2009 BentProp Progress Report # 18

P-MAN XI Update #18 - Fox Two. Mark takes the Krämers challenge, and doesn't lose.
05 March 2009

You know how it is when the drain has been clogged for awhile, then suddenly backed-up stuff breaks free? Now that the team's Internet bandwidth problems have been solved, here are two reports from Flip that arrived almost simultaneously. Okay, bad analogy in terms of content (Flip's contributions are always superb), but the process description feels right....

- Reid

From Flip

March 3

Today was a water day for most of us. Mark was leaving on the late-night flight and wanted to get some work done so he did not go. Rick wanted a day off, but ended up doing a shore dive to check out some leads near the Palauan Naval Base.

The rest of us went up north. Way up north. I had not been that far north before. We took one of Neco's boats up past the big island of Babelthuap and half way to Kayangel. This is way past the barrier reef and into deep ocean prior to getting to another atoll. Abby, who has been spot-on in the past, told Joe how to find that one coral head that had a plane on it. Abby had speared a grouper under the wing of that plane. His friend had the GPS coordinates, but Abby could not get hold of his friend in time for our trip up north. He did say that if we could not find it, he would go with us another time. We had a beautiful ride up north with rough water for only 15 minutes. We even saw a school of dolphins that had at least 20 members who wanted to play for a short time with the boat. We got up to the reef in about an hour and a half. We suited up and trolled for sharks. Went once around the first target coral head with no results. We shifted to another coral head and had lunch.

Back in the water, we went around the second coral head. Still no luck. I did not see any manmade objects other than the boat. I did see a lot of cool fish and coral. Prominent on the list were eagle rays, sting rays, puffer fish and lots and lots of colorful feeder fish. Molly saw a shark and a turtle. I picked up a handful of sand for Chris in Korea: a sand collector.

At 3 p.m., we turned south and headed home. The wind had died down so we had a beautiful ride back. We also started the task of contacting Abby so that we can get him to show us where the airplane is.

We met up with Mark and Rick at the Drop Off Restaurant where we got the news that the Internet was up and running in our room (finally) and that Jimmy Doyle had been identified by JPAC. Although we hadn't furthered our goals today, this news makes it sweet to be in Palau. Even sweeter: Wil, who is writing a book on Jimmy's airplane and the entire story surrounding it, was still here in Palau to get that news.

Off to Krämers for all-you-can-eat spaghetti. Mark was up to the challenge of eating three plates and getting your meal for free. After the first plate came out, the kitchen said they did not have enough spaghetti to fulfill the challenge. I think they took one look at Mark and realized they were going to lose. When Rene finally came into view, he said the deal was eat three, get the fourth for free.

Mark's sign says, "Krämers is scared." If true,
this might explain Rene's waffling on the deal...

Mark and Warren were taken to the airport and now our group of adventurers is down to seven. Mark did a wonderful job of creating a plan to find the execution site of the POWs and the missionaries. He predicted where Japanese encampments would be, and how they would be differentiated and identified. He led us from a starting point to what we firmly believe is an ending point on the stories of these men and women. Mark will create a presentation for JPAC and maybe they will see what we saw and mount an official recovery expedition.

Warren built on our culture of safety by creating a checklist for us to use from here on out. He hacked his way through the jungle and the water every day we were out there. He has orders for his next duty station with the Marines and he will be back in the cockpit of an F/A18 before you can say Fox Two. (Do they actually say that any more?)

From Flip

04 March

We had another split-ops day. Rick took me Katie and Molly out on the water to work on Side Scanning Sonar. We did great with the Navy with us, but now that we're on our own, we suck. But SSS is a tool that we can employ and we should learn how to use it. Therefore we were going to go out and take readings on known airplane sites. Stuff we should not be able to miss.

We missed them all. We went to the Jenkins Avenger wreck which is tucked up against an island. Zilch. We went to a Japanese Zero that is in 60 feet of water on a sandy bottom. As soon as you stick your head in the water, you can see the wreck. But on sonar, we could not. Then out to the B-24 which is a much larger wreck. Nope. Then the Japanese Jake (floatplane) which is sitting upright, fairly intact with a buoy anchored near it. Absolutely nothing. We suck at this.

On the boat, we talked about all the variables that could be affecting us: angle of the transducer head, stability of the mounting system, wave action, operator lack of skill, etc, etc. We devised a plan for a better mounting system, decided to watch the weather conditions better and go back out to calibrate our eyeballs to airplane wreckage.

However, when we got back to the casa, we found a couple of nuts missing from the locking system of the sonar head. Seems that our transducer was flopping around like a fish on the deck of a boat. And while we were on the water, we found two nuts on the boat and handed them to Joe since none of us could recognize them.

We have our mounting system, the missing nuts, more duct tape, cable ties, new firmware for the Hummingbird system and new software. We've upped the frequency the unit works at which should be better for detecting aircraft with lots of flat surfaces. In two days, we'll head back out and try again. At least we're learning what not to do with a SSS unit. We're also getting the idea of how to deploy it better next year.

While we were out on the water, Wil was taking a day to himself to do more research for his book by taking in all of the museums in Palau. He had a ball and learned a lot. Pat and Paul made a courtesy call on the Chief of Staff of the President of Palau. What other country can you just show up and say “Does the Boss have a moment for us?” and actually get in?

After that they went up to Ngiwal to interview an elder we have interviewed before. This is the man who says he knows where the Japanese buried there records at the end of the war. During the interview, he mentioned he also knows where a Navy Flyer is buried. That really perked up Pat's and Paul's ears. They queried him a bit more and asked if they could come back with the team for more questions and if he would show us where in the jungle we should go. The elder, who is now a Chief, said okay.

We all met back at the hotel, cleaned up and went out to the Thai restaurant and met up with Bert. Bert is a diving instructor and underwater photographer who has lived in Palau for 13 years. He currently lives on a boat (boasting about his brand new air conditioner that keeps his cabin at 70 degrees.) and works for Neco Marine.

Bert, as always, regaled us with stories, gossip and news of Palau. It was a great night. And now, it's time for me to close. It's been a slow couple of days for pictures. Sorry. As the blogmeister says, “shoot and shoot again. Digital photos are cheap!”

Maybe tomorrow.

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