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Dive day #2: A seagrass jungle and... a tiny piece of evidence? (Kanrin Maru blog 2)

Monday, September 10, 2018 - 11:10

Pre-dive discussion. Mr. Jinbu of the Hakodate Newspaper, third from the left, watches closely.

A tiny piece of wood

On the second day of the survey, we had a chance to do two dives; one in the morning, one in the afternoon. The morning dive picked up where we left yesterday, only now with three divers instead of two (Mr. Yoshida, Mr. Takahashi and Mr. Hayashibara). Like yesterday, the idea was to circle-search in a radius of approximately 30 metres, now with all three divers on the line, separated from each other by 2 metres. Rods were brought along to prick the sandy seabed to see if there’s anything underneath soft enough to be penetrated, such as wood. Unfortunately, time and time again, after penetrating about 30 centimetres of sand, we hit rock. Visibility this time was even worse, being approximately 2 to 3 metres. To make things even more difficult, the area now searched was riddled with patches of tall eelgrass (Zostera caulescens most likely), some reaching as high as 5 metres (!). It occasionally turned the seabed in a downright jungle. The rope attached to the central buoy to make the circle, got tangled up multiple times. Though at the end of the dive, Takahashi-san did bring back a tiny piece of wood from the area that should be close to the location described by Yoshida-san last year. Naturally we need more than just one tiny piece of wood to even have the start of inkling that we’ve found wreckage material, but at least it's something.

Shore support

After lunch we came back to the harbour for the second dive. We were welcomed by a group of enthusiastic supporters. Among them was Ms. Munakata of the Society of Kanrin-maru Crew Descendants. She is actually the descendant of the head of the Nagasaki Naval Training Centre, whose name was Admiral Kimura Settsu-no-Kami. The centre itself was established around 1855 with the aid of Dutch naval officer G.C.C. Pels Rijcken, who was leading the detachment of Dutch navy officers stationed at Nagasaki. Pels Rijcken and other Dutch officers provided the Japanese with the latest in Dutch naval training until they were relieved from their duty by the men who brought the Kanrin Maru to Japan in 1857. Other supporters that day were Kubo-san of the Society for Dreaming About The Kanrin Maru and Wajima-san, special member of the Kaiyo Maru descendants. The Kaiyo Maru was a ship built by the C. Gips & Zonen in Dordrecht in 1865, it wrecked in nearby Esashi in 1868. Its shipwreck was already partly researched and excavated in the late 1980s, but there is still shipwreck material in the harbour of Esashi, Hokkaido. The area is now a nationally protected site and there are plans to re-evaluate the current condition of the material, to see whether or not further protection is required.

Needles to say

The second dive of the day, rather unfortunately, yielded no significant breakthroughs. Each dive however, brought us new insights into where not to look, while it also gave us a proper and up-to-date understanding of the conditions of the seabed, seeing as it was mostly sand and pebbles covering the area that we searched. This is also a crucial part in research. All in all, it remains a search for the good ole’ needle in the haystack.

Tomorrow is our last day of diving. With only one dive to go, all effort is focussed in our least endeavour. Let’s hope for the best.

From 7 to 9 September, the Maritime Programme and Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology conducted a dive survey at Kikonai, Hokkaido (Japan), in an effort to locate the shipwreck of the Kanrin Maru. Leon Derksen participated on behalf of the Maritime Programme. Follow his blogs and vlogs here and on social media with #KanrinMaru.