P-MAN VI Update #8
Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Today started out, as is often the case, at Neco Marine where master guide Joe was preparing the boat for another day's adventures. The first stop for us was a dock at the north end of the Koror-Babelthuap bridge, where we picked up Ricky, the gentleman whom we interviewed yesterday morning. We took Ricky out to the area where he saw a single-engine plane plunge into the water, followed by the pilot in a parachute. We mapped a couple of additional coral heads in the area, after going to "the mystery prop" and using that as a starting point. Out on the reef, Ricky had a couple of hypotheses about the exact location, but wasn't sufficiently certain to justify an exploratory dive with only three divers. We'll return to this area later, and may also try to contact a couple of local fishermen whom Ricky says also know where the wreck is located.

We returned to the dock and swapped passengers: Chief Grant and his apprentice Roddy, climbed aboard, and we headed south to the old Malakal lighthouse, where Ricky said he and his brother saw a single-engine plane near the top of the hill. The hill is a steep jungle trail that goes from a dock at the base of the hill up through the jungle to the lighthouse, which is several hundred feet above the water level. Although the jungle was hot and steamy and the trail pretty steep at points, the trail is good by jungle standards. There are roots and vines growing across the trail, and an occasional fallen tree, but if you don't stop to explore on the way, the hike only takes about 45 minutes.

Or if you do stop to explore, it takes longer. We stopped often to explore. There was a Japanese shore battery along the ridge with 5-inch guns that apparently rolled down the hill at some point - there are a couple lying across the trail, plus a bunch of the 5-inch rounds and lots of machinery associated with their carriages. At another point, there's the foundation of a large building complex, plus several caves in the wall. It's so dark in most of this jungle that my digital camera (well, okay, it's my wife's camera - thanks, Beth!) can't take a good picture without the flash, and the flash isn't powerful enough to fill any kind of picture beyond a close-up..

By the time we got to the top of the hill, we all looked like we'd just been swimming.

Roddy and Joe searched the area around the lighthouse for the airplane "with the bones still inside," but came up empty-handed. More people joined the search, but with the same result. Roddy promised to return later with his brother, find the wreck, mark it, and take us back to it on another day.

We dropped Roddy and Chief Grant off at their dock, headed over into the flats beside the Croc Farm, and had a late lunch. After lunch, we surveyed an area of depressions at the east end of Koror harbor, then went over to the area between T-Dock and the A-K causeway to look for a wing-like object that had been spotted by Matt, the Belau Air pilot who took us for a ride a few days ago. After a fairly short search, we found it. As we passed over it the first time, it looked like...a B-24 wing! Next pass, it started to look a little flatter and fatter than a B-24 wing. We made a short dive (19 feet, 7 minutes) and determined that it's some kind of motorized float, which has obviously been there a long time. It's maybe 40 feet long, flat on top, and its hull appears to be made of a number of large isolated float compartments. It has what appears to be a retractable outboard drive that could be used to move it into position before it's moored or pontooned together with more similar units to form a bridge or pier.

Not a particularly fascinating dive, but another target positively removed from the list.

Had dinner with Bill Belcher, who reports that the excavation up at the police station is well under way. We may go up for a tour on Sunday.

Tomorrow is a boat day.

Onward and upward! Strength through joy!

- Reid