Expedition Riseing dawn
To locate and document the IJN Shinonome. She was presumed lost due to an attack from the air while participating in the Japanese landings in British Borneo. The Dutch account has a Dorner float plane attacking the ship with a 200 KG bomb causing a massive explosion just aft of the bridge and her imidate sinking. Two hundred men lost. There were no survivors.
Controversy surrounds the loss of this ship because the Japanese records have her sinking due to a mine explosion. Both accounts alleged the attack occurred just after dawn on 17 December. The discrepancy in the Japanese version is possibly due to no aircraft being visible at the time of the supposed attack. There are also accounts of her loss taking place on the day after the 18th (Samuel L. Morison’s “Rising Sun in the Pacific”)or the 19th(S.W. Kirby’s “The war against Japan). Locating the wreckage will clear up the controversy and mark the graves of these sailors.
Tim Lawrence (England)
Julia Alberione (Argentina)
Team 2 leader
Accounts financial management
Royal Geographical Society fellow (England),
medical officer, senior researcher
(Dave Arnold missed due to illness)
Stefano Gobbo Italiean)
Open circuit bottom diver
Ben (Phum Siri)Thailand
Open circuit bottom diver
Sam Beane (American)
Ccr bottom diver
Julian DK (Belgian)
Ccr bottom diver
Zealain local liaison
There is a feeling about the start expeditions that all the team experiences. However, it isn’t easy to attribute one word to it.
It’s a feeling of purpose. The thought of discovery’s of a journey ahead shared apprehension of sights yet unseen. Finally, we are uncovering the truth in history. These feelings swamp our emotions as we load our pick-up.
We arrived in Surat Thani via night boat, having left Koh Tao at the height of the Buddhist new year festival, Songkran driving up to Bangkok without any issues, we thankfully had time to dry out. Once in Bangkok, Julian joins us, and Jo delivers a new decanting whip and He analyzer. 12 hours behind the wheel were all pretty tired and slept early
Another early start at 0600
We have to repack the equipment boxes at the airport due to the luggage’s 30 kg weight restriction per bag/box. We all muck In and complete this quickly. Our equipment consists
4 x ccr AP valve’s rebreathers, three deco/bailout regs each
Three tank rigging kits each
Personal dive equipment
two multi-gas computers each
One team Laptop computer
The open circuit divers carry personal dive equipment and four regulators each
Our weight allowance is 60 kg for each ccr diver plus hand luggage. We use all of it. With little space for clothing.
The open-circuit divers are allowed 20 kg and hand luggage
Team equipment consists
One full face mask with reg o2 cleaned for IWR
One gas blending whip fittings for He and oxygen
Two analyzers 1 He analyzer
Various o rings and service kits
12 spare s oxygen sensors
Solder and magnifying glass/specialist soldering iron
Specialist reg and rebreather tools
Due to visa restrictions, Julia must fly to Kl and apply for a visa. The delay means she will join us two days later.
Team two is to be led by Stefano in Julia’s absence.
The airline requires her to rebook her ticket and the excess weight allowance.
The team rallied to this, the first of many challenges ahead.
We’re met at the airport by Stuart and Mike, the local dive club manager. Mike has made available the BSAC clubs facility’s
0700 First diving day
We prepare equipment re-, build rebreather set-up stages and blend deco gas. Today’s dive will be on a known shipwreck, ocean-going tug in 30 mtr. The team time to work up equipment, positioning of tanks/weights/shot lines sounders etc
Ironing out any problems before the deeper dives
Our boat, the Marlin, has a modern sounder and GPS
It makes 27 knots loaded. This information helps us to prep for the coming days
Our local liaison warns us about the saltwater crocodiles
with this in mind, we load the boats carefully.
Our vessel exits the harbour and enters a flotsam/jetsom field, which could easily puncture our hole through the fibreglass at speed. We slow down to pass, arriving at the mark after 1:30 min. The open circuit team enter, during which time the ccr team support. This will be the Standard operating procedure on this expedition. These dives go well. We use a top tensioned shot and adjust the weighting and floatation according to our needs.
Back to base, blend gas and fix leaks, ready for day one of our searches. We mix gases for the ccr team 12/45 tmx on board and a 70 mtr 18/45 bottom bail us if a 50% nitrox for deco gas.
Day 4 first day of the search
The voyage plan is logged with Mike at the base every morning. It consists of the location lat/Long of the search area that day, names and the number of people on the boat, and a time to return to base.
When we annalize the gas blends the following day, They are a little low on the 02 front and need to be adjusted. Once done, we’re off for day one of the search.
We Clear the harbour master, head towards a wreck mark on the chart, drop a shot line and begin our sounder search. Marking our track and using the shot line as a visual reference, we continue expanding our grid all day until 15:00, then return to port the bottom corresponds with the chart datum 56 mtr; we have no anomalies recorded in this area.
Once back, we blend gas for the open circuit team a 60 mtr 19/40 bottom tmx 50% nitrox and 100% 02 deco gas Blended and analyzed to allow for an early start in the morning.
we logged the voyage plan with Mike at the base.
The Brunei customs have rejected Julia due to only five clear pages in her passport. We continue with the diving teams as is. The expedition continues.
Today we head to a mark given to us by a local fisherman. The location is 28 nm north of the point close to the shinonome’s last reported position.
When we arrived, our sounder picked up a large anomaly. We placed the shot, but the line moved in the current. So we increased the weight and reduced the size of the floatation to 25 litres, replacing it at the shallowest return, on top of the wreck. Finally, the ccr team enters the water. I see the excitement in the eyes of our team as we descend the line running through cell checks, bubble checks and decent checks. The descent takes an eternity, but it is only 4 min. Finally, a vast wreckage emerges from the glume.
A wreck of over 100 mtr long, a considerable loss to someone, the superstructure has the unmistakable outline of a recent construction. The holds identify the wreckage as a bulk carrier bottom is at 64, top at 55, sitting on its port side, indicating no cargo in the holds.
Hatches on the deck are closed marine life everywhere we look
The lifeboat Davits hang empty and reach out towards the surface
we run a distance line, even though the visibility is 20mtr plus, reaching midships, I can make our the bows trailing off, no obvious evidence of damage. What was the cause of her sinking? Reaching our turn point, we head towards our exit. So many questions are bouncing around in our heads. This dive leaves an image recorded in my mind like a photograph that’s sure to be revisited.
We start our assent containing the length of decompression on this first deep dive here.
At 55 mtr, Julien signals a bailout. His eyes look confused, and he stumbles over the procedure. A sure sign of a CO2 hit, Sam and I rally and assist with the components of the bailout, and we ascend together, running through his gas switches on his open circuit bail.
After surfacing, we found a loose connection on the loop hose sealing in the head carrying o2-rich gas to his BV. As a result, the loop failed, flooding and wetting the sorb, rendering it useless!
We fix it and, dry out the head, replace the cells.
And prepare the gas for the next day. Meanwhile, the open circuit team entre and collected vital video images of the unknown ship
It’s been a fantastic day for the team as a whole.
In the morning, we plan to eliminate a second fisherman’s mark west of the war record report.
we register our voyage plan and head out to the mark early
our search area today is close to the wreck mark on the chart, from our research. We knew there was wreckage here. Due to an oil company survey. The war record position reported by the Dutch aeroplane captain is only 10 NM to the west, close enough!
It takes 1 hour to reach the wave height is small 0.3 mtr
After a short search, we get a return approx 40 mtr long on the sounder, the bottom 70 mtr a slight rise of only five mtr; placing the shot in the shallowest return, we kit up and enter the open circuit team supporting
The Ccr team it’s a long way down. The visibility is excellent at 25 mtr. Although the shallow area has a green bloom, it clears at depth.
The outline of a ship comes into view at 50 mtr. We setpoint switch and then ran a distance line across to the top of the mark at 65 mtr. Surveying the wreck from above, we identified barrels packed into the hold and what appeared to be a broken mast lying on the top.
The stern seems broken, leaving the bow and midships in place. A large capstan and what appears to be a large bell sit atop the wreckage, but when I attempt to move the “bell”, it is solid and only an air intake. Here I make a mental note to increase the helium content of my Dill. Then, leaving my distance line and reel at the highest point of the wreck for team two, we turn the dive towards the exit.
I drop down to fill the two lift bags we have placed on the shot weight to help with recovery.
The depth gauge on my ccr controller shows 90 mtr. I refer to my backup and start my accent. We run our decompression without incident, and although my controller is still reading 50 mtr, I rely on my offboard, which clears the decompression penalty. On Surfacing, the conditions have deteriorated rapidly, and a storm squall has formed over the top of our position. We are recovered into the boat and decide to head for port. In our hast, I leave my reel for the next explorer.
After a bumpy ride, we Arrived at the base, unloaded, and cross-referenced our short video evidence with images of the shinonome, hoping to match the machinery. Sadly this only proved the contrary. This wreckage isn’t our target but the remains of a small coastal cargo.
The difference between an expedition and an epic expedition is the inclusion of your team.
Today we head out to two fisherman’s marks ten NM NNE of the war record report. Slowly we are eliminating anomalies around our target. The depth on the chart is 60 mtr, and the weather forecast is fair. We record our voyage plan and leave early. Covering the ground quickly, we start our search. A low-lying return on the mark indicates a possible wooden wreck mound close to the second mark. We ran a small search there and picked up a. Small return. Placing the shot, the open circuit team enter to do a preliminary investigation. Fifty minutes later, the guys surface with only mud to reward their efforts. We lift the shot and head to the second mark. Placing the line, the ccr team get ready. Unfortunately, I’m diving sidemount due to a failure in my depth sensor.
As we ready our equipment, the Captian calls my attention to water washing into our boat.
At that moment, water began to wash around our feet! Seawater Flooding into the boat through the open door. Quickly on instinct, I call Edward, our coxswain, to “gas on and turn to starboard “! We Turn to starboard to lift the door out of the water.
This measure stops more water from entering via the door but only buys us some time. We have water around our knees, at the stern and are still sinking! Removing our equipment which was still attached, I called Julien to “close the door” By the time I finished the sentence, it was in place, and we redistributed the weight.
I yelled to Stuart, “Get the bilge working”, looking for any other places water was entering and identifying the self-draining deck, which is underwater. We plugged the holes with tee shirts. At this point, Edward puts a mayday out over the radio and then asks what he should do. I tell him to continue in circles to starboard, and we start bailing out the water with our hands. The water begins to recede slowly, and we take turns to bail the water out. The guys shift their collective weight around the boat and begin to tie down the equipment, another precaution. Eventually, Stuart, who is now bailing, confirms the water level is dropping. Zealiean makes a quick inspection of the bilge. It has melted and is beyond repair. I ask Edward to head for the land, still slightly concerned about possible hull damage, but he has already run for an oil platform tug on our horizon. On reaching this point, he takes the engine revs down, and we look for water entering as the boat comes off the plain.
Thankfully, the hull isn’t damaged. I ask Edward to stand down the mayday. Mike is also informed to stand down.
Zealian offers to remove the drain plug in the hull with forward momentum. This action will help clear the residual water trapped inside.
Taking stock of our position, we are 35 NM out at sea. Our bilge has failed. We are no longer sinking. But we have had enough excitement for the day. So, removing the plug, we head home, leaving the shotline in place.
Today the team worked, and we averted a calamity! How quickly the status quo can change at sea. And how important it is to be surrounded by talented people who can keep calm in a stressful situation reacting when needed. Today im am thankful for our team.
May Day stood down
We arrived at our base 50 min later
Petrol is leaking from the tanks. Had caused the bilge pump to fail and Eroded the seals on the hatch in the self-draining deck.
Water shipping through the door is generally discharged through the bilge or self-draining deck collected in the hull resulting in the boat sitting lower in the water. In addition, we were adding The weight of 6 technical divers and equipment. This perfect storm caused a reduction of freeboard until The water began to breach the open door creating a genuine danger of sinking.
Mike receives the voyage plan. Our last day of searching
Today we set off aboard the club’s second boat Hammerhead.
We first head to the shotline we left the day before, arriving 60 min later. Stefano and I enter to quickly look at the return and fill the lift bag to recover the shot left the day before in our hast.
The vis is good on the bottom, but we find only three concrete blocks attaching the lift bag to the shotline we run our accent. On this dive, Im diving the sidemount system due to the failure of my depth gauge on the unit.
Recovering the line, we head for the Toyo Maru, a fleet tanker that sank during the Japanese invasion. This wreckage is rarely dived and is a welcome distraction.
The shot lands on top of the bow setting us up for an epic final dive of this expedition.
The Toyo maru sits at 55 mtr the top of the wreck is at 45. We hold the profile up to 50 mtr for a longer bottom time. There’s a gun mount piecing the debris missing the gun, personal effects from the Japanese sailor’s beer bottle plates and a vast bomb hole in the side. The wreckage lines up neatly with the report of the sinking. We run our decompression a large school of jellyfish swarms past us, creating a surreal image over the top of the wreck for a brief moment. I’m in a science fiction movie. My eyes search for Will Smith, waiting to jump out and slap me.
I recover myself in time for the gas switch. My bubble-less buddies look on, amused.
We head for port.
Expedition rising dawn has located two previously unmarked shipwreck sites, one in 63 mtr and one in 70 mtr. Both wrecks differ from our target, but we eliminated them from the search area and three other potential sites.
We will continue our search to eliminate the fisherman’s marks around the war record report for IJN shinonome, but our time has ended for now.
Thanks to the explorers club for flag number 214, which helped us open doors to the search areas. Special thanks to Mike and the BSAC dive club for their logistical support tanks, compressors, and boats and for going the extra mile to b arranging transport /accommodation for the team.
Stuart for his research, Jo for supporting our endeavour with specialist blending equipment from dive soft and exposure protection from waterproof unexpected but warmly appreciated, and last but not least, our exceptional dive team, who financed the expedition with their own money and fueled it with their expertise without which we would not have achieved any success in the hunt for the IJN Shinonome.