P-MAN VI Update #28
Sunday February 15, 2004

Today the plan was to deploy two teams in the vicinity of the debris field, tentatively identified as an Avenger, that Dennis Whalen located near the island of Ngargol. One team would dive and the other team would explore the section of Ngargol adjacent to the underwater debris field, to see if any other debris might be located on the island.

Flip and I made the dive on the wing area at about 90 feet, so I could try to capture some additional photographs of it - if visibility permitted. We encountered visibility that was even worse than yesterday, but added a few more photos and useful observations that make it clear that this is an avenger wing. It appears to be much of the outer section of the right wing, and it's upside down. The wing's distinctive internal structure is visible through collapsed sections of skin, and the Avenger's distinctive "stall slot" is visible in the outer portion of the leading edge.

We then swam a compass course across the cove to the area that contains the object we now all agree is a section of an outboard split flap. We captured a few additional photos there, too, of both the top and bottom of the flap.

During our safety stop, Flip demonstrated why he's in such demand as an entertainer. He can blow smoke rings. Under water. Without smoke.

While all this was going on, there was a steady, moderate rain falling topside, where Pat, Pete, Dan, and Joe were scrambling around on the steep, sharp, tangled, slippery slopes of the island. The conditions for their hike were pretty bad. The rain on the jungle canopy was steady and loud, making it tough for them to communicate, and it made for slippery footing on the sharp coral. At about the time Flip and I finished our dive, they reached a point from which the best recovery plan was to bring the boat to them, rather than have them try to re-trace their path to the boat's anchored position. On the grounds that there's no way he could be any wetter than he already was, Joe volunteered to jump into the water and swim back to the boat, then move it to the little cove where the other three were waiting. They had one of our radios, and informed us that Joe was on the way. I snorkeled around the corner and met Joe along the way. They reported finding absolutely nothing.

After picking everyone up, we moved the boat over to a large, unoccupied catamaran in an adjacent cove, tied off there, and discussed our lunch options. Last year, Val Thal (whose absence this year is sorely missed) fixed gourmet lunches for the team to eat on the boat. This year, the lunch menu has been in a descending spiral pretty much the whole trip. Yesterday, for example, we had spam-and-peanut-butter sandwiches on raisin bread. Today, the cooler contained Pringles chips and a can of tuna. The catamaran, which used to be a party boat, has a charcoal grill on deck, so Dan slipped aboard to grill the tuna. That process went pretty well until we noticed that we had absolutely no way to make a fire.

At that point, Flip suggested that - despite some general uneasiness about its not being in the spirit of "being in the field" - we could just drive the boat 10 minutes or so to Sam's, and have some burgers. We agonized over this decision for about 20 milliseconds, and cast off for the short trip.

The rain had been pouring down steadily since before the diving and hiking adventures began. It showed no sign of letting up, and in fact seemed to be increasing in intensity. After lunch, Pat wanted to go back and explore more of the island (the one with the wet, sharp, dark, noisy, tangled slopes, remember?), but at that suggestion, mutiny (or at least a profound absence of enthusiasm) started to take shape. The rain came down harder. We headed back to Neco and bagged it for the day.

All was definitely not lost, though. After cleaning up and drying off, we had a productive debriefing, planning, and lessons-learned session for the remainder of the afternoon. It's important that we focus this last week of P-MAN VI on those things that will give us the best combination of closure for this year's finds, and a leg-up on next year's expedition. We made progress on both fronts.

Then we had dinner with some archaeologist guy that we met in town.

Onward and Upward! Strength through Joy!

- Reid