2014 BentProp Progress Report # 32

P-MAN XVI Update # 32 - Last-day missions: "No, really - I think it's over there..."

15 April 2014

Another correction. I have been spelling Dan Friedkin's name incorrectly. The bold spelling in the previous sentence s correct.

On 15 April, we had the morning to ourselves for admin work. We all were packing, answering emails, writing posts or reports and thinking about all that transpired this year. Dan fixed a wonderful breakfast of french toast, bacon, oj and coffee. We all chowed down in the ready room one last time.

A few of us went to town to run some errands. I shipped my SCUBA gear home, did a little gift shopping, dropped off some stuff at Neco Marine, figured out how to return our rental car conveniently, gave our phone to Gloria at PNCC to keep active for us until next year and bought some phone cards for Joe. Dan went to OTV to let them have some footage from the Peleliu ceremony and made a stop at the Bureau of Arts and Culture to turn in a preliminary report.

We went back to the hotel and rounded up everyone for a leisurely lunch at The Drop Off. We planned to go out on the boat with Sorrence in the afternoon to see what he says is an airplane in the water, but why feel rushed on the last day? Carissa from Traveling Picture Show and Darcy and Kay Anderson joined us for lunch.

As I said in yesterday's report, we generally do not get good results on these last-minute, end-of-mission hot leads. It's not that they can't work out, just that they generally don't. So it was a good sign when Sorrence actually came to the dock a few minutes early. We loaded up and away we went.

It was also a good sign that we went to an area that didn't have a known (to us) airplane wreck in it. Sorrence got to the coral head he wanted, and jumped into the water. His memory says that near the coral head is a mound, and just inside the mound towards shore, is the airplane.

He jumped in with his snorkel gear and boy, can he ever move quickly in the water! After a while, he said he didn't think this was the correct coral head. So we moved to the next one. And the next. And the next. Each time Sorrence would swim up a storm. Not only was he quick in the water, he was nimble getting back into the boat.

Sorrence paddling up a storm, around a coral head.
The wrong coral head.

Joe (seated), Sorrence, and Casey in the back. "No really, I think it's over there!"

This went on for a few hours until he called his friend, who is a cousin of Charlie the boat driver. The friend tried to talk him onto the correct coral head. But we still did not find the plane. We offered to go pick up the friend, but when the tide is out, the cousin's village's inlet to the ocean is bone dry. And the tide was out.

Sorrence acted like a man who just simply cannot find something, not like someone who is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. He really paddled hard and long and he did not have a speargun with him. He checked a few more coral heads. Then Joe said let's go diving. So Sorrence kept paddling and Joe, Eric and Andy from Scripps suited up and went diving. Eric brought the Alien Finder with him. All to no avail.

The rest of us either were not SCUBA divers, or were flying out that night. So no diving for us. However, we did get a swim call in. It wasn't too deep so I free-dived down to the bottom to get some sand for a friend in Korea who collects sand and trades samples with people around the world. Sorry, Chris - the bag broke and I lost what I had collected.

The divers all came up without having found a thing. We collected Sorrence from the coral head he was searching, and headed home. Well, nothing ventured...as they say.

Sailboats always have right of way.

Sorrence says he'll get with his friend and they will find it. It's already on our dive calendar for next year: 17 March 2015.

Enroute back to port we stopped at the Avenger site. We had left a buoy submerged about 5 feet below the surface so that we could find it without too much difficulty. Since the mission was over, we needed to retrieve it. Eric jumped back into the water and retrieved the buoy from the airplane. Then we finished our transit back to Neco Marine.

We made plans to have dinner with the remainder of the Scripps team: Eric and his family, Andy and Myles. There's a new place near our hotel called The Fisherman's Grill, Seafood BBQ. I thought we should check it out. We made a date for 6:30, but Pat Colin from the Coral Reef Research Foundation said he thought the place hadn't opened yet. So we went back to our old standby, Krämer's. Somehow I knew in the last update that we'd be back.

The bad news was when we ordered our dinners, they were out of fish. Not wanting to waste time, we ordered non-fish dishes. So of course the fresh-off-the-boat fish showed up while our dinners were being cooked.

Joining us at the table were Andy, Myles and Eric and his family from Scripps; and Jo Schumacher, Joe, Dan, Casey and Derek from BentProp. It was a nice meal and a nice calm way to end the mission. Casey left on the 0130 flight; Dan, Derek and I left on the 0430 flight, Jo Schumacher leaves on the 0430 flight on the 17th (so she has one more day here, but without adult supervision). Eric and family are riding the 737 back to Austin along with the Texas Team. So that just leaves Joe to mind the store for the next eleven months until we get back.

Pat, who left on the 13th for Australia to give a presentation, will return on the 16th, spend one more night in Palau and also ride the 737 back to Austin.

And that really does end the mission. If Jo Schumacher or Pat discover anything while on island, they'll report it. But if nothing new transpires, this is the last update for the mission.

It was a great year. We found two new MIA aircraft. Up to four MIAs could be recovered because of the finds. The partnership between BentProp, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Delaware, Office of Naval Research, Stockbridge High School and the Coral Reef Research Foundation continues to grow. There is no doubt that we will uncover some new mysteries next year. I'm sure we'll have success next year like we've never had before. And maybe, we'll just find something "interesting."

- Flip

All photos © Flip Colmer2014

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