P-MAN XVII Progress Report # 6 - Split ops. More and more pieces of the Avenger.
It was a good day today. We did split ops. One group went into the water and one group went on land. The water people eliminated a few more places from our search list that did not contain any aircraft debris. The land group found some more Avenger parts. So first off, the good stuff.
Derek led a team up onto a small rock island , Derek's Island, near where we have been finding Avenger parts. Joining him were Blake, Mickaila, Joe and newest team member, Dan Friedkin. They let in on the western side of the island and hiked east. They found a piece high up on the island and when they turned around and hiked lower down the slope, found the rest of the rudder. And it is an Avenger rudder. The good news is so far, we've only found one iteration of an item in and around all these parts we've found over the years: one rudder, one right wing, etc. If we found two items, that would mean we have two crash cases intermingled. So far, we're just looking at one.
The water group consisted of me (Flip), Jennifer and Val. We were let off in a lagoon that we had never been in before. Although two sailboats are moored there as permanent live aboards, there is very little traffic in there. The lagoon is surrounded by high rock islands and the lagoon itself is shaped vertically like a teacup, steep sloping sides down to the bottom that flattens out a bit. We snorkeled the entire perimeter and we were able to see down to about 30. We will still had to make a SCUBA dive here and we planned on doing that later in the afternoon.
We only had one boat so after we were let out in the lagoon, the boat dropped Derek and team off on the island. Then the boat shuttled back and forth keeping tabs on both groups. After the snorkel survey was complete, the water folks were picked up, left the little lagoon and as we approached the island where Derek's team was working, we could hear them excitedly telling us about the rudder find.
While the land team continued to work, Val and I donned our scuba gear and dropped on a couple of side scan sonar (sss) targets Scripps and UDEL developed. We went down to about 80 feet. We found a big rock and two tires. We tried swimming along the bottom on a heading to find the second target but could not find it. After another dive down, we found a different rock in the second target area. Along with some more tires.
We will search the water on the opposite side of the island in the next few days and if weather will permit, up onto the island again.
Back to port to drop off some of our folks and after lunch, back out to scuba the lagoon and some more targets in the water in the vicinity of where the rudder was found. Blake, Derek and I did the tea cup bottom of the small lagoon: once lengthwise through the middle and deepest part and then back and forth many time across the shorter direction, shifting south after each transit. We did find a ‘propulsion unit' of sorts, but other than that, nothing of import.
And then the 25th was over.
Today was a split ops day again. This time, Pat, Joe, Derek and I went on land and Mickaila, Blake, Val and Jennifer went in the water.
The water folks did a combination of scuba and snorkel. The underwater vehicles have done a lot of searching, but they can't get close to the islands. So there are void areas and that is where we were tasked to search today. The snorkelers went on the surface and looked at the subsurface of the island walls. The scuba folks looked at the area where the vertical rock walls meet the sandy ocean bottom. No pertinent parts were found. All dives. All day.
The land folks hiked a spit of land on one of the rock islands. Guidroz Island to be precise.The thought is that this island lies perpendicular to the attack flight path of the missing Avenger. Maybe some parts, or the fuselage, landed here. We hiked on both sides of the island and the top and it was aircraft-aluminum-free. We did find a couple of tubes sticking out of the ground that look like vent tubes for a cave system. A bit later, we found an entrance to a cave - one that you could stand in. However, it was fairly isolated and it was at least 10 feet to the floor of the cave and we did not have a ladder with us. And the odds are that no airplanes are in there. So we pressed on.
The day ended early so we got our gear cleaned up, went out to dinner, and then briefed the mission for tomorrow. Split ops again! Some on land, some on water.
- Flip Colmer