The Shinkoku Maru
500ft long tanker covered in beautiful soft corals, with big schools of fish. Easy to penetrate the engine room and superstructure (bathrooms, infirmary and bridge).
The Shinkoku Maru was a 500ft/152m, 10,020-ton Naval Tanker built in 1940 for Kobe Sanbashi K.K. The symbolic meaning of the name ‘Shinkoku’ is ‘divine country’. The word ‘Maru’ designates a merchant vessel. This tanker was the only large ship in the Kobe Sanbashi fleet with the remainder being tugs and tender-type vessels. She was used primarily for importing oil from the United States to Japan. In 1941 she was requisitioned by the Japanese Navy and was immediately included as part of the ‘Train’ sub unit of the Support Force and Air Attack Force consisting of eight tankers under the overall command of Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, and made part of the Pearl Harbor Striking Force. She also served as part of the Strike Forces for carrier attacks on Rabaul, Ambon, Darwin, off-Java, Columbo, Trincomalee, and finally Midway - all such operations over only a six-month period. Following this, the Shinkoku Maru transported heavy oil from Balikpapan, Palembang, Surabaya, and Singapore to the Combined Fleet Base at Truk. On August 17th 1942 she was torpedoed by the USS Gudgeon suffering only minor damage. On July 7th 1943 she was again hit by a submarine torpedo, possibly from the USS Peto, and suffered flooding requiring repair in Singapore.
The Shinkoku Maru arrived at Truk on February 14th 1944 just 3 days prior to the carrier air strikes of Operation Hailstone. On February 17th 1944 while anchored northwest of Fefan Island she received a direct bomb hit amidships by a Dauntless dive-bomber from the USS Yorktown that opened a huge hole into her engine room. Later that day planes from the USS Bunker Hill attacked her with six torpedoes, but they all missed. The next morning Grumman Avengers torpedoed her from an unknown air attack group, and she sunk later that afternoon.
She sank upright and rests on an even keel with a superstructure depth of 40ft/12m, deck at 70ft/20m and sea bottom at 125-130ft/38-40m. The Shinkoku Maru is one of the “must dive” wrecks at Truk Lagoon primarily for its luxurious corals, anemones, gorgonian fan corals, sponges, and halos of juvenile fish. It is a spectacular living artificial reef - ideal for exploration and a perfect candidate for multiple dives as well as night dives. Bow gun and all exposed structures have excellent coral growth, together with large schools of small reef fish. The ship has many interesting features, including a photogenic bridge with 3 telegraphs; the superstructure has good bathrooms and a medical table and the engine room is also well worth a visit.