Or else crossing Europe, Asia and the Pacific to dive Battleships and Aircraft Carriers with Sharks in Bikini Atoll (Remote Deserted / Uninhabited Islands, Whales, Tokyo Style Ramen, Thermo-Nuclear Weapon Testing Bunkers, Barbecues Gin n’ Tonic, and Extreme Fishing included!)
Back in 2004 I found myself (a young and enthusiastic PADI Open Water Diver) reading an article in Encarta Encyclopaedia about scuba diving in the Bikini Atoll. The article described how, despite the multiple atomic weapon tests, the sea (marine life and all) had recovered and how great it was to dive the Wrecks of Operation Crossroads. By the time I finished reading the article I was well impressed and rather sad. As awesome as it sounded it was way too far away for me to have any chance to ever dive it…
Fast Forward to June 2012 when a group of very good friends returned to London after a trip in Bikini (Tools on tour) and their reports made it sound not only as exciting as the encyclopaedia article but even better!!! And of course they were so excited about it that they started planning the return trip to the Bikini Atoll (Tools on Tour 2)!!!
Indeed a couple of months later a “Tools on Tour 2” trip was organised and spaces were going fast. By December 2012 and while on my way to the Red Sea to dive RedTek Dec 2012 I found out that there was only one space available and of course I signed up!!!
You may think that booking a holiday 18 months in advance is excessive BUT bear in mind where the Bikini Atoll is:
If you were going to detonate Twenty Three (yes 23) Thermo-Nuclear devices where would you choose to do it?
well, Not in my backyard !!!
Well indeed the Bikini Atoll was chosen specifically because of it’s location
The Bikini Atoll is part of Marshall Islands that are located in central Pacific Ocean. From the UK you can either travel West to the States and go via Honolulu or go East (kinda) via Japan. Bikini is so far away that it makes practically no difference whichever way you choose.
Our outgoing trip was 16,000 km and took 56 hrs to get from Aberdeen to Kwajalein. Had we gone via Orlando it would have been about 60 hrs (for the LHR to KWA leg) and the total distance would be 18,000km. No difference really although I can’t help thinking that I would like to do both next time, ie go one way and come back the other, then maybe I can do my first round trip around the world???!!!
We opted to go via Guam and Japan and the trip went as follows:
Wed 11/06/2014: Day 1 – Outbound Journey
The Aberdeen (ABZ) to Heathrow (LHR) flight was short (645 km) and only about 1.5hrs long. On arrival to LHR I finished my travelling preparations by buying USA dollars, that I would need for the stop in Guam (GUM) and to pay the boat expenses and tips. Mike had been upgraded to Business so we made it to the lounge as he was confident that I would be let in as well. Although I do not understand what made him so confident, indeed I was let into the Business lounge as I was upgraded to business class for the flight to Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) on arrival to the lounge!!! Celebratory Gin Tonics were due as Aileen and Andris joined us.
Having my own bed was an added bonus (no doubt!) but getting to sit next to my diving buddy Andris and spending the whole of the flight talking about diving had and diving planned made the flight feel much sorter.
This was by far the longest single flight (9,614 km – 11 hrs) I have ever flown and strangely enough it didn’t feel that bad 🙂 Another first was the daylight for the whole of the flight!!! We left LHR at 12:00 of Wednesday and arrived in NRT at 09:00 Thursday morning but somehow (see flying over the Arctic) resulted in a long daylight flight. Only down side was the clouds so we couldn’t enjoy the view 😦
Thu 12/06/2014: Day 2 – Outbound Journey
We arrived to Tokyo Narita airport (NRT) at 09:00 in the morning. Annoyingly enough and because we were flying with different airlines we had to collect our baggage, go through immigration and change terminal before we could check-in to our Guam (GUM) flights. Lesson learnt in the future try to book the whole flight with the same airline (if possible).
Staff at the United Airlines check-in was really very helpful and the whole affair was over quickly and we made our way to the NRT business lounge.
The NRT business lounge left a lot to be desired (food/sushi was pretty boring and drinks options were rather limited) especially when compared to the LHR business lounge but free beer and wifi made it all the better! By that time Nick and Ramo had joined us so the Tools on Tour 2 banter was slowly building up!
Eventually the time came to board our flight to GUM. United Airlines was a new experience! I particularly enjoyed the dramatic music that accompanied the safety briefing (you know the “how to do your lifejacket and safety belt” etc video). The level of the (annoying) soundtrack was increasing all the time up to the end making it almost impossible to listen to the instructions!!! And for some bizarre reason the stewards were just standing still and did not bothered to point to the nearest emergency exit!!! Which made me wonder why did they had to stand altogether…
On arrival to GUM (2,508 km – 04:45 hrs later) we had to go through USA immigration which I wasn’t looking forward to. Surprisingly the whole thing was pretty straight forward and went without a glitch helping us make it to our hotel at a very reasonable time. Getting out of the airport the first thing to notice has Heat & Humidity. Big time. As it was night we couldn’t see an awful lot and although Mike was keen to go out for a wonder he got over it as soon as he stood out of the hotel (and the Air conditioning) and realised that going out was a bad idea!!!
Fri 13/06/2014: Day 3 – Outbound Journey
In the last two days we had completed the greatest part of the route (12,769 km). The remaining (3,315 km) was going to take as much time!!!
After breakfast (US of A sized) we made our way to Guam airport. We were already checked-ina nd went straight to security which took a little longer than expected as they had to search everything!!! Guam airport is not a very interesting place and just as well I had my trusty Kindle with me to keep me company as Mike had to go back out and help David with his dry suit inflation cylinder that wouldn’t go past security unless they removed the valve! Needless to say the rest of the team were at the United Airlines business lounge drinking champaigne! (yes at 08:30 in the morning!)
The rest of the day involved repeat flights. First to Guam, then to Truck then to Pohnpei from there to Kosrae and eventually to Kwajalein Atoll. Because the plane was landing and passengers embarked / disembarked we had to take our luggage from the overhead lockers so that the “Agents” would inspect it. As I was expecting Agent Smith I was disappointed when the only “Agents” that boarded the plane were the cleaning crew…
Apart from the “Agents” passengers dressed with flower huka hoops on their necks and heads boarded the plane which was, if nothing else, picturesque.
The punishment of having to listen to the horrible briefing with the “thriller-like” soundtrack continued until we disembarked the airplane.
Kwajalein airport is on Kwajalein Island of Kwajalein Atoll. As much as Kwajalein Atoll belongs to Marshall Islands the island itself is a United States Army missile base.
“The U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) is home to the Reagan Test Site. Located in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), 2,100 nautical miles southwest of Honolulu, Hawaii, Kwajalein is the world’s largest coral atoll surrounding the world’s largest lagoon. Eleven of the 100 islands comprising the Atoll are leased by the United States from the RMI government. Radar, optics, telemetry, and communications equipment on eight islands provide instrumentation for ballistic missile and missile interceptor testing and space operations support.” as the USAKA website reliably informs us 🙂
At this point we had the first and only Heartache of the trip. We were all concerned as to how much (if any) of our diving gear would eventually make it to Bikini after all this travelling, flying, inspection by USA customs and multiple flights. On disembarking from the plane we were casually joking about it when the time came to collect our luggage that had been offloaded from our plane and as it turned out Nick’s rebreather was missing.
At that point we were not quite sure where the rebreather was. The options were: Australia, Alaska or Arkansas (and these are just some of the destinations starting with the letter A!) Considering how far we had flown and the number of changes the unit could have been anywhere in the world!!!
Nick at that point was obviously gutted but held well under pressure (I think if that was me I would have broken down in tears at the prospect of diving OC – although in the end I did end up diving OC – irony!!!).
The best case scenario was that the unit was still onboard our plane and had just taken off to go to Hawaii, Not a bad place for a rebreather to go at all. But no good for Nick. 😦
At that point there was not much we could do other than wait for the plane to come back (Saturday morning) from Hawaii and hope the unit is still aboard.
After the necessary passport etc controls we were escorted to the Jetty where we boarded a United States Army Ferry Boat that took us to the jetty of Ebeye.
Loading the kit onto the ferry was fun but after that the journey from Kwajalein to Ebeye is around 15 minutes and is a good opportunity to enjoy the view and get acclimatised to the hot and humid weather 🙂
The tender of MV Winward was waiting for us and as soon as the ferry left Ebeye to return to Kwajalein they were next to the jetty, we boarded and headed to the boat.
By that time the sun had set and after a great dinner (the first of many) aboard MV Winward, Pete, Simon and the skipper and the gave us a tour of the boat and a brief so that everyone knew what we will be doing the next couple of days (diving, diving and some more diving!!!). At about that point Pete mentioned that our vessel doesn’t have holding tanks. At the time that went un-noticed but it wouldn’t be long before I understood what that meant 🙂
Sat 14/06/2014: Day 4 – Prince Eugen
While the rest of us were preparing our kit Nick was anxiously looking at the sky waiting for the plane from Hawaii with his rebreather. The plane was sighted on time as expected and a rescue party was dispatched promptly. Along with Nick, Pete went with a very big bag of tissues – just in case.
Soon after we saw the plane departing the tender appeared and from distance we could see a very aggitaded Nick holding (and lifting above his head!!!) a very big case!!! Success 🙂
I am not sure what was more impressive. That the unit made it to Bikini after all. Or seeing grumpy Nick in a good mood !!!
Having had enough of flying and travelling (and now with all of our gear with us) we decided to have a break and go diving instead of starting the 30hr crossing of the Pacific Ocean to Bikini Atoll.
The first dive of the trip was going to be the Prince Eugen a German Heavy Cruiser launched in 1938 of 19,000t displacement and 200m long armed with eight 8 inch guns. For reference and as a comparison the SMS Konig (a battleship scuttled in Scapa Flow) was built in 1911 and of 29,000t was 175m long and had ten 12 inch guns. Prince Eugen along with the Bismark took part in the Battle of the Denmark Strait where she engaged the HMS Hood and the HMS Prince of Wales.
After the end of the War the Eugen was allocated to Operation Crossroads as a target ship. She survived both the Able and the Baker Nuclear Weapon detonations and was taken to Kwajalein for decontamination from radioactive waste. As the decontamination failed she was abandoned in Kwajalein where she eventually capsided and sunk.
Seeing this topsides it was pretty obvious that this was no regular shake-down dive. Not often we get the chance to dive a 170m Heavy cruiser even less as a first dive of the trip!!! This was awesome and things were only going to get better!!!
Although the props are above the water because of her size (175m) the top of the bows is at 30m of water! and sure enough there is scope for penetration and ferreting 🙂
After the dive we were treated to second breakfast and then lunch before we got back in the water for our second dive in the Eugen!!! At the end of the day and having seen enough of the Eugen to really want to go back and penetrate deepen another day we had dinner and our boat started the long sail to Bikini Atoll.
Sun 15/06/2014: Day 5 – Crossing the Pacific
We were lucky with the weather and the sea was flat calm during the crossing to the Bikini Atoll making it far much much easier and enjoyable. I spent most of my time reading my book and enjoying the endless ocean around us. From that point onwards we were outside Mobile phone network coverage zone, no TV no internet. No other vessels at sea or planes. No land in any direction of the horizon! After a brief stop for a quick swim (at that point the chart was showing a mere 5,000m to the sea bed!!!).
Mon 16/06/2014: Day 6 – Diving the Sara
USS Saratoga was an aircraft carrier launched in 1925 of 43,000t and 270m length. After the end of the war she was found to be surplus to requirements and allocated to Operation Crossroads. She was located 2,265 yards away from ground zero of the Able and Baker tests. She survived the Able lightly damaged and sunk after the Baker test.
As she is a very big vessel and there is loads to see both outside, around and inside the wreck the plan was to dive the Sara both times for the first day and then as a second dive on subsequent days.
The beauty of the Sara just as all the other wrecks of Bikini is that unlike wrecks in UK waters that have been battered by storms and souvenir hunters they are intact both on the outside and the inside.
Tue 17/06/2014: Day 7 – Nagato
The Nagato is one of the biggest battleships ever made. Her 16 inch guns include her in a very short list of 17 battleships ever made armed with 16″ guns and only 2 more ever built with 18″ guns. But that is not the only reason I wanted to dive the Nagato. The Nagato is a very special wreck because she was the flagship of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and led the 7th of December 1941 attack to Pearl Harbour.
Underwater the guns look equally impressive and she is a massive wreck too!
The Nagato makes for an awesome dive and being 215m there is loads to explore and many reasons to go back again and again and again!!!
Once back on the boat we had the second breakfast and a nap or in my case continue reading my book until the time came to dive the Sara again.
This time the plan was to go and visit the machinery room. Pete guided us (myself and Andris) to the entrance of the machinery room and off we were…
Lathes, Vertical drills and all sorts of serious tools were inside a rather small room 🙂
Loads of toys to look at but pretty tight space and easy to silt out. After diving we resumed our usual activities Gin n Tonic, Beer and reading. Life is good 🙂
Wed 18/06/2014: Day 8 – USS Arkanas
The Arkansas was a battleship laid down at 1910 and served both in the First and Second World Wars. She is 171m long and her main armament was a substantial twelve 12″ guns !!! (6 turrets with 2 guns each).
Arkansas survived the Able test but she sunk during the Baker test. The monumental photo below shows the shadow of what used to be the Arkansas which lifted vertically and crashed to the bottom capsized.
Underwater of course she was equally as impressive!
Following a 142min dive we decided to surface and go for second breakfast 🙂 That is the second breakfast before lunch and a nap and another dive to the Sara!!! Between dives the fishing rods were out…
and occasionally we would catch fish!!!
Although the fish we caught didn’t always made it to dinner…
Brian took us to see even more torpedoes and the planes at the aft end of the Sara.
After a very modest 85 min dive we surfaced for more Gin n’ Tonic, dinner and the sunset 🙂
Brian was very confident that there were Tiger sharks and he was desperate to see / dive with them so he decided to go for a night dive and take Edward with him.
Edward was very confident that there were Tiger sharks and was desperate NOT to see / dive with them so he didn’t really wanted to go for a dive with Brian (or anyone else for that matter)!
In the end Brian convinced Edward and they both reluctantly entered the water. Neither of them had a camera (so no photos) but Edward had a very big stick with him!!!
From the boat waching the diver’s lights was very impressive and could not help notice repeatedly 360 degree turns scanning the surrounding for Sharks. At some point we noticed the two lights separate and wondered if they got separated but considering the great vis it is more likely that Brian wanted to get away from Edwards big stick!!!
Much to Brian’s dissapointment and to Edwards delight there were no Tiger shark sightings…
Thu 19/06/2014: Day 9 – Lamson
After first breakfast the boat moved to the location of todays first dive which was going to be the Lamson.
A 100m long destroyer located 720 yards away from ground zero of the Able test where she was was sunk.
I like the Lamson because she is upright. and she is very much ship – shape. She is also considerably smaller than the other wrecks (half the length of the Nagato) which makes for easy navigation.
The dive run time was a very sensible 124 minutes after which we headed back for second breakfast and lunch. During the surface interval our cook was preparing lunch lunch we Mango filleting the tuna we caught earlier (fishing) while preparing lunch (sushi). As it turns out. What was left over from the filleting process was disposed by throwing it overboard…
The second dive of the day was the Sara. The plan this time was to dive the main line. We jumped in the water and headed to the entry of the main line. The main line is a single passage that effectively crosses the whole length of the aircraft carrier.
That was a dive I certainly enjoyed. It was a deep penetration inside a wreck that went without a glitch. And what was even better is that if anyone had followed us they wouldn’t be able to tell that we had ever been there. Talk about Trim and Buoyancy control 🙂
Two hours later back on the boat time for beer, Gin n Tonic and relaxing 🙂
After dinner and as it was late enough to do anything else we decided to do a bit of stargazing. As we were in the middle of nowhere and quite close to nothing there was no light pollution and the view was spectacular. My favourite part was seeing for the first time ever the Southern Cross.
Since Brian and Edward came back safe and in one piece without seeing any Tiger sharks a few more brave (but not as brave as Brian and Edward!) divers went back in the water for a night dive. the rest of us stayed on the boat drinking beer G n’ T end enjoying the spectacular light show of the diver’s torches!!!
Now don’t get me wrong.
I love diving,
I love night diving.
I love Wrecks.
I love diving wrecks.
I love diving wrecks at night
I love sharks
I love diving sharks
Just not convinced about night diving with sharks…
not yet …
Fri 20/06/2014: Day 10 – Anderson
The USS Anderson was a Simms Class destroyer with a very impressive record. She took part in a number of operations not least of all The Battle of Midway where she recovered 203 men of the by then fatally wounded USS Yorktown. She is 100 m long
Underwater Anderson lies on her Port side relatively intact.
Sadly this was not a great dive for me as I had to abort mission due to a rebreather failure. On the surface and after a fair bit of troubleshooting it was confirmed that CCR diving was over for me for the remaining of the trip and Open Circuit was the way to go!!!
I spent most of the surface interval cannibalising my rebreather so that I can put together a twinset and continue diving the result was quite impressive.
As I had to match the dive times of rebreather divers I had to make sure that I had enough gas with me 🙂 As this was my first OC dive after a while I decided to take it easy and buddy up with Aileen who decided she would go CCR diving in a bikini! (and as it turns out we DO have photos of that!). We went to see the planes and on the way back while looking around the “island” (Aircraft carrier control tower) we found a bugle!
On return to the boat we made our way to Bikini for the first of the two visits to the Bikini Island. We decided to opt for the scenic route rather than take the truck to the “Dive Centre” and so found ourselves walking in an incredible beach …
The location for the bbq and drinks was the old beach bar by the dive centre. Back in 1998 the island was thought to be safe to live. A dive centre opened and facilities (accommodation and a bar) for the divers too. In 2008 it was decided that the long term exposure to the residual radiation was too high for the residents so the island was abandoned minus a small team of people that are rotated for a period of time so that they can look after the place.
There was a lot of eating and even more (as you would expect from a group of well behaved divers) drinking.
And we came across new species (well new to us) this Coconut Crab. This one was a small fella (they grow up to 1m!!!) and their claws can crack open coconuts!!! It is considered to be a delicacy and an aphrodisiac (source: wikipedia)
A funny thing too a couple of us decided to take the morning off …
Sat 21/06/2014: Day 11 – Nagato
As the Nagato, due to its enormous size, is a beast of a dive, this time we were dropped off around midships and headed back to the massive props and rudder
Then once back on the boat (and after second breakfast and lunch!) we wnet back in the water for the second dive of the day the USS Apogon an almost 100m long submarine. I like diving submarines because although there is no scope for penetration they usually are ship shape enough and when intact make for very picturesque dives.
Back on the boat for more reading, eating and drinking 🙂
Sun 22/06/2014: Day 12 – Anderson
The morning dive was a return trip to the Anderson which I didn’t got to see much of last time!
Between dives we entertained ourselves with a bit of tombstoning (well more like boatstoning it was) . I failed repeatedly NOT to pinch my nose which above all was rather embarrassing…
For the second dive we went back to the Sara only that this time Pete let Andris take his scooter so Andris kindly gave us a lift to the airplane that lies at the seabed off the stern with a machine gun lying on top of the “starboard” wing.
Having had a a great time during our last visit to Bikini we decided to do it again and go for another bbq 🙂 This time instead of going for a beach walk we decided to take the tourist bus and go to explore the Island.
Mon 23/06/2014: Day 13 – Nagato
The penultimate day’s diving was going to be a final visit to the battleship Nagato. I made it to the broken part of the stern which further aft from the props and the massive rudders has parted from the wreck and lies on the sea bed.
During the second dive Pete took me to the Dentist’s which is a level below the main line in the sick bay area.
As much as the dive to the dentist’s was awesome I can not say t was my favourite dive. I am still struggling to stay still and in the confined space of a wrecked aircraft carrier that can be problematic. Maybe next time…
Tue 24/06/2014: Day 14 – The Sara
With Barry, DLK and Gary all out in a search and recovery mission to find and bring back Gary’s Go Pro that Gary very carefully dropped the day before myself and Mike got ready and went for a final dive to the Sara.
Once out of the water we started preparations for the long journey back. Washing and hanging kit to try and some packing.
We were very very lucky with the weather and that welped with the drying of the kit!
Once everything was safely away we waved bye bye to Bikini and started our 30 hour journey back.
Wed 25/06/2014: Day 15 – Sail back to Kwajalein
The sail back could not have been any easier with virtually no wind and the Pacific being flat like a lake. Wale watch at the bridge spotted a few sperm whales but they were too shy and did not care for our company. Simon and Pete juped in the water and went for a long swim but as it looked like they got a little bit closer the wales dived and by the time they surfaced they were well further away.
On arrival to Kawajalein Atoll and still a way away from Ebeye we stopped for a swim and a visit to a tropical, deserted, uninhabited island in the middle of thepacific. Not often I find myself standing in an island all alone and all to myself!.
At that point we came across the saddest and loneliest Island on the planet! You do not want to find yourself shipwrecked here!!!
Eventually at the evening we arrived to Ebeye, finished packing had dinner and after a few more drinks we decided to pass the proposed visit to Ebeye and instead went to bed…
Thu 26/06/2014: Day 16 – Fly to Guam
After saying goodbye to Pete who was on a later (much much later as it turned out because it was delayed by a couple of days!) flight we left MV Winward and headed for the jetty in Ebeye where the crew great as ever offloaded our kit and soon we boarded the ferry for the quick journey to Kawajalein. As a military airport the Kawajalein departures lounge is rather basic. Once more security was friendly and efficient and more than happy to deal with a multinational collection of retrobates like us!!!
As time was going by I decided I needed something to quench my thirst and (not sure what posessed me) opted for a Fanta! I do not generally do soft drinks. And that Fanta was not the Fanta I was looking for!
As it turns out (look at wikipedia for the different Fantas distributed in different parts of the world #WTF!) the have a red Fanta. Sweet and horrible. Yikes. Like Big time yikes. Straight to the bin
A little bit dissapointed by my Fanta I opted for an Ice Tea. Now for the whole of the week I have been drinking copious amounts of Aloha Ice Tea. Awesome!
Strongly recomend it and you can get it from here: http://itoen-usa.com/aloha-maid-natural/
So I went back to the lady at the bar and got an Ice Tea. Now I didn’t ask for a Sweetened Ice Tea because Ice Tea is by definition sweet. If it is not sweet then it is just Cold Tea. And I am not a great fan of Cold Tea.
Well. Ice Tea to the Bin. By that time I was running out of change, patience and I was also getting thirsty!
The last Failed experiment (before giving up and reverting to water) was Hershey’s
All I am going to say is that if ever you find yourself wanting chocolate and see a Hersey’s in front of you in a vending machine just go for the SPAM
Yes the same vending machine could dispach SPAM as well and although I refused to have SPAM it could not have been much worst that the chocolate…
Eventually we made it to the United Airlines plane and the painful memory of that horrible safety video with the irritating thriller like soundtrack came back. On the plus side we got better fed this time as although we had one less landing and take off (no stop an Pohnpei) we got more ham and mayo sandwiches!!!
On arrival to Guam and considering how Christians the Americans are I was surprised the statue of Goddess of Life outside the airport terminal.
Once I got over my excitement at seeing a Pagan statue at the we made our way back to our hotels for a quick shower and getting ready for drinks.
Apart from Simon and Gary who were already on their way home we met up at the Hard Rock Cafe in Guam for celebratory drinks.
Having had enough we left to go back to our hotel taking Nick and Ramo with us whom (after a lot of effort) we managed to convince that sleeping in our room would be better than sleeping at the airport!!!
Fri 27/06/2014: Day 17 – Guam to Tokyo
Friday morning I had to check-in my luggage again as United Airlines were (a little bit) retarded and did not checked in my luggage directly to Tokyo although they did for almost everyone else in our group…
Guam airport is not a very exciting place having completed the necessary visit to the tourist shop to buy tacky stuff and I found out that the also sell cold tea. Like make tea (you know with a bit of milk) put it in a bottle and then in the freezer #wtf.
Bought some sweetened tea this time( I had learned my lesson) and made my way to the departure gate.
On arrival to Tokyo and after checkiing-in at the hotel we went to for a quick drink at the Park Hyatt Tokyo (yes the famous one from Lost in Translation) where Andris was staying for a drink at the roof bar (yes the famous one from Lost in Translation).
After that (and a brief tour in Andris Mahoosive Room and pretty impressive minibar too!!!
We headed out for dinner. We decided to opt for Korean. Now that was a cultural experience. Especially as we left Andris (with his limited Japanes) to order
Andris did a spectacular job at ordering pretty awesome cuts that we grilled ourselves in our little table-sized grill. All I have to say is that Korean food is Awesome (sake too!)
Sat 28/06/2014: Day 18 – Tokyo
The weather in Tokyo was rather grim and me being, well, me I decided that I do not need an umbrella despite the thick grey / black clouds and the dense fog in the horizon, Aillen was great she came with me to the tube station to show me how to use the Tokyo tube ticket issuing machines and from then onwards it was a doddle. Got the Tube (Marunouchi Line) from Nishinjuku to Otemachi which is next to the Imperial Palace Gardens.
By the time I got out of the tube station it was torrential rain and as I was umbrella-less I opted to hide in the first Starbucks that I found. Ordering was pretty straight forward despite my limited Japanese 🙂
The amusing part was WiFi. Apparently that Starbucks had free WiFi. All you had to do is register and then you get a confirmation e-mail with your password. Well that didn’t work! Of course as I could not connect I could not get the e-mail with the password. Very very interested to find out what Starbucks management were thinking!!!
After I had my coffee and read a fair bit more of Joseph T. Ward’s Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam which is highly addictive I decided I felt brave enough to go ahead with my visit to the Imperial Palace Gardens. Free entrance was a bonus but it was a bit of a shame that because it was weekend parts were closed and no guided tours were available. None the less I went ahead (see stubborn Greek).
Named after Mt Fuji which could be seen from here and from where Shogun enjoyed the views of fireworks at Ryogoku and Tokyo bay!!!
After I got thoroughly soaked and had enough of trying to avoid the rain I decided to hide in the tourist shop which much to my delight sold (yes you guessed correct!) Umbrellas!!! Having had my umbrella I went out again to find those faountains!!!
I was about to give up when Andris insisted that they were only just around the corner from the Palace! Which explained a lot! If the fountains were just around the corner then I would not find them inside the palace gardens (which is where I have been searching!!! (DOH)
After the short visit to the fountains (fountains stopped as soon as I got the photos!) I headed back to the hotel for a shower and dry clothes. I mean my clothes were dry by now but having been wet and then dry it was all rather unpleasant.
Time for lunch and this was definitely a new experience. Aileen seemed to know what she is doing so I (reluctantly) followed. As it turns out the plan for today was to have Ramen for lunch.
As a true and believer of the Church of the FSM and devoted to his Noodly Appendage this was an oportunity I could not miss!!!
Now silly me, I was expecting to walk into a restaurant. A waitress to show us to our table. Let us sit and then come to take our order.
Well it looks like things don’t work like that in tokyo noodle/ramen bars instead Aileen headed to the wall with a bizare device.
Suppose it was good news. As I don’t speak Japanese, the waitress didn’t speak English and I hadn’t had a clue what was I going to order. So pointed at an icon and ordered.
Apparently I ordered Ramen.
By ordering Ramen this is what I was expecting:
instead this is what I got:
Not only it looked different but it tasted different too! By far the richest soup I have ever had!!!
I have reasons to believe (strong fishy taste) that it was Miso Ramen but I am no Ramen expert…
After that gastronomic experience I decided to have another local delicacy
Another acuired taste. Don’t think I will find it in Aberdeen but that’s no great loss either…
Following a short walk through Shinjoku and past the all famous Japan Robot Restaurant we headed back to the hotel for an afternoon nap before we go out again for drinks and dinner 🙂
A fine collection indeed. Quite clearly that Japanese are into their Whiskey. We had cocktails. Don’t aske me what. the menu was in japanese so I don’t know. It was nice though and I wanted more!!!
Once we had enough drinks and got hungry enough we decided it was time for Sushi!
Sushi was awesome and no surprises there so definitely enjoyed that!!!
As I had an early start I had to have an early night and I was a bit dissapointed the Shinjoku Robot Restaurant was booked and I wouldn’t get to see it but on the plus side Aileen and Andris had tickets to go on sunday!
Looks awesome and want to go back!!!
Domo Arigato Japan! It was awesome and looking forward to going back!!!
Sun 29/06/2014: Day 19 – Return Journey
Sunday morning I left the hotel and headed to the airport with the Airport limousine. Now before we get all too excited by limousine in Japan they mean Coach. A coach that takes you from the hotel to the airport. Pretty awesome but not quite a limousine!!!
Sadly I was not upgraded to business this time and I had to suffer premium economy. Not bad at all. Did spend the whole of the flight reading James M. Tabor’s Blind Descent a book I can not recommend enough. Caves are scary. Like very seriously scary.
I finally made it back to ‘deen (aka the Granite City) early in the evening and headed home surprisingly relaxed and despite expecting to be tired after the 2 days of flying and travelling I found myself thrilled and with a very very big smile in my face!!!
All divers in the group were diving rebreathers. Considering that we are talking about deep penetrations at 50+ m I do not think that OC is a good idea. Other than that the water temperature was a balmy 28 deg C so any thin wetsuit will do. Full length and covered as much as possible as the wrecks are as sharp as it gets. you get cut only by looking at them let alone touching them…
Take as many spares / consumables and specialist tools as you need because you will be in the middle of nowhere and if anything brakes you have to fix it yourself and of course a big torch (and a backup one and a spare one) as most of the diving was inside the wrecks.
Without going in to too much detail I have included a breakdown of costs. Nick’s write-up in CCR Explorers is also excellent reference and includes a good guide to help budgeting and planning with this trip.
|USD||179.00||Upgrade Fee – Business Class|
|USD||79.00||Upgrade Fee – Economy Plus|
|USD||29.00||Second Checked luggage|
|USD||172.05||Guam – Hilton|
|USD||15.00||Guam taxi – hotel to airport|
|USD||875.00||Lust 4 Rust – Gas, Lime etc|
|USD||6,500.00||Lust 4 Rust|
|YEN||30,000.00||Taxi from Airport to Tokyo Hilton Hotel|
|YEN||4,920.00||NRT Baggage Storage|
|YEN||3,100.00||Tokyo Coach to Airport|
|GBP||165.32||Tokyo – Hilton|
So far I have managed to track expenses to £8,200 so I guess a £9k would be fairly accurate
I went to Bikini having very high expectations and not only my expectations were met but were repeatedly exceeded!!! Yes there is no doubt the diving was awesome and better than anywhere else I have ever dived before but Bikini is a lot more that that:
- it is the journey to get there,
- the company of people
- the remoteness of the location,
- the Pacific,
- The lack of communication with the outside world
- The remoteness and the uninhabited islands
- being in a place that less people visit than those that climb the top of mount Everest
made for a unique feeling of adventure that I had not felt before and many many new firsts and personal best.
None of that would have happened without the team that made the Bikini Atoll – June 2014 trip so special
Many thanks to the Tools on Tour 2 team:
- Paul Toomer
- Pete Mesley
- Simon Mitchell
- Andris Nestors
- Aileen Small
- Mike Ferguson
- David Lau-Kee
- Barry Smith
- Andrew Rampton
- Nick Butcher
- Gary Linger
- Brian (Diving Ops Sup)
- Edward (Bikinian dive guide)