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P-MAN XVII Update # 12 - Stockbridge rocks on; a ceremony for the Avenger crew; MJ can't dodge the fruit bats forever.

07 April 2015

First off, the Stockbridge Students had a very successful day on the water. The repaired vehicle worked flawlessly and they scanned the ocean bottom on all the sites we gave them. They found everything we asked for. Unfortunately, nothing of airplanes, just coral and harbor junk. Val and Mickaila went with them to observe and gave glowing reports on how they showed great spirit, teamwork and execution. This is a pretty amazing story. Each year, the team builds on what went before them. They really do take in the lessons learned and improve on their performance in the field. If you remember, the first couple of years the robot leaked. They solved that. Last year the problem was navigation and searching. Within the confines of their budget, they fixed that. Those efforts over past years are paying off in this year's mission. Next year, Stockbridge will be taking a year off from deploying to Palau. The goal is to return in 2017 and do a joint mission with the robotics students from the Palau Community College. Over the course of the next two years, both groups will be building robots concurrently, communicating back and forth between the U.S. and Palau for mutual success. To keep up with this emerging story, stay connected with Stockbridge via their Facebook site.


Hard at work. Photo by Val.


Mickaila imparting wisdom. Photo by Val.


The wisdom is contagious. Photo by Val.


Line Tenders. Photo by Val.


Still working in a rain squall. Photo by Val.


The pilot and his monitor. Photo by Val.


Ocean stuff clogging a thruster. Photo by Val.

We visited the U.S. Ambassador, The Honorable Pam Hyatt. She's new to this posting and is settling in nicely in Palau. She heard about us before she got here but we got to fill in some of the unknowns about what we do out in Palau and in preparation for coming to Palau.


In anticipation of the Emperor's visit. Japan built The Friendship Bridge.

Dan Friedkin returned to Palau to join in the search with us. On the boat today was Joe, Pat, Dan O'Brien, Jennifer, Flip, and Dan Friedkin. We've had great weather in Palau this year. Very little rain during the work days. Until today, when we had off-and-on rain showers. But since we were getting wet anyway....

We had four specific targets to drop in on today. Dan Friedkin was using The Navigator and I 'flew' his wing. We dropped in on two different targets: one was a re-acquire from a previous dive that UDEL and SIO really liked, and one was from a video review that looked like part of an instrument panel stuck in some coral. We found them both and they turned out to be coral outcroppings. Dan O'Brien and Pat dropped in on two targets. On video, one looked like a propeller blade sticking up out of the bottom and the other looked like a metal structure with some biological growth on it. Both turned out to be -- you guessed it -- coral outcroppings and some discolored sand.

We headed back to port early. We had another ceremony to do. When we discovered that we had made a premature mis-identification of the Avenger, we realized that we had not yet done a proper flag ceremony for the Avenger crew. The Helldiver had a crew of two and the Avenger had a crew of three. Since the recorded ceremonies and flags are to be given to families, we still needed one for the entire Avenger crew. So the ceremony we did for the Helldiver, we'll hold onto until we find the Helldiver. For the Avenger crew, the remaining BentProppers, UDEL, Scripps and all of Stockbridge boarded the Kemedukl (The Coral Reef Research Foundation's workboat) with Pat and Lori Colin and Matt, one of their boat captains. The rain held off until the end and we acknowledged the start of this Avenger crew's return home. Once the recovery, identifications and notifications to the families are made by DPAA, we'll give the families the video of the ceremony and flags and answer any questions they may have for us.


The ceremony.


Digital magic makes the crash site stand out. Photo by Eric Terrill.


More digital magic. Photo by Eric Terrill.


Still more. Photo by Eric Terrill.

Out to a new Thai restaurant for dinner. It seems the former chef of a local Thai restaurant opened her own place called Passion Thai. Very small dining area. There were eight of us and that filled the place up. She even turned customers away while we were there. It seemed we were eating in her living room rather than a restaurant. The food was great! Even the fruit bat soup. And yes, there's a story here.

Fruit Bat soup is a delicacy here and a rite of passage for new BentProppers. We went to Carp Restaurant one night so Mickaila and others could enjoy this local dish. But they had run out. Mickaila couldn't contain his delight. Every night thereafter, because he knew the odds were infinitesimally small, no matter what restaurant, he would ask for Fruit Bat soup and feign disappointment at hearing they didn't have it. So his friends set him up. We asked this Thai restaurant to get one order of Fruit Bat soup for him as a surprise. And was he! He put his game face on, tried it, and Joe, as usual, got a tasty extra to his dinner plate.

A bit of strategizing in the evening hours and off to bed we all went.

08 April

Today was another day on the water for everyone. Dan O'Brien went with the Stockbridge team. They had another great day. This was the first time that they ran out of battery power. The robot worked so well and they imaged so much that they ran out of juice. And they found metal! But it turned out to be a ship on the bottom of the ocean.

Pat, Dan Friedkin, and Flip went out again searching in southeast Malakal Harbor. Dan had the Navigator, Flip kept an eye on him and the heading, and Pat kept the GPS in tow to get accurate tracks. We did three dives criss-crossing that section of the harbor. Nothing.

I was going to give you some GoPro pictures of fish and coral, but I left the camera in my gear bag so you'll have to wait a day for me to figure out whether or not any of them are worth sending. But here's our dive log:


Dive log.

Scripps and UDEL have one more day here in Palau and then they head out. We got together for dinner, played a few games of darts and toasted to another great year of partnership. When we wake up on Friday morning, it will just be BentProp and Stockbridge left with a few days to go until our mutual departures.

- Flip Colmer

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