Located near Pulau Mansinum, a picturesque little island with a small village and a pleasant beach, the Cross Wreck is one of Raja Ampat’s more accessible wreck dives. This dive site was named after a large concrete cross on the shore nearby where Christian missionaries first landed on Irian Jaya. The wreck was a Japanese Navy Patrol boat that sank during WWII. At 40 metres lengthwise, she lies in close proximity to the shore at 18 metres. Sitting in an upright position on the sandy bottom, she is completely covered in soft corals, crinoids and sponges. Two rows of depth charges can be seen at the stern and the ships lamps are still either standing in place or lying on the deck. The switchboard can be seen in the communication room and penetration into the engine room is also possible by suitable certified wreck divers. The wreck makes for a popular night dive where lionfish, scorpion fish, moray eels and parrotfish and huge napoleon wrasse can be seen. Great for macro life and numerous nudibranchs, shrimps and goby species can be found all over the wreck.

The USAT Liberty was a United States Army vessel damaged in January 1942 during WWII. Miraculously, nobody got hurt, but the wound turned the ship into a non-functioning hull. The American Navy‘s plan to tow the ship to Singaraja harbour (north Bali) failed as the harbour was completely occupied, so the ship was intentionally stranded on the rocky beach of Tulamben, where it was unloaded. In 1963, the tremors associated with the eruption of Mount Agung caused the vessel to slip off the beach. She presently rests at a depth of three to 29 metres. Since then, coral has coated the wreckage turning it into an absolute underwater wonderland of marine life, hosting extraordinary fish, coral and invertebrates. A good growth of encrusting animals covers the wreck. Marine biologists estimate that about 400 different species of reef fish live on the Liberty. Highlights here would have to be the large school of bump-head parrotfish, school of trevallies and barracuda that are regularly spotted around the wreck. Fusilier and anthias mill all over, often following you during the dive. Batfish, large sweetlips, angelfish, butterfly fish and anemone fish hover under ledges and in crevices. Lionfish, scorpionfish, hawkfish, parrot fish, pufferfish and coral trout are everywhere, as are the gobies, blennies, shrimps and dottyback out on the sand flats. There are a couple of impressive swim-throughs, but caution must be taken as her structure has since deteriorated over the years. The wreck is simply alive with life – corals, sponges and gorgonian fans are just as breathtaking, with the thousands of invertebrate life within them. Easily accessible from the shore, this is also an excellent snorkel site.

The Kuda Giri is a small fishing trawler that was scuttled some 10 years ago. The fishing trawler was sunk to form an artificial reef, which has proved to be a success. The wreck is located in the South Male Atoll approximately 22 kilometres from Male. She sits upright and can be explored from the bow, which points towards the giri (pinnacle) at 18 metres all the way down to its stern at 30 metres. Covered by staghorns, table corals and colourful soft coral, divers can penetrate the wreck through the machine room and exit at the stern, or enter at the front cargo hold and exit at the bridge, while discovering the plethora of marine life. Large schools of glassfish and batfish have made this sunken ship home and divers can also expect to see turtles, napoleon wrasse and trevallies, among other gaudy sea souls. Currents here are moderate to gentle and is an easy enough dive from entry level certified divers. Diveable all year round, it has visibility between 10–25 metres, depending on weather conditions.

The wrecks off the coast of Manokwari in Indonesia’s Papua Province are mostly pristine and you can be sure that you’ll be one of the few divers to visit these ghostly remains. The bay at Manokwari provided a safe anchorage point to the Japanese in WWII. The surrounding hills are riddled with tunnels, a trademark of Japanese occupation. A number of Japanese ships were sunk in the harbour and over 20 wrecks have been located in the bay, but only five are diveable. One of the five wrecks that can be readily dived off Manokwari is the Shinwa Maru. The Shinwa Maru wreck was a Japanese WWII cargo vessel. This impressive 120-metre long vessel lies on her port side at a depth of 16 to 34 metres. The superstructure is intact, despite two big bomb blast holes in the starboard side. Diving helmets, car batteries, ammunition, dishes, cables, small tanks and mine sweeping equipment are some of the artefacts strewn all over the wreck. The wreck is also home to schools of jack, as well as impressive macro life.

The Aldebaran was a confiscated fishing boat that was seized in the Seychelles waters by the Seychelles Coast Guard for illegal fishing. Abandoned by the owners after legal proceedings, the Seychelles Tourism Board acquired the vessel to commemorate the SUBIOS Festival of the Sea, themed Wrecks as Ocean Habitats. The vessel was sunk after careful consideration at an appropriate location with heavy sandy bottom, rocks and existing marine life where currents passing through will provide a healthy amount of nutrients. On July 11, 2008, the Aldebaran was towed by a Seychelles Port Authority tugboat to her current resting place. Just a mere 15 minutes boat ride off the coast of Willie’s Bay in the northwest of Mahe, you will find some world class diving. At 40 metres and fully intact, she lays upright and is teeming with marine life and coral growth. With visibility as far as your eye can see, this is a definite must-dive site for wreck lovers.

At 242 metres in length, British Battle Cruiser HMS Repulse is one of the biggest and most interesting WWII wrecks. She was sunk (together with Battleship HMS Prince of Wales) by Japanese torpedo bombers on December 10, 1941, and now rests on her portside in 55 metres of water with her hull being accessible at 33 metres. Fully penetrable, this is a wreck divers dream come true. While much her superstructure was crushed as the ship sank, her full armaments are still visible. She was designated by the British government as a war grave in 2001 and penetration of the wreck is thus not officially allowed. Marine life includes massive schools of barracuda, cobia, snappers, batfish, jacks, resident marble rays, turtle, giant morays, groupers and blacktips sharks. The occasional whalesharks, manta rays, eagle rays, marlin and dolphins can be sighted if you’re lucky.

FORCE Z SHIPWRECKS of the SOUTH CHINA SEA

HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse

Author: Rod Macdonald

The tragedy of the loss in 1941 of two Royal Navy capital ships, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, the core of Churchill’s deterrent Force Z, stunned the world. Churchill had hoped that sending a small powerful squadron of ships to Singapore would deter a threatened Japanese invasion of Malaya and Thailand. He was to be proved tragically wrong. Denuded of aircraft cover, Force Z was left disastrously exposed to air attack. Within eight days of their arrival at Singapore both ships were sunk with huge loss of life in a mass attack by 85 Japanese bombers. It was the Royal Navy’s greatest loss in a single engagement and the first time a modern battleship had been sunk by air power.

The information here was taken from Asian Diver Issue 1/2013. Asian Diver magazine contains in-depth and up-to-date articles on various topics, covering the best diving destinations, the latest from leading conservationists and marine biologists, as well as fantastic compilations of underwater photography. You can check out the various themed issues at the shop. CLICK HERE. 

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