2011 BentProp Progress Report # 32

P-MAN XIII Update #32 - Interviews, TV celebrities, diving on Peleliu, dinner with Matt Harris

05 April

An uneventful day today. Well, except for the van breaking down, finding Abbey who says there really is an airplane up at Kossol Passage, being on TV and eating one plate at all-you-can-eat spaghetti night.

We split into two groups today after a late breakfast and morning briefing. One group went to conduct a couple of interviews, and Flip stayed behind to get some admin work done for the group.

Pat, Derek, Dan, Molly and Wesley went out to conduct some interviews, and the van broke down. As it turned out, it was just a blown fuse. Of course that begs the question, what caused the fuse to blow? We now have an extra fuse and will be getting more tomorrow or the next day. As Dan just said, we don't want to be stuck way up on the big island.

The group chatted with Abbey, a Palauan who has led Pat to previous wreck sites, and he says there is definitely an airplane up on the northern reef. We tried to find it last year without him, but had no luck. This area is so big that most of the U.S. Pacific Fleet was able to park there during World War II. Our little boat with its little side scanning sonar isn't going to find much in an area that big. So we hope that this year Abbey will take us up there. What he describes is a TBM Avenger.

The group also got a few names of people we should contact for possible later interviews.

We all got together for a 5 p.m. briefing for our Palau Television debut. We were invited to participate in an one-hour talk show that also allows phone-in questions. The show is called Chised which means Our Story (the Ch is silent). It is a weekly show about Palauan culture, but Joe Aitaro (the host) thought that BentProp was interesting enough to include the team in the format. Plus, the television station has gone regional so it broadcasts outside the Palau Islands and the story of World War II resonates loudly out here.

In all our uniformed glory.

First segment: Derek, Joe, Pat and host Joe Aitaro.

Pat and our Joe stayed on the stage the entire time and the third guest chair rotated between Derek, DOB, Molly and Flip. We each had our 15 to 3 minutes of fame. The questions were good, we all had a great time and everyone learned something. Our host's father is in Hawaii at the moment so after the show I asked if I could interview him when I traveled back home. He was a boy of 11 when the war came to Palau. Maybe he saw something, or maybe he heard stories from his parents or fellow Palauans.

Then it was to Krämer's for all-you-can-eat spaghetti night. Except for Dan, we all ate all we could: one plate. It's amazing the diet discipline we're showing. Okay, I'm showing off. I could have eaten another plate's worth. But I didn't.

Tomorrow, we're heading out to Peleliu to research a sunken LVT (Marine Amphibious Landing Craft) that Mark Noah discovered. Plus, we're dragging the SSS gear with us. Who knows when the last sweeps were done off the coast of Peleliu. Maybe we'll find something very interesting. And if we do, we'll let you know tomorrow.

06 April

Quick breakfast, out to Neco Marine, get on the boat and head south to Peleliu. Very rough today. Big swells near Peleliu. Great fun for me riding on the bow of the boat. It was too rough to just put in, so we pulled into the southern harbor of Peleliu, coincidentally named South Dock. And as we drove the boat to the dock, we saw the Governor. Just the man we wanted to see. We were able to chat with him before we went diving.

On Peleliu

The team with Peleliu Governor Kangichi Uchau.

Southern tip of Peleliu.

We made a plan for just four of us to check out the LVT. If the visibility and currents would allow, we would do a second dive with everyone.

We jumped in and followed Joe down to the bottom.

Pat, Flip, Joe and Derek making final preps.

Pat leaps in with Derek close behind.

Headed a bit west to the drop off, then a bit north and we found it. We had about 15 minutes on it and each of us with different eyes saw different things. However, we all agreed the LVT looks more like a combat loss than an operational loss. As we headed back up for our safety stops, we saw something a bit deeper.

Back on the boat, we debriefed our dive. It was great visibility and the currents were not strong at all. We headed back to South Dock for a bit of lunch. Kudos to Wesley for another great meal. After a sufficient surface interval, we geared up for the second dive. The next dive would have all of us drop down onto the LVT, then Joe and I would head deeper to check out whatever it is we saw below us.

We all dropped in and this time everyone noticed that the coral reef is littered with war debris. A quick swim over to the LVT and then Joe and I headed down. Not very far away from Mark Noah's find is another LVT. And off a little deeper I could be convinced there is another. At first I thought that the hull we found at a deeper depth belonged to the turret portion Mark found. But it could also be two completely separate vehicles. We all think we need to go back and do some real investigations. I would include a photo here, but as you know, my camera is resting on the bottom somewhere and Wesley and Derek's cameras can't go this deep. We wanted to rent one from Neco, but they don't have rentals anymore. Someday we'll go back with camera gear and SSS gear and really figure out what is down there.

We still had some time left before the boat had to be back. We headed to a known MIA site that is also a popular snorkel/dive spot. We heard someone had been removing the coral from the engine and propeller. If true, that means that this burial at sea is in jeopardy. Sad to say, it's true. Most of the prop, prop hub and front of the engine is exposed. Last time I was at this site, it was completely encased in coral except for one small patch that you could look into. It's much easier to see what it is now, but it means the site is at risk.

We headed home, got cleaned up and went out to dinner with Matt Harris. He is the helicopter pilot who has helped us out tremendously over the years. This was our way of saying thanks.

Our great friend Aussie/betel-nut-chewing/helicopter-flying Matt Harris!

Tomorrow, a request has been made for "pancake Thursday". However, there's no bacon in the house. The island got resupplied yesterday so the stores should have some. Now if someone will go get it, I'll make pancakes. Then we're going into the toughest arena we have here: mangroves. And we're told the crocodile population is rebounding with gusto. Oh, great!

- Flip

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