P-MAN VI Update #29
Monday February 16, 2004

This morning started out with a series of "as long as we're here, why don't we..." transactions. We began by dropping by the insurance agency where Kenji works - he's the owner of the property where the FM2 Wildcat site is located. We wanted to thank him for bringing it to our attention, and to ask him if he knows any more about that specific site, or other sites in the area. He wasn't there, but was expected later in the day, so we told them we'd stop by on the way back from Airai.

In Airai, we planned to try to find the laundry-drying wing-beside-the-stream that had been described to us by Esther's Auntie a few weeks ago. But as long as we were there, Dan and Pete wanted to stop by the Palau National Communication Corporation office. They're the phone/TV/cable/internet company, and PostStar wanted to obtain from them a copy of the press conference during which President Remengesau announced the finding of the new B-24. But the PNCC office is right by the airport, so as long as we were there, we decided to stop and ask Matt if he knows where the USGS survey point is - the one that defines the airport's geographic reference point. He didn't know, but he knows someone who does, so he headed up to find his friend while we dropped Dan and Pete at PNCC.

Matt found the guy, and he showed us to the USGS marker, out in the grass near the terminal building. Everyone grabbed a GPS waypoint there. Then it was back to PNCC to pick up the boys, and on to Surangel's gravel quarry, where we launched into the jungle for the hike back downstream to the bend in the stream where as a young girl 60 years ago, Esther's Auntie had washed clothes and spread them to dry on the wing of a crashed airplane.

Let me remind you that it rained yesterday. Hard. All day.

So the jungle below the quarry, which we scouted a couple of weeks ago, was slippery and muddy. It was FULL of poison trees. And what normally is just a jungle bordering a small stream was now a flood plain containing a jungle. As we spread out to search both sides of the stream, a couple of things became clear. First, you could be 30 feet away from someone and not see him. Second, there was mud. Make that MUD. Every few seconds, right from the beginning, you could hear someone say "Aaaaack! I just went in up to my [fill in some anatomical landmark here] in mud!" The first couple of aaaacks for each of us were the hardest. From there on, it got easier. After going into the mud up to about mid-thigh a couple of times, anything less seems like a piece of cake. Unless you have to grab what may be a poison tree to save yourself.

We more or less followed the stream to the bridge. And spotted nothing. Flip won the award for highest watermark (about mid-chest). As we emerged from the jungle a few feet from the little bridge, it started to rain. Felt good.

There was no way we were going to re-trace our path through the muck back to the quarry, so we started hiking back up the hill on the main road. We hadn't gone far when a Palauan driving a Pepsi truck stopped and offered us a ride to the top of the hill. A real act of kindness, and much appreciated!

We headed back to the Airai branch of the "truck stop," the burger place in Koror where we often stop for burgers and fries. But we didn't know where it was. So we stopped a couple of places and made a couple of detours, and still couldn't find it. Decided to stop at the Belau Air office near the airport and see if they knew where the local Bem Ermii (the real name of the eatery) might be found. Madrei, Matt's wife, told Pete that we were there: the Belau Air building USED to be Bem Ermii. But there's no longer one in Airai. He thanked her, then ordered three burgers, three cheeseburgers, and six shakes. She threw him out.

We went back to Koror for the burgers, but stopped on the way to apologize to Joshua for having to cancel our trip with him next weekend to Ngurukthapel - we'll be making one last dive on the B-24 with some JPAC folks.

After lunch, but before even cleaning up, we made three social calls.

First, we went back to interview Kenji about the FM2 Wildcat site. He's owned that property for many years and added some stories about an antiaircraft artillery installation at the top of the hill, and some caves on the other side that the Japanese probably ducked into during attacks on the airport. But he doesn't know anything more about the Wildcat crash, and doesn't know anyone else who was around there during the war.

Next, we visited a gentleman who knows more about the aircraft that we never found near the hospital, and who may be able to show us where it is, even if we don't get to dive there on this trip.

Finally, we visited Bena Sakuma at the Palau Conservation Society, who knows where there's some aircraft debris down toward Peleliu. If the weather clears before we leave, he'll show us where the stuff is; if not, he'll show Joe where it is so we can check it out next time.

Pretty productive day!

After getting cleaned up, we dropped by to see Rita Ulsudong at the Historical Preservation Office, but she wasn't there. Then we visited Kelly Raleigh at the Office of the Palau Automated Land and Resource Information System, who has promised to get us some data and show us how to use a mapping software package that we've had for a couple years but can't figure out how to use. That'll happen on Thursday. Then we went to Sam's, where we visited with Dennis Whalen, who also passed on some mapping software that may help us in plotting GPS fixes for underwater objects.

VERY productive day! Sorry, but there are no still pictures of the hike through the mud this morning. Pete shot some video along the way, but no one was about to break out a still camera while we were slipping, sliding, and sinking to our waists in the goop.

Onward and Upward! Strength through Joy!

- Reid