Truk Aggressor II Wreck Diving
JUST DOESN'T GET ANY BETTER
Text and Photography by Cathy Church, Nov. 1997
Chuuk (Truk Lagoon) is one of the world's greatest dive destinations and the Truk Aggressor II is certainly the best way to dive it.
The wrecks are awesome. I have made seven trips to Chuuk and the Truk Aggressor II made my last one the best yet. I love the serenity of diving the numerous wrecks lying so quietly on the bottom. I cannot imagine the earsplitting violence as these same ships blew open, water gushed into their holds and they headed to the bottom.
During Operation Hailstorm in 1944, U.S. airplanes, launched from the decks of five American carriers, sank more than 45 ships, including armed cargo ships, huge tankers, small destroyers, a submarine and several planes. More than 50 years later you can swim over these wrecks among the most beautiful soft corals in the world, float with ease around large guns and through a once-busy infirmary. Surrounded by ammunition, trucks, bulldozers and tanks, I can choose to ignore it all and watch a delicate Moorish Idol glide among the lifeboat davits and past orange and red sponges. Beside gasmasks and lanterns, I can watch animated clownfish carrying on their lives among the tentacles of bright purple sea anemones.
Truk Lagoon has it all and you can enjoy it without currents and rough seas. Because dive sites can be found on several sides of the islands within a protected lagoon, virtually every dive can be made in calm, warm water. You don't have to be a deep diver or even a wreck diver to love this trip. The tops of many of the ships are less than 60 feet deep and much of the best diving is done without penetrating the wrecks. In my seven trips, I have rarely been out of direct sight of a clear, blue water exit.
The Truk Aggressor II crew hand ties a mooring line to a safe area of each wreck, without damage to marine life or artifacts. The TAII is the only ship in Truk that allows guests to rise early for a great breakfast and then drop directly to the wreck below for the dive.
On wrecks where multiple dives are planned, everyone sets his/her own pace and dives when ready. Because many of the most popular wrecks are relatively shallow, most of us did at least four dives a day. On the deeper dives, we space buddy teams so each virtually has the wreck to themselves. Penetration dives to the engine rooms or other special small sites are easily scheduled. That's important to me because by the time I help the other guests with their cameras I need a little extra time to get myself ready. On the Truk Aggressor, I don't have to hold the group up. My husband Herb and I simply slip off the stern whenever we're ready and it's a short drop down to the wrecks. And, when it's our turn to photograph the tank, we know we'll be the only ones there!
There are no long skiff rides through choppy or rainy seas from a distant shore or mother ship. There are no crowds in the water, and the boat can move quickly from one wreck to another to assure that everyone sees the full variety of Chuuk diving.
Guides are available for every dive to escort divers to special points of interest or just to act as buddies if you wish. The whole system is foolproof; you can't not have a great time.
Although you don't have to be a tech diver to dive Truk, it is the perfect place for those interested in this specialty. The Truk Aggressor II has Uwatec Atlantis 1 rebreathers for guest rental and offers two courses in its use. One is simply an introduction to the unit and one dive with it; the other results in full certification after several dives. The Truk Aggressor also offers nitrox fills and certification. And finally, this Aggressor offers an Aggressor Fleet first, Technical Diving Trips. Training and equipment (available for use with proof you've already got tech certification) are available to make recreational dives below 130 feet.
The Truk Aggressor II is 110 feet long and has seven cabins for 14 guests. It is a great improvement over the Truk Aggressor I. I love the little touches such as the chocolate kisses on the vanity and the soft soap in the shower but I also like the big touches such as the huge 20 by 40 foot dive deck and the big cushions in the television and reading lounge. In rating the live-aboards our group had been on, we gave this boat the top score for best sundeck. It has ample lounges with body sized towels and hottub. The shade lovers can relax nearby in the covered bar area, thus both sun and shade lovers can socialize on the same deck.
The cabins are below decks. Each has a private head, a queen sized lower and single upper bunk, a sink with cabinet and storage space under the bed. Our private shower had pretty shells on the shower curtain, a plush hot/cold water fixture in designer red and plenty of hot water. (This Aggressor stores 4,500 gallons and makes 2,200 gallons of fresh water a day.)
The dive deck has a large camera table, rinse tank and shower. Photo pro, Stuart Exposito, has a good sense of humor and is ready to do anything to help guests. When we wanted a cool place to relax on departure day, he gleefully provided the ice to convert the hottub to a cool tub.
Stuart was easy to work with and, since he was relatively new to darkroom work, he and I worked closely to develop a high quality E-6 processing technique. Like all Aggressors, the TAII has Nikonos systems for rent; the loan is free should your own Nikonos system break down.
Emeren Aisek, a native of Chuuk, is a wonderful cook and works hard to satisfy everyone's needs. The meals included soups, salads, roast turkey, steaks, pasta, grilled fish, Japanese soups and sushi. There is plenty of everything and the cookie jar and fruit bowl are always full. All drinks, including hard drinks, sodas, beer and wine are included.
Captain Troy Parker is also Mr. Fix-it/ divemaster/host and videographer. It is a big job for one person but he keeps everything running smoothly and produces a great video, too. He has expert help from Trinka, who assists in the galley and the water.
Truk Lagoon is a must-do trip! There is nowhere else in the world with such incredible wrecks in safe diving depths. As time and the seas do their work, parts of the ships are starting to break up, so don't put off going any longer! For more information, contact Aggressor Fleet (U.S. and Canada) at (800) 348-2628, (504) 385-2628, fax (504) 384-0817, e-mail divboat @compuserve.com. You can also visit the Aggressor Web site at http://www.ag gressor.com or write to P.O. Box 1470, Morgan City, LA 70381-1470.