2009 BentProp Progress Report # 30

P-MAN XI Update #30 - Flip's still in Palau. With time to spare, he catches up on his writing
12 March 2009

You've already read that non-rev Flip got bumped from his scheduled flight from Koror to Guam last night. That left him with a day to spend catching up on his own reports. The days he's reporting on here have already been covered from Molly's perspective. Now it's Flip's turn. Tonight, he's going to try that airline stuff again - with luck, he'll stop in Yap and continue to Guam.

From Flip

09 March

Then there were four. Pat departed Palau last night. Now it's me, Katie, Molly and Paul. Our job is to close out Palau for this year and set the stage for the next mission. We did one of the most rewarding things we can do in Palau: interview elders. But first, we had some stops to make.

We left the hotel, dropped off laundry and turned left. We visited with Matt and Madrei. He's the Australian helicopter pilot flying and living in Palau. He's helped us in the past with spotting and logistics rides. He and the owner of the helicopter, John Walker, offered another hour of flying to help us out this year. We wanted to set that up for the next day. We sat and chatted with him a bit and he told us of a friend of his who swears there is an airplane up beyond German Lighthouse. This is the place we went to with Roddy a few times and never even found a rivet. However, Melvin is a new player to us and Matt is convinced that his word is gold. That's good enough for us, but not until next year.

We picked up Joe and headed up north. But we needed to make a stop for Paul. He wanted to get an accurate GPS waypoint at a USGS Control Point so that we can really navigate down to just a few meters of error. He said you do that by placing your GPS unit on the point, a metal disc that is embedded on a hard object that doesn't move, and letting it sit unmolested for 10 minutes and then taking the waypoint. And there is a disc in Ngatpang and we have directions on how to get there.

We went north, turned right at the big banyon tree. Drove in 100 meters. Turned left, up some terraces and then find the highest point and there it is. We did just that and all we found was a hilltop of tall thick jungle grass. We kicked, we pulled, we machete-ed and we almost burned the flora to the ground. But we never found the disk. Fear not. There is another one on the dock at Ngaremlingui. I asked Joe and he said it would only put us behind by 30 minutes or so. So off we went.



Enroute we passed by the village of our old friend Lazarus. I asked Joe if he was still in good health and still fishing. Joe said he was and when we got to the dock, there was Lazarus in all his betel-nut-chewing glory. Same impish smile as always. As we chatted, Paul got his waypoint and then we were off.

We headed to Joe's home area way up north. Ngarchelong is the northern most state on Babelthuap. The next state north is an atoll named Kayangel.

Joe knows an elder who was working for the Japanese during the war. He was a laborer carrying concrete and rice for the Japanese Army. He told us about his time during the war and after, and we learned more about the hardships the Palauans endured. Although he had heard stories of planes being shot down and prisoners being executed, he himself had never witnessed anything. And the stories he heard we had already heard before. However, he is another source pointing to Ngatpang as the execution site of the POWs and missionaries.

He said we should chat with his wife. So Katie and Molly decided to have some girl bonding time and went off to conduct the interview without the menfolk. Might get a different perspective that way. They conducted the interview and I have no idea what transpired except that the elder lady did not want her photo taken because her hair was a mess. The world over, it's all the same. Now Molly is sitting next to me at the airport reading over my shoulder and trying to tell me things about the interview. It's too late. Should have told me yesterday. I'll have to read Mollly's update to see what happened. And now she tells me she did not elaborate in the update. The world over.....

The elder then suggested we chat with another elder just a few houses down the road. Turns out he was 2 years old when the war ended. So he could only chat about the stories his father and brothers told him over the years. Unfortunately, they have already passed away so we don't have any firsthand accounts from this family. But he did suggest some folks we should chat with. And an interesting story he told is that his first name is Japanese, but his family is all Palauan. Seems his father's best friend was Japanese and even the war did not interfere with that relationship. So he named his son after the best friend.

Then Joe suggested we talk with his Uncle who lived in the area. JOE! You've been holding out on us. Seems his uncle, a retired teacher, had similar experiences as the other elders from this area of Palau. Prior to the bombing starting, the Palauans were still farming and fishing as well as being made to work for the Japanese. And most Palauans were still in their home areas. After the war came to Palau, there were forced moves to the center of Babelthuap, food was scarce and the Japanese became more brutal. Life was hard for these people as they also had to avoid our bombs coming down. Palauans moved into the jungles and hid in caves during the daytime. At night, they would forage for food as best they could.

Done with the interviews, we headed to the Stone Monoliths for lunch. This is an ancient Palauan artifact site and there is a pretty picnic area above it. And you cannot beat the view.


Headed down the road to Ngiwal. This is where Paul tracked down what he believes is a burial site for a Naval Aviator. Based on an elder's recollections during the war, if you travel the old road to just beyond the Compact Road, turn into the jungle and just north of an old tree is the burial spot. Well, Paul did find a depression in the ground that does look like an old burial spot. And there were no spots like that in the area. So, it may be, or it may not be one of our MIAs. We'll hand this data over to the official government searchers and let them decide.

Depression? Grave?

Flip and Ngiwal Governor.

Back to town, got cleaned up and Dave and Margie came over to make the last Bob's Special for Molly. This is a special drink named after a teammate who died after the 2007 mission. I say it is the last because the secret ingredient, Bohemia Beer, is not available in Palau without a special order and Dave and Margie just poured the last of their stash for Molly. Joe and Esther came around and we all went across the lot for dinner at The Palm Bistro.

10 March

A fun day!! I got to play in the water and see beautiful fishes. For Paul, Molly and Katie, they had a work day, of sorts.

Yesterday we scheduled an 0900 helicopter mission for them with Matt. They were going to look for more pieces of the Wildcat, look at the jungle in Ngiwal and on the reef for a Navy airplane and its flyer, and look up in the hills above Ngatpang Bay to get the lay of the land for a Corsair search.

The feedback I got was that they did not see any more Wildcat parts. A lot of that area has been hiked and civilization is encroaching. Or the parts are just hiding under the brush. We'll probably go back with a metal detector next year and see what we find. Up in Ngiwal, they did indeed look at jungle and out on the reef. Nothing found there either.

However, up in the hills, the mission was a little different. We have been frustrated with a couple of Graves Registration Unit lat/long positions. According to the reports, these lat/longs should contain airplanes and/or graves. And we haven't found a thing there. One case is of a Marine Lieutenant who was driving a Corsair. We went to the point and did not find a thing after days of searching. I did lose my GPS out there and Grover lost a bunch of things. So that means the airplane is out there.

This year, we found a different chart with a different datum point for lat/long measurements from the datum we've been using on current charts. It puts the reported point a bit to the northwest of where we have been looking. And it puts it into really ugly hills and jungle. The airborne crew tried to get the feel of it by overflying the area. They think they have some good reference points in which to base a search next year.

Then they came back to town to accomplish stuff. The post office had shut down due to a power failure so they could not do that. They could not go to the museums because they lost power too. So Molly took her Nitrox test (passed, of course) and Katie did more errands. Paul pondered the puzzles that have been uncovered here in Palau, setting us up for success next year.

I finally got my fish day. I was supposed to get one at the beginning of all this, but I did logistics work instead. So, in no particular order, let me show you what I saw, including Jellyfish Lake and maybe an earlier dive as well:





Left: Optical illusion with the coin. This Moon Jelly Fish
(I think that is the name of it.) is 10 feet below me.

After my fun day, I met Paul at Sam's and we headed to Neco to catch up with the ladies. We all got together and went back to the casa where Margie met us with her world famous margaritas. She even left us some for the next day. Then we had one more dinner at Krämers.

Joe and Margie. Margie is the one with the great margaritas.

Katie and Paul

Katie and Esther

This is the night that Paul and Katie left us. They had the 0110 flight on the 11th. I was working on an update when I decided to close my eyes for just a few minutes. Paul said he tried to wake me but to no avail. When I did rise, around midnight, there was a note and they were gone. And then there were two.

11 March

And then there were two. Katie and Paul left at 0110 in the morning. Now it's just Molly and me. There are two important things to do, some almost as important things to do and some housekeeping things to do. Plus we decided that The Taj would be our place for a last dinner in Palau.

Since I missed Katie and Paul's departure last night, I got a pretty good night's rest. Still up at 0530 though. Worked on email, and an update, some photos and planned some of the stuff to do today.

Molly was up almost as early, emailing from her room. She finally appeared for coffee and one more team breakfast. Then we got it together and headed on out. First stop, the post office. No one in line and my 69 pounds, 11.4 ounces started its journey home. Then to the the Continental Office to check on the flight status for the night. Martha said no problem. Things are looking good.

We then went shopping for those important people in our lives so I will not come home empty handed. I got a haircut and foot massage while Molly had a pedicure. Said goodbye to various governmental and commercial folks who have helped us out and made reservations for hotels and rental cars for next year. Also have a system set up so the Internet will be working the day we arrive in our hotel room. You can count on that!

Packed, last emails out, stripped the DSL gear and put it at the front desk as well as a box with all the stuff for Jolie. Headed on out to The Taj, and Robert once again gave us a grand meal.

We arranged to take our loaner van to the airport so just in case I did not get out, I would still have wheels. Up to the airport and we were first in line for the ticket counter. In this part of the world, the order you check in is the order you are boarded in your category of standby travel. Reid likes to think it is free travel, but sometimes discounted travel is the most expensive kind.

Molly had two bags with her: 38 pounds and 59 pounds. The limit is 50 pounds per bag. She tried every which way to balance the bags and got it to within 5 pounds. Close enough for government work.

We breezed through checkin and they let us go to the gate. In the past, they kept me at the ticket counter until the last minute. So this is a good sign. It's also a good sign that with all of the strap hangers (freeloading employees) there would still be a few empty seats.

They started the boarding process, called all the rows, board three non-rev folks and stopped the process. Then they started talking about refunds of the departure tax and tomorrow's flight. Yet the flight is not full. It's 0245 when they say no more employees are getting on because they are weight restricted. Seems they put on 40 boxes of frozen tuna for market. So now I know. My boarding priority is less than a dead fish. I did not budge until the aircraft actually pushed back. You just never know when the crew is going to say, “bring one more on.”

We go back through immigration, we're let back into the country and now it's way late. But I have a van! And I have a room! We paid the monthly rate and only stayed three weeks. I can stay another week and not shell out a penny. I got back to the room, called Rebecca, told her the wonderful news, punched out a few emails and went to sleep at 0400. I had been up 22 hours and 30 minutes. Well, at least I would sleep past 0530.

12 March

And then there was one. I'm it for in-country P-MAN XI folks.

At 0730, I was up. And there are two things that are getting me down. First, I have to go through this all over again tonight. Second, we already gave our coffee grinder to Jolie. I have a great bag of Starbucks in the freezer and can only pound the beans into submission. I do have a ton of frozen Oreos, but that is not what I need under the circumstances. I think I'll use those as a bribe tonight. An ugly word, but it might just work.

Had another team breakfast and went to visit Matt. I wanted to ask about the contacts he said I should talk to and since I was still here, might as well. He offered a ride in the helicopter as he had to go get fuel. Right time. Right place.

Had a lovely sightseeing ride and realized that of the active Palauan licensed pilots, 2/3s were in his helicopter at the same time.

We agreed to meet for sunset and I went about my errands. Most importantly, real coffee from Abai Coffee. Then Continental. And they did not have good news for me. Tonight's flight goes to Guam via Yap. Just like I did coming to Palau this year. And I can get to Yap from Palau. Yeah! But there is a really good chance I won't get off of Yap. No worries. I'll just stay a few days and explore a new island and take the Sunday flight to Guam. Yap only has service 3 days a week. That would still give me time back at home to get adjusted.

The Sunday Yap departure is oversold. That plan won't work. So, I will go to the airport in just a few hours, check in and get the operations agents to tell me how risky it is. If it's risky at all, I'll stay and buy a ticket to get to Guam the next day. I could try to fly on Continental to Manila and then get on NWA, but I don't have a coupon that says Manila. Maybe they'll take pity on me. One way or the other, I'll make something happen.

The bad part is that not knowing keeps me from scuba diving. You need to be out of the water for a long period of time and finishing your diving the numerical day prior to these early a.m. flights just doesn't work out.

However, if I don't get out again, I'm either going fishing with Joe, or kayaking.

Had sunset at Sam's with Matt, Scott, Joe, Esther, Quint and all the Sam's regulars. So that's my tale so far. It's almost 8 p.m. in Palau and the ticket counter opens at 10 p.m.

Later that night...

I've turned into Bill Murray! Another news flash: I'm still here. So what's worse than having to do this late night thing twice?

Three times!

Tonight they reported they were going to be overweight out of Yap by 271 pounds. If I were to get bumped in Yap, the next flight out to GUM is on Sunday and it's oversold already. Chatted with the Captain and the better part of valor said to go back to what I know. Plus there are more options out of ROR than YAP. And one option is...

I bought a ticket. A real, honest-to-goodness, I've-got-a-seat-and-don't-have-to-get-to-the-airport-too-early ticket. I know - I felt a rip in the temporal fabric of the universe. I'm just tired of being tired.

Internet works great, though, without anyone else here.

Tomorrow's itinerary includes sightseeing and kayaking. And hopefully fishing with Joe.

More later as it happens.

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