P-MAN VI Update #11
Sunday, January 25, 2004

Too much adventuring and not enough writing, eh? Yeah, well...

Friday was indeed a data analysis day. Lots of photo interpretation, working on combinations of maps, NARA photos, and our own aerial photos. We thought for sure we had properly mapped the area southwest of Babelthuap where the prop is. I grabbed a bunch of photos from Pat and Pete, combined them with my own, and began to update some of the previous progress reports by adding relevant photos. I think some of them are now in place, so please go back through the earlier ones if you want to see some examples of what we're doing.

Saturday was a boat day. We went first down to Urukthapel to scout a location on the ridge where we think we've seen WWII photographic evidence of a crash. It's really clear from the photo exactly where we want to look; what's not clear is whether there's really anything there - perhaps we were fooled by the "smoke on the ridge" in the photo. We found the spot, but much of the west side of the island in that spot is a vertical rock wall. We found a place where we could tie the boat to some low-hanging branches, climb up into the roots and vines, and begin to scale the steep jungle hillside. We made it up to a little saddle beside the ridge peak where we saw the smoke. We had decided before the climb that this was strictly a scouting mission to try to confirm access to the hilltop, and that even if we found reasonably good access, we'd wait to go to the top until the rest of the team joins us in early February - we'll surely need the extra eyes in the dense jungle on the top. That's exactly the way it worked, and we're proud of ourselves for having the discipline not to just press on to the top - since we really needed to get back up to southwest Babelthuap while the tide was right. I didn't take any pictures here, but if Pete got something good I'll add it here, next time we pool photos.

We scrambled back down to the boat and headed up around Arakabesan to the site to which we've optimistically been referring as being related to the missing B-24 that we're still seeking. We made a dive across the path of a string of impacts that are clearly visible in some of the bomb-strike footage from the mission on which that B-24 was lost. Nothing. But...there was an area in which our compasses got pretty unstable, so there may be some serious iron there.

Next, we decided to finally figure out once and for all where the mystery prop is, on both the WWII photos and the aerial photos shot on our flight with Matt last Monday. We'd been assuming that we had it located pretty well on the WWII photo, but Joe was uneasy with that location. He drove the boat up the west side of the large coral platform where we had marked the prop's location, and realized that we were still east of the prop, which we could see sticking out of the water on a different coral head. We mapped the edges of the prop's coral head, and it became clear that we've been orienting ourselves to the wrong coral head since we arrived. We've now located the prop precisely on both the old and new photos, and that will help tremendously when we get the full team here and can make sweeps with more divers. It'd be a real waste of resources to dive in the wrong location...

That was a pretty long dive, so we rested and discussed orientation for awhile, then called it a day and headed back to Neco Marine.

In the evening, after dinner at Carp, we stopped by Kramer's (where Abby's Pirate's Cove used to be), to meet a collection of people who were having dinner with the JPAC team. JPAC's Public Affairs Officer was there, along with a reporter, camera man, and sound man from a CBS affiliate in New York, who are doing a documentary on JPAC.

[The final product of Lou Young's work here ultimately aired in New York. Here's where you can view video clips of Lou's 5-part report. Just follow the links under Lou's picture].

Today, we went back up to the Japanese-police-station site where JPAC is excavating. They've got a big tent fly set up on the hilltop, where they can grab some shade and water on a break. There's definitely no shade anywhere else in the area, and the sun is brutal.

Down by the dig, they've got another fly set up over a frame from which several large screen frames are hung. They dig with shovels in an area of interest, put the dirt into buckets, carry the buckets to the screening frames, and sift the dirt through the wire mesh. The dirt falls through the mesh, but any small objects such as bone fragments are filtered out and examined. No finds so far.

The process here is to use a bulldozer to scrape off the top 8 inches or so of top soil, in a carefully surveyed area. Any place where the ground has been disturbed and something buried will appear as a different color and texture, and that's where they decide to dig with the shovels. They've done the area pictured above that way, and are planning to open up another pretty large nearby area down the slope from the first site some time this coming week.

The CBS people were interested in interviewing Pat, so we took the "studio" down the slope to an area where there are several burned-out trucks. The interview went well. They've promised to share the piece with us when it's completed.

After the show-biz episode, we went back down to the road, and on down to a little stream where we sat in the shade and had the standard BentProp lunch: peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

Joe had accompanied us to the dig, and our next stop was an aircraft wreck in the mangroves below the US Embassy, that Joe has seen before. We went down the hill to a taro patch at the edge of the mangroves, then headed off through some pretty nasty mud. I was behind Pete when I heard a kind of major sucking sound, just as the mud pulled one of his shoes off. That was good for a pause while he got the shoe more or less back on, but our shoes and laces were seriously slippery, and the only thing around to wash the mud off was ... more mud. We continued to the water, but it was apparent that to reach the wreck we really should come in from the other direction in a boat, so we may try that tomorrow at high tide. Probably don't have any digital photos of the mangroves & mud, but we'll be back...

The last stop was a house near the south end of the Arakabesan-Koror causeway, where the family has their driveway nicely framed by two pretty hefty aircraft propeller blades, one that appears to be American and one Japanese.

Tomorrow is a boat day.

Onward and upward! Strength through joy!

- Reid