! "OK," I'm thinking, "if I just forget that underneath it all is a rusty wreck, I'll pretend I'm on a reef and this'll be fun." Tom's flashing light brought me out of my fantasizing and he motioned me to join him near one of the davits. He had found a really nice bubble coral and indicated that we should film him finding it. Shot one: Point Of View shot of diver swimming over wreck to coral. Shot two: diver swimming up to coral - medium shot. Shot three: close-up of diver looking at coral. Shot four: extreme close-up of bubble coral. OK I'm ready to move on but Tom's grumbling at me through his mouth piece and indicating that I should look closer at the coral. Damn, I'm the critter guy and I totally overlooked the little shrimp that were hiding in the bubbles of the coral. Another extra-close close-up!
We then moved up to the bow and took a look at a huge gash in the starboard hull. This was probably one of the hits that was responsable for sinking the Daisan. It was easily large enough for Tom to swim through.
Meanwhile, Jonathan and Mark made a short forray into the engine room near midship. The quarters were cramped and difficult for shooting. Mark was looking for some tools that he had remembered being on the wall of the compartment. Soon, he found a bench and a nice vise as well.
On our way back to the stern Tom and I found a large bush of black coral with not just one lionfish but four! Tom and I had adequate time to shoot a nice sequence of the fish. They were cooperative and allowed me to shoot nice portraits of them as they circulated around each other. As Tom and I ascended I was pleased that we were able to complete all the objectives of our mission.
Once we were all back on the boat, it was decided that our surface interval would be a perfect time to land on Bigej Island to look for the remains of a Japanese base that was located there. Using Brian Greene's zodiac, we piled in with our ENG camera, tripod, sound equipment.......... WHOOOSH ... we were all surprised by the loud sound of air rushing. As I was boarding Brian's boat, my knee broke through one of the patches and the tube was quickly deflating. "Grab the duct tape!!" Jonathan yelled. Tom quickly grabbed some tape from below decks of Spare Time and we went to work patching as best we could. Brian added some air from a scuba cylinder and it looked like we were good to go ashore.
Mark showed Jonathan the remains of an old pier and water cisterns, the remains of a Japanese submarine base. We penetrated deeper into the jungle looking for some fuel tanks that were seen during an observation flights but I was repelled by zillions of flys and shortly thereafter Jonathan and Mark came trotting out of the jungle. Jonathan set up the camera on the beach for some beautiful scenic vistas only to be again engulfed with flies. "Brian, bring in the boat and let's get out of here". As Brian brought the boat in to pick us up I felt like hell, the tube I had put my knee through was nearly completely deflated. But it's true, even with a deflated tube the boat was seaworthy and quickly brought us back to Spare Time. Within seconds, Tom, who had stayed aboard wanted to know "who brought back all the flies?" Once we were all aboard with our gear, Tom fired up the engines and we quickly took off, to get away from the flies and to motor to our next dive location: Troy's Coral Head.
Troy's Coral Head proved to be another beautiful example of Kwajalein Marine life. The most incredible feature were schools of fish that were being herded by several sharks and tuna. Periodically one of the predators would dart thorugh the school of fish looking for a unlucky fish while the others would continue to circle to maintain the bait fish within a tight school. I was surprised to see the cooperative behavior of the sharks and tuna. Love also seemed to be in the air (or water if you will). During the dive Brian pointed out to me a piece of coral containing four nudibranch. Two of them were just approaching each other and beginning to mate. They encircled and clutched each other and before I could focus my camera on them they were done. They released each other and one of them lost it's grip and tumbled off the piece of coral while the other one moved along - a regular love them and leave them sort of guy! Tom also pointed out to me a pincushion sea star that had puffed up to an almost unrecognizable size. Wafting from it's top was a white milky fluid. The sea star was spewing it's gametes into the current, hoping it will meet with those of another sea star. Boy, I hope my mask doesn't leak.
After this excursion several of us decided we should add Brian Greene to our roster of expedition members. Throughout the project he's been available to provide us with additional boat support. On shore he's helped with stowing, cleaning, and loading our gear. And anyone who doesn't get pissed when I almost sink their boat is alright with me! Welcome aboard Brian.
Troy's Coral Head is the last dive we'll be making in the Kwajalein Anchorage. We'll now be moving to the northern anchorage at Roi-Namur where we'll be primarily be diving American plane wrecks, coral heads, and reefs (Jonathan promised).