VIII Update #2
It's official, since we're all finally in Palau!
Dan O'Brien was first to arrive (Sunday, I think) since he had the shortest distance to travel. He came here from Thailand, where he was one of the members of World Team 2006 who successfully completed the world-record 400way skydive. Contratulations to all 400, and also to BentProp team member Flip Colmer who almost made the record jump with them, but injured a knee on one of the practice jumps and had to sit the big one out. He'll be lending moral and research support to us from back home in Michigan where he'll be recuperating.
The rest of us arrived last night (Tuesday). Pat Scannon (coming from San Francisco) was supposed to arrive Monday night, but his Honolulu-Guam flight was delayed so he missed the one-a-day flight from Guam to Koror, and wound up overnighting in Guam. Mike Olds (coming from Los Angeles) and I (coming from Pittsburgh) met up in Honolulu mid-afternoon, and we both caught up with Pat last night in Guam for the last leg to Koror. Dan, who'd been here for a couple of days, met us at the airport.
Dan had picked up a vehicle and checked into the "ready room" suite that he and Mike will be sharing. He had also picked up a bunch of groceries, and had been to the post offiice to pick up boxes that had been shipped ahead by Flip, Pat, and me (Greg, your packing job for the underwater camera housings did a fine job). That means we also have a month's supply of coffee (thanks, Flip), about a year's supply of nuts and power bars (thanks, Pat and Mike), and a pretty good supply of parrot food for Ius (starts with a capital I and rhymes with noose; means crocodile), the parrot who hangs out at Neco Marine.
After a quick but mandatory stop at Bem Ermii for burgers and shakes, we made it to our digs here at West Plaza Malakal. This place is really starting to feel like home. We unpacked boxes, congratulated ourselves on surviving our various trips, did a general briefing and got to bed before midnight.
This morning we made the rounds of several contacts that we really wanted to refresh, including the President's Chief of Staff, the chief archaeologist at the Historical Preservation Office, and the Chargé d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy. We also made a couple of phone calls, and established that a couple of other people we want to visit are presently off-island.
We then spent part of the afternoon exploring an area near Nikko Bay, where there were reported to be some artifacts of interest to us. Our initial impression is that these objects are not related to any of our MIAs. But it was well worth running this lead down, if for no other reason than that the objects are located in what has to be one of the most visually stunning places on the planet. It's a network of caves that radiate out from the bottom of a huge sink hole that forms a roughly cylindrical opening in the middle of one of the smaller islands.
Outwardly, the island looks exactly like hundreds of others. But from inside, it's a prehistoric world with vertical walls and dangling vines, open to the sky far above and to the shore through small tunnels that connect between the water and the inner sanctum just above water level.
In the photo above, that's Pat and Mike in the middle, standing on a giant boulder with stalactites above their heads. Pat is pointing his flashlight at the camera.
This evening we met up for dinner with Professor Don Shuster from the University of Guam. Don has been pursuing leads in Ngatpang that he hopes will lead him to information about the grave site of several priests and Palauan civilians who were executed in the area that we've come to call "Police Hill" (because that's where the Japanese military police headquarters was located). Our path and Don's crossed and have remained linked since we discovered that this location is probably also where several U.S. airmen and possibly three UDT members were also executed and buried. We plan to go up to that area tomorrow, and possibly to re-interview an elderly Ngatpang chief who provided some valuable clues last year.