15 – 17 June 2010

We set off for a three day exploratory trip with our friend Dietmar Amon with five other divers or NFFs (new found friends) to New Hanover. Lissenung Island Resort has these special trips once a year and again, how lucky were we to be part of this grand annual endeavor?

Andiamo is the name of this little beauty which brought us to the dive sites

Andiamo is the name of this little beauty which brought us to the dive sites and to Tunnung Island

On their new catamaran which can comfortably fit 10 divers we set off to new Hanover with two exciting dives to anticipate – the Sanko Maru wreck and Chapman’s Reef. After two hours traveling from Lissenung to the northern tip of New Hanover on calm seas, we reached Sanko Maru wreck.

Sanko Maru's coral garden

Sanko Maru’s coral garden

We could see a 60 year old wreck from where we were moored! Yogi & I have dived this site about 6 years ago on the no longer operating liveaboard Mike Ball Paradise Sport and it was a stunning dive full of massive soft and gorgonian corals – 60 years of coral growth!

All of this 5000 ton wreck rests on her starboard side that goes from 6 meters to 22 meters

All of this 5000 ton wreck rests on her starboard side that goes from 6 meters to 22 meters

Not far away from the big Japanese WWII tanker is a mini-sub also well encrusted with corals. For a bit of history about these two wrecks:

16 February 1944, Sanko Maru a 5461‐ton Japanese tanker, was anchored in shallow water with an unidentified submarine sitting partially submerged next to it.  It was hit repeatedly by 500‐pound bombs set off by USAAF 38th and 345th Bomb Groups. The nearby “#39 Subchaser”, which was there to guard the “Sanko Maru” and the submarine, was also badly hit, went out of control and ran aground on a shallow reef, burning slightly from the bomb damage. Some of the Japanese sailors tried to get to shore, but were strafed repeatedly and none of them survived.

Dietmar Amon above the mini sum at 22 meters

Dietmar Amon above the mini sub at 22 meters

The “Sanko Maru” and the subsequently identified Japanese Type C midget submarine sank on the spot. The next day, the 500th Squadron returned to the area and found a 1500‐ton freighter anchored in shallow water less than one kilometer from where the Subchaser had been sunk the previous day. They bombed this freighter, which may have been the “Kashi Maru”, in a quick attack, which split the vessel in half and sank it. Both the “#39 Subchaser” as well as the 1500‐ton freighter sit in two adjourning bays off the mainland of New Hanover in 2 – 14m of water.

Penetrating the freighter's empty cargo hull, the beams made a great silhouette image!

Photographing from the freighter’s empty cargo hull, the beams made a great silhouette image!

Gorgonian corals grew on so much in and out of the ship's surface!

Gorgonian corals grew on so much in and out of the ship’s surface!

The Sanko Maru was such a brilliant dive, we asked to dive it again and again. We were not much of explorers, as we were all happy repeaters! All our dive companions had cameras, and we had the great opportunity of photographing the wreck in wide angle and then getting the minute details on the second macro dive. The third was the night dive – what a treat!

Details of a strip of gorgonian fan with all its polyps fully extended, happily feeding

Details of a strip of gorgonian fan with all its polyps fully extended, happily feeding

With the wreck being full of gorgonian corals, Dietmar Amon was in his element. Dietmar is an ovulid fanatic – one shell is even named after his island! He also has an Olive shell named after him, so you can see that he has a keen eye for these little things. And he found us three stunning allied cowrie snails to photograph!

Isn't this allied cowrie a perfect beauty? It is so well hidden and looks exactly like its home, Dietmar had to point it out many times, the right location

Isn’t this allied cowrie a perfect beauty? It is so well hidden and looks exactly like its home, Dietmar had to point out its location many times

Here's a spindle cowrie not quite in hiding. But it was still a challenge to see as these snails are TINY

Here’s a spindle cowrie not quite in hiding. But it was still a challenge to see as these snails are TINY

And a cowrie with knobby bits. Its partner was not far from this one

And a cowrie with knobby bits. Its partner was not far from this one

We stayed in Tunnung Island and much to our surprise, an old friend Clem (who we first met as a local dive crew onboard Mike Ball’s Paradise Sport) owned the guest house where we stayed. Clem was equally surprised to see us and it was all like a grand unplanned reunion! Clem’s Place as it is called is brand new. Clem and his wife Sophie opened to guests in 2009 mainly catering to surfers with season starting in November and lasting till April. This being June, Clem was on vacation, but we were a welcome change to surfers!

Clem's is a great story teller and now a pretty happy entrepreneur. His pearly white teeth shows he doesn't chew betelnut and has his head together. He speaks excellent English thanks to being shanghaied for many months by a British couple when he was 16!

Clem’s is a great story teller and now a pretty happy entrepreneur. His pearly white teeth shows he doesn’t chew betelnut. He speaks excellent English, thanks to being shanghaied for many months by a British couple when he was 16 learning English grammar and diving along the way!

Clem is a seafood businessman aside from owning and operating Clem's Place. He has about 10 fishermen from his island catching fish and lobster for him which he delivers to Kavieng once a week

Cleaning and preparing lobster tails with his staff, Clem is a seafood businessman aside from owning and operating Clem’s Place.

Clem has about 10 fishermen from his island catching fish and lobster for him which he delivers to Kavieng once a week. He apologized to us because he only had fresh fish and fresh lobsters for dinner for the two nights we stayed there!

We were so close to the Sanko Maru it was easy to make a night dive. And we were so glad to have done it as there were so many brilliant basket stars out in full glory. I love basket stars!

I can't say it enough, but these echinoderms are just lovely. Like living art forms!

I can’t say it enough, but these echinoderms are just lovely. Like living art forms!

They didn't stay stretched out like this for long. They quickly curled up after a few strobe flashes

They didn’t stay stretched out like this for long. They quickly curled up after a few strobe flashes

Then we had a superb dive at Chapman’s Reef. There was current which brought out all the fish as we hovered in what is known as the amphitheater. In an hour’s dive at 18 meters, we saw many grey reef sharks, schooling batfish, schooling jacks, schooling barracudas, dogtooth tuna, many schooling pyramid butterflyfish, and three wonderful eagle rays who flew above us and then down and then whooosh, gone. As the current was running, and a curtain of diver bubbles in front of us, we could just describe this dive and not much to show for it. But here’s an image of how close the schooling batfish came to us.

At the beginning of our dive at Chapman's Reef, these massive school checked out Yogi & I, and then, they were gone!

At the beginning of our dive at Chapman’s Reef, these massive school checked out Yogi & I, and then, they were gone!

And before we left, a group Panda picture of the exploratory team and Clem's family at Clem's Place

And before we left, a group Panda picture of the exploratory team and Clem’s family at Clem’s Place

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