P-MAN XIII Update #39 - Following Abbey's tip back to Kossol Passage. Remember Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football? Tomorrow the team says goodbyes, packs out, and heads home.
We're done. Sad to say, it's time to leave Palau, ecstatic though Flip is to be getting back to Rebecca.
We had our last work day today. And Flip's last day as breakfast chef. Veggie and cheese omelet for his teammates.
We elected to start a little later than usual with our searching so we could present a report to Dwight Alexander, Director of The Bureau of Arts and Culture, on the disturbances to archeological sites that we saw this year throughout Palau. He was very grateful for the report and is working on a plan to better protect these important places for Palau's future.
Then we had a choice to make. Do we work in the jungle? Do we work in the mangroves? Or do we take a boat ride for our last day here? Hmmmmm? We have some new leads for all three environments. You know we like getting muddy in the mangroves. And you know we like getting sweaty in the jungles. And who doesn't like a boat ride? Hmmmmmm? What would you do?
We chose not to do extra laundry on our last day.
We thought the best thing to do was to check out - one more time - Abbey's sighting up north. Last year he said go to a specific coral head. We did not find a thing. We vowed not to go up to Kossol without Abbey this year. When we interviewed him this year, he said search on the other side of the coral head. We called him to set a date to go with us, but he became unavailable. So what would you do? Stick with your vows or do laundry on your last day?
We gathered up our swim, snorkel, and scuba gear and pushed off the dock at about 1030 for Kossol Passage. That's about an hour and a half north of Koror and can be a wonderful ride, or a treacherous ride, depending on the winds. For the last few days, the waters around Palau have been like glass and today was no exception.
En route we saw flying fish, turtles, sea birds fishing, and the beautiful colors of The Big Island (Babeldaob). And I saw blue clouds. Molly had said that she saw blue clouds last time she was up at Kossol. I never have, and I frankly didn't believe her, since I was on that trip and hadn't seen blue clouds. You, and everyone else has seen white clouds and various shades of gray clouds. In Palau, I have seen green clouds, generally hanging over Peleliu. But today, I saw blue clouds over Kossol Passage. Must be the reflection off the water up there because there are lots of blues to be seen in the waters. And of course, I did not take a picture of the blue clouds.
Pat and Derek said they saw a gold cloud, but until I see it, I'm sure it didn't happen.
We got up to Kossol and started to troll. I was in the water for just about an hour being dragged by the boat. Dan, Molly and Derek joined me at some point and we covered a lot of ground. For those just joining the story line, rather than paddle around with just mask, fins and snorkel, we get towed by the boat so we can cover a lot more ground in a much shorter period of time. And it's fun. Except for all the little biting creatures that come up from the coral.
We covered the area that Abbey said we should, and then some. Nothing. We recommitted to our vows: we're not coming back without Abbey next year. It was a gamble about how successful we would be on this last day no matter what we chose. Everyone being a bit weary, this path kept us safe, we saw some great scenery, and it was a great way to end the mission.
On the way home we saw some dolphins, more sea birds feeding, Joe fishing, and Flip saw the inside of his eyelids.
We also took the time to do a flag ceremony over the B-24 that we found in 2004. This was the crew that was repatriated a few years ago, identified by JPAC and had their Arlington Ceremony in April 2010. One family was not in attendance, and has asked for a flag from us. Since we were in the neighborhood....
We did a fast turn-around back at the hotel and headed out to Palau Pacific Resort for sunset. This is Condé Nast type resort in Palau, with some of the prettiest sunsets on the planet. And this was the only time I got there this mission. So, for your enjoyment.
Then it was out to dinner with Mason Whipps and his father Surangel. Surangel is a businessman and retired Senator who has helped Pat since Pat first started coming to Palau in 1993. Mason has kept up the Whipps family tradition by supporting us with vans and maintenance to the vans over the past few years. We had a wonderful time, but Surangel had to cut short his stay with us: he's commanding a basketball team. Not coaching mind you, commanding. "You can't shoot. You're benched!" I'll bet that would be an interesting game to watch, since the team has a coach as well.
So now I'm typing away. El Jefe (Pat) and El Commandante (Derek) are trying to tempt me into having one more milk shake at Bem Ermii. Be strong Flip, be strong. I'm so weak.
Tomorrow is a day of saying goodbye to the various government folks who allow us to do what we do here, packing out, shipping stuff home, and finally getting to that 0135-in-the-morning flight to Guam. Then on to Hawaii, meet up with Rebecca and then fly home to Michigan at some point.
It has been a great mission this year. We developed more leads and have many more reasons to come back and continue our work. If anything happens tomorrow, I'll report it, but this is probably my last report for P-MAN XIII. I hope you've enjoy my musings. Until next year, which is only 10.5 months away.