Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

An underwater graveyard becomes the birthplace of a biological wonder

Around 600 miles northeast of New Guinea there's a 49-square-mile archipelago of almost-forgotten islands called Truk which played a very important role in 20 th-century American history.

In 1944 Truk, a forward supply depot for the Japanese Navy, was attacked by American warplanes and, in a two-day period 500 tons of bombs were dropped, 265 Japanese planes were destroyed, and 60 Japanese vessels were sunk. The bottom of the 40-mile-diameter Truk lagoon became a graveyard of metal corpses, an eerie new underwater landscape.

About these ads

Now, 40 years later, nature has resurrected Truk lagoon and it boasts one of the earth's most amazing man-made coral reefs. The rusted underwater vessels and the nearby mangrove swamps have become nurseries and breeding grounds for a whole new ecosystem, including sponges, octopi, shrimp, oysters, sharks, fiddler crabs, and man. The Truk lagoon, part of a US protectorate, has been declared a ''historic site,'' protected by government edict.

Wolfgang Bayer, a world-renowned natural history cinematographer, was assigned by television's innovative natural-history series, ''Nature,'' to take his cameras to Truk to record the remarkable rebirth, or rather total renewal, of this environment: Resurrection at Truk Lagoon (Sunday, March 25, 8-9 p.m., check local listings for repeats).

Cinematographer Bayer, with the aid (above and below the surface) of Dr. Sylvia Earle, a California Academy of Science researcher, has managed to collect a series of joyous film clips that celebrate life underwater as well as life in the swampland and in the Truk towns. A major revelation to viewers is the significant irony of the new ecosystem: that the new coral reef could not have been formed naturally in that sandy lagoon but through war and destruction, a more congenial atmosphere for living creatures was created.

Says host and executive producer George Page: ''The sea, as always, has the final word.''

''Truk'' is glorious proof of the triumph of nature over mankind's destructiveness.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.