P-MAN VI Update #6
19 January 2004

Monday morning we met Matt, the pilot for Belau Air, who had removed the back door from their twin-engine Islander aircraft so Pete Galli could lean/hang out and photograph various areas that the team has identified as possibly related to wrecks. We took about an hour's ride that went from the airport on Babelthuap out to the western reef, down to Peleliu, and back up the east side. Pete got some amazing shots. Unfortunately, the removed door is behind the left engine, just aft of the tall landing gear strut. Pete and Pat, who was sitting beside him, report that their hearing is gradually returning after hanging their heads out in the prop blast for an hour or so.

Getting bearings at the police station siteWe met the entire JPAC team at their hotel and drove in two vans up to the "Japanese police station" site, where they expect to be excavating for the next couple of weeks. While the rest of the JPAC team stayed up at the top of the hill planning how and where to set up their camp, the BentProp team plus Bill and the JPAC medic went down the other side of the hill to the river. At one point, while leading the group through waist-high vegetation, Pat did his Wile-E.-Coyote-stepping-off-a-cliff impression. His yellow shirt was bobbing along through the brush, and the next second it was gone: he had stepped in what appeared to be a pretty deep foxhole and completely disappeared. Although things like that are obviously potentially dangerous, when we rushed up to check on him, he was scrambling out of the hole, laughing. You could see the tall grass sway as the rest of us let out a big sigh of relief.

At the waterfallWhen the JPAC folks were satisfied that they knew enough about the site to plan their attack on Tuesday, the teams went their separate ways. The JPAC folks went back to town, and we went a short distance north to a state park whose feature is a beautiful waterfall. We scrambled down the steep approach to the stream and the falls and sat on a rock at the top of the falls, resting our feet in the cool water.

Tomorrow may be a dive day, plus some interviews with an older Palauan who remembers seeing a single-engine plane crash on the reef, and a younger Palauan who reports having seen an aircraft wreck "with bones still inside."