This wreck is one of the standard dives in the Lagoon because it is so huge, nearly 500 feet long. Because its bows are in 130 feet, but its sides in 50 feet, it is a good dive for people of all abilities. The Rio de Janeiro was built in 1929 by Mitsubishi in Nagasaki as a passenger and cargo liner. She could accommodate up to sixty first class passengers in considerable comfort in cabins grouped around the Bridge deck area. The one thousand and seventy six third class passengers were located on A deck, and the main deck level.
Although there were eight or twelve passengers to a cabin, the accommodation was quite spacious for the time, with a smoking saloon and medical facilities made available as were eight wash houses and five Japanese type baths. The Rio had five holds with seven watertight bulkheads, and a maximum speed of 17.6 knots. Between 1925 and 1929 four sister ships were built and cruised between Japan, Honkong, Singapore, South Africa, and South America. In October 1940 she was taken into the Navy dockyard of Sasebo for conversion to a submarine tender and depot ship. Later she was reclassified as a transport ship and based at Truk, where on the first day of Operation Hailstorm, she was bombed by planes from the aircraft carrier Yorktown.
The Rio de Janeiro burned for most of the day and gradually sank slowly by the stern. The Rio is a great dive and you could easily spend a week on it. Although the wreck lies in 130 feet it rises to just about 30 feet below the surface so you can spend quite a long time on it. The wreck lies on its starboard side and exposes what for me is its best feature, two massive bronze props. These were a fantastic site, and almost made us go hoarse as we shouted to each other in our excitement. The ship is very accessible, and you can easily swim along the passage ways and into the holds. There are masses of coal, bottles and pottery lying all over the place, and if you are not careful you could easily spend the whole dive sifting through all these fascinating bits and pieces.
At the bow is a large gun with its barrel pointing down over the starboard side, and then you see the anchor chain running out through the starboard hawse hole. The anchor is supposed to be about 150 feet off the bow but I never saw it as I was to busy trying to get my heartbeat down in the bridge where there is a fantastic (I am beginning to over use this word) helm and telegraph. Some of the wooden decking is still there as well. I am not normally one for looking at fish, but on this wreck in particular the fish are particularly pleasing, with lots of iridescent colours. The coral is also pretty spectacular, again with just enough to give colour and vibrancy to the twisted steel. I did two dives on the Rio de Janeiro and just saw the highlights. One day I hope to come back and do it all again and see the rest.