As a wreck diving expert, I highly recommend visiting the Helmet Wreck in Malakal Harbor, west of Koror. This wreck is easily accessible with a 2 to 3-minute boat ride from most Dive Shops in Koror, and it offers a unique diving experience for intermediate divers with a Wreck Diver certificate preferred.

The Helmet Wreck is located at the base of a hill, resting upright with its bow pointing southwest at a depth of 110 feet (35 meters) and its stern at 45 feet (15 meters). The visibility at this site is weather dependent and best during incoming tide. Divers should maintain neutral buoyancy to avoid stirring up silt and disturbing the wreck. The ship is 189 feet (57.6 meters) long and has a beam of 31.3 feet (9.5 meters). Its tonnage is unknown, but it is estimated to be less than 1,000 tons. The ship's origins are also unknown, but it was probably confiscated in Southeast Asia during the war.

Divers can tie off the dive boat to the stern of the ship and drop down the mooring line to the deck. The twisted and deteriorating guardrail surrounding the aft deck can serve as a guide while swimming down towards the bow. The first sight that will immediately attract the most attention is a round aft gun platform with its gun barrel pointing to port amid the mangled steel of the collapsed gun mount. There are two depth charge release boxes located on each side of the platform, and their lethal charges are still inside.

infographic of the helmet wreck a dive site in Palau

The exposed main cargo hold reveals stacks of depth charges neatly arranged on port side and scattered around on the starboard side due to a massive explosion. Under the port upper deck, divers can find stacks of helmets, now cemented together by decades of underwater corrosion, and piles of rifles and ammunition. Gas masks can be seen staring out at divers from the sediment.

The amidships superstructure is box-like, and along the port side, divers will come to the engine room's skylights and a pair of engine room ventilators that tower upward. The ship's main stack, now sitting on the bottom on the starboard side, left a gaping hole in the middle of the deck. There is an inner passageway leading to several small rooms and a catwalk above the engine room. The wooden roof to the bridge is gone, allowing easy access to the wheelhouse.

The forward holds are penetrable through two (2) large hatches on both sides of the forward light mast. No partition between the two holds exists, so divers can swim right through. The forward hold is half full of silt, but among the web of electrical wires, electronic equipment, and ceramic jars, there are three (3) clearly visible huge radial aircraft engines.

On the raised bow, divers can find a two-headed anchor winch with anchor chains extending into the chain holds and to the anchors. Inside the forecastle, there are brass lanterns and an old taffrail log, a speed-measuring device. There are excellent photo opportunities on all areas of this wreck.

Behind the stern, there are rich coral formations of Stag Horn corals, Brain corals, and Lettuce corals. Many species of tropical fish and a large selection of invertebrates can be found here, making it an ideal site for marine life enthusiasts.

It is important to note that this wreck, as with all ship and plane wrecks in Palau waters, may contain live ammunition. Therefore, divers should not pick up any ammunition as these pieces of history are very unstable and can explode.

In summary, the Helmet Wreck in Malakal Harbor, west of Koror, offers a unique diving experience for intermediate divers with a Wreck Diver certificate preferred. The wreck's history and fascinating features, such as the depth charge release boxes, stacks of helmets and rifles, and the huge radial aircraft engines, make it an excellent and rewarding dive site for those interested in exploring historical wrecks.

Divers should take caution and follow proper diving techniques to ensure their safety and preserve the integrity of the wreck. It is recommended to plan the dive carefully and maintain neutral buoyancy while visiting the wreck to avoid disturbing the silt and sediment.

The Helmet Wreck is also an excellent night dive location, offering a different perspective of the wreck's features and marine life. Divers should, however, exercise caution due to the presence of live ammunition.

Overall, the Helmet Wreck is a fascinating dive site in Palau, offering a unique and historical experience for intermediate divers with a Wreck Diver certificate. The location's accessibility and marine life make it a must-visit site for diving enthusiasts.