2009 BentProp Progress Report # 21

P-MAN XI Update #21 - Data review, a feast, and a dive light
08 March 2009

Although Palauans are exceptionally gracious and hospitable, non-Palauans are seldom invited into their homes for any reason, especially for a feast! Joe and Esther and their family have done the team the great honor of inviting us into their home, and serving one of the most amazing meals you could encounter anywhere on the planet. Here's another reason why it's making me crazy not to be in Palau with the team this year: Esther's taro leaf and crab soup is just about worth the air fare from Pittsburgh to Koror...

- Reid

From Molly

08 March

Today will be a scrub day - after blueberry pancakes - to go over all the info we have gathered since our police hill/water scrub day several days ago, and to go over other cases for the future. (and Mark is at home starting to work on the JPAC presentation regarding Police Hill - Yeah!!!) Jolie, Joe, Dave & Margie, and their friend Suza came over for breakfast too, and right now I am enjoying my coffee, still trying to wake up.

Yesterday all of us were on the boat doing you know what (SSS) except for Paul. Paul went back up north to interview the elder again & took him to some areas that he descibed in our interview a couple of days ago. Overall, it's been a very productive mission and Pat says we have gotten so many new leads and so much new information (both land and water) that we have enough work for years! Like ~9 sites!!! Cool, since I want to come back for sure. I got the Palau bug for sure.

Last night we had a Wonderful Supper at Joe & Esther's. It was a beautiful setting with heaps of decorative flowers and leaves and the food...was wonderful and I am still full from it! It was such an honor to be at their home. So here was the menu:

Cold coconut milk, straight out of the coconut to drink
Fresh grouper sashimi caught yesterday
Taro leaves & crab soup
Land crab mashed in coconut milk on top and tapioca slices
Clam simmered in butter with garlic and onions
Mango crab cooked in butter
Cooked grouper wrapped in a betel nut leaf with sliced taro
Dessert: Coconut balls & Tapioca crepes.

So here are some pics:

Technology upgrade on SSS

Our dinner setting at Joe & Esther's

Supper starting!

Jolie and Paul just after breakfast

From Flip

06 March

We lost Wil this morning. Not in the jungle mind you, just back to the real world for him. Our merry troop is down to 6. At least we can all fit into one van. So we turned in the rental.

Our split ops continued today with Rick, Me and Molly on the boat and Pat, Paul and Katie back out in the jungle. The land folks took some government folks back up to Ngatpang to show them our areas of interest for the POWs. They looked around a bit and covered some terrain we looked at in years past. Then they went to the bridge Bem Ermii and had lunch with Jolie.

After lunch they went to the jungle areas where the Ngiwal elder told them to look for the buried Navy flyer. They found no smoking guns, but Jolie did tell them that due to the acidic levels in the soil, there would be no bones at all. Maybe some white stuff with the consistency of Oreo Cookie filling, but maybe not even that. So the conundrum is if you look and don't find anything, then what do you do next? If you don't look, you will never find an answer.

They mucked around a bit and met up with the water ops people closer to sunset at the Drop Off.

We on the water side did some more SSS work. We went to the hardware store the day prior and picked up pieces parts to make a better mounting bracket for our side scanning sonar. We thought if we could make a better mount (currently using a block of wood and duct tape) we'd get better imagery. We put it all together and it worked fairly well. For a while. Then some of the metal pieces bent and we were worse off than with our block of wood. We still had the duct tape, some rope and some cable ties so we were able to add the stability back in. The thought was good, but the engineering wasn't.


We went to a known aircraft crash site and on the first two passes we had great returns. we were excited. Then we saw nothing. We went around that airplane a dozen times without even seeing a rivet. We fiddled around, changed settings, rebooted, all to no avail. It didn't dawn on us that maybe something simpler was going on. As it turns out, and after we had thrown in the towel for the day, one or two allen screws were loose, causing the transducer head (that's the business end of the sonar) to bobble in the water. That caused our returns to be less than optimal. In a nutshell, we suck at this. And frustration takes its toll in different ways with different people:


So, if the main mission isn't working out, a highly trained team always has a backup plan: a fun dive. We already had the gear on board, no one wanted to run the SSS any more, and Palau does have one or two good dive sites. It was late in the day so Joe took us to a wreck we had never been to before. She was a Japanese freighter sunk during the war. This was a much better dive than the Helmet wreck. The ship is bigger with more areas to swim into including the pilot house, ladder wells, weather decks and holds.


However, when I splashed in, my dive light took a different path to the ship than I did. I didn't figure that out until I got to the ship without my dive light. I showed my empty brass clip to Rick and he thought I had found it, rather than see something was missing. We completed the dive a bit early as Joe asked us to come up with a little extra air in the tank. Now we had a choice. Rick's scuba gear still hasn't shown up. And he only has one more day in Palau. He thought he should check the post office one more time. He also wanted to bounce down onto the wreck to see if my light dropped straight down. It was ten after three and the post office closed at 4 pm. The question was which low-probability task should we do since we could only do one with the amount of time left until 4. I thought we should leave the light and Rick wanted to bounce down on it. Then Charlie our boat driver told us that we had until 4:30 pm until the post office closed. That settled it. We could do two low probability items.

After a decent interval on the surface, we planned a 12 minute dive at 115 feet. Down we went, as fast as we could. Did a quick search pattern on the sandy bottom with the hull of the ship as one side of our search square. After a couple of laps, we popped up onto the deck of the ship and with two minutes left in our dive, rather than go down into the hold, I consigned my light to Davy Jones' locker and we went up. A good safety stop at 15 feet and then we were on the boat racing to Neco Marine. Molly and I cleaned up the boat and moved our gear while Rick raced to the post office.

Rick came back empty handed. His stuff still has not gotten here. It may really be lost. This has never happened to us before. All of our stuff has always arrived on time. Might be a little tardy getting back home, but it always arrives in Palau. I'll check for his stuff when I go the the post office to ship my stuff home.

We all got together and debriefed the day's events. We find that these debriefs are even more important now that we do split ops. Not only does the individual team get to review what they have done, but each team gets to clue the other into what is going on in their arena. As we do swap folks between teams, this is important so that someone does not feel lost when doing this team shift.

Out to dinner at Teppen Tai, a multi-national, far east asia restaurant. Tried a new kind of rice wine that was very, very good.

Back home, got some updates out and then to bed. I am about a day behind now for getting the news to you. Hopefully, I'll get caught up on Sunday.

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