Japanese Navy Ship
The Irako is a hard ship to describe, she's not a freighter like the ubiquitous and plentiful "Maru"s here abouts; neither is she a fighting ship. But ships of the Irako's type were of paramount importance to the Japanese army as they advanced throughout the far east during the war.
She is extremely well equipped with enormous kitchens. She has a huge laundry area with industrial strength mangles and long washing troughs. She has extensive refrigeration plant to maintain huge cold stores. Clearly she carried far more equipment than would be required to support just her crew.
From this information her roll should now be a little more apparent. She was designed to sit at the beach head and supply soldiers with freshly cooked food and to look after their basic needs such as cleaning uniforms etc. along with a clear re-supply roll.
She did not carry extensive armourments, only medium calibre anti-aircraft guns on swivel mounts for and aft along with further medium calibre guns above the bridge. And her lack of AA guns clearly contributed to her sinking for on September 24th. 1944 at 0900 24 Curtiss SB2C Helldiver dive bombers attacked the shipping in Coron Bay supported by 96 Grumman F6F Hellcat fighters. The sinking of the shipping in Coron Bay including even the well armed Akitsushima was now a foregone conclusion and soon Irako slid beneath the waves.
Her engine room is almost amidships as might be expected and the easiest way to get in is therefore to swim through the long prop tunnel from the stern. A further advantage of swimming in via this route is that you can then continue forward via corridors clear of silt leaving any churned up visibility behind you. Entry and exit via the same route should be avoided where ever possible on the Irako though unfortunately this is not possible in the engineering workshop where the only way in AND out is through a door held open against the natural fall of the ship by some rather old and dubious looking wire wrapped around the door handle!
As a dive following the prop tunnel entry starts at 40 metres the consequential narcosis and the dark make this a daunting prospect though in reality it is not actually too bad at all so long as the diver is most careful NOT to kick up any silt with his or her fins. Once stirred up almost every area of the Irako below decks will become a dark and muddy brown out in a split second. It is wise therefore to be well versed in wreck penetration techniques and to make sure you carry back up torches etc. etc. etc. The basic ability to lay and follow lines should also be practised before attempting to enter this wreck without a guide. Even with an experienced guide it is still very easy to get lost or disorientated so the prospective Irako diver should be aware of the risks and well on top of his sport before even considering the dive.
I've put the frighteners on you for long enough now so lets have a look at the highlights and why this is such a great dive...
For those of you interested in the technical side of photography the pictures here were not taken with a normal stills camera - we have tried several times to get decent stills in the Irako and always failed miserably - they are actually high definition video stills culled from a video shoot in 2009. Whilst not as good as normal camera stills they are adequate to show you a little of what the Irako is like to dive.
Our January 2009 visit...
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