TWO YEARS AGO, I reviewed Rod Macdonald’s book about Truk Lagoon while memories of my own trip to dive its wrecks remained fresh in my mind.
Now the follow-up, Dive Palau: the Shipwrecks, has arrived – you’ll find an extract in this issue. I have dived in Palau but not on its wrecks, and was curious to see what the well-known wreck specialist had made of this famed destination.
He begins with a detailed account of Operation Desecrate 1, undertaken by the US Navy's Task Group 58 at the end of March 1944.
This came some six weeks after the similar operation that crippled the Japanese Combined Fleet at Truk. Surviving elements of the fleet were now seeking refuge in Palau.
Palau was seen as a vital staging point from which to strike Japan from the east, and the raid kept up the pressure as the Allied forces advanced on all fronts.
The meat of the book consists of 22 chapters detailing some of the 40 shipwrecks sunk during the successful operation. Twenty-seven of these were partly salvaged in the 1950s to help meet demand for non-ferrous metal during the Korean War.
Divers can see evidence of Fujita Salvage’s dangerous work in the form of missing props, masts etc. Men died in the process, yet none of the salvaged metal made it to Korea, with some reports of ships sinking on route.
Both the ships’ histories and the descriptions of wrecks that Rod and his team have dived are exceptionally detailed and informative, and the essentials are neatly rounded up at the end of each chapter.
The wrecks of the Showa Maru and Nissho Maru (Helmet Wreck) have only recently been either discovered or identified, so it’s logical that two of the longest chapters are dedicated to these vessels and to the clues that shed light on their stories.
Rob Ward’s illustrations are a joy to study, particularly as certain features of the wrecks have been enlarged for the benefit of future divers.
They more than make up for some of the underwater photography, which I found to be distinctly average, although it’s fair to add that visibility can be very poor on these wrecks.
The new book sits perfectly alongside Dive Truk Lagoon. As I love wreck history as much as the diving itself, I enjoyed this easy-to-read book from cover to cover, but it would work equally well to dip into for reference.
Palau is about far more than reef diving, and this book has whetted my appetite for its WW2 wreck attractions.
Alex Khachadourian

Whittles Publishing
ISBN: 9781849951708
Hardback, 304pp, £30