ATLAS OBSCURA

Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon - Micronesia

For two days in 1944, Allied bombers rained destruction on the beaches of the Caroline Islands in the South Pacific. During World War II, the lagoon was host to Japan’s Imperial fleet, which left decimated in the wake of Operation Hailstone, often referred to as Japan’s Pearl Harbor. Today, hundreds of Japanese aircraft and other military machines lay at the bottom of the lagoon, making it one of the world’s best World War II wreck dive sites.

Jacques Cousteau’s 1969 film “Lagoon of Lost Ships” explored the wreck-littered lagoon, and many of the sunken ships were then still full of bodies. As wreck divers began to bring attention to the site, Japan began recovery efforts, and many bodies have been removed and returned to Japan for burial. A few, however, remain.

Many of the wrecks are visible through the shallow, clear water, making it an accessible dive for many. The wrecks themselves can be very dangerous, not only because of ragged edges and tangles of cables but because of half-century old oil and fuel leaking into the water, creating a potentially dangerous situation.

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