Setting out to sea
In the previous blog, I mentioned that although the survey hadn’t brought to the wreckage material, we did manage to narrow down the search area for our last day of diving. And on our last day, 9th September, we were ready to give it our all.
The alarm clock went off early that day, since we had to check out of the hotel early before going out to sea. Soon after breakfast, Niida-san carried us out to sea on his vessel, where we were met with such small waves that you’d almost think the Tsugaru Strait overnight had turned into a lake. We knew the drill, we knew our target, but we only had one full dive left. After a quick briefing, our crew of divers (Yoshida-san, Hayashibara-san and Takahashi-san) let no time go to waste and jumped in – leaving the others and me behind on the boat, thinking of only one thing: ‘Will they find the wreckage material on this final day?’.
Follow that bubble
Although I wanted to dive in myself as well, it was decided that, like on the other days, I was to stay on the boat, as substantial diving experience was required due to the harsh underwater conditions and the laborious character of the underwater search. So, after about fifty minutes of anxiously waiting and frantically following the occasional air bubbles that popped up to the surface, our divers popped up as well. ‘Well? Did you find anything?’ … ‘Nai desu’ was the answer, meaning ‘there’s nothing’, unfortunately. From Yoshida-san's description, we were looking for a trench stretching along a rocky feature, in which he said he found the wreckage material years back. However, as the divers were digging and pricking the seabed over the past few days, they kept hitting rock bottom already after 30 cm, while later they hit the rocky bottom after 50 cm. But on this final day, on the borders of the eelgrass jungle, they reached a point where they could get as deep as 80 cm. This sparked the idea that underneath the flat sandy bottom, the rocky substrata is gently declining to a deeper point.
Whether this thought holds true, and the sand still indeed covers the wreckage material Yoshida-san told us about, couldn't have been tested by our divers. Because, at this point, the place is impossible to reach due to it being covered by a big jungle of our-currently-not-so-beloved eelgrass. So while on other days, the currents and visibility mostly hampered the work, the eelgrass now really stopped us in our tracks. On no occasion would it be wise to dare into that jungle, as our divers would definitely run the risk of getting tangled up.
Keeping an eye out
With that dive, our survey has now come to an end. The fact that we were defeated again by the eelgrass-jungle is, well… excruciating. However, Yoshida-san, our local diver, has said to keep an eye out whilst looking for new catches of sea urchins (which were omnipresent, I might add), and promised to inform us when the area is cleared from the eelgrass. As it so happens, the eelgrass dies in the winter cold, so if that is indeed the place where he remembered seeing wreckage material, he'll have a better chance of finding out. Despite not finding the wreckage material, it was inspiring to see such a work effort displayed by our always-enthusiastic crew. Furthermore, it was heart-warming to see the frequent supporters anxiously waiting for us in the harbour, revelling for some good news. While as of yet there hasn't been found a wreck of any kind, the Kanrin Maru project did gain an enthusiastic following on the surface.
From 7 to 9 September, the Maritime Programme and Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology conducted a dive survey at Kikonai, Hokkaido (Japan), in an effort to locate the shipwreck of the Kanrin Maru. Leon Derksen participated on behalf of the Maritime Programme. Follow his blogs and vlogs here and on social media with #KanrinMaru.