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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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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:

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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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"We Must Act On Climate Change"

Planet Earth!Posted by Jean Dar Mon, November 21, 2016 22:45:15

Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres: We must act on climate change

Karen Christiana Figueres Olsen is a Costa Rican diplomat with 35 years of experience in high level national and international policy and multilateral negotiations. She was appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention in Climate Change (UNFCCC) in July 2010, six months after the failed COP15 in Copenhagen.

During the next six years she dedicated herself to rebuilding the global climate change negotiating process based on fairness, transparency and collaboration, leading to the 2015 Paris Agreement, widely recognized as a historical achievement. Over the years she has worked in the fields of climate change, sustainable development, energy, land use, technical and financial cooperation. She is a frequent public speaker and widely published author.

COP21/CMP11 held in Paris in December 2015 has been widely heralded as a historic achievement. With the leadership of the United Nations Secretary-General and President Hollande of France, and beating all previous records of Head of State gatherings on one day, 155 Heads of State came together under one roof to send a strong political signal of support for an ambitious and effective agreement.

On the final day under the presidency of Laurent Fabius the 195 governments which are Parties to the Climate Change Convention unanimously adopted Paris Agreement, accelerating the intentional transformation of the global economy toward low carbon and high resilience.

Unfortunatly Donald Trump, the President-elect of USA, has promised to cancel this historical climate deal. But is he crazy enough to do it? Read more about it here:

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Alberta's Oil Sands

Planet Earth!Posted by Jean Dar Thu, November 17, 2016 21:45:15

This Changes Everything – Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein didn't think climate change was her issue but when she realised the close link between environmental destruction and inequality, everything changed.

In Naomi's home country, the Canadian government granted virtual free rein to companies seeking oil in Alberta's tar sands, creating a boom town in Fort McMurray. Like large numbers of activists across the world, the indigenous population in Alberta protested the environmental damage. How can we connect the dots among movements around the world to tackle climate change and inequality at the same time?

Alberta's oil sands are the third-largest proven crude oil reserve in the world, next to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The Government of Alberta seeks to enhance Alberta's role as a world leading energy supplier as Oil sands production is expected to increase from 2.3 million barrels per day in 2014 to 4 million barrels per day in 2024.

Read more on how much of earth's wilderness is destroyed by humans here:

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The Philippines & Micronesia (20)

TravelPosted by Jean Dar Mon, November 14, 2016 23:09:01

The World War II Maritime Heritage Trail: The Shoan Maru wreck

The Japanese Freighter (presumably) Shoan Maru is included in Saipan's Maritime Heritage Trail, and I hope to freedive this wreck too in Tanapag Lagoon with some other World War II wrecks.

The wreck is locally referred to as the Chinsen, or simply as "the shipwreck", this wreck is a Japanese merchant vessel tentatively identified in 1990 as Shoan Maru. Nearly two dozen merchant vessels, including Shoan Maru, were sunk in Tanapag Lagoon or in deep waters surrounding Saipan during World War II. Commissioned during the war years, they served as auxiliary submarine chasers, guard boats, and transports. Many ships were used as transports during the inter-war years and later requisitioned for use were either purchased from foreign builders or seized during World War I.

The list of typical transports provided in warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869-1945 includes ships built in Scotland, Germany, and England. These ships were generally fitted with vertical tripleexpansion steam engines and water tube boilers, a good time-marker for pre-war build. Very Little information ha come to light regarding the story of Shoan Maru. It is referenced only as a standard steamer transport of 5,624 gross registered tons built in 1937 and requisitioned for use during the war years. As such, it was pupose-built for wartime use.

According to records of U.S. submarine attacks, Shoan Maru was torpedoed on 27 January 1943 west of Rota. It was damaged but, due to defective torpedoes, the ship did not sink and was later towed to Saipan for repair or salvage. At the time of the submarine attack it was reportedly carrying conscripted Korean soldiers which have since been commemorated on the shipwreck site with a monument. The ship was still grounded in Tanapag Lagoon more than a year later, when it was damaged beyond repair during airborne raids from the Task Force 58 carriers Essex and Yorktown.

During the post-war cleanup of the harbor, the ship was cut down to the waterline because it was considered a navigation hazard. Between 1949-1962, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had control over much of the northern half of Saipan. Under the cover of the U.S. Navy, a facility known as the Naval Technical Training Unit (NTTU) provided training in intelligence tradecraft, communications, counter-intelligence, psychological warfare techniques and sabotage. The remains of Shoan Maru were reportedly used for explosives training by the NTTU.

The disarticulated remains of this Japanese freighter lie in 10m of water on a sandy bottom. The ship lies on its starboard side and little remains intact, except for a section of the bow. Although most of the ship has been damaged due to the effects of explosives and salvage efforts, the major elements such as the engines, boilers, steering gear, and superstructure are located in the general area of their original positions. At one time, a few bicycles were still visible in the cargo areas, however, these have not been seen for years. The overall length of Shoan Maru was approximately 125m, but the wreck as it appears on the seabed is scattered over an area of approximately 274m. This is likely due to salvage and explosion efforts.

Marine life on the wreck is abundant and changes from season to season. The sheer size of the surviving structure attracts greater numbers of larger fish species. Predatory red bass patrol the edge of the wreck, and also school at the bow in heavier currents. Shoals of daisy parrotfish scour the hull for algae. Schools of yellowfin goatfish shelter on the leeward side, often associating with bluestripe snapper, whose colouring they resemble. Solitary Chinese trumpetfish can also be found on the on the leeward side of the wreck.

- I'm making the last reservations for the Philippines & Micronesia project at the moment.

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TravelPosted by Jean Dar Wed, November 09, 2016 22:40:37

The World War II Maritime Heritage Trail: The Kawanishi H8K wreck

Tanapag Lagoon, or Puetton Tanapag in Chamorro, has been Saipan's primary harbor from prehistoric times through to the present day. Mostly due to its deep waters and natural barriers against the forces of the ocean, the lagoon has been an important maritime resource since prehistoric times. Mañagaha Island in the lagoon, and the surrounding barrier reef form a natural breakwater making Tanapag Lagoon an ideal haven for watercraft of all shapes and sizes.

It was significant to the invasion of World War II. The Japanese Imperial Navy had a base here and launched decisive attacks against the Allied forces from this strategic position. After seizing the island, the United States Navy took possession of the lagoon and expanded its harbor facilities substantially. Today it is home to 9 of the 12 sites that were chosen to be part of the maritime heritage trail.

The World War II Maritime Heritage Trail includes the large Japanese flying boat Kawanishi H8K (Allied named "Emily") pictured in this video. My intention is to freedive this wreck just as Freediver HD does in the video. However, I must mention that the World War II footage in this video is most certainly not of this patricular airplane.

Info on the Maritime Heritage Trail of Saipan: Located in Saipan, Northern Marianas Islands, United States. Maximum depth of Tanapag Lagoon is 14m, with an avarage of 3m through to Garapan Lagoon. Chalan Kanoa Lagoon is very shallow with depths constantly changing with the tide. Scuba diving, freediving, snorkeling, swimming and kayaking the Maritime Heritage Trail of Saipan is suitable for all levels and ages and is accessible all year round.

- See the previous video from Tanapag Lagoon here:

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