P-MAN VII Update
27 February 2005
Sunday, 27 February
Today we started out as tourists, with Bradford as our tour guide. Some of us hadn't ever taken an organized Peleliu tour, so we were eager to see some of the non-deep-jungle sights. We started with the "Thousand-Man Cave," a huge network of tunnels on several levels that the Japanese had constructed in the northwest area of the island. It was a little reminiscent of my old coal-mining days: long stretches of parallel tunnels, connected by crosscuts. But it's coral limestone, not coal. And now that I think about it, I never found bones or unexploded ordnance in those coal mines, either.
We also visited the museum that Tangie Hesus has created. Lots of rusting memorabilia and photographs. A pretty fair visual history of the war's effects on Peleliu.
We visited a couple more caves, and some old Japanese buildings and bunkers. It was fun, but I have to admit that it was almost terminally tame compared to what the preceding three days had held for us.
One final thing that we did was visit part of the boundary of "Area 130," which is an area defined on an old artillery targeting map that we found in the museum. This is the area where one of the reports we found at NARA indicates that the Waters Avenger may have crashed. It turns out to be some extremely nasty mangrove swamp - a very large area that consists of big stretches of closely spaced sharp spikes sticking up out of oily black ooze, alternating with impenetrable tangles of mangrove trees and roots. We're launching a campaign to get some of the local hunters to do some crab hunting back in there and to report to us if they see any airplane wreckage. So far, no takers. Very nasty stuff, and lots of it. Very low probability that a small group of us would be able to cover even a small part of it in any reasonable amount of time. Since this is one of the areas where NOBODY tries to hunt, there's a reasonable possibility that deep in the middle of the area is where the Waters aircraft crashed. And that would explain why it's never been found.
The boat came to pick us up a little after noon.
Our dive gear was on the boat, and our plan was to go up to German Channel, not far north of Peleliu, to look for an aircraft that Joe thinks is there. It had become a gray, misty afternoon. There was a combination of absence of direct sunlight and moderately crummy visibility and a large area to search, so we decided to troll along with snorkelers towed along each side of the boat, holding onto a line. We did search patterns over a couple of different areas, and saw nothing but fish and coral heads.
It was a pretty choppy ride home.