VIII Update #8
We got going at a fairly leisurely pace this morning. Dr. Pat Scannon, our famous fearless leader, has volunteered to do a presentation for the Minister of Health, dealing with Palau's planning for such possible public-health crises as an avian influenza pandemic. We planned to drop off a copy of Pat's presentation at the hospital before heading back up to Police Hill.
But instead of just droppning it off, we met the Minister of Health Dr. Yano, and the Palauan Vice President Chin, and were given an excellent tour of the facility by David Rykken, who stressed their preparedness for public-health crises (including infectious diseases). Great tour, excellent facility, VERY heads-up people who've clearly given a lot of thought to preparing for such problems. Looks like Palau is in good hands.
Never shy about accepting help volunteered by others, we called Jon Vogt with the Army Corps of Engineers, whom we met yesterday, and asked if he would set up permission again for us to avoid the detour on the Compact road. He did, and we did, making the trip down to Police Hill a pleasure.
Which is not to say that the rest of the trip was the same kind of pleasure. This time, once we made it up to the top of the ridge, we decided to see how far our trusty little Nissan van could get us down the road that heads south along the ridge from Police Hill. I use the word "road" here in its most generic form. For folks who've grown up in the northwest woods, the concept of "long-abandoned logging trail" might be closer to what we were dealing with: deep ruts, soft red clay, and a path that in many places wasn't quite as wide as the van. Dan had drawn driving duty today, and he managed, with great skill and no small amount of creaking and scraping from the van (which occasionally picked one or more wheels WAY off the ground), to get us part of the way down the road.
We continued south on foot to a point where it appeared that the road had ended. Just outside the woods we found a pile of incinerated small-arms ammunition, plus what appeared to be some mortar fuses. Must have been a lively campfire: a lot of the brass had clearly exploded in the fire. There were piles of good examples of the Japanese equivalent of our .30- and .22-caliber rounds (7.62mm and 5.58mm, I think).
We then jumped into the jungle to see if anything visually matched the maps and stories from the tribunals. Not much did. Pat, Dan, Mike, and Joe scouted some interesting depressions with the metal detector, while I went back up and discovered that the road did not in fact end there - rather, it continued much farther, appearing to end at a wooded area some distance away. At the lower end of this first woods, Joe reported getting the feeling of being "watched," a feeling he sometimes gets around grave sites. He urged the spectres to show themselves and help us to find them, but received no further signs. Perhaps they spoke the wrong language and couldn't find the right words to communicate. After we finished scouting the first area, we headed back through an adjacent finger of jungle, then up the hill and back to the van for lunch.
After lunch, we went all the way to what appeared to be the end of the road. Turns out that the road veers into the jungle at that point and proceeds up a hill, terminating a few hundred feet inside the jungle. But it still doesn't really terminate - it becomes a foot path for awhile, eventually enlarging again into what was clearly a passable road for military vehicles. We found the hulk of a Japanese tandem-axle truck in a revetment beside the road.
Although some of this area matches some of the tribunal stories and maps, much of the length of the road is along a very narrow ridge, with little opportunity to split off from the road and create a reasonable burial spot (way too steep if you go more than a few feet off the path on either side).
At one point in the afternoon we found a fairly large level area that we decided to explore for possible burial sites. The area turned out to be littered with ordnance - mostly 75-mm antiaircraft rounds. They gave Mike a bunch of hits with the metal detector - in fact, there were so many lying around on the surface that we had to be careful not to step on them. But he found one spot that seemed to puzzle him - it produced what appeared to be an "outline" of metal, empty in the middle. He used the analogy of maybe a window frame. One poke with Pat's machete produced a loud metallic sound, and Pat discovered lying on the surface what appeared to be a long solid steel bar, 1" in diameter. Long as in maybe 10 feet. He started to pick up one end of the bar, and it bent! Now Pat's a strong guy, but even he began to suspect that this was a little weird. A little more lifting revealed the bar to be a total of about 20 feet long, bent in the middle to form a "U" shape. The bar was obviously made of a metal much softer than steel, and a little scratching on the bar's surface revealed it to be solid COPPER! Not only that, but only a few feet away we found another 20-foot-long copper bar, also bent into a "U" shape, this one 1.25" in diameter.
So...uh...anybody out there care to hazard a guess about what the Japanese would have been planning to do with that much (probably much more) copper bar stock? In the middle of the jungle? If you'd like to offer an opinion, drop me a note.
It took pretty much all afternoon to finish exploring the road, so it looks like we'll have to make at least one more trip to the Police Hill area, to examine the area behind - and to the northeast from - the hospital by the river.