P-MAN XIII Update #04 - Dan catches up
My journey to Palau started with the first leg to Hawaii and a few days in said paradise staying with good friends Carrie & Jay and making a visit to JPAC headquarters. At JPAC I met with their experts on SSS (side-scan sonar) to get some tips and tricks on how to make our SSS system (and us) perform to our optimum. JPAC has been doing a lot more SSS than we have (we do it a couple weeks a year) and looking for the same kinds of things (pieces and parts of crashed aircraft), so they are the experts. Thank you JPAC for the visit and advice!
Onward to Guam, a 7.5 minute layover and off to Palau (yes that's the time it takes to walk the length of the terminal building in Guam, at a quick pace over the 200 yards, enter the airplane with the other 5 folks en route to Palau, close the door and go).
At this point we only arrive in Palau 30 minutes past the posted arrival but by Palau's clock, ON TIME...ahhhhhhhhhhh...it's so nice to feel Palau air!
Flip beat me to Palau by 20 minutes via the new Delta connection from Tokyo, and Rick beat us both by a full day (he had to get a dive on Blue Corner).
Really good to see Joe Maldangesang, our good friend, team mate
and guide, greeting us at the airport.
We hit the ground running Tuesday morning. Loaner van picked up from our very gracious friends the Surangel's (found out they have two offices and of course we went, by taxi, to the wrong one first and had to loop back to....(drum roll please)...... next door to our hotel to get the van).
Dropped off paperwork at the Governor of Koror's office and then headed on up to the big island (over a glassy smooth new road) and the new capitol (a beautiful set of buildings overlooking the east coast of Babeldaob).
Met with the President
of Palau and his staff. We had a very pleasant
meeting and then took pictures with the President. We have his full
and complete endorsement
on our MIA search mission (the President and a delegation from Palau
came to Arlington
Cemetery for the group burial of the Arnett B-24 crew last
Next stop: the Bureau of Arts & Culture / Historic Preservation Office (BAC/HPO) to meet with the Director to have him review and sign our permits for searching for MIAs in Palau.
Next up, stop at PNCC (telephone-company office) to pay for the internet setup at our hotel room, our very own "high speed" BentProp wi-fi station (.5 mps...smoking), which will be set up by Friday.
Some other minor business in downtown Koror and then lunch at the new location of our favorite Thai restaurant, Suriyothai.
Neco Marine next, to say Hi to Shallum and Mandy Etpison (the owners). This is our normal base of operations dive shop, with bar and restaurant called The Drop-Off....
Time for dinner at the Taj!!! Margie & Dave, good friends for the
past 4 years & local US ex-patriates living for the past 14 years
in Palau, came to dinner. With two new friends that I met on the flight
Hawaii. US Air Force doctors from Brooks AFB in San Antonio, TX are in
Palau to work with the Palau Minister of Health for one month, an ongoing
program of education and information exchanges. And one of the good doctors
is a pilot, T-38, A-10, RC-135...and a personal Beechcraft nose dragger.....her
hubby back in Michigan is a Delta (former NorthWest Airlines) pilot, kinda
like Flip but they do not know each other, yet.
WOW, that was all in 1 - count'em, one - day of smooth-running machinery of BentProp preparation, pre-planning, precision team work!
p.s.: For us BentProp teamies we have been uprooted from our foundations regarding a current icon of all things that are a part of Palau to us. The movable trailer building that is our beloved Bem Ermii (local hamburger & milk-shake paradise) is no longer where it should be in the parking lot across from the high school. It is now a permanent building...permanent, I say...right adjacent to the ballpark...it is just not right.....BUT the burgers-fries-shakes are fantastic and the smiling service entertaining!
Ok, so it is really cool when the President's staff (yesterday after our meeting) calls the US Embassy (brand new first ever genuine official US Embassy in Palau) for us to schedule an appointment with the Mission Deputy (the Ambassador is out of Country till next week). Nice place, the US Embassy: nice new building with a great view of the coast and lots of locks and gates and guards, go figure....but no pictures please, so say all the signs, and we had to check our cameras-phones-computers at the door.
Also stopped by the Civic Action Team (CAT) camp which is currently occupied by the Navy SeaBees, they depart in 14 days and the US Air Force (AirBees) take over for 7+ months.
Then we meet our old friends from the USNS Safeguard this afternoon, this is a rescue and salvage ship that was here in Palau 2 years ago working with the Palau government and is back again for 2 weeks of work. They have offered to give us a hand on our SSS, again like 2 years ago! The more the merrier - and they do this stuff for a profession, so hopefully the knowledge transfer to us will keep us learning in huge leaps and bounds and we may impart some stoic wisdom to them.
Picked up our SSS unit from the Coral Reef Research Foundation and did a shake-out run with the equipment. It all looks good!
"Say Goodnight Dick...", I am going to sleep now, we have a 6:30 am call for being in the boat on the water pulling SSS in search of MIAs...