One of the benefits of going on a wreck expedition with Aron and The Dirty Dozen is that you sometimes get to dive wrecks that are either not well known or not dived very often — or both. Such was the case when we had the opportunity to dive a wreck that was located relatively recently in 2015. Our dive on the Showa Maru was a “warm-up” dive before planning to dive the USS Perry.
The ship has not been 100% conclusively identified. However, there is reasonable evidence that it is the Showa Maru No 5 (Rod Macdonald has more extensive information on his website). Before WW II, the ship started as the whaler Galicia but was requisitioned for wartime service and was fitted out with Anti-Submarine Warfare equipment and renamed Showa Maru No 5.
The background on this ship and the situation in which it sank is interesting.
As Operation Desecrate 1 got underway, the ships in the lagoon were “sitting ducks.” Based on the reef structure, there are only a limited number of passages out of the lagoon. On 30 March 1944, the Showa Maru No 5 was leading a convoy of other ships through a passage to escape the confines of the lagoon. As she was going up the pass, she was attacked and sunk — which blocked the way for all the other ships.
Below are two maps of the area and the one on the right has a satellite overlay. If you were to look at the map on the left, you would conclude that the ocean is wide open from the harbor. However, when overlaid with the satellite image, you can clearly see the “west passage” which is, indeed, a narrow gap in the reef which allows ships to pass out into the open ocean. As the Showa Maru was attacked, she started to sink and blocked that passage thereby blocking all the ships behind her in the convoy (she was the lead ship).
Today, the ship lies on her port side with a lot of rubble and debris in the field in front of her. She is in about 155 feet of water. Below is an excellent diagram produced by Rod Macdonald and from his YouTube video on the wreck (link below in the References section).
There are a couple areas where penetration is possible. I stayed on the outside and took photos; however, James Draker went into the small cargo hold opening near the bow and encountered a rack of depth charges that were perilously hanging due to the fact that the ship was on her side.
Unfortunately, I was having an “off” day with my camera setup and the strobes weren’t pointed in the right direction. The end result was that pictures with artificial light had quite a bit of backscatter. I cleaned up a bunch of that in Lightroom but they aren’t my best work.
I’ve included photos below that show different areas of the wreck; however, most of my time was spent taking photos of the 3-inch gun (80mm) near the bow.
Antti and I also noticed something in the debris pile which looked like the binnacle for the compass so I’ve included a photo of that below for anybody else who wants to investigate further.
Thanks to Matt Boyle for clarifications on the post (and for his excellent dive brief prior to the dive). Also, thanks to Richard Barnden for getting us on the wreck!