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100 Million Sharks Killed Each Year

Planet Earth!Posted by Jean Dar Thu, March 23, 2017 22:10:38

We are eradicating the apex predators of the oceans

Shark finning is the practice of slicing off the shark’s fins while the shark is still alive and throwing the rest of its body back into the ocean where it can take days to die what must be an agonising death. Some sharks starve to death, others are slowly eaten by other fish, and some drown, because sharks need to keep moving to force water through their gills for oxygen. Shark fins are used as the principal ingredient of shark fin soup, an Asian dish. Demand for shark fin soup has rocketed in recent years due to the increased prosperity of China and other countries in the Far East. Shark fin soup, which can easily cost $100 a bowl, is often served at wedding celebrations so that the hosts can impress their guests with their affluence.

Because there is such a high demand for shark fins, traders can make a lot of money from shark fin, but it is the restaurant owners who really make a killing in this foul trade. Fishermen are only interested in the fins because shark meat is of low economical value and takes up too much space in the hold. It also contains urea, which turns to ammonia once the shark has died and contaminates other fish. Shark fin itself is tasteless, it just provides a gelatinous bulk for the soup which is flavoured with chicken or other stock. Many people, especially the consumers, are unaware of the sufferring that finning causes.

To put it bluntly, shark populations have been decimated. Globally. At least 8,000 tonnes of shark fins are shipped to restaurants around the world. Fishermen report that sharks are getting smaller because they are not being given time to mature. Shark populations take a long time to recover as they can take over seven years to reach maturity and they only raise one or two pups a year. Twenty species of sharks are listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). In a few years many species of shark could become extinct if action is not taken immediately. Populations of many shark species have fallen by over 90%. Since 1972 the number of blacktip sharks has fallen by 93%, tiger sharks by 97% and bull sharks, dusky sharks and smooth hammerheads by 99%.

The consequences of the decline in shark populations on ocean life are immense. The large shark species are apex predators, they are ecological stablisers. For example along the US East Coast where large sharks such as black tip and tiger sharks have been virtually elimated, there have been declines in shellfish numbers and a reduction in water quality since shellfish filter sea water. Populations of small sharks, rays and skates have increased rapidly, consuming shellfish at an unsustainable rate. If you remove apex predators from an ecosystem the result is the same as removing the foundations from a building – total collapse.

- Read more about how we are emptying the oceans: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/14/humanity-driving-unprecedented-marine-extinction?CMP=share_btn_link



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Spring/Summer Banner 2017

jeandar.netPosted by Jean Dar Sun, March 12, 2017 11:13:13

The Saipan Banner

Spring is arriving to Sweden slowly, so I figure its time to swap banners again. This photo is from my last wreck dive in Saipan on 10 January 2017. If you have been following my updates from my recent six week long Philippines & Micronesian project, you would know that the first dive of that day was a tank dive, and the the two following ones were freedives.

I got a load of utterly beautiful footage from this long project, and a lot of them from diving. Like the one chosen for the Saipan Banner, which is intended to be on display through the spring and summer.

Preparations for my next underwater bonanza is already on its way! The fabled Sardine Run of South Africa along the eastern coast of the country in June-July, is my new target. Additional deep diving and wreck diving in the Western Cape Province for two weeks is also included in my itinerary.

I will post more info on my upcoming Sardine Run project on the main site www.jeandar.net shortly. The Sardine Run of South Africa is widely regarded as one of natures greatest events.

- More on my upcoming South African dive project in June-July is on its way!



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Diving in Chuuk Lagoon II

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Thu, January 19, 2017 13:37:45

My four last wreck dives in Chuuk Lagoon

This post will conclude my six week long Philippines & Micronesia project. I intended to see the Taal Volcano as I've been in Manila since Monday morning, but my large diving bag did not arrive with my flight from Chuuk via Guam. So instead of taking photos of Taal Volcano, I've spent three days waiting for all my diving gear and clothes to arrive at my hotel. Guam airport is not a favourite of mine due to several reasons and that's where my diving bag went missing.

My photo above from 13 January 2017, pictures me inside the Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bomber. This aircraft was designed in 1939 for the Imperial Japanese Navy and was quite successful during the early part of the war, mostly due to its speed, long range and good carrying capacity. However, their unprotected fuel tanks proved to be their greatest weakness, and even leading to death of famous Admiral Yamamoto ambushed while aboard one flying out of New Caledonia on 18 April 1943.

This particular Mitsubishi G4M failed to make the runway at Eten island and crashed into the sea, where it now lies upright at 18m. The propellers were still spinning when it hit the water, and are found some 50m in front of the rest of the aircraft. There is a large entrance where the cockpit used to be, but one can also enter the fuselage through the waist gun ports on both sides. This is an interesting dive that will use less than half a tank of air.

My photo above is from 13 January 2017. The Japanese Kawanishi H8K "Emily" flying boat was known for its long range and nicknamed the "Flying Porcupine" because it was very difficult to shoot down, as it had self-sealing fuel tanks and internal fire extinguishers. With a 38m wingspan, this is the largest aircraft wreck in Chuuk Lagoon. The four 1850 horsepower Mitsubishi Kasei engines are all still on the aircraft, and a swim beneath the aircrafts wing is recommended! There are plenty of details to look at on the aircraft and close by on the seafloor.

This particular aircraft was bringing back the Japanese Commanding Officer of the Fourth Fleet, his Chief of Staff and other senior Japanese Naval Officers from a meeting in Palau. Fighter aircrafts from the US navy intercepted this Kawanishi H8K "Emily" flying boat, attacking it repeatedly. The pilot still managed to escape the enemy and return to Truk Lagoon, although while trying to land the damaged aircraft the pilot lost control and it crashed and sank. The pilot, Admiral and Chief of Staff survived.

Yamagiri Maru was built during 1938 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as a passenger and cargo carrier for the Yamashita Kisen Line, and was launched on 3 May 1939. In September 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy took control of her and converted her to a military transport for moving special cargo, and she served transporting war material between the Solomon Islands and the Caroline Islands until she was hit with two torpedoes from USS Drum in 1943. The repair can still be seen on the port side of hold number two.

My photo above from 14 January 2017, pictures the huge 46cm shells found on Yamagiri Maru for world's largest naval guns fitted on world's largest battleships: Yamato and her sister ship Musashi. The Yamagiri Maru was sunk by dive bombers from the carriers USS Yorktown and Bunker Hill. They reported several hits and left a huge hole portside amidships that took her down quickly, killing most of her crew. One engineer's skull and body were driven by the blasts into a storeroom's screens and can be seen there still today. Yamagiri Maru lies on her port side at a depth of 30m.

My last dive in Chuuk Lagoon was the large Kiyosumi Maru, as she lies on her port side on the seafloor at 35m. I had some bad luck with my main camera as it shut down at the start of this dive, leaving me with a lot less footage of this wreck than intended. Half way into the dive I noticed it and switched on my second camera, and managed to get some footage of Kiyosumi Maru. This was of course disappointing to say the least, but I did get some pictures of her totally devastated superstructure, personal items and sake bottles. My photo above from the Kiyosumi Maru on 14 January 2017.

She was laid down in 1933 at the Kawasaki Dockyard as a passenger-cargo vessel for the Kokusai Kisen Kaisha company, launched on 30 June 1934, and named on 5 October the same year. The Japanese navy took control of her in September 1941 and converted here into an armed merchant cruiser, fitting her with 150mm guns, torpedo tubes and anti-aircraft guns. During the Battle of Midway she acted as a troop carrier. On 3 November 1943 she was damaged in an air raid, on 1 January 1944 she was hit by three torpedoes from a submarine and towed to Truk Lagoon. Kiyosumi Maru was sunk by US dive bombers on 18 February 1944 in Operation Hailstone, while still undergoing repairs.

My photo from Chuuk Lagoon above is from 13 January 2017. Here's an idea that will save time and money: Combine the three aircraft wrecks as they are quite close to each other. Start to freedive the Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" that lies upside down (see previous post), then move on to the Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" and do a tank dive, as with the large four engine Kawanishi H8K "Emily" flying boat last.

That's exactly what I did and found it being quite pleasant covering three aircrafts in one single afternoon that way. The reason for this approach is simply that freediving is more physically demanding than tank dives, and should therefor be the first dive. A single tank is needed between the Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" and the Kawanishi H8K "Emily", spending some 15-20 minutes on each one of them should be enough.

- In six hours I'll be on my way to Stockholm, Sweden, via Beijing, China.

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Diving in Chuuk Lagoon Part I

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Tue, January 17, 2017 16:02:49

Chuuk Lagoon - World's premier wreck diving location

During World War II, Truk lagoon (today Chuuk Lagoon) was host to Japan's Imperial Fleet, which was left destroyed in the wake of Operation Hailstone 16-18 February 1944, often called Japan's Pearl Harbor. Today, hundreds of Japanese aircraft and other military machines remain at the bottom of the lagoon, making it the world's best wreck dive location, with some seventy wreck diving sites in and around the lagoon.

In 1969, William A. Brown and oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and his team explored Truk Lagoon. Following Cousteau's 1971 television documentary about the lagoon and its ghostly remains, the place became a scuba diving paradise, drawing wreck diving enthusiasts from around the world to see its numerous, virtually intact sunken ships. The shipwrecks and remains are sometimes referred to as the "Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon".

My photo above from 12 January 2017, shows the still fully readable name on Heian Maru in both Japanese and Latin letters. This ship was built in 1930 as a large passenger cargo liner, and her maiden voyage was from Hong Kong to Seattle. While on a routine voyage in August 1941, she was abruptly recalled to Japan. Upon her return, the Japanese Navy converted the ship for use as a submarine tender.

Heian Maru is the largest ship in Truk Lagoon with a length of 155m. She was sunk on the second day of Operation Hailstone, as a torpedo struck her amidships and because of damage already sustained during the earlier raids, the Heian Maru sank quickly. She lies on her port side and her cargo contains many of the deadly efficient Japanese Long Lance Torpedoes, and submarine periscopes. Many artifacts can be found throughout this wreck.

My photo above from 12 January 2017 pictures one of the three Mitsubishi A6M Reisen "Zero" fighter planes found in the Fujikawa Maru, that was built in 1938 by the Mitsubishi Company as a passenger and cargo carrier. The Japanese Navy took possession of her in December 1940 and converted the ship to an aircraft ferry. The conversion included a compliment of old six inch guns on her bow and stern from the Russo-Japanese War.

Just prior to Operation Hailstone, Fujikawa Maru arrived in Truk and off loaded thirty Nakajima B6N Tenzan "Jill" bombers onto Eten Airfield. These aircraft had been disassembled for shipment and were unable to help defend Truk and were destroyed on the ground. Today this ship has an abundance of colorful soft and hard corals. The Times named Fujikawa Maru as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world, and Aquaviews ranked her as the fourth best wreck dive in the world!

My photo above from 13 January 2017, shows the operating table with some human bones on it, in the Shinkoku Maru that was built in 1939. Her first voyages were to carry oil from the United States to Japan, prior to the embargo. The Japanese Navy converted her to a fleet oiler and Shinkoku's most noteworthy mission was her participation in the Pearl Harbor attack as part of Admiral Nagumo's strike force. She is a large ship with a length of 152m.

In August 1942, she was torpedoed and damaged by an American submarine. She was at anchor in Truk Lagoon at the time of Operation Hailstone, and survived two days of attacks and two aerial torpedo hits before she finally sank. The bow gun of the Shinkoku Maru is heavily encrusted with colorful coral, and this wreck should be a wonderful night dive as the soft corals and hydroids are quite beautiful.

One of the most famous features of the Kensho Maru is her machine room, that can be seen in my photo above from 13 January 2017. She was built in 1938 and the Japanese Navy took control of the ship when the war began, shuttling supplies between Japan and the Marshall Islands. Eventually she was retrofitted with a deck gun and augmented with a Naval Gun Crew and Medical Staff for transporting the wounded.

Just prior to the Operation Hailstone attacks, Kensho Maru was in Kwajalein Atoll delivering supplies when she was bombed by American carrier aircraft and took a hit to her engine room. Unable to get underway, she was towed to Truk by the Momokawa Maru. Both ships were in Truk Lagoon when the attacks began and both were sunk. The Kensho Maru was struck by at least one bomb and an aerial torpedo, she sits upright with a slight list to port.

Operation Hailstone launched on 16-18 February 1944, as US Navy carrier aircraft conducted a surprise attack against Japanese ships anchored in Truk Lagoon (today Chuuk Lagoon), dropping 400 tons of bombs and torpedo. In total, forty ships were sunk and thousands of Japanese died. The airplanes shot down over Truk Lagoon were numerous and mainly Japanese, as they had lost their best pilots during the course of war by 1944.

My photo above, from 13 January 2017, pictures a Japanese Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" fighter aircraft that was one of the victims of Operation Hailstone, as it was shot down shortly after taking off from the airfield, and has been laying upside down at 9 meters depth on the seafloor off Eten island ever since. This makes it a perfect freediving wreck, straightforward without any currents and at least I had hardly any waves at all.

- See the Jacques Cousteau 1971 documentary here: http://adastra.jeandar.net/#post450



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Diving in Tanapag Lagoon, Saipan

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Sun, January 15, 2017 09:44:10

Diving in Tanapag Lagoon, Saipan

I went to Saipan, United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, for some easy diving and also some dives without an airtank. The obvious location was of course Tanapag Lagoon with its close proximity to Garapan, the main village on Saipan and my hotel there. I arrived in the evening of Saturday 7 January 2017, and had plans to arrange some diving the following day. I hadn't made any arrangements in advance which I usually do, and I lost a full day arranging and finally getting some diving under my belt in Saipan, through Masa Dive Saipan.

My photo above is from my first dive in Tanapag Lagoon on 10 January 2017. The Shoan Maru was a large Japanese freighter that was carrying Korean conscript soldiers as it was torpedoed by a US submarine west of Rota. The ship was damaged and towed to Saipan for extensive repairs, when it was attacked in an airstrike on 23 February 1944. The ship was either sunk in this airstrike or during the invasion of Saipan in June 1944. The Shoan Maru is badly broken up also as result from post World War II target practice and demolition exercises and lay on the seafloor at only 12 meters.

All my wreck diving photos are from 10 January 2017. My photo above pictures me freediving on the large Japanese Kawanishi H8K "Emily" flying boat. The wrecks in the relative shallow Tanapag Lagoon suffer harder blows from typhoons and wave action, than deeper laying wrecks. This "Emily" is quite broken up with parts from it found across the seafloor around the wing that once spanned 38 meters. Most of the fuselage is gone and a machinegun turret lays close by. This was a hard 12 meter deep freedive, me being cold after the Shoan Maru dive and also fighting the current, surf and rain.

My third and last dive in Saipan saw the rain stop and the sun come out, and the current and waves were also better at this wreck site. My photo above shows a Japanese Daihatsu Landing Craft laying on the seafloor at 11 meters depth in the middle of Tanapag lagoon. Conditions allowed me to have a few good passes at this wreck, getting some awesome footage, as seen above. In Saipan you will find the WWII Maritime Heritage Trail - Battle of Saipan, a collection of underwater heritage sites featuring Japanese and U.S. shipwrecks, assault vehicles, and aircraft wrecks from the Battle of Saipan June-July 1944.

Micronesia saw some of the fiercest and bloodiest battles in the Pacific theatre of war, and Saipan had its fair cut of the action which can be seen all over the island. My photo above is from 9 January 2017, picturing me inside the last Japanese Command Post in Saipan during World War II. This bunker is found on the north tip of Saipan along with a few big Japanese cannons, not far from both Suicide Cliff and Banzai Cliff. Towards the end of the Battle of Saipan in 1944, hundreds of Japanese civilians and soldiers jumped off these two cliffs to their deaths in the ocean and rocks below, to avoid being captured by US troops.

My photo above is not from Saipan at all. On the neighbouring island of Tinian you got this World War II airfield. Enola Gay took-off from here with the atom bomb "Little Boy" and annihilated Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. The second atom bomb "Fat Man" was also delivered by a B-29 from Tinian on 9 August 1945, erasing Nagasaki. This was the busiest airfield in the world back then. I took this photo on 7 January 2017, just before landing at Saipan's airport which itself got quite a few World War II bunkers.

- I'm writing this post from Chuuk Lagoon and will be leaving for Manila (via Guam) soon.



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Guam

TravelPosted by Jean Dar Thu, January 12, 2017 06:20:09

Guam – The largest island in Micronesia

Guam is one of the Mariana Islands and is the largest island in Micronesia. Its an immensely popular tourist destination for Japanese, Chinese and Koreans. In fact, you have far more Asian restaurants and tourists than Chamorrans or Westerners. With the historical ties to Micronesia and other parts on the western Pacific, the Japanese and Korean interest is understandable. The down side is of course the negative environmental impact in terms of pollution and inexperienced diver damaging corals.

My photo above from 4 January 2017 is from the pool area at my hotel. The contrast between Yap and Guam couldn't have been greater. Travelling from the sleepy and low key Yap to Guam, the hub of travelling and economy in Micronesia, is close to unreal. Guam receives a million or more Japanese visitors per year, as Yap gets some four thousand visitors in total per year. Guam is a part of the USA and all that comes with it: cars, restaurants, bars, shooting ranges, high-rise hotels, fashion and generally a higher living standard than average in Micronesia.

My second photo from 6 January is from the commercial centre of Guam, Tumon, where the shopping gallerias, restaurants and tourists are found. Having so many visitors from Japan, there are quite a few really good Japanese restaurants but also plenty of Korean and Chinese ones for their tourists. If Colonia in Yap is at best a sleepy village, a quick glance at my photo above lets you know what to expect of Guam and its capital Hagåtña. While being a part of the US, it felt more like being in an asian city due to all the asian restaurants, brochures and businesses in asian languages.

The historical Japanese connection with Guam is evident as they invaded the island during World War II, and traces of the war is found all over the Guam. Eventhough I find Saipan having a lot more easily accessible monuments and remnants from the war, but that's material for my next post. My photo above from 7 January pictures the Japanese World War II cannon found at Gun Beach. This historical site was only 15 minutes walk from my hotel. There is also a memorial park where the US troops initially landed on the north side of the Orote peninsula and Apra Harbor.

Diving is possible in Guam too, as in all of Micronesia. The water is warm and you don't really need a wetsuit in most cases. My photo above is from my dive at a dive location called the Shark Pit, less than an hour's boat ride from Apra Harbor. No sharks were seen on this dive though, but I did get some good pictures of a Moray Eel, as seen above. The photo is from 6 January 2017. There are quite a few dive sites not too far from Apra Harbor, and dive companies will let weather dictate locations sometimes, for safety reasons. Making dive arrangements before arrival is recommended.

Apra Harbor itself has got some interesting locations for diving too. My photo above is from a dive sit called Gab Gab 2, where the visibility is somewhat less than at the Shark Pit. However, the coral reef here in the middle of Apra Harbor, is an excellent one with plenty of soft corals and fishes. My photo from 6 January 2017 pictures some Batfishes at Gab Gab 2. Another popular dive in the harbour is where you can touch a wreck from both World War I and World War II at the same time! The World War I wreck is the SMS Cormoran and the one from World War II is Tokai Maru.

- I'm now in Chuuk, diving the famous Japanese World War II wrecks.

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Diving in Yap, Micronesia

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Sun, January 08, 2017 14:09:02

Yap - Stone money islands

Yap lays northeast of Palau and is a quite a different place. The capital Colonia is really a village and not a big one either, with only one resort/hotel that can offer a complete accommodation, meal, diving and spa experience. This is the Manta Ray Bay Resort. I found it out by staying at another resort that couldn't deliver a complete package for me. Colonia is a sleepy, chilled-out and calm place with not more to offer than diving.

Yap is one of four states in the Federate States of Micronesia, the other three are Chuuk (that I will be visiting shortly), Pohnpei and Kosrae. The different islands I have visited in the Philippines and Micronesia so far, have all been different from the others. And I'm not surprised considering the great distances between these islands. Yap is more traditional and perhaps conservative than all the rest in Micronesia. My first two photos are from 1 January, showing two traditional Yapese houses above and stone money below.

The stone money, also called Rai, is typically found in Yap. And while the monetary system of Yap appears to use these giant stones as tokens, it relies on an oral history of ownership. Being too large to move, buying an item with these stones is as easy as saying it no longer belongs to you. As long as the transaction is recorded in the oral history, it will be owned by the person you passed it on to, no physical movement of the stone is required. These Rai stones were quarried on several islands in Micronesia and transported to Yap.

On 2 January I had my first dive in Yap, captured in my photo above. This photo is from a dive site called Vertigo, a huge drop-off into deeper waters and incredible visibility that goes beyond 50 meters. Its easy to spot the approaching sharks with visibility as good as this, and there are three of them in my photo, but there were more than that present. The main difference between diving in Yap and Palau, is you don't have as many dive boats and divers as in Palau, resulting in a more relaxed and personal dive experience.

Another benefit is that accommodation is less pricey in Yap then neighbouring Palau, and the diving is at the same high level. My photo above is from 2 Janauary and pictures the unspoiled coral reef at Vertigo, with a black tip shark cruising the reef. I and my divemaster were the only two divers in the water at Vertigo when this photo was taken. It was really as relaxed and pleasant as the picture is. All in all, I saw three different spieces of sharks on this dive, Grey Reef Sharks, Black-tips and also a White-tip, and a lot of other fishes.

Yap offers equally spectacular diving as Palau, and without the crowds and also cheaper accommodation, about half of it in fact! You got the sharks, mantas, reefs with soft and hard corals, multitude of fishes to watch once you stick your head below the surface. Yap is as mentioned a sleepy place and the only this one can do here is dive, dive and dive some more. I also believe Manta Ray Bay is the best resort in Colonia, giving you most value for money.

- I'm currently in Saipan trying to organise some scuba and freediving.



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Diving in Palau, Micronesia

AdventurePosted by Jean Dar Fri, January 06, 2017 14:08:00

One of the absolute best dive locations in the world!

After spending another night in Cebu City, I was heading for Palau via Manila on 27 December 2016. A typhoon had just hit Luzon and bad weather followed for a couple of days, meaning my flight from Manila to Palau was delayed for four hours. As I finally got to Palau in the early hours of 28 December I was so tired that the first day had to be a rest day, and no diving or other activities were carried out. I did manage to arrange diving the following two days and made in total six dives at five locations in Palau.

I arranged my dives through the resort I was staying at, with a Chinese dive operator. The first plunge alone told me that Palau got some serious top end dive locations! My photo above is from that first dive, picturing me getting to the bottom of a blue hole called the Virgin Blue Hole on 29 December 2016. At a depth just shy of 30m at the very bottom of this blue hole, I and the rest made our way out through the exit which is at some 25m depth, while the entrance is clearly seen above me.

Small fishes, big fishes, sea turtles, spotted rays, hard and soft corals and a lot more is available in Palau. Various dive sites might often have different animals and corals depending on currents, depth etc. My photo of the Grey Reef Shark above is from my second dive in Palau at the famous Blue Corner. This location of the reef is famous for the amount of fishes found here, and got plenty of hard corals too. The current at Blue Corner was really strong when I took the photo above on 29 December 2016.

If Blue Corner is a must if you want to see Gray Reef Sharks up close, then the German Channel is a must if you want to see Manta Rays. Parts of the sea floor is sand here, so all you have to do is get down and wait for the Mantas to fly past you! The German Channel is a cleaning station where the Mantas come to get cleaned by smaller fishes, so its important to stay put on the sea floor and not disturb the cleaning fishes or Mantas, which may prevent the Mantas from coming there. My photo above is from 30 December 2016.

My photo above is from 30 December 2016, picturing a Red Lionfish close to Blue Corner. Lionfish venomous dorsal spines are used purely for defense and when threatened, the fish often faces its attacker in an upside-down posture which brings its spines to bear. However, its sting is usually not fatal to humans. So keeping some distance to it while taking photos or filming is recommended. Palau is a fascinating place to go diving at, offering something for everyone, at a cost of course.

Palau ranks as one of the absolute top diving locations in the world. It has got plenty of spectacular diving possibilities, covering from large pelagics to World War II wrecks and land installation. The only down side is the price tag for visiting Palau, I payed US$ 1.300 for five nights accommodation alone. The diving, all food and transport was added to it, making it the most expensive five days on any of my trips! I'm glad I did go to Palau diving, but I'm not sure I'll do it again due to the costs involved.

- I went to Yap after Palau and am now in Guam, heading for Saipan tomorrow.



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Cebu City - The Queen City Of The South

TravelPosted by Jean Dar Tue, January 03, 2017 08:14:28

Update from the oldest city in the Philippines

Cebu City is the oldest city is the Philippines and was founded by the Spaniards. Today there are churches, fortresses and other remains from these colonial days found in Cebu City and neighbouring Mactan Island, where the international airport is situated. But some modern attractions are also available here.All photos in this post are from 26 December 2016. First photo pictures me riding the world's first urban zipline. The ride is a short one, spanning from Tower 1 to Tower 2 on the Crown Regency Hotel, but the views are spectacular. A combo of the Zipline and the Edge Coaster costs 750 PHP. The Fuente Osmeña Circle is in the background, and during my three visits to Cebu City I had booked accommodation in walking distance to it.

The Crown Regency Hotel has a few other attractions to offer, besides the zipline. World's first Edge Coaster is pictured on the photo above, showing me giving it a thumbs-up. This coaster can tilt up to some 50 degrees and make you have a good look at the streets below. You start the ride tilted to the max and then you can control yourself if you want to continue that way or not. The entire ride round the building takes two minutes.

The sunset is beautiful from the top of the Crown Regency Hotel, with all of Cebu City and also Mactan island in full view. On my photo above one can see that the Edge Coaster really is on the very edge of the roof. There are two restaurants in the Crown Regency Hotel and Towers, but you also got plenty of eating options near the Fuente Osmeña Circle too. During the night, the Crown Regency Hotel is lit up with colourful lights on its facade.

I visited Cebu City three times during my first two weeks of the Philippines & Micronesia project. I stayed at different hotels each time, and eventhough the prices ranged from US$30 to 55, all hotels I stayed at in the city were good and well managed. They were also located max 5 minutes walk from the Fuente Osmeña Circle for practical reasons. If only staying in the city for catching a flight, I recommend some accomodation on Mactan Island, which is a lot closer to the international airport.

Read more about Cebu City here: http://adastra.jeandar.net/#post432



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Panglao Island - Balicasag Island - Bohol

TravelPosted by Jean Dar Sun, January 01, 2017 14:13:45

Second update from the Philippines & Micronesia project

Its been a week and a half since my last update on my Philippines & Micronesia project, and that depends mainly on poor Wi-Fi connection. Two typhoons have hit the Philippines during my stay, and they may also have affected Wi-Fi and internet connections.

Panglao Island lays just south of Bohol and is reached easily by a boat from Cebu City to Tagbilaran on the south side of Bohol. From there land transport will take you to Panglao Island across a bridge, and if you are going to the Alona Beach area, this ride will take approx half an hour. My photo above from 22 December 2016, pictures Alona Beach. Sadly there is not a single wastebasket on the beach, and a lot of plastic waste from lazy and careless tourists end up in the sea.

Balicasag Island is a popular diving spot south-west of Panglao, where sea turtles are frequently observed. Sea turtles are only one of the sea creatures that end up with plastic in their gut, disposed by humans into the oceans. My photo above from 23 December 2016, shows a sea turtle resting on some soft corals near Balicasag Island, a protected area that hopefully in the future will attract larger marine life. That is if human waste will not see a decline instead in those animals and corals there today.

My photo above from 24 December 2016 pictures the Chocolate Hills, that are probably Bohol's most famous tourist attraction. Most people who first see pictures of this landscape can hardly believe that these hills are not a man-made artifact. The Chocolate Hills consist of more than 1,200 hills. They are very uniform in shape and mostly between 30-50 meters high. These Hills are covered with grass, which at the end of the dry season, turns chocolate brown in colour

A Tarsier from Bohol is shown on my photo above from 24 December 2016. The Tarsier of the Philippines are threatened by the destruction of their natural forest habitat. For many years both legal and illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture have greatly reduced the forests where Tarsiers live, and reduced the population to a dangerously small size. If no action is taken now, the Philippine Tarsier can soon be added to the list of extinct species.

My last photo is me on the Sui-Slide Zipline in Loboc Eco Adventure Park, on 24 December 2016. This zipline is the highest and one of the longest in the Philippines, spanning 520m on the first cable and 460m on the second one. The starting point is at a height of 120m and 100m at the end. It is a thrilling ride that takes less than 30 seconds each way and you cross the Loboc River, seen on this photo, on both cables. There are of course both weight and length requirements for this zipline.

- I have been to Cebu City and Palau after Christmas and am now in Yap, Micronesia.



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Cagsawa - Legazpi - Malapascua

TravelPosted by Jean Dar Tue, December 20, 2016 16:01:58

First update from the Philippines & Micronesia project

My six week Philippines & Micronesia project started on 11 December, and so far I have visited Cagsawa, Legazpi, Cebu City and Malapascua Island, situated just north of the larger Cebu Island in the Viscayas. Here are five of my photos that I find showing the highlights of the trip so far. More of my photos will be posted as the trip unfolds, both here in the Philippines and in Micronesia.

My first photo pictures the Church Ruins of Cagsawa in front of Mount Mayon on 14 December. The baroque church of Cagsawa was built in 1587 and burned down by marauding Dutch in 1636, and reconstructed again in 1724. On 1 February 1814 the strongest eruption recorded to date of the Mayon volcano buried the town of Cagsawa and its surrounding areas, killing an estimated 2,000 people. Hundreds of inhabitants of the town of Cagsawa purportedly sought refuge in the church, but were also killed by the pyroclastic flows.

My second photo pictures the harbour of Legazpi with Mount Mayon in the background on 15 December. On some maps of Legazpi there will be a hill pointed out just south of the Embarcadero shopping mall, called Sleeping Lion Hill. Its from this hill I've taken the picture above. I first took a tricycle from Old Albay where my hotel was to the foot of Sleeping Lion Hill, then a girl offered to "guide" me up the hill, and I accepted since the path is muddy, slippery and not obvious, but also with safety in mind. She did of course get a tip for her troubles.

My third photo is from December 17, showing the beaches of Malapascua. I had a hard time getting there due to cancellation of my flight from Legazpi to Manila, where I would catch a second flight to Cebu City and from there make my way to Maya on the nothmost tip of Cebu Island, hop on a boat bound for Malapascua. My flight was cancelled due to bad weather, and in Legazpi the rain was pouring down all night and all day! Finally I managed to rebook my ticket to a rerouted flight to Cebu City, arriving there quite late, tired and hungry, after having spent all day sorting things out in Legazpi.

On the evening of December 18, I had a night dive west of the Lighthouse on Malapascua. On my first dive that day, I did see a smaller sea snake of the spieces Blue-lipped Sea Krait (Laticauda laticaudata). On my night dive, the second dive of the day, I saw a real big one, surely one meter long, indicating it must have been an adult Blue-Lipped Sea Krait. This is a venomous sea snake that I have great respect for even if they are known not to attack humans, if not provoked. This photo is actually from the film footage from that night dive.

Last but not least, my photo of a Thresher Shark from yesterday, December 19. This spieces of shark is an odd looking one, with large eyes and an extremely long tail fin. In fact, half of the shark's total length is made up by this long tail fin! The Thresher Shark is famous for special jumping techniques and behavior called "breaching" where they jump out of the water and into the air. One did exectly this when my dive boat had stopped and I was gearing up for the plunge. I would have loved to have that on photo or film..

- I'm going to Panglao Island and Bohol tomorrow, stay tuned!

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The Winter Banner 2016/2017

jeandar.netPosted by Jean Dar Thu, December 15, 2016 00:51:56

The Cagsawa Banner

I guess its time to swap banners now, and what could be more appropriate than my photo from the Cagsawa Church Ruins with Mount Mayon in the distance from yesterday. I have been here in the Albay region, the Philippines, for three days and Mount Mayon is not surprisingly the reference point where ever you go.

The story behind the Cagsawa Church Ruins and Mount Mayon itself is a dramatic and fatal one, that I will tell again once starting posting updates with photos from my ongoing trip. My Philippines & Micronesia project started on Sunday 11 December, and will continue to 20 January when I am supposed to touch down on Swedish soil again.



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The Philippines & Micronesia (23)

TravelPosted by Jean Dar Tue, December 06, 2016 23:08:21

Full itinerary of my Philippines & Micronesia project

My previous posts have more or less covered all the locations I will experience in my forthcoming six-week long solo trip to the Philippines & Micronesia. My girlfriend Paula will not be joining me on this trip, which made me put together the longest itinerary to date!

This is really just a rough blue print and all the details have been spared, there is a lot more to this trip than can be read here!

11-13 Dec: Stockholm – Beijing – Manila

13 Dec: Manila – Legazpi: Mount Mayon, Sleeping Lion Hill, Lignon Hill

14 Dec: Daraga Church and Cagsawa Church Ruins

15 Dec: Donsol: Whaleshark interaction

16 Dec: Legazpi – Manila – Cebu City: Restaurants and museum

17 Dec: Cebu City – Malapascua: travel by bus and boat.

18-19 Dec: Scuba diving including Threasher Shark dive, night-dive and more

20 Dec: Malapascua – Cebu City: Travel by boat and bus, restaurants, museum

21 Dec: Cebu City – Panglao Island, Bohol: Restaurant, arrange scuba diving

22-25 Dec: Scuba diving, adventure sports, Tarsiers, Chocolate Hills, landscapes

26 Dec: Panglao Island, Bohol – Cebu City. Restaurants/museum

27 Dec: Cebu City – Manila – Palau: Arrange scuba diving

28-31 Dec: Scuba diving/ freediving/land or jungle tour/culture/history

1-4 Jan: Palau – Yap: Scuba diving/island tour/culture/history

4-7 Jan: Yap – Guam: Scuba diving/island tour/culture/history

7-11 Jan: Guam – Saipan: Freediving/scuba diving/island tour/culture/history

11-15 Jan: Saipan – Guam – Chuuk: Wreck-diving/freediving/land tour/culture/history

16-19 Jan: Chuuk – Guam – Manila: Taal volcano/museums/shopping/culture/history

20 Jan: Manila – Beijing – Stockholm

The very last location on this trip will be Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. Taal volcano can be reached from here on a day trip, and so can a lot of other interesting places in the greater Manila region.

All domestic flight reservations for the Philippines are now made, and in total 16 separate flights will link together all the various parts of this travel project. Only accomodation in Cebu City and Manila remain and will be sorted out before this weekend.

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The Philippines & Micronesia (22)

TravelPosted by Jean Dar Sat, December 03, 2016 00:30:49

The Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon

During World War II, the Truk atoll was host to Japan's Imperial Fleet, which was left destroyed in the wake of Operation Hailstone 16-18 February 1944, often referred to as Japan's Pearl Harbor. Today, hundreds of Japanese aircraft and other military machines remain at the bottom of the lagoon, making it one of the world's best wreck dive sites.

In February 16-18, 1944, five fleet carriers and four light carriers, along with support ships and some 500 aircraft, descended on the islands in a surprise attack. Just a week before the attack, the Japanese military had moved additional ships to the area, and, as a result, approximately 250 Japanese aircraft were destroyed and more than 50 ships sunk.

An estimated 400 Japanese soldiers were killed in one ship alone, trapped in the cargo hold. Most of the fleet remains in exactly the same spot it was left, largely forgotten by the world until the end of the 1960's.

Jacques Cousteau's 1969 film Lagoon of Lost Ships (see previous post here at Ad Astra) explored the wreck-littered lagoon, and many of the sunken ships were then still full of bodies. As wreck divers brought attention to the site, Japan began recovery efforts, and many bodies have been removed and returned to Japan for burial. A few, however, remain.

Many of the wrecks are visible through the shallow, clear water, making it an accessible dive. The wrecks themselves can be very dangerous, not only because of ragged edges and tangles of cables but because of half-century old oil and fuel leaking into the water, creating a potentially dangerous situation.

Up until the 1990's, the lagoon was known at Truk, but it is now called Chuuk. Many maps still show both names. Needless to say that this location will be an excellent ending to my Micronesian leg of my Philippines & Micronesia project.

- The full itinerary of my Philippines & Micronesia project will be posted here next week!



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The Philippines & Micronesia (21)

TravelPosted by Jean Dar Sun, November 27, 2016 19:38:10

Two weeks to go!

After having covered Palau, Yap, Guam, Saipan and perhaps even Tinian in Micronesia, my travel project will take me to Chuuk Islands, also known as Truk Lagoon. This location was the scene of a major battle in 1944 during World War II.

Chuuk is the best wreck diving location on the planet, as this lagoon is scattered with Japanese shipwrecks, submarines and airplanes that went down in Operation Hailstone on February 16-18, 1944. Operation Hailstone was a massive naval air and surface attack during World War II by the United States Navy against the Japanese naval and air base on Chuuk Islands.

For more that two decades this Pacific atoll was more or less forgotten, and so were the sunken Japanese ships, airplanes and submarines in it. Then came Jacques Cousteau along in 1969, exactly 25 years after those thunderous days in February 1944 and captured it all in his film. Today Chuuk is known as the best wreck diving site on the planet!

Featured here in its entirety, Jacques Cousteau's 1969 documentary "Lagoon of Lost Ships" is about the shipwrecks of Truk Lagoon. When it was first released, this documentary reveled new discoveries and to this day still inspires awe. Many contemporary divers cite this film as one of the reasons they became interested in wreck diving.

A number of factors made this documentary so successful. Only twenty five years had past since Operation Hailstone, when the ships and airplanes of Truk were sunk. Breathtakingly preserved in this film and untouched by divers and souvenir hunters. Second was the technology employed, a scanning radar device with a chart recorder, and maps from the 1968-1969 USS Tanner hydrographic survey.

Diving in Chuuk Islands will of course be something very special, as this is not only a war graveyard, but also a location of historical value. For practical reasons this will be a solo trip without Paula, so I have just tried to fit in all the best into this fast moving island-hopping project.

- More about Chuuk Islands will follow.

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