Travel

Solomon Islands: Exploring the Wrecks of World War II

The window of the cockpit are shattered, the beam of light sweeps over an encrusted steering wheel, an accelerator, through clouds of glassfish, over rusty seats, upholstered in red sponges. On the dashboard lies a blue starfish like a stuffed animal – or like the talisman of the Japanese pilot who once sat here and patrol flew in his Kawanishi H6K. She was the largest seaplane of the imperial air fleet, 40 meters wide spread their wings. Now she lies at the bottom of the Pacific, her stomach torn open, one wing broken off. From a propeller sprawls a vase sponge, from the rudder at the stern soft corals swell like wild wine from a pergola. And inside you can still see the bowl of the on-board toilet.

For this junkyard, people come from far away

“Not bad, is it?” Says Adam Beard after surfacing and grins. The 31-year-old Brit looks like Mats Hummels , only tanned and relaxed. Together with his wife he leads the “Taka”, one of two submarines that cross the Solomon Islands. A not necessarily cheap kind of holiday, but something unique. To see wrecks, almost all of Beard’s guests fly halfway around the world.

Most non-divers have probably never heard of the Solomon Islands, some 1,000 islands stretching east of Papua in a 1,600 kilometer arc into the South Seas. But in this archipelago in 1942 raged around the main island Guadalcanal one of the decisive battles of the Pacific War. The United States sent 19,000 Marines to conquer a strategically important airfield, which the Japanese opposed with all the might of their imperial fleet. For six months the fighting lasted in the jungle, at sea and in the air. So far, researchers have found 53 ships and 900 aircraft at the bottom of the Guadalcanal Strait, hence their current name: Iron Bottom Sound, Iron Sands.

 

“Most wrecks are hundreds of feet deep,” says Beard, out of reach of recreational divers. On the other hand, you can snorkel. Like White Beach, the first stop of the liveaboard. At a depth of five to fifteen meters, Beard shows the perforated barrel of a machine gun, then points to a shapeless pile and turns an imaginary steering wheel. Ah, an overturned truck. And the long metal capsule? Beard opens her stomach with both hands. Understand, the grenade of a bomber.

“The Americans had a camp here,” he explains later. “At the end of the war, they dumped thousands of tons of ammunition into the sea, SUVs and trucks pushed them off pontoons. Bringing all the clutter back was too expensive. “

The first to dive here in the 1960s were young Australians. They hid the brass casings of the ammunition and sold them. To this day, fishermen pick up shells from the shallow sea, open them and shake out the black powder. “That’s your fireworks,” says Beard.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Join Our Newsletter