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JAPANESE TRANSPORT SHIP - TOTSUTORI MARU DIVE EXPEDITION



HOW IT ALL BEGIN?


INTRODUCTION

How it all begin? We received the information from the Admiralty Office on the 8th of July 1997 about sunken vessels in the proximity of Tenggol Island and for the first time we noticed the Totsutori Maru.

THE SEARCH FOR THE VESSEL

Several attempts was make since August to locate the vessel and finally on the 18th of October 1997 with the help of a skilful local fisherman the pioneer group located the wreck.

THE PIONEER EXPEDITION

The expedition leader, Michael Lim that an expedition will be planned for May 1998 to document this interesting vessel, decided it. Research will commence immediately. Information about this vessel was virtually impossible. Limited information are gathered as follows;

Name: Totsutori Maru
Nationality: Japanese
Type: Army cargo Vessel
Tonnage: 5,978 GRT
Date Sunk: 150543

With this limited information many unanswered questions is left to be answered by the expedition.
 
  FIRST REPORT

The following information were gathered after the first assignment;
• Vessel is broken
• Gen.depth is 90ft. Max. depth is 110ft
• Integrity of vessel – above ave
• Hazards – Nets, sharp twisted metal, marine growth and corals, rusted metal.
• Vessel position – lying on portside

The second section remain a mystery.
 
 
 
 
 
 
THE EXPEDITION

Objectives of Expedition

The objective of the team is to find out what happened to the wreck. How did it sink? Who is responsible for the sinking? What cargoes were she carrying? How big exactly is she? Etc.

The Tribute

The team conducted a short ceremony to pay tribute to the crew of the vessel during the anniversary on the 15th of May. A wreath of flowers will toss and later brought down and tied to the bridge portion of the wreck.

Marcel being a Swiss coming from a neutral country was given the honor to escort the flowers and done the tie-off and salutation.

The Discovery

Many items are spotted:
1. An American make torchlight
2. An English make light ceramic
3. A metal disc with chinese wordings
4. A bottle with chinese inscription
5. 2 anti-aircraft machine guns

It was confusing at first when western items were examine. There were times we thought we will diving a different wreck however we later learn the bottle was our evidence that this vessel is indeed the Totsutori Maru or better known Tottori Maru.
The wreck is broken into two parts and most parts are buried and fallen off.

TV 3

We have the honor of having Malaysia’s most popular TV network TV3 at the expedition. They are featuring the expedition in their series "TV3 Magazine" on the 24th May at 10.00pm.

Post Trip Research

Like many other wrecks they start revealing more about themselves as you dive more and stay hard-working and dig in further. We found a host of new interesting information that has brought new light to our understanding.

TOTTORI MARU

First we found out the fact it was so difficult to obtain any information was that the vessel was known as Tottori Maru during the war. According to Charles Hocking’s Dictionary of Disaster at Sea. Tottori Maru was built in 1913 in the Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, Japan Mail Steamship Co.Ltd and owned by Russell & Co. She was a 5,973 gross tonnage vessel with a length of 423.4 feet, a beam of 56 feet and draught of 28.7 feet. She was running with triple expansion engines with 556 n.h.p. each. She was recorded to have been torpedoed and sunk by U.S. submarine Hammerhead on May 15th, 1945.
 
SEEKING THE TRUTH

It would have seem that the only way to find out the truth was to tally a set of information. According to John D.Aden book, U.S. Submarine Attacks during WWII, it is reported in page 9 that the U.S. Silversides on May 17th ,1942 at 1700 hrs, fired 2 torpedoes at Tottori Maru in Manila. She had 4 explosions, suffered heavy damage but did not sink.

Than flipping to page 197, U.S. submarine Hammerhead belonging to Patrol 6 spotted an approximately 5700 tons Japanese army cargo vessel in the night of May 15th, 1945 . Fired 3 torpedos at 000 hrs at Tottori Maru, one missed and hit the beach while the other 2 landed on her. With this information it seems to reveal the truth when the crew of TV3 informed us that they have gone to Kota Bahru and interviewed 2 elderly in separate occasion and both of them claim to have seen an explosion on Tanjung Jara beach follow by a big ship sinking a slight distance away on the night of May 15th, 1945.

It did occur to our team when diving that the vessel is blown up into 2 halves possibly by torpedoes or mines. Further research also tells us Tottori Maru was commissioned as a prisoner vessel and one of her historic trip was on October 8,1942. She was destined for Pusan in Korea carrying 1,930 prisoners of war from Manila. 10 were thrown overboard after dying from starvation and hardship.

It seems apparent that she frequent Pusan in Korea and with reference to the chinese inscription on the bottle we found, it is written Korean-Japanese Dry Batteries Company- For Navy Use. The 2 anti-aircraft machines guns that was discovered during the expedition is also confirmed to be Japanese when one of the team diver chip a round disc on the turret and it has chinese writing stating it is property of the Japanese army.

We hope we have managed to unravel the facts of the Tottori Maru but we somehow feel that this is still only the beginning.

THE RETURN

A filming trip is planned for 1999 to make a documentary on this wreck and to further solve her mystery. The tentative date is planned for a 10 days expedition in August onboard a dive vessel.

PRODUCTION HIGHLIGHT

This production will show the cruelty and hardship of slaves onboard a prisoner vessel during WWII. It will also cover what happened to the Tottori Maru and her people onboard. A tribute will also be filmed and the team will involve Japanese and American to document their feelings and views.
 
 
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