Let’s Get Wrecked!
Wreck diving is a passion for us at Evolution. As technical divers we like to explore, and wreck diving is a great way to use our skills to venture to exciting dive sites and explore new areas.
The Philippines is famous for some large battles during the second World War, which left numerous exciting sites for wreck diving. Subic Bay is most probably the “capital” for Philippines wreck diving, with Coron in Palawan following closing behind with a number of Japanese ships now suitable for wreck diving.
Here in Malapascua we are hiding a few sunken treasures amongst our fantastic technical and recreational diving opportunities – wreck diving is here too!
Wreck diving is a great experience to see how the man made features can be taken over by the sea, but how they still survive. Wreck diving gives us a window into the past, and we can see artifacts and items of history still remain after many many years. For some wreck diving is a sobering experience when you realise people lost their lives when the ship sank, for others wreck diving is an exciting adventure to see what treasures the sea is holding onto after time has passed by.
We have a number of excellent ships perfectly situated for wreck diving for both recreational and technical diving. Below are some details on the 3 main wrecks that we offer to our divers for wreck diving. Each wreck is varied fromthe others and offer the diver a different style of wreck diving. The Dona Marilyn is a large intact ship, great for wreck diving at advanced levels and penetrating deep inside a very interesting ship. Meanwhile the Mogami Maru is a deep ship for wreck diving straight into history, home to many Japanese artifacts from the war; and the Oakita Maru is a relatively shallow very broken up wreck which is home to lots of marinelife as well as showing the toll man and sea can take on a ship once she sinks. For wreck diving we have a lot of choices here.
The Dona Marilyn
This Philippine ferry capsized over 15 years ago and is now a living, breathing wreck. It takes time to explore all the features and remember those who were lost. It is the perfect location for the PADI Wreck Specialty. For our tech customers this is an excellent penetration dive with lots of multilevel deep passages to explore. Not qualified to do safe wreck penetrations? Well sign up for our TDI Advanced Wreck Course and give yourself the ultimate diving challenge.
The Mogami Maru – “Pioneer”
It would appear that the wreck commonly known as the Pioneer by most dive operators on Malapascua is actually not that wreck. The ‘Pioneer Cebu’ was a passenger ferry which sunk in 1966,and was discovered and dived for the first time by Evolution in 2012.
The wreck which is a short distance north of Malapascua lying in 50m on a sandy bottom, is certainly not a passenger ferry and is almost certainly a Japanese vessel from WWII. The Mogami Maru was a fishing trawler of 50m length, completed in July 1941, and then converted to a submarine chaser before entering service for the Japanese Navy. Records show her to have been sunk after bombing in the Malapascua area on Sept 12th 1944.
We can assume that this wreck is the Mogami, partly due to her size, the length and beam have been measured to match very closely. Additionally the condition of the wreck is very similar to other wrecks sunk during the war, the decay of the steel, the proliferation of marine life, and the fact that there appears to be some kind of explosive damage in the stern section of the boat which would indicate she was sunk due to a bombing attack.
To add further evidence in support of this a number of items have been found on board with Japanese text on them, which would go even further to support these claims.
To dive the wreck today technical diving certifications are required. A maximum depth of 52m when the tide is high, mean you easily enter decompression while exploring the wreck, and with the shallowest part of the wreck around 45m there is a lot of blue water between the wreck and the surface. However this wreck is well worth a visit, although fairly small by wreck standards it is easy to spend the entire dive enjoying the small engine room which sustained massive damage before sinking – and in this are a number of interesting artifacts have been found. The propellor sits on the bottom half buried, with the destroyed stern around it a sign of the ships previous power.
As you move forward along the wreck there is a host of marine life crowded into the nooks and crannies of the ship for protection; expect to see schools of grunts, and anthias al over the coral covered midships, and watch out where you touch as the Mogami is home to at least 4 very large scorpion fish.
The midships section which would have supported the wheelhouse is collapsed down to deck level, and the helm has already been removed from the wreck by another diveshop to be displayed in their restaurant. Further forward there is a cargo hold which appeared to be carrying various electrical parts, along with oil drums. Much of this area is open and easily penetrated although no extensive penetration is possible due to the small size of the ship. Forward of the hold is the f’ocsle which shows the collapsed remains of an anti-aircraft gun mount. It seems that the gun has been removed at some point but the weight of the mount remained and assisted in the collapse of the upper deck area.
The forward bow section is nicely intact and the anchor windlasses can bee seen on both sides, with the chain still running down on both sides to the anchors which lie in position on port an starboard. The very tip of the bow supports a nice growth of soft coral sticking up towards the surface and providing a beautiful view if you have time to swim out in front of the bow and look back over the wreck as if she were steaming along the bottom towards you.
The Oakita Maru – “Tapilon”
Very little is known but it seems the Oakita Maru is better known as the Tapilon wreck by most divers in the Malapascua area. Built in Nagoya Zosen shipyard, Nagoya, Japan for the Nakagawa Kisen line and completed in September 1943 she was a standard cargo ship of nearly 100m in length.
Brought into service for the Japanese navy immediately after her completion the vessel was assigned to carry supplies to the Japanese forces stationed around the Philippines at the height of the war. It seems that the Oakita was carrying munitions including at least 2 and 3 inch artillery shells. There are a few of these still remaining amongst the wreckage which remains, but damage to the wreck is extensive leaving very little of the hull intact. The scope of this damage would indicate that her holds of munitions were ignited by a bomber attack (recorded as the 12th of September 1944) destroying the ship instantly.
What remained of the ship initially has been plundered by local salvagers and hookah divers over recent years; signs of their digging amongst the wreckage are quite clear. Even so there is much of the large wreck still visibly identifiable and fun to explore, although there is no penetration available. The wreck lies in 26-30m about 30mins away from the Evolution beach, and depending on your interest level can easily take up 2 dives due it its size and the way in which the wreckage is scattered around.
Other than the wreckage this is a great place to see bushes of black coral with hundreds of small bait fish amongst them, and the hiding places created by the overhanging steel has become home to multiple type of fish, starfish, and sponges. Also keep your eyes open for the many varied nudibranchs covering the site, even though there’s not massive amounts of coral they seem to thrive here.
The Cebu Pioneer
The Pioneer Cebu is a 55m long ferry that sank off Malapascua in 1966 during typhoon Irma. All 262 passengers aboard were lost. The whereabouts of the wreck remained unknown for decades although local lore on Malapascua put the final testing site north east of the island. In 2011 Matt and David went in search of the wreck but it wasn’t until 2012 when they finally located and became the first people to dive and see the wreck in over 4 decades.
The wreck lies in 115m and rests on its keel. Its central mast peeks up over 100m. The stern section contains the main passenger area and awaits further exploration. It is home to many large groupers and the ships binnacle is still clearly visible. Bottom time is short on Open Circuit but for true explorers this is one of the most exciting, rewarding and challenging dives available in The Philippines. Visitors to The Cebu Pioneer will require Advanced Trimix certification and must meet Evolution’s exacting standards to ensure their safe return!