2014 BentProp Progress Report # 30

P-MAN XVI Update # 30 - You can see pretty far in clear water. Who knew?

13 April 2014

First up, a retraction. Some sharp-eyed reader reminded me that the Research Vessel Revelle is NOT a NOAA ship. It is owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography. I don't know how I got that mixed up. I guess I wasn't paying too close attention during that brief.

And a spelling correction. In some of my updates, I put an extra e in a name. The correct spelling of Mr. Anderson's name is Darcy.

And Derek is now reprimanding me that the correct abbreviation for a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps is LtCol, not LCOL. He's lucky I didn't use L.O.L. or L.M.A.O.

Today was our last water day, but our first and only Pancake Sunday. As usual, we had plenty of crispy bacon, real OJ, and blueberry pancakes that were light and fluffy. Maine Wild Blueberries. That brings up a couple of thoughts: a) wild, really, in a bag, maybe just misbehaving blueberries; b) and shipped all the way to Palau. I can't take credit for the recipe. Rebecca, my lovely bride, taught me to use club soda instead of water. Our only guests in attendance were Dave and Margie Mendoza and Jo Schumacher. The BentProppers left on the island were Pat, Dan, Bill, Me (Flip), Derek, Casey, Jolie and Joe. We lose Pat and Jolie tonight.

Out on the water, we interrogated two specific targets developed by Scripps and tried to do the final portion of the channel heading east out of the harbor. We finally got to do some dives outside of the harbor and the water was beautiful. Could see the bottom from the surface. The bottom started at 70 feet or so and sloped down to 100. The interesting targets turned out to be large chunks of coral. I did get to see some pretty fish as well.

Derek in really clear water

Derek again.

Why we went down in the clear water.

We came back into the channel that led into Palau Harbor. Joe told us which way the current was going so that THIS TIME, we could have an enjoyable drift dive. Derek and I would take the south side of the channel and drift/paddle 3000 feet to the channel entrance. Casey and Dan took the north side and Joe took the middle. As soon as Derek and I got to the bottom, all the fish that were hovering in the current did an about face and hovered the wrong way for what we were trying to do. Derek and I, being mission oriented, kept swimming in the correct direction. Everyone else took it as a sign from the powers that be to get a drift dive in going in the wrong direction. We did get a visit from the Koror Rangers telling us we were getting too close to the Marine Conservation area.

Derek hanging for the safety stop.

Interesting sea creature feeding off the coral head.

Back to port and we joined up with the underwater crew from Traveling Picture Show. Derek, Dan and Casey got off the boat, and Joe, Bill and I went back out. One quick visit to the Hellcat so that they could connect the dots on past success and this year's mission. We were a bit skeptical about going back there as the visibility is generally poor at best. However, with no rain in the past 48 hours and the winds having subsided, the viz was excellent. I got down to 50 feet and the entire debris field was visible. I did not have to imagine or look at drawing of it to see the entire picture. Pretty amazing change of scenery.

Bill and Dan Freidkin diving the Hellcat

Another view of Bill and the Hellcat. The other day, I still wouldn't have seen it from this far away.

The tailwheel on a clear day

The tail section from above. When we first found it,
we came upon the crushed section on the left
and even touching it, could not see beyond a rib or two to the tailwheel.

Back to port and the last scuba day was done. A couple of us went to do interviews and the rest had dinner with Scripps/UDel at The Drop Off. They're finishing up and packing out as well. The partnership that has developed between BentProp and Scripps/UDel continues to grow.

14 April

Today was supposed to be our last mission day. However, early in the morning we got a call from a Palauan we've been trying to connect with. He still says that there is a plane on a reef and that he's willing to take us there. Tomorrow. Tomorrow was supposed to be an admin day to pack up, pack out and buy gifts. So we had to decide in a hurry whether or not to go. Generally these last minute put togethers fall apart for us. We either get no showed, told that something came up but if you "turn right at the first coral head you can't miss it," or we go out and they cannot find it. However, Joe questioned him and says this really is something new. So we have a plan for a boat ride on the day we fly out.

After breakfast and a brief, we headed up to Police Hill one last time for this year. Bill wanted to do a little more digging, finish the sifting and then close everything up for the year. Four of the crew from the 737 that brought in the Texas contingent came along with us. They got a great tour by Cleared Ground of Area A and then they went to work sifting with us in Area B. And we introduced them to the concept of a Bem Ermii milkshake at the end of it all.

Jet crew, working along with Jo and Bill.

Jet crew, still working.

Dan, contemplating.

'It's starting to get warm in this jungle.'

Scott the Chief Pilot in the zone.

Jo Schumacher and Dr. Bill Belcher

Protecting the work area until we can close it up, which we did.

About to close the test pit.

Dr. Belcher in a rare moment, unscripted, very candid.

Governor Perry held a sunset reception for all involved with this trip. A great way to end the day: sunset at the PPR.

Casey in training to return from Okinawa to CONUS.

Sunset. Does anyone recognize that little island
from the cover of Wil Hylton's book, "Vanished?"

Once the sun was down, the party broke up and we headed to Krämers for one last dinner there. Well, I guess we could do one there tomorrow as well. But I won't know that for a while.

We'll use tomorrow morning for errands in town since the afternoon is taken up with one last boat search. IF all goes well, I can get an update out about that before I leave. But if not, I'll report again from points east.

It's been a great year out here. Two new MIA crash sites discovered. The potential for bringing four MIAs home to their families. And the recognition that between the partnerships with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Delaware, Office of Naval Research, Stockbridge High School and BentProp, the probability of future success has gotten greater. Next year, we'll do more.

- Flip

All photos © Flip Colmer2014

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