P-MAN VII Update
Thursday, 3 March
This morning started with a visit to the U.S. embassy, where we paid a courtesy call on the Charge d'Affaires. We've invited her or someone from her office to accompany us when Tommy Doyle makes a dive on the B-24 later this month.
We then visited the Ibedul's office to thank him for giving us permission to visit his island. He wasn't there.
We were actually ahead of schedule at this point, so we swung by the PALARIS office to pick up three very large aerial-photograph prints that we had requested early in the week. They cover Babelthuap, Peleliu, and an overview of the entire area from northern Babelthuap down to Angaur.
Next, we met Max, a distant relative of Joe's (on Esther's side), who rode with us on Joe's boat to an area south of the German lighthouse, where he had recently noticed that shifting sands and eroding beach have revealed a piece of wreckage that he'd first discovered many years ago. It appears Japanese in origin, and we're guessing that it's the center spar area of a Betty bomber, almost from wingtip to wingtip. We scanned the area nearby and didn't see any additional wreckage, although there is an engine sticking up out of the beach not far from here, which we earlier had guessed was probably from a Jake. There's reported to be some additional wreckage buried in the sand near the engine, so it's possible that these objects are really part of the Betty.
We headed off to an area where Max has seen something that he believes to be the tail of an aircraft, in relatively shallow water. We snorkeled for awhile but didn't find anything.
Next, we headed for the Ibedul's island, where some sketchy reports from Roddy (remember the three unsuccessful trips we made last year to the German lighthouse?) indicated there were some pieces of wreckage up in some sharp rocks. We walked most of the length of the end of the island where Roddy had indicated finding metal. We found nothing. Interesting walk, though. Moderately dense jungle and very crumbly, sharp coral. There was a large area where the trees have dropped a dense carpet of long, soft needles. Very pretty. Problem is, the needles cover up big holes in the sharp coral underneath. It looks like you're walking on an almost smooth floor, but it turns out the floor is full of trap doors. Mike didn't like this kind of terrain very much.
After finishing at the Ibedul's island, we headed for a relatively secluded beach/picnic area to have lunch. The secluded spot was pretty, but during much of our stay it was packed with dive-charter folks. Toward the end a really large group showed up, complete with boom box.
But we managed to videotape an interview with Max about the years he spent in the '50s doing salvage work in the area. It's quite likely that some of the wrecks we've been seeking, maybe even a couple in the shallow area north of Arakabesan, were salvaged by Max and the company he worked for. Max is a very cool guy, and a great storyteller and philosopher. He now has a BentProp T-shirt.