Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon - Micronesia

For two days in 1944, Allied bombers rained destruction on the beaches of the Caroline Islands in the South Pacific. During World War II, the lagoon was host to Japan’s Imperial fleet, which left decimated in the wake of Operation Hailstone, often referred to as Japan’s Pearl Harbor. Today, hundreds of Japanese aircraft and other military machines lay at the bottom of the lagoon, making it one of the world’s best World War II wreck dive sites.

Jacques Cousteau’s 1969 film “Lagoon of Lost Ships” explored the wreck-littered lagoon, and many of the sunken ships were then still full of bodies. As wreck divers began to bring 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 for many. 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.

More on diving the Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon on Atlas Obscura…


Wreck of the Sub Marine Explorer - San Telmo, Panama

The recently discovered Wreck of the Sub Marine Explorer, the first submersible that was capable of diving and rising without help from the surface, completes a story of marine science discovery that saw multiple deaths due to decompression sickness. 

Finished in 1866 by German inventor Julius Kroehl, the Sub Marine Explorer was a wonder of contemporary naval design. Despite being hand-powered, the long, “cigar-shaped” vessel contained pressurized working compartments for passengers and a sophisticated-for-the-time ballast system which allowed the ship to take on water to sink and use pressurized air to rise. The Explorer was known to dive more than 100 feet below the surface for hours at a time, an unmitigated success save for the strange “fever” that seemed to afflict the sailors after dives. The boat ran proof of concept trials for just one year until Kroehl himself died of the mysterious fever which is now known to have been violent decompression sickness, otherwise called “the bends.”   

Despite the universal sickness that afflicted the early passengers of the vessel, its revolutionary operating technology caused critics to overlook the strange illness and the ship was set to work as a diving ship among Panama’s Pearl Islands. However the fatal sickness continued to claim the lives of the submarine’s crew and soon the historic ship was simply lost and forgotten.

However the severely rusting hull of the Sub Marine Explorer was finally rediscovered in 2001 by randomly passing archeologist, James Delgado. The ship is in a severe state of decay after more than a century of neglect, but joint efforts from America and Panama are being discussed to preserve the important, if deadly, piece of maritime history. 

Visit the Wreck of the Sub Marine Explorer on Atlas Obscura!

Today the relics of a warship that sank in the 16th century are again on public view. The new Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, England, was unveiled yesterday and is now open to the public, and in the heart of this sleek new structure is the skeletal wooden hull of what was Henry VIII’s flagship.

Built in 1510 from about 600 oak trees, the Mary Rose had an illustrious battling career until it sank in 1545 just outside the Portsmouth Harbor. There’s some debate over whether or not the invading French forces were to blame (the French, of course, say they took down the formidable ship, the English say it was an accident), but no matter the circumstances, it sank. So did much of the over 400 member crew, with only about 30 making it out alive due to the netting over the deck that was meant to keep off enemy soldiers. The screams of the crew were said to have been so violent as to be heard on the shores. And there they remained beneath the water, until the ship was found in 1971, and then raised from the depths in 1982…

Raised from the Depths, a 16th Century Ship and Her Crew Return to Public View