Guam For Those Who Love Culture, History and Diving

Flag of Guam

The Guam Visitors Bureau announced a few months ago that the theme for Visit Guam 2017 is the “Year of Love”. Tourists from around the world travel to the Pacific to experience this unique destination. For many divers, Guam has long been a “secret” destination. One with outstanding diving, that when you experience you are not sure if you want to tell anyone about it. Do you want others to know how great it is? Or do you keep it a secret so that it is not over crowded when you dive the next time?

Sorry, the secret is out. Diving Guam is great.

Guam provides a refreshing difference for divers who make the trip to this American Territory.

Location

Diving Guam

Guam is a small island just 9 miles (15 km) wide at its widest point and 4 miles (7 km) in the center, she is only 30 miles (51 km) long. The 78 miles (125.5 km) of coastline provides an interesting range of dive spots both for the boat diver and the shore diver. Depending on who lets you in on their secret sites there are between 85 and 200 dive sites. Using the 85 that are listed on many websites, Apra Harbor has 37 dive sites. The 85 total includes 21 shore dive sites of which 6 are located in the harbor. There is an outstanding mix of shipwrecks, reefs, walls and even a Blue Hole.

There are over a dozen different dive operators on the island, many of them concentrate on the Japanese market. Japanese tourists make up the largest nationality to visit Guam.

SMS Cormoran and the Tokai Maru

These two ships sunk in Apra Harbor, one from WWI and the other from WWII, are often listed as one dive site. The reason is that they are very close to each other, so close that most divers can reach across and touch both wrecks at the same time.

Cormoran and Tokia Maru

SMS Cormoran

The story of the SMS Cormoran is very interesting and the part that led to her sinking started on December 14, 1914. That is the date that the SMS Cormoran entered Apra Harbor avoiding Japanese warships. Guam at that time was under control of the United States Navy. The United States had not entered World War One at that time but was unofficially siding with Great Britain. Captain Zuckschwerdt, the commander of the SMS Cormoran, met with the naval Governor William J. Maxwell and requested coal and provisions for his ship and crew. Maxwell denied the requested and gave the Captain 24 hours to leave Guam or have his ship and crew interned.

Faced with the option of facing hostile warships without fuel and supplies, the Captain accepted the interning. Over the next two years, the crew of the ship was given increasing privileges and were allowed to leave the ship as long as they stay in certain areas. On April 7, 1917, Captain Roy C. Smith – the then governor of Guam – received word that war had been declared. He ordered the ship to official surrender. Captain Zuckschwerdt replied he would surrender the personnel but not the ship. While waiting for the governor’s reply, the captain blew up his ship and sank it. In the process, seven sailors die and were later buried in the local navy cemetery.

The Guam Museum has an interesting historical presentation that they prepared for the 100th anniversary of the ship’s arrival. This coming April 7th, there will be a program to honor the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

Tokai Maru

Tokai Maru was a ship owned by the Osaka Shosen Company before WWII and provided a combination of luxury transportation and fast cargo between Tokyo and New York. Build in August 1930, she was pressed into war service by the Japanese Navy. U.S.S. Snapper grew tired of waiting for his prey to emerge. The Tokai Maru was observed anchored in Apra Harbor by USS Flying Fish SS-229 on January 24, 1943. the submarine fired two torpedoes. One of them hit the freighter damaging it. Months later the submarine USS Snapper saw the ship within the harbor. Not knowing it was damaged, it waited a number of days for the ship to depart. When it did not depart, the USS Snapper approached the harbor entrance on Aug. 27, 1943, and fired a spread of torpedoes that sent the Tokai Maru to the bottom.

The Tokai Maru sits along a slope as does the SMS Cormoran. The bridge of the Tokai Maru can be reached at 40 feet with the stern at around 120 feet. The SMS Cormoran is slightly deeper starting at about 80 feet. Visibility on the wrecks is generally in the 25 to 40-foot range. A project over the last few years has removed much of the unexploded ordnance on board the Tokai Maru, it is still possible that more exists on this and other wrecks in the area, extreme care most be taken that you do not touch anything that could be a bomb.

Guam’s Blue Hole photography courtesy of Guam Visitors Bureau.

The Blue Hole

The Blue Hole is the most visited natural dive site. The blue hole is close to shore, however, the shoreline is a cliff at this point. This is an excellent dive for advanced divers with an extra thrill for deep divers. The hole itself opens up in about 60 feet (16 meters) of water and drops down to a depth of about 300 feet (90 meters). The hole is teeming with marine life. There is an exit at 127 feet (40 meters) the limit of recreational diving. Once a diver exits the blue hole they can follow the wall back up to the reef at 60 feet (16 meters). Visibility in the area is often over 100 feet (30 meters) and the exit from the hole is a favorite spot to see tuna and reef sharks.

The American Tanker

The American Tanker is a WWII concrete barge of a B7-A2 design. I made a brief reference to her in my article about concrete ships. The B7-A2 design looked like many other freighters and was 375 feet long, 360 feet at the waterline, with a beam of 56 feet. This barge was sunk as a breakwater during the water. This wreck is great for divers of all skill levels and often used for open water training. The depth ranges from 25 feet (8 meters) to about 110 feet (33 meters). The tanker is sitting next to a shallow reef

Gun Beach

Gen beach is said to be the most popular of the 20+ shore dives. Located in the North Tumon Bay Marine Protected Area divers can follow a gentle slope down to 100 feet. The area is rich in coral and divers can often see some of the sea turtles that make the reef their home. Manta Rays are also frequently found on the reef.

Guam

After a day of diving, Guam offers a wide range of activities. The “Year of Love” video gives you a glimpse of what is available. While the word is getting out about this “secret” destination, it is still an uncrowded dive destination with a lot to offer.