Friday 18 February
Well, we try not to take it personally when we're stood up twice in a row by people who promise to give us information or to take us to a prospective site. So we're okay. Really.
The friend of Joe's who promised to take us out two days ago but who didn't show up had rescheduled for today. And he didn't show up today, either.
So we headed back out in the boat to the area north of Arakabesan where we'd done some surveying yesterday. We anchored the boat roughly where we'd been yesterday and for the first dive made a single long sweep to the northwest, resulting in finding an object that appears most likely to be part of an outboard motor housing.
Between the dives we did some snorkeling and positioned the boat next to one of the two aircraft wrecks that we'd located yesterday, so we could do some photography after the second dive.
The second dive was another line-abreast sweep to the southeast, back past the seaplane ramp and roughly toward T-Dock. We're starting to get this process under control: the diver on one end controls a reel with 100 feet or so of line. The diver on the other end of the line takes it out far enough so the total number of divers on the dive can space themselves out at about the limit of visibility from each other, and they just grab the line and swim with it. The line is perpendicular to the compass course we want to follow, and everyone keeps an eye on the compass, to make sure the group is following the course. When we get to a pre-arranged turn point (so many minutes out, for example), the whole line pivots around to the reverse course and goes the same distance (or time) back, thereby covering, say, a 200-foot-wide swath for the total out-and-back trip. Theoretically, you wind up back near the boat, about one line-length away from it. That's pretty much what we did. Saw absolutely nothing.
Back at the boat, we did a short surface interval, then Flip, Chip, and I spent some time photographing the two float planes that we found yesterday. They're visually pretty interesting. They're basically two identical aircraft, separated by 100 meters or so, and they're each in about 30 feet of water. Each aircraft was a fabric-covered biplane with two large pontoon floats. They had tubular-steel-truss fuselages. They had radial engines and wooden props. We found no wings. Being in such shallow water, they were possibly salvaged.
Saturday 19 February
We started off today with a plan to revisit the FM2 Wildcat crash site north of the airport. But first, we went by a spot that Mark and Jennifer found yesterday, where there's a large Hamilton-Standard prop sticking right up out of the ground beside the road that parallels the runway at the airport. A cab driver's story, independently confirmed by another person they met during the day, said that there's an entire aircraft buried just under the ground there, and that the prop is the only part of it that's sticking out. We found the prop right away, and did a tiny bit of digging around its base. It's embedded in a block of concrete. Like your mailbox. Just a driveway marker. Ah, well. It makes a much cooler story to imagine the entire airplane lurking there just beneath the surface.
The next stop was to the compound of the Air Force Civic Action Team (CAT). Last year's CAT was a super bunch of Navy SeaBees who helped us at every turn and to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. Their Air Force counterparts this year are every bit as cordial, friendly, and helpful.
Our objective at the FM2 site was to extend our superficial investigation a bit to continue to seek positive identification of the aircraft, which we believe was flown by an aviator from the escort carrier Marcus Island, and who is still listed as missing in action. We held a brief flag ceremony in his honor (in the photo, L-R: Joe, Flip, Reid, Mark, and Pat. Photo © Flip Colmer 2005).
We'll keep after this site until we can get some closure on the pilot.
This evening we met John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, of "Deep Sea Detectives" renown (on The History Channel). They're friends of Chip and Pam Lambert, who were featured on one of their TV episodes dealing with the USS Mississinewa, which Chip, Pam, and Pat found a few years ago at Ulithi. They've been in Palau to film a dive on the USS Perry.