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Rodney Pearce
Early Days of SCUBA Diving

Click For EnlargementI started diving the Yokohoma Maru, in some 74 meters of water and was no easy dive, but I managed to do some 1,000 dives over a period of 33 odd years on this wreck. When I found this ship, I was at the ripe old age of 17 largely with no sense and a passion for diving like you would not believe. I helped salvage this vessel on my weekends and learned a lot about deep air diving, and in those days most of it was trial and error.

I was put over this site by the local inhabitants of Salamaua and told that it was a Japanese ship and that it was bombed by the Americans. I already new that the Yokohoma Maru was sunk at Salamaua but did not know where, so I assumed this was the wreck in question. I started doing some research into wrecks and as I already had a mate doing research into war history in Wewak I enlisted his help and found that on the 10th March 1942 there were 4 ships lost in the Lae - Salamaua area and currently dive two of these, the "Tenyo Maru" and the "Yokohoma Maru". The "Kongo Maru" is in very deep water and the 4th ship has never been found and was probably salvaged by the Japanese.

At the American base at Finschhafen some 55 miles east of Lae. Someone had told me of a plane wreck they had seen, so armed with a mud map my brother and myself set off to Finschhafen to look for this aircraft. We did infact find an aircraft, but not where we were told. We had found a Ki-61 Tony in 60' of water at the old American PT base of Dregger.

Click For EnlargementI have been asked many times about what is the most interesting wreck I have found, or the wreck I received the most enjoyment out of finding, I guess this was the Ki-61 Tony I mentioned. I still dive on this aircraft at least 7-8 times a year and still get a thrill when ever I dive it. The Tony sits upright in 18 meters of water and is in perfect condition, over the years, it has been gradually striped by the souvenir hunters, but it is still a excellent dive.

It was these two wrecks: the Yokohoma Maru and the "Tony" that I remember the most and received the most enjoyment out off. Even when I found "Black Jack" the B-17, I was very blarszay about it. These days I get more enjoyment out of finding aircraft than ships, as the project at the moment is to make a documentary with my friend Richard Leahy titled a "Sunken Airforce ". Richard grew up in Lae directly after the war when Lae was littered with little boys delights". And Richard used to spend the hours in the dumps of Lae. Somehow I never forgave my parents for not bringing me into the world 10 years earlier as I missed the easy pickings and even when I started at the age of 10 it was hard work to find a grenade or gun under 10 minutes.

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