WRECK DIVING ADVENTURES
Rabaul and the Hakkai Maru Treasure
This book is what I like to call a ‘reality fiction’, meaning that it’s based on historically accurate events. However, the names of most characters have been changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent. Suffice to say, any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
It’s set in the early 1970s, and scuba diving was still in its infancy, a diver was usually taught by someone who was ex-navy or who hadn’t died trying. The US Navy Diver’s Manual was the diver’s ‘Bible’. Internationally recognised diving schools, such as PADI, FAUI, BSAC, together with their more onerous rules, were yet to appear in New Guinea.
Ship’s navigation was still an artform, driven by sextant, chart, pencil and paper, running fixes, hourly logbook entries and chart notations, and dead-reckoning. The luxury of GPS navigation was still waiting to be invented.
Navigating the dangerous and poorly charted coastal waters’ of the Pacific islands necessitated a strict routine of watches for the ‘officers’ and usually two hours on and six hours off for the helmsman. Reliable autopilots for small ships were yet to be perfected.
Life on a small boat could interesting, there was little privacy, and one had to learn to live with the idiosyncrasies of others. If someone was humping a girlfriend, everyone knew about it, and some would try to get in on the action. The daily attire aboard salvage vessels was very casual, usually Speedos for the guys, and bikinis for the girls.
Buying powerful but volatile nitroglycerine based explosives, was never a problem, and licences to use them easy to obtain. Every small ship, and this is especially true of salvage vessels, had an arsenal of weaponry. Ex-army 303s were popular, they were powerful, and surplus WW2 ammunition was cheap and readily available. They were also easily converted into pistols and modified for use underwater, mainly for protection against sharks. No licence was required for any rifle.
It’s also a time when men worked hard long hours and played even harder, a time when the man was the hunter and woman the hunted. Australian women were now slowly starting to embrace the contraceptive pill, and with their newfound sexual freedom, many were eager to be hunted. And pinching a woman on the bum was not yet considered to be sexual harassment.
No one gave a second thought to anyone walking down the street carrying a rifle or going into the local hardware store to buy ammunition or dynamite. No car? No problem, just hitchhike. We relished the freedom of riding motorbikes without helmets. Gun paranoia and the hypocrisy of Women’s Liberation movements were all still in their infancy. Simon and Garfunkle ruled the airwaves with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’, and we enjoyed the Beatles with ‘Let it be’. It was a more straightforward, less regulated and complicated world. I think, in many ways a better, more exciting world.
This book is a gripping tale of an Australian salvage pirate and his audacious plan to salvage the treasure from the Hakkai Maru in Rabaul. This Japanese refinery ship roamed the Pacific during WW2, rendering down illegally plundered precious metals.
The salvage itself was fraught with danger. The shipwreck was deep, and the diving equipment primitive. This remarkable book chronicles the penetration deep into the dark recesses of the sunken ship, where copper wire dangled like spider webs, waiting to snare the unwary diver.
Live and unstable munitions littered the ship, ready to explode at a touch. There was always the threat of nitrogen narcosis (the bends), and the ever-present danger of sharks. But, along the way, there was to be fun, steamy romance and adventure, all coupled with tragedy, death, and unforeseen complications.
This is a compelling, must-read novel set in the romantic South Pacific in the 1970s. Based on historical fact and written in a biography style. An adventure full of twists and turns, you will love this exciting novel.