Although my first love is the reef and the wonderful creatures that live there, I had an opportunity to join Bruce and one of his tec students, Bob Swanson, on a survey of the Lelu Harbor wrecks. Bob lives on Kwajalein and was able to bring his side scan sonar with him as luggage. We had a day and a half to take sonar images in the harbor and dive the most intriguing sites. Here are some photos of the set up and operation of the side scan sonar.
First we located the wrecks that we knew, the PBM and the freighter. Here are their sonar images, the yellow arrows and circles should help you pick out the images.
This plane use to be relatively intact with the nose and one wing resting at about 35 feet against the reef face and the tail at about 70 feet. The waves generated by the December 2008 king tides battered the PBM and moved the plane a bit deeper. This plane is still in better shape than the other two. Follow this link for more information on the Martin PBM Mariner plane.
Next we started looking for a plane that we know should be there, but that we hadn’t seen before. Found it! The second plane, possibly another PBM, is on the north side of the Lelu harbor near the entrance. It is upside down and sits in about 60 feet of water. Here is a sonar image and some photos.
Finally we started investigating sonar images that were new. One was the old whaling ship which we knew, but didn't have coordinates for, and one is apparently a completely new discovery. Another plane!
We didn’t have time to finish exploring and I think that there are more to find. As you can see the harbor has really terrible visibility, maybe 10 – 20 feet on a good day and some of the sites we attempted had “elbow” or “wrist” visibility. Here are the sonar images of the wooden whaler and the new plane.
The new plane has been tentatively identified as either a PBY or an Albatross. It looks like the plane went nose first into the water (the other two crashed on takeoff). The plane is right side up but the nose is bent and one wing is folded back over the cabin which is totally crushed. The plane is deep, at about 90 feet, so dive time is limited even with Nitrox. Those of you who know me, know that I am a marine animal person and not that interested in wrecks – but it is a real thrill to find one! Here are some photos of the plane.
The whaler, which sank in the 1800's, has deteriorated badly over the past few years. When I first dove on it in 1996 or 1997 the outline of the hull was still clear, as was some of the equipment left on the boat, perhaps if we could remove the silt... It is in about 60 – 70 feet of water. Here are some photos as it is in 2009.
Probably the most well known wreck on Kosrae is the Lenore in Utwe Harbor on the south side of Kosrae. The Lenore is a wooden ship that sunk in the 1800’s during a storm that caught her in the harbor and pushed her into the reef. She was a “pirate” ship as she was owned by Bully Hayes, a notorious bad guy in Micronesia.
There is very little left of the ship; some planks, ballast stones, metal sheeting from the hull and a large object that might be a water tank are usually visible. Other items that look man made are covered in coral growth, so it is hard to know what they were. The wreck site is in about 40 feet of water and subject to silting from a major mangrove system. Big waves will occasionally wash away some silt and then more items become visible.
Although little is left, it is great to be able to say that you dove on a pirate ship! Here are some photos of the site and artifacts:
Remember that our wrecks are important artifacts and should not be disturbed. Divers must be careful not touch any part of the wreck and may not remove anything from the wreck site. All research must be approved by and coordinated with the Kosrae Department of Historic Preservation.