MY conviction that I had explored and written short pieces about every nook and cranny that Tinian had to offer was proven wrong a few weeks back when I went on a photography jaunt with Australian professor and photographer Dirk Spennemann.
After taking photos of the Atomic Bomb Pits, airstrip and the Air Communications building, Spennemann parked our rented car in a grassy portion at the roadside a few meters away from and hauled his giant camera from the backseat. Although I had driven around several times in that area before, the place we were heading to was unfamiliar. Asking no questions, I followed him, pausing now and then to take photos of things that caught my interest.
We hiked through a tree-lined path cut into a coral hill for a few minutes before I saw where we were heading for. A massive concrete building dug into the bedrock and protected with heavy steel plate doors was at the end of the trail, sharp pieces of steel sticking out of its thick concrete roof and walls. The building, although obviously sturdily built, was broken and shattered.
We went just inside the door of the structure. I couldn’t see a thing and Spennemann told me to wait until my eyes get adjusted to the darkness. Very soon, objects like drums and huge pillars began to take shape. I trained my camera at half-shutter in different directions for some seconds before pressing it and looked at the viewfinder. I saw hundreds of burned out drums and pieces of steel inside the bunker, all in disarray at the floor. After taking a few more photos, my being a claustrophobic started to take over and I found it hard to breath. With no exit, it was humid inside. I groped my way outside, thankful for the breath of fresh air when I emerged from the structure.
A marker at the side of the building tells the story that one of the fuel storage structures was ignited sometime during the first days of American invasion and the fire got so intense that Marine battalions nearby were prompted to move to a different position. Because of the heat, huge concrete slabs stripped from the ceiling and in exploded fuel drums.
Picking our way slowly to avoid the slippery and muddy patches on the road, we went around to the other side of the canyon and saw the cement slabs that were the remaining pieces of the fuel drum storage. The Japanese bomb storage and fuel drum storage are among the most remarkable Japanese military structures on Tinian.
We left the place with more gigabytes of photos in our memory cards and an additional piece of history on a relic on Tinian that played a big role during the World War II. If you think that one day is enough to visit Tinian and explore its cultural and historical wealth, you can think again. The island has so much to offer.