Wreck Diving in Palau: the Iro Maru and her sister ship the Sata

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As the U.S. and other Allied forces made their advancement in the Pacific Theater during WWII, an important aspect to winning the war was cutting the Japanese supply lines and gaining a foothold on crucial launch points for attacks on the Philippines and, eventually, the Japanese Mainland.

In mid March 1944, the USS Tunny came across the Iro on her way from the Philippines to the Palau.  The Tunny fired a torpedo on the Iro, striking her bow forward of the two bulkheads.  By March 30 the Iro was in the waters of Palau.  US Navy had undertaken Operation Desecrate One with the intend purpose of softening up the Japanese strongholds in Palau.  The navy carrier attacks found the Iro and her sister ship, the Sata, bombing and sinking both just off the coast of Koror.  The Iro was hit just forward of her of her bulkheads, eventually sinking after the engine room exploded.

While the identification of both ships is not absolutely certain, the Iro is believed to be the one resting upright (while Sata lay capsized).  Both lie in approximately 120 feet of water, with the Iro’s forward tower reaching to 25 feet below the surface level and the deck at approximately at 80 to 85 feet.  The deck has three masts and gun turrets now serving as home for a plethora of hard corals.  To view the damage at the starboard bow, follow the anchor chain down.  At about 80 feet, the torpedo damage can be seen.

At the deck level, swim aft.  Due to the fire caused by the bombing, access to the bridge is easy.  Continuing aft to the engine room, much of the room is still intact but naturally covered by decades of marine growth.  The catwalks and her railings are still visible, as well as the giant boiler.  Towards the stern is the final tower with the aft gun.

The crew quarters are still intact below the bridge.  Like much of this dive, the scuba dive does require a higher level of experience.  Consequently, scuba divers should only go down below if they are capable and secure divers.  Another cautionary point is that almost all wrecks in Palau have live ammunition in and around them.  Age and time in the sea have made these ordinances extremely unstable.  In other words, don’t touch them.

Checkout additional Palau WWII Diving Wrecks…

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