2014 BentProp Progress Report # 22

P-MAN XVI Update # 22 - Resuming the search for the Ngerchaol TBM. Visitors approach - both human and weather.

04 April 2014

Yes, I know. I'm a few days behind. But I'll get caught up when the typhoon hits on Sunday. What - I didn't mention this earlier?

Pat made a command decision today. We are going to start our briefs a bit later. We are mostly diving. We are only doing 2-3 dives in a day. We don't have to get up early just to finish early and stay up late debriefing with Scripps/UDel. So, we are sleeping in a bit longer, briefing at 0900 and heading out after that. Except for tomorrow. But that comes tomorrow.

We did split ops today. Bill Belcher took Casey, Dan, Nell and Evan from Scripps up to Police Hill. Bill directed and completed a couple of shovel test pits in Area A. I'm told they found some small nails, that in some of the holes the dirt looked as if they never been disturbed and that they had a lovely time using 1/4 inch screens sifting said dirt. Our valiant dirt sifters are part way to earning their Junior Archeologist badges.

The rest of us - Pat, Flip, Derek, Dave, Jo and Joe - went cruising to look for some more clues for another lost Avenger. We know from some After Action Reports (AARs) that an Avenger was shot down just south of Arakabesan. Long ago, Dennis Whalen showed us some piece parts south of Ngerchaol island. Just a couple of pieces, but enough to know it came from an Avenger. We hiked that island and found one or two small pieces on the top of the island. This year, a Palauan said he knew of an airplane north of this area. We have an appointment to go see it sometime this weekend. This reported plane appears to be in a line with the Dennis parts and the parts on top of the hill. So we went diving between the reported plane that we haven't seen, and the piece parts we have seen.

This was a wall search pattern - which, as you know, we have done pretty well with this year. So we dove on the southern shore of the northern island. Twice to cover a lot of coastline. Found two pieces of aluminum that could be from an airplane. What parts they are we do not know. Yet.

We dove the northern shore of the southern island and didn't see anything. But the fish were prettier on that side.

We got back to Neco Marine, went back to the the hotel and took off to Sam's. Great color at sunset.

Sunset colors from Sam's

But the real reason we went to Sam's was to watch the Stockbridge students put on a presentation about their mission.

New and improved Underwater Bot

This year, they brought along five kits for making Underwater ROVs and helped the local grade school build them, then swim then on a shipwreck near Sam's. The ROV's will stay in Palau in the school system to help teach the kids about the environment around them. And how to build ROVs.

Emily Kaleb, robotics teacher in Palau.

The ROV team is having a great year. They've found a couple of items on the ocean floor that we wanted them to look at. They determined they were not aircraft related. This means WE don't have to dive there to check out the items. Yes, they do want to find an airplane. But they also 'get it' that determining that something isn't an airplane helps us in the long game to find airplanes.

Watching the teamwork and stick-to-it-ness of this year's team is amazing. Each year the teams are different. But each year's team has taken the lessons learned from the previous outings to improve their bot, their processes and their success. It's rewarding for us to watch them work.

We hung around a bit for photos, then back to la casa.

Stockbridge, Scripps, and BentProp

We held a debrief for the day's events and then a quick brief for the next day's events. Then the advanced party from the VIPs showed up for a quick get together.

Part of the debrief was Casey giving Bill his CO's challenge coin.

Since I'm behind in my updates, you may have already seen in the media that we will have some guests showing up here in a few days. Governor Rick Perry and his wife and daughter, R.V. Bergin and his daughter, and Marcus Luttrell and his wife will be in Palau shortly. All hail from Texas. The Governor, R.V. Bergin and Marcus Luttrell will be joining us to help in our searches.

R.V. Bergin was a Marine on Peleliu in World War Two and led a mortar section. He wrote a book called Islands of the Damned. Eugene Sledge, who wrote With the Old Breed, was in his section. R.V. is a spry 92-year-old and wants to see where he fought. And help with our searches.

Marcus Luttrell is the author of Lone Survivor and was a Navy S.E.A.L. Lone Survivor is also a movie and is still playing on the big screens. Marcus can help us look for three Underwater Demolition Team members (the precursors to the SEALS) who were captured on Yap and transported to Palau. They never made it off the island. We understand that these are the only three UDT/SEALS who have not come home.

Governor Perry is the current governor of Texas. He wants to hike the jungle with us and do some of our scuba searches.

And then there is the typhoon. It started out as a tropical depression with a prediction of gaining strength. It should hit Palau as a category one typhoon with winds up to 65 knots, I believe. The current model puts it crossing Palau right around Peleliu. However, the models also show a wide area to the north and south where it could go and miss us. All we know is that having Scripps/UDel here giving us updates is very reassuring. Looks like we'll still have Saturday as a work day, but Sunday and Monday will probably be a washout. Of course Monday is when The Texans were scheduled to arrive. And BentProp team member Mark Swank as well. Semper Gumby, as Bill Belcher taught us: Forever Flexible.

Typhoon track projection as of 5 p.m. local time on Friday 4 April...

We'll work Saturday and then batten down the hatches. We stocked up on water and Spam, and have enough movies to take care of us so long as the hotel's generator keeps working if the power fails.

- Flip

All photos © Flip Colmer2014

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