For scuba divers, it is said that there are four great pilgrimmages that wreck divers try to make: Scapa Flow, North Carolina Outer Banks, Great Lakes and Truk Lagoon.  Of these, the first and the greatest is Truk Lagoon.

Truk Lagoon is not an easy place to get to.  The best way to get there is to fly to Guam (itself not the easiest place to get to) and then catch the direct flight 90 minutes south on Continental (Now United, with the Continental tail-logo).   But the rewards for the travel weary diver are extraordinary.

In February 1944 the U.S. Navy sunk over 70 destroyers, merchant vessels, submarines and aircraft in a two day period as part of "Operation Hailstone".  The wrecks lay in the lagoon, largely undisturbed until Jacque Cousteau discovered most of them in the 1970s.  Even today, more are still being discovered.

The wreck are spectacular.  Of the key 12 or so "featured wrecks" that the main dive operators predominantly visit, almost any one of them would be the star diving attraction at any other destination.  Several of the wrecks (the Fujikawa Maru, the Shinkoko Maru, the Nippo Maru) could each make a legitimate argument to be the single finest wreck dive in the world (and are often named as such in diving magazines).  The fact that they, and many others, are within a 20 minute boat ride of each other is simply extraordinary.  The featured wrecks are still mostly laden with wartime cargo, from tanks and field artillery, to mines and bullets, and (for some reason) thousands of bottles of sake and beer.  And for the most part they are huge wrecks - most of them are more than 400 feet long.

Although promotional adverts often refer to wrecks for all different experience levels, the "featured wrecks" tend to be on the deep side.  Most diving in the lagoon is around or below 100 feet.  There are shallower wrecks (the Betty Bomber, the Sankisan Maru, and others) but they are in a bit of a minority.  Inexperienced divers will gain far more from a trip if they wait till they have a bit of experience under their weight belt before making the journey to Truk.

The "other" wrecks which are less often visited fall into two categories - very deep wrecks, like the Destoyer Oite, which are only visited occasionally by technical divers - and smaller less interesting wrecks, like barges and patrol boats.  Anywhere else these smaller wrecks would be regularly dived, but in Truk Lagoon, why would you waste your time?

Diving in Truk Lagoon has two other qualities making it appealing.  Firstly, it is extremely warm, even by tropical standards.  Many divers eschew even using a wetsuit, although a skin and/or a shorty wet suit can help with occasional jellyfish and other small critter irritations. Secondly, there are virtually no currents, making diving a less stressful affair.  Although marine life is not abundant by Pacific standards, the wrecks have a fairly good assortment of fish, and you may see the occasional reef shark, although this has become less common. If you get really lucky, you can see a pod of dolphins!

There are broadly four ways to dive Truk Lagoon.  Either on one of the two liveaboards (the Truk Odyssey and the SS Thorfinn) or from land based dive operators (Truk Stop and Blue Lagoon).  A new liveaboard Truk Siren is scheduled to start in Nov 2014. All of them accomodate technical divers, but only Truk Stop and Blue Lagoon  is able to provide trimix for seriously deep dives.  The disadvantage to Truk Stop is that being located in Weno, it is further from the wrecks (although not inordinately so) than all the other operators.  The Thorfinn is a liveaboard in name only: the vessel is permanently moored, and all diving is done from skiffs.  The Odyssey moves from site to site, and diving is done directly from the vessel; hard-core divers can get four dives in during the day, and a night dive, too! An additional advantage to the Odyssey is that once moored at the wreck, and after a very comprehensive dive-briefing, "the pool is open" and you are free to dive whenever you are ready; no boat schedule and no rush. Guides are available (and good) but if you are a competent solo diver, that works, too. 

Bow gun of the San Francisco Maru

Tank on the Nippo Maru

The Fujikawa Maru