a deptherapy blog

26 Aug2018


by Dr. Richard Cullen | 26th August 2018

Funded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2016 Libor Fund

Supported by:


The planning for Truk CHUUK) Lagoon goes back to our 2016 five year strategy document and our desire to run a major expedition in 2018.
We bid for and were successful in being awarded a grant from the 2016 Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Libor Fund which included both the expedition to Chuuk Lagoon but also the major build up programme that was necessary for Deptherapy programme members to successfully dive the wrecks of the Japanese World War II fleet in the lagoon.  Throughout the planning stages we have been supported by The Royal Foundation’s Endeavour Fund, the Veterans’ Foundation and the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).

We developed a programme that would assist programme members to be able to successfully dive, penetrate and enjoy the many wrecks found in the Lagoon. Chuuk Lagoon or by its real name Chuuk Lagoon is pronounced phonetically by the locals as ‘CHEWK’.  Chuuk is part of the Federated States if Micronesis,
The programme decided on was a week of wreck diving in the Red Sea on a liveaboard, during 2017; followed a week undertaking the PADI Tec 40 course at Roots Red Sea. The build programme would be concluded with the team being trained in Coral Conservation and mappig by Coral Cay Conservation again using the house reefs at Roots Red to conduct this major exercise.

We ran a tender process for both the Liveaboard and arrangements for the expedition to Chuuk in 2018.  For the Chuuk expedition we chose Dive Worldwide who produced an outstanding itinerary that no one else could match. In terms of value for money no other tender came close.

Selecting expedition members

Was a challenge, some of our programme members by nature have life changing mental and/or physical challenges and by their very nature those selected may need extra surgery or be so ill that they cannot dive or complete the rigorous build up programme. Some of those initially selected changed jobs and despite being part of the build-up programme were not able to commit to the 15 day Chuuk expedition. Some were found, despite considerable effort on behalf of the Deptherapy staff, to be capable of achieving the rigorous standards required to dive Chuuk.
A prerequisite was that those selected for the expedition must be existing Deptherapy programme members and had completed their PADI Open Water Course, Advanced Open Water and Deep course with the charity.
Initially we decided on 12 programme members supported by a doctor, a paramedic, two photographers to record the expedition and six staff members.  We revised this mix to allow us to take 14 programme members by reducing the staff team.

Military and Forgotten Wrecks Liveaboard

During the early planning stages we became aware that the Blue Lagoon, dive resort where we would be staying in Chuuk did not have sufficient stage tanks to cater for 22 divers.  We therefore changed direction and trained all the potential expedition members to be EANx (Nitrox) divers which would allow them increased bottom time at depth.
We therefore extended the wreck Liveaboard to 10 days rather than 7 to allow for more wreck diving and more experience with Nitrox. We also realised that we were heading towards a situation where we had no choice over which programme members were selected for the expedition as space on liveaboards is limited and there was a danger that individuals might think they had a place on the expedition by right – an entitlement culture.
We therefore sourced four further places on the same trip later in 2017 being organised by Divecrew our UK base, this gave us the ability to select on merit for the Chuuk expedition.
The Red Sea is second to none in its diversity of wrecks and we spent two days on the iconic wreck of the SS Thistlegorm sunk by enemy action in World War II.  We also held a Sunset ceremony, formed in an open square to remember those who died when the vessel was bombed by German bombers in 1941.
While on the Liveaboard all programme members completed their PADI Wreck Course.

Coral Conservation

In the spring of 2018 at our Red Sea base, Roots Red Sea we ran a coral conservation course and coral mapping course for selected expedition members. Tom Dallison, the Head of Science at Coral Cay Conservation. Coral Cay is owned by one of our patrons Alistair Cole and Tom’s services were provided free of charge. An amazing course where programme members also learned how to calculate the bio mass of aquatic life.
We also trained all programme members in PADI’s Project Aware and all completed a PADI Dive against Debris.


The Board of Trustees selected the 14 expedition members, two who were late replacements as some programme members had to withdraw due to work commitments. The final team included one triple amputee, three bilateral amputees, one single below the knee amputee, and one single arm amputee. Others suffered broken backs, seriously injured backs, and serious leg damage. One had suffered brain damage and one contracted Multiple Sclerosis. Many suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
(photo group pic at Blue Lagoon)
Doctor Oli Firth, who runs the London Diving Chamber and who is the country’s leading expert on dive medicine was chosen as our expedition doctor and he was supported by Howard Payne a very experienced Paramedic. Both Oli and Howard are divers.
As previously mentioned we selected two excellent photographers to create a record of the expedition both of who coincidentally are PADI instructors.
The final group was three trustees all PADI Master Instructors and a PADI Staff Instructor.

Expedition Dates

The expedition was set for 3 -17 August 2018 for what would be a logistically complex movement of expedition members including four wheel chair users, three on prosthetics and others using walking sticks, through four airports and three flight changes.
In Chuuk we would stay at the Blue Lagoon Dive Resort founded by the founding father of diving in the Lagoon, Kimiuo Aisek.
We needed to arrange ‘fit to dive medicals’ obtain US ESTAs as we travelled through and changed flights and overnight in Guam.