The Coron Fleet

I was hungover as shit when we boarded the fast ferry from Bacuit Bay, and The Girl knew it. Her kindness and patience is remarkable – I sure as hell wouldn’t live with me – but not so much when my misery is self-inflicted. Cue the snooze, albeit a light one, amid the din of the engines.

Once we landed in Coron, it wasn’t a long hike to the town, but the moto taxis called to us, and we found our way to the dockside spot we’d booked in due course. There wasn’t much protection from the sun, just a line of shops heading up to the main part of town. It held a dusty, rural quality to it, more so than the intense emerald green of the Palawan jungle.

But who cares? We were there to dive.

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When a Japanese fleet was caught in the archipelago by an American carrier group in 1945, there were limited options. Fight it out, against a swarm of H-6 Hellcats, hide in the shoreside jungle, or run, with the scant hope of losing the enemy in the vastness of the open ocean. The positioning of the wrecks gives notice to their intentions. The first dive site, a torpedo boat, lay within a stone’s throw of the trees, sunk by surface fire. The wreck was interesting, but bad visibility – some Finnish peanut couldn’t get his buoyancy right and was stirring up the silt bottom – cut us short.

The second wreck held much more appeal. A refrigerated supply ship, it had been caught in open water and sunk, either by a glider bomb or a torpedo. Out of reach of the noobs, it lay on it’s starboard side, thirty metres down.

Once we descended down the anchor line, we turned to enter the aft cargo hatches. Our guides, a pair of lads who looked to be around 14, turned to me and slapped their palms. I then realised that they had forgotten to give me the requisite flashlight needed for constricted and dark dives. I love a good wreck dive, but there was no way was I swimming down the bilge line of an unknown freighter without lighting. They procured one, via a different guide who was familiar enough to navigate without one (!) and in we went.

It was still, and the lack of sunlight prevented corals from growing within the bowels of the ship. Only when bright sunlight greeted us in the amidships engine room – the site of the impact – were you reminded of the violence involved in its demise. You could have driven a bus through the hole in it’s shell plating, although the engines were in remarkably good nick.

The topside superstructure, exposed to the sunlight in this clear water, was alive with fan corals, snapper, and barracuda. We eased through the pilothouse’s now-horizontal doorways, to spend a moment looking out on the bow, angling our heads to the orientation of what would have been a fine vessel in its day.

Dust to dust. We ascended, made our safety stop, and rose towards the dappled blue of the surface.

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