The Hoki Maru was originally the British – New Zealand ship Hauraki, and was a cargo ship with accommodation for twelve passengers. She was built by William Denny and Brothers at Dumbarton in Scotland, and launched on 28th of November 1921.
In 1942 the vessel was owned by the Union Steamship Corporation of New Zealand, and whilst on a voyage from Freemantle to Colombo, she was seized by the Japanese auxiliary cruisers Aikoko Maru, and the Hokoko Maru. She was renamed the Hoki Maru and rated as a ‘special transport’. Early in January 1944 the ship left Yokohama loaded with a full cargo of coal and other defence materials bound for Truk. When she got there she had no time to offload her cargo before she was bombed and sunk.
It is about 120 feet to the sea bed where the Hoki now lays, but only 80 feet to the main amidships section. The wreck is well broken up and a large piece of her stern has disappeared altogether. The wreck is famous for its cargo of intact trucks and tractors, which rest partly on the hatch, cover beams on the second ‘tween deck. The trucks are all complete with mudguards, headlights, and tyres. Some still have glass in their side windows. There is also a steamroller and a sort of bulldozer. They are all packed closely together and it is a bit spooky to see them all sitting there in the yellow green light. Soon however clouds of silt obscure them so it is time to move on. The Hoki is littered with rice bowls, glass containers, mainly bottles, and some interesting toilet bowls.
Another unusual factor is a maker’s plate. This is a brass plate showing the ships details and launch date. The dive brief had given us precise instructions on how to find it in the amidships section, and it was strange to see those British details on a ship sunk so far away from home.
It is also a sobering thought to realise, that of the original crew who were captured by the Japanese, only the Captain, a Mr. A.W.Crease, and twenty three others survived the incessant beatings, malnutrition and hard labour of the Mitsubishi dockyards, and the Ofana prison camp.
God bless them all.