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Rabaul is location of one of the world's largest concentrations
of WWII wrecks. 64 ships alone are located within Simpson Harbour,
with more outside. The Duke of York Islands, midway between New
Britain and New Ireland, offer some of the best reef diving in Papua
New Guinea. Whales and other marine mammals are common sights in
the islands. These islands are only accessible by live-aboard or
on special day departures during exceptional weather. Rabaul can
be dived all year round. When winds from the south-east affect Simpson
Harbour, the north coast can be dived in calm water. The water is
always warm, but lycra or 3mm wet suits are recommended as protection
from coral and wreck abrasions.
- HAKKAI MARU
was built in Japan as a Navy auxiliary vessel, with a displacement
of 5110 tons and length of 422ft. On 17 January 1944 she was alongside
and repairing a Japanese cruiser near New Georgia when allied
planes attacked and sank the cruiser. Hakkai Maru returned to
Rabaul for safety and anchored at 1700. About twenty minutes later
she was sunk by US Mitchell bombers employing a method called
"skip bombing". 25 crew were killed in the attack. The
ship's clock, now in Rabaul Museum, stopped at 1740. Hakkai Maru
lies upright, with her stern in 80ft and the bridge in 100ft of
water. The stern contains a coral encrusted cannon that is one
of the most famous images of Rabaul's wrecks. Hakkai Maru is perhaps
the best wreck dive at Rabaul, not merely because of her size,
but also because of the wealth of coral and invertebrate growth
on her superstructure and hull.
- GEORGE'S WRECK
Named after the man who discovered her, George's Wreck was sunk
close to the shore near Nordup. Her bow lies in 50ft of water,
and her hull follows the contours of the reef down to the stern
in 200ft. The vessel's identity has yet to be ascertained.
- MITSUBISHI BI-PLANE
The most photographed wreck in Rabaul, and perhaps the most famous
WWII aircraft wreck in the world, this reconnaissance plane lies
perfectly upright in 80ft. Attacked by fighters while at anchor
off a beautiful patch of reef off the north coast, this sea plane
rests on a sandy bottom. Her float has become dislodged and lies,
twisted, at the front of the plane. Her struts are still intact
and covered in delicate hard and soft corals. Her three-bladed
propeller is still in place on her nose.
- ZERO FIGHTER PLANE
Another famous image from Rabaul, this Zero lies upright in 100ft
off the coast at Kokopo. She was one of the last models to be
made of this astonishing plane, and it is possible to sit in the
- MANKO MARU
A 1500 ton refrigeration ship, the Manko Maru lies upright in
80ft on a sandy bottom. The huge gaping holes in her hull, and
the twisted metal superstructure give a clear indication of the
forces that sealed her fate when she sank on 2 November 1943.
The wreck is now home for a tremendous array of fish species,
including morays, jacks and coral trout. This wreck is an excellent
penetration dive for more experienced divers.
- ITALY MARU
A 5860 ton cargo transporter lying on her starboard side in 100-140ft
of water. A large hole in her port side allows access to the engine
room. Fuel drums litter the sand around the wreck.
- YANYURI MARU
A large cargo ship of about 5000 tons, the Yanyuri Maru was sunk
on 17 January 1994. She is a deep dive, with her deck at 140ft.
A lifeboat rests in the sand beside the wreck in 200ft. Many of
the relics that can be found in Rabaul War Museum originate from
this wreck, and while she has little left of interest by way of
small artefacts, she is an imposing wreck and rich in marine life.
- KANSHIN MARU
This 2000 ton cargo transporter, sunk on 17 January 1944, lies
upright on a sandy bottom in 140ft of water. She offers an exceptional
deep diving experience for advanced divers. Her holds contain
parts, torpedoes, ammunition and many small artefacts. A truck
with her crank handle still in place can be found in one of these
holds. Numerous divers have tried to start the truck, and some
even say they have succeeded!
- YAMAMOTO MARU
A 4370 ton cargo transporter lying upright in 100ft. Sunk on 18
April 1943 the Yamamoto Maru was carrying truck bodies, which
can still be readily seen in her holds.
- SUBMARINE BASE
At the edge of the north shore, on the outside of Rabaul Harbour
is a 1000ft drop-off which enabled Japanese submarines to move
in without being detected, to re-supply. Tunnels built into the
land cliff face held all the supplies. Currents are often very
fierce along the drop-off, but Submarine Base provides one of
the finest reef dives in the immediate Rabaul area.
- WATOM ISLAND
Watom Island is located off the north shore of the Gazelle Peninsula.
The island was used by the Japanese as an Allied POW camp, and
locals tell of summary executions by the Japanese military. The
island is surrounded by a fringing reef, encircling a shallow
lagoon. Both sides of the reef are pitted with grottoes and caves,
in which can be found glassfish, spiny lobsters and sleepy groupers.
The water is consistently clear, and the diving is easy. Watom
is an ideal location for a day tour with a picnic lunch.
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