P-MAN IX Update #17
08 March 2007

Hello Everyone!

Lessons learned:

  1. Do a checklist every time you leave the van.
  2. Having extra bodies does help with searches.
  3. Mexican food in Palau can be good. So are the margaritas.
  4. You can make friends all over the world if you're willing to say hello.
  5. Sometimes things can start on time in Palau.
  6. You may have the cutest kids in the world, own your own grass runway, get to escape to Thailand to avoid your ‘hectic work life', but if you're not mentioned in dispatches from Palau, while not in Palau, I hear about it.

We started the day with another brief with JPAC. With four of them, and six of us, we should be able to cover a lot of ground. They were going to help us search for a Marine Corsair, and then we were going to show them the aircraft crash site we found in the mangroves a couple of weeks ago. (Seems funny to say how much time has passed since we've been here.)

For the first crash site, we showed them where we thought the Corsair should be due to the ‘red shift'. We have searched wide areas near where the red shift puts the aircraft. But Derek, who is directing this search, says we need to be on the west and east sides of a road and head towards the pumping station. And that is what we're planning to do.

Out we went and we lined up on the west side of the road. We searched and searched and found nothing. We got to our northern boundary, a river, and then turned around. And we searched back to our vehicles. Then we searched the east side of the road in a savannah area up to the start of a jungle. Then we ran out of time. Low tide for our next search area was at 2pm and we wanted to be hiking in at 1:30pm (1330 for those that understand real clocks). So we stopped our searches short of where we wanted to. We'll have to return here in a day or so.

We hopped into the vans and headed to the entry point for the mangroves. You remember me telling you of the guns that guarded the channel toward Koror? If you don't, go back and re-read what I've written. We got to the guns and had our lunch. If you haven't figured it out already, lunch is the most important meal of the day to us. Unless of course it's a different time of the day and then that meal takes precedence. It's all time sensitive.

Our merry band headed out and we entered the mangrove at the point where we created a ‘trail'.

How would you thread this needle?

Pat hacking.

Except Bob forgot the GPS. Although JPAC had GPS units with them, Bob's was the newest version and actually tracks us very well in mangroves, jungle and steep valleys. The other units lose satellite signals within 10 feet of a tree. So Bob ran back to the van, got the GPS and ran back. He met us in the mangrove.

With 10 of us there, and most with machetes, we were able to get back to our wreckage, and create a wider trail in the process. We still had to duck to make it around some mangrove roots. Pappy, one of the JPAC team members said this was the toughest going he's ever had on any mission. Well, that certainly pumped up The BentProppers.

We walked in and showed JPAC the pieces we had found so far. We gathered up around the first machine gun and held a flag ceremony. The BentProp Project likes to recognize each individual whose crash site we find. It may only be their airplane at the time of the ceremony, but we want to acknowledge their sacrifices and create a keepsake for the families. When JPAC says it's okay, we hand the flag over to the surviving family members. Right now, since we believe the best candidate for this crash site is a Marine, Derek Abbey will be the caretaker of the flag until we can deliver it to the family.



JPAC kept looking at the pieces we discovered. They're trying to connect this wreckage to a particular airplane and pilot. We fanned out to the south and tried to find a larger debris field. And we were successful. We came upon a few nondescript pieces of aluminum but then we came upon what looks like a wheel. It may be from a Corsair.

Corsair wheel?

A few minutes later, we found a piece of aluminum with a large circular hatch-like cutout.

Part of Corsair fuselage?

It looks almost exactly like the fuselage section that is behind the engine and in front of the cockpit. If we're accurate in our assessment, this is a Corsair. Now the pilot just has to be found.

We also found the end of the pier I mentioned the other day. This stone pier is 470 feet long, and we still can't see the end of the mangrove out towards the sea. The mangrove has grown quite a bit since 1945.

It's a LONG pier!

We had set a 1630 departure time from the site and we stuck to it. Joe had been doing some trail maintenance while we were searching and those with machetes did some more. It was like a super highway leaving the site. What took 35 minutes the first day with our first cuttings of a trail. Took 10 minutes today.

We cooled down at the vans, ate some Oreo cookies and lead the way out of the area. We parted company with JPAC as we stopped at Bem Ermii 2 for milkshakes.

Back at the hotel, the big discussion was where to eat. Matt from JPAC said the Mexican place, Bandidos, was really good. Mexican food in Palau? We were suspicious. However, we did have a recommendation so we decide to go. Not all of us. DOB decided he wanted to see the presentation that Dan Bailey was putting on at Sam's. Like Pat, Dan Bailey has been diving in Palau for years - but he looks for big hunks of metal: ships. He has cataloged almost everything that is at the bottom of the harbors, bays and shallow areas of Palau. He has published several books about micronesian shipwrecks, e.g., Palau, Chuuk (Truk), and Kwajalein. The presentation was at 7 p.m., so DOB could not eat with us.

We went to Bandidos. It was great. The food was tasty, the margaritas superb. We got their top shelf tequila for the price of the bottom shelf tequila. Great value. And we made some new friends with the owners. Dave and Margie own the place. Dave is a retired Marine Warrant Officer and Margie has put up with him for over 20 years. They came to Palau to be teachers at the Palau Community College, but that did not work out. They had previously lived in Hawaii and did not want to return to that rat race. They've been here 10 years and they are about to celebrate their first anniversary of having Bandidos. So if you're in Palau, you'd better come here and eat and drink. Make sure you try their beer margarita. It's different. It's good. It doesn't have a name yet.

Bandidos, one and all.

We went back to the hotel. However, I wanted copies of the pictures of us in the sombreros. Margie has a digital camera, but no computer at the store to burn me a disk. The quick solution was to go back to the hotel, get my computer and a USB cord, come back and download the photos so I can use them. This seemed like lots more fun than listening to any lecture. So we hatched a plot. We would swing by Sam's and take a photo of:

Dan listening to...Dan.

Then we would have our photos and you could be the judge of everything. When we got to Sam's, the place was emptying out. Seems that DOB missed Dan's lecture because DOB was late. Assuming everything in Palau starts late is not a good assumption. Dan Bailey was punctual and there wasn't any part of the presentation that our Dan got to see. So we gave him a choice. We'll pick you up in ten minutes, or you can come with us. Dan didn't trust our watches so he came along.

I got the pictures, and we each had more margaritas. Once again, you need to go to Bandidos and have their beverages and food. All are great. However, when we did this quick stop at the hotel, Derek bailed out on us. So we had 4 for each event: Dan wasn't at dinner, but Derek wasn't at cocktails. At Bandidos, after every other patron was gone, we decided to leave, too.

So that was the end of the day. I came home feeling light-footed and ready to face the next day. That's why this update did not get out last night.

I hope all is well with you. My time is growing short here. I'll be leaving before the mission officially ends. But I'll try to keep you up to date with the goings ons after I leave. Once I get home, it's eleven months of research for the next P-MAN mission: P-MAN X.

Blue SKies, Flip