P-MAN VI Update #19
Thursday, February 5, 2004

Today was pretty laid back - a good thing, because we were all still a little beat after yesterday's lighthouse trip. The plan was to visit the barge in Malakal harbor and spend some time getting underwater video of the dredging operation at the Nelson Corsair site. Today, Mason Whipps was manning the suction dredge, and was working with a surface-supplied air rig for breathing. We gathered at Neco Marine and discussed the video shooting with Bert Yates, who would be manning the camera.

There's a water pump at the surface (on the barge, which is moored directly over the center of the debris field). The water pump pumps water down a hose and out through a jet that's actually mounted inside a much larger hose, a few feet back from the working end, and pointed toward the discharge end. This creates a vacuum at the working end - it acts just like a vacuum cleaner. And the discharge end is stuck into a big mesh bag, so that sand and pieces smaller than about 1/4 inch passes through the mesh, and anything bigger is trapped. The diver works in an area of interest, chipping stuff loose from the coral in which it's embedded, or digging it up out of the bottom. Large pieces of coral or aluminum or anything else that's obviously not bone gets tossed aside, and everything else is sucked up by the dredge and deposited in the mesh bag. When a bag fills up, it's hauled up on the barge, where the JPAC team sifts the contents and looks for anything that might be bone fragments.

This whole operation produces a pretty murky, silty appearance around the working area, but I'm told that we got some good video of the operation. Pete has promised to give me a video frame capture while he's reviewing the video - I'll post it here when I have something. After a few minutes there, we moved off with Pat to tour the rest of the debris field, where we got some fairly good video of the main landing gear and tailwheel areas.

We finished mid-afternoon, went home, showered, and headed for the Internet Cafe. Tonight, we joined a birthday party for our favorite archaeologist.

Tomorrow afternoon, we're taking the President of Palau for a dive on the new B-24.

Onward and Upward! Strength through Joy!

- Reid