Imaji Maru

Lifeline of diving Iindustry in peril

Imaji Maru

By Aziz Idris - Brudirect

Brunei's World War II shipwrecks are the crown jewels of the underwater treasure that have recently gained exposure at regional dive shows and international travel magazines.

However, private operators warn that these resources are depleting at an alarming rate due to high oxygenated environment on the seabed.

In most places across the Pacific Ocean, nothing has been done to restore or protect these shipwrecks as the cost of such project is high with only a few expertises available to carry out the risky job. As-a result, these significant resources are disappearing.

Director of Professional Diving Services from Australia, Mark Venturoni, together with his team of professional divers recently took the plunge to make an underwater observation of the Australian wreck and American wreck off the Brunei coastline.

Both vessels have an important part in our heritage with the Australian wreck, originally a Royal Dutch Navy ship, taken over by the Japanese and later renamed Imaji Maru.

It sank after hitting a mine 34 metres off the coast of Brunei.

The American wreck, located a mere 1.4 kilometres away from the Australian wreck, is a classic World War II remnant with live artillery shells still found on deck.

The original USS Salute built in 1943 was a US Navy Minesweeper first used to escort convoys between Pearl Harbor and the Far East.

With 20 years of experience in commercial diving and another five as a former maritime ecologist, Mark was delighted to witness this heritage that dates back to the mid-40s.

"This generation of divers can still enjoy them," he told the Bulletin, before adding quickly, "but this is probably the last (generation)".

According to his observation, taking into account the landscape and decaying metals on the shipwrecks, "it has become dangerous to penetrate them.

With nothing being done, they will keep falling apart until they become a pile at the bottom in 10 years," he explained.

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