By Ron Leidich
On Monday August 29, Calvin’s father picked him up from school and the duo casually drove down to their waiting speed boat at Sam’s Dive Tours. After loading tanks, weights, BC’s, regulators, masks, and fins they pushed off the docks under clear blue skies. Before they could finish drinks and snacks the father-son dive team already found themselves over their dive site; a WWII shipwreck known as the Chuyo Maru.[restrict]
Their dive buddy Macstyl Sasao tied the mooring to the boat, everyone donned their dive gear, and after a standard safety check, three divers back-rolled into the water. Captain Arson Yamaguchi handed down the dive cameras as the divers descended into the dark waters of the lagoon. Following the buoy line down to the shipwreck, the Kingposts first came into view. The towering beams once hauled cargo from ship to shore, but today they stand as coral covered monuments to the past. Bristling with bright red sponges, Calvin’s eye was drawn to a moving sponge. Upon closer inspection, Calvin realized this freak of nature is a sit and wait predator known as Frog Fish. With thousands of cardinal fish clustering around the corals, the shipwreck has become a beacon for predators including Lionfish and Blue Fin Trevally.
Calvin, Ron, and Macstyl floated cautiously through the open doors of the superstructure, being careful not to stir up the soft sediments below. Shining lights within the ship’s interior, the history and marine life are once again illuminated.
The depth of the wrecks demands limited bottom time, so every moment on the Chuyo Maru is a precious one. As the trio ascends for a safety stop, each diver reflects on the history of the ship and the incredible bio-diversity calling the shipwreck their home. The flurry of thoughts sparks a conversation back on board with Captain Arson. Palau’s marine life and natural treasures have captivated the world’s attention for centuries. The richness of the archipelago have even found themselves in the pinchers of warfare. Obviously, Palau’s treasures have always been worth fighting for.
With 200 dives in Calvin’s record book, he still dreams of even more under water adventures. 70 of Calvin’s 200 dives have been within Palau’s WWII shipwrecks. He made another 22 dives among the incredible sea mounts and coral gardens of Komodo National Park in Indonesia. Calvin and his father will continue on to the Socorro Islands of Mexico next spring, followed by dives within the kelp forests of California. Calvin’s dream is to become a Marine Biologist one day and he hopes to protect the reefs of Palau like so many of his heroes in Palau’s conservation community. [/restrict]