The jury is out on the name of this ship... some people would have you call her the Taiei Maru, others the Okikawa Maru, others still have even called her Olympia Maru! We were introduced to her as the Taiei on our first dive and even though we can never spell it in our logbooks without recourse to a bottle of Tippex from time to time we're sticking with that name for now at least!
The Taiei Maru appears to be, quite apart from an invitation to keep adding E's to the end of her name, a Japanese "oiler" - that is to say a ship which carried heavy grade oil to re-fuel other ships at sea. But in addition it appears she also carried several different grades of oil to run a variety of machinery and vehicles including very light grade fuels such as diesel and petrol. Most of her tanks are vast open caverns but there is at least one much smaller tank I have entered where there are baffle plates fitted inside. This presumably indicates that the tank in question was designed for a much lighter grade of fuel which would slosh around in heavy seas... hence the requirement to damp down the fuel's movement. Unlike a true oil tanker she has quite extensive areas on the upper decks immediately below the bridge area which are turned over to duties other than the carriage of oil, along with crew quarters which take a considerable time to swim right around. This would seem to indicate to me that she carried far more crew than a ship designed just to get oil from A to B - I would take the additional accommodation spaces to mean that the crew were far greater in number and hence they had far more to do at sea than just sit round watching the oil slosh and the world go by - Q.E.D? Additionally some of the none oil carrying areas on the upper decks above the tanks, especially amidships, may possibly have been workshops or storage space for spare parts, ammunition perhaps, workshop areas, possibly even extensive sick bay quarters. It is hard to be certain about anything because post-war salvage may have robbed such workshop areas of tell-tale machinery.
I am most keen to learn much more about this enigmatic ship and her design philosophy!
The bow of the wreck is almost completely detached from the body where the heavy bombing she suffered broke her in two though her upper decks remain remarkably intact even after so many years under water. As with the other Coron Bay wrecks the Taiei Maru was attacked on September 29th. 1944 by American aircraft from AG's (Air Group) 18, 19 and 31, many of which were flown off from carriers like the USS Lexington seen here on the right.
The wreck is now home to many, many species of fish and is encrusted with coral growth however inside she is relatively clean of organic matter apart from occasional colonies of large crayfish which run up and down the inside walls of the tanks in the darkness. These creatures are quite bizarre and emit a high pitch screech if you disturb them - we think of aliens beings from outer space but in reality we have much weirder things here on earth beneath the waves inhabiting inner space!
168 m long - the biggest of the Coron wrecks in volume.
Max depth: 26 meters to seabed, 10 to 16 meters on the deck.
Penetration is very much the order of the day on the Taiei Maru. It is perfectly possible and highly exciting to enter the wreck through the propeller shaft and swim into the engine room then continue almost all the way back to the bows without ever leaving the wreck. The decks are quite magnificent in terms of wild life however there is almost always a strong current running and so swimming inside is desirable. Long dives are possible due to the shallower depths. Tracy completed her 20 metre mask clear for her BSAC Advanced Diver qualification whilst kneeling inside the bow wreckage and was rather shocked to see a large lionfish bimbling by when she had cleared the water out again!
Our January 2007 visit...
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