Chuuk Lagoon (previously called Truk Atoll or Truk Lagoon) is one of the greatest diving paradises for war wreck scuba diving enthusiasts. Chuuk is part of the Federated States of Micronesia and during World War Two it was the Empire of Japan's main naval base in the South Pacific.

It was devasted by a massive American operation that sent masses of Japanese military equipment to the bottom where it remains today. Another hotspot in the Pacific for diving wrecks of World War Two is the Solomon Islands that was home to the protracted and destructive Guadacanal Campaign that wore the Japanese Navy down.

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The Battle Of Truk

As the Japanese sailed from defeat to defeat while the American industrial might kicked into gear the war progressively swung against the Japanese. And in 1944, Japan's mighty base at Chuuk came into the American crosshairs. In February 1944 in Operation Hailstone America devastated the Japanese forces here in a major attack. Later there was the much smaller British attack on the island in Operation Inmate in June 1945.

  • Population Of Chuuk: About 36,000 People

Of all the Japanese strongholds in the Pacific, Truk Lagoon was the most formidable. Considered the Pearl Harbor or Gibraltar of Japan, it had a garrison of around 28,000 men. The Japanese stationed battleships (including the Yamato - largest battleship ever built), aircraft carriers, destroyers, cruisers, and many other ships here.

The American fleet was formidable consisting of 5 fleet carriers, 4 light carriers, and 7 battleships. One of the fleet carriers was the USS Intrepid which can be visited in NYC's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum today.

  • Raid On Pearl Harbor: 2,355 Killed
  • Raid On Truk: Over 4,500 Killed

Tipped off about the impending American attack, the Japanese withdrew their larger warships. But the three days of bombardment destroyed Truk's capacity as a naval base. The Americans sank:

  • Two Lights Cruisers 
  • Four Destroyers 
  • Three Auxiliary Cruisers
  • Six Auxiliary Ships
  • 32 Merchant Ships
  • Over 250 Aircraft Destroyed

After that attack (even though they had withdrawn their largest ships), "Truk lagoon was the biggest graveyard of ships in the world." Truk was largely neutralized as a threat and bypassed as the Allied island hoped on their way to Japan.

Related: The Best 10 Destinations to Go Diving In 2019

The Lagoon Today

Today the lagoon draws wreck diving enthusiasts from around the world. The bottom of the lagoon is littered with virtually intact sunken ships and numerous aircraft - earning it the title the "Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon".

The waters around Chuuk Lagoon are crystal clear and most of the wrecks are less than 15 meters (or 49 feet) beneath the waves. Making this even more special, the lagoon is devoid of ocean currents and so there are many items to be found across the decks and beneath the decks. Divers can see human remains, bombs, gas masks, depth charges, motorcycles, fighter aircraft, and much more.

The wrecks are now coated in coral creating an environment that attracts marine life like sharks, turtles, fish, and manta rays.

  • Oil spillage: From A Ecological Point Of View, The Ships By This Time Were Low On Fuel, So Relatively Not Much Oil Was Leaked Into The Lagoon
  • Classified: As A Japanese War Grave

While the main attraction may be wreck diving, Turk Lagoon is surrounded by a barrier reef where one can see corals of all shapes and colors.

  • Micronesia Visa Policy: US Citizens Visa-Free 365 Days, Schengen Zone Citizens 90 Days, All Others Visa-Free 30 Days

Related: Samoa Vs American Samoa: Why Are They Worth It, And Which You Should Visit?

Driving Chuuk Lagoon

The lagoon offers sites suitable for every level of scuba divers. One can dive in a shallower wreck or explore deep wrecks that require special equipment. Many of the wrecks are suitable for Open Water divers (others exceed recreational dive limits requiring technical diving certifications).

  • Diving Season: Year-Round

Note: Rainy Season From April To December and The Dry Season From December to April

Some of the most popular wrecks are:

  • The San Francisco Maru: The Most Famous Of The Wreck. It Boasts 3 Tanks With Guns On Deck - However, It is Deep At 170 Feet or 52 Meters
  • Betty Bomber: Shallow and Easy For All Divers. It Used To Lit Up when Firing its Guns Earning it The Name "flying Cigar"
  • The Fujikawa Maru: Filled With Fish and Coral, Easy to Access The Staterooms and Baths
  • I-169 "Shinohara": The Submarine That Sunk After Accidentally Flooding. One Can't Enter It But It Is Great To Swim around. It Participated In The Raid On Pearl Harbor
  • Prohibited: This Is A War Grave So Taking Of Relics It Strictly Prohibited by Law
  • Water Temperature: 27°C – 30°C, 3mm Wetsuit or Rashie

If one is interested in diving in Chuuk Lagoon two of the diving companies to contact are Blue Water Travel and Dive Adventures.

Next: How To Get The Most Out Of A Historical Visit To The Pearl Harbor Museum & Memorial