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The dive wreck El Capitan, later renamed USS Majaba, was a US Auxiliary freighter today swarmed in fish.
|Name Dive Site:
|El Capitan, USS Majaba
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USS Majaba or El Capitan was built as the SS Meriden by Albina Engine & Machine Works, Portland, Oregon in 1919. She was subsequently acquired by the Navy under charter as SS El Capitan from her owner, E. K. Wood Lumber Co of San Francisco on 23 April 1942. She was renamed USS Majaba and commissioned the same day. To the dive operators in the Subic area she is known simply as El Capitan - this moniker obviously considered more exotic than USS Majaba!
USS Majaba completed conversion to a miscellaneous auxiliary 14 May 1942 and subsequently steamed to the Hawaiian Islands for cargo runs to islands of Polynesia and the South Pacific. Departing Honolulu 24 June 1942, she operated out of Honolulu for the next few months and completed supply missions to Palmyra Island, Christmas Island, and Canton Island. Then she reached Efate, New Hebrides, to bolster the vital ocean supply line to American forces engaged in the bitter struggle for the control of Guadalcanal.
Majaba departed the New Hebrides on 26 October 1942 and steamed to meet two supply convoys bound for the Solomons. However, heavy weather prevented the rendezvous, and she returned to Espiritu Santo on 29 October 1942. Later that day she sailed once again for Guadalcanal where she arrived 02 November 1942. Screened by Southard (DMS 10) she crossed Ironbottom Sound and unloaded cargo at Tulagi that same day.
Despite the presence of powerful Japanese naval forces, Majaba shuttled cargo between Tulagi and Guadalcanal during the next few days. She arrived off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal early on the 07 November 1942 and while her escort Woodworth (DD 460), patrolled for enemy submarines off Lunga Point, she began final unloading operations prior to her planned departure for Espiritu Santo. Shortly before 0930 lookouts on Lansdowne (DD 486), anchored near Majaba, spotted a submarine periscope followed by two torpedo wakes.
One torpedo, which apparently passed under Lansdowne, hit the beach but failed to explode. The other curved toward Majaba and exploded against her starboard side amidships, destroying her Engine room and Boilers. She settled and listed slightly but did not sink. While Lansdowne and Woodworth searched for the enemy sub, Bobolink (AT 131) went to Majaba’s aid. The tug towed the disabled ship east along the coast of Guadalcanal and beached her that afternoon off the month of the Tenaru River.
On 08 January 1943 Navajo (AT 64) and Bobolink freed Majaba from her beached position and towed her to Tulagi. She remained at Florida Island, Solomon Islands, and for the remainder of World War II served as a floating quarters and material storage ship. Following the end of the war, Majaba was towed to the Philippines. She remained at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, until early in 1946 when she was towed to Subic Bay, Luzon. She was placed out of service 14 March 1946. Whilst waiting at anchor to be returned to her pre-war owner she was subsequently sunk in a bad storm.
The wreck lies on its port side with the starboard side only 4m below the surface. She is approximately 90m long and structurally intact. Divers can easily penetrate her massive forward and rear holds and, if suitably trained and equipped, can enjoy comparatively safe wreck penetration into her cavernous boiler room. There is also an air pocket present.
A combination of good visibility, shallow depth, mild current and intact structure makes this wreck a good starting point for novice wreck divers. A wide variety of marine life can be seen including glass eyes, tangs, wrasses, gobies, spotted sweetlips, lobsters, crabs and clownfish.
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