The Story of her Sinking
The vessel had suffered from minor damage inflicted by U.S. air attacks near Buka Isl. on 1 Sep 1942 and received two direct bomb hits during "Operation Hailstorm" in Truk Lagoon on 17 Feb 1944. However, she remained afloat due to her very strong construction and state-of-the-art bulkhead design (just look at this point when diving the wreck next time). Criticism over the relative long Japanese building times for special service vessels are, by the way, not justified. In comparison, allied ships of similar purpose and design stood little chance to survive bombings like these.
(scroll down for the video)
After being repaired in Japan she was back to service in July/August 1944. Akitsushima arrived in Coron Bay almost at the same time as Irako and anchored in the narrow sound separating Lajo Isl. and Manglet Isl.
Strafed by Lt. (J.G.) Tuaspern and his wing of AG-31 she was first mistaken to be a destroyer escort (DE). VB-18 later scored one direct hit into the aft part of the vessel causing a tremendous explosion most likley of the fuel tanks for the flying boat. She capsized within a few minutes and sank.
The very last picture of Akitsushima in the background
The Diving on the Wreck today:
This is an advanced dive due to the depth and the currents. The wreck lies on it's portside at 37 m with the bow pointing to 290 °. The starboard side is at 18 m and has good marine life. You can swim along the arm of the crane, which was used to lower the flying boat into the water, and see many black corals and sponges growing on it. If you continue further towards the bow you get to the huge crack that almost split the ship apart and caused her to capsize and sink rapidly. This area can be fairly safely penetrated. There are a lot of glassfish swimming around and the incoming light creates great effects. Experienced and well equipped divers can go on from here into the engine room or even penetrate deep into the interior of this only true warship among the Coron wrecks. Stay on the outside and keep swimming towards the bow, you will get to the funnel and you can still see the anti-aircraft guns and the radio mast. Don't forget to watch out for schools of barracudas, tunas and the occasional grouper living in the wreck. Unfortunately the seaplane has never been found and it is assumed that it took off before the sinking (see photo below).