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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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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 cockpit.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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!

    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.

    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 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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