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Soft coral on the wreck of the Hirakowa Maru by Jenny Harris. Soft Corals on Hirokawa Maru

The Japanese transport Hirokawa Maru was sunk in November 1942 quite close to the beach near Bonegi Creek which is about 8 miles (13 km) west of Honiara. It was built in 1940 and was originally about 480 feet long but the bow is now completely shattered. The ship lies on a steep slope on its port side with the stern section in reasonable condition. The stern lies in 58 metres which is a little deep for recreational diving. The propellers were salvaged in the 1960ís.

My dive guide was Gareth Colman who operates Coastwatchers from the Honiara Hotel. Our dive plan was to swim along the wreck to the stern but to only go to 40 metres for a quick look.

This dive was going to be a quick reconnoitre and I did not have a torch, so we swam down alongside the ship in the sunlight. As it is lying on its port side, the superstructure has collapsed and is quite a mess of steel sheets and girders. My computer started beeping the 30-metre depth warning as I swam under a large obstruction. We swam past the stern holds, over the broken-off kingposts, finally to the upper part of the curved stern of the ship. We had reached 43 metres with 2 minutes of NDC (no decompression) time left. That was quite far enough for this dive. I pointed back at an up angle and we swam back ascending along the hull as we went. NDC time began to improve.

Gareth took me into part of the engine room to see a large turbine and other indistinguishable pieces of machinery. There seems to be a complete break in the hull in front of the bridge and schools of rainbow runners and barracuda congregate around the high point of the wreck. I spent a delightful safety stop in the coral encrusted bow section with thousands of fish.


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