P-MAN XIV Update #03 - Time warp

19 March 2012

Okay, what happened? I just got here, and it's already five days later!

Friday, March 16

Friday was a blur. Pat Scannon, Joe Maldangesang and Dan O'Brien met the folks at BAC/HPO (Bureau of Arts & Culture / Historical Preservation Office) - Suzanne Finney, staff archaeologist & Kelly Marsh, ethnographer - to sign our yearly agreement and memo of understanding on what we want to do while we're in Palau: conduct research concerning searching for MIAs, and interview local Palauans. It is almost one-stop shopping, because they had the permits for Koror State in hand for us. What a deal!

We made some phone calls to follow up on leads already happening. Speaking of phones, last year when we left, Flip gave our phone to some local friends to hold and use occasionally, so we didn't lose our phone number - they're basically prepaid pay-as-you-go phones. The plan is they will return it to us we arrive in Palau. Said friends are out of country and phone is not to be found. We are told they will be back on Tuesday. No problem - we can wait. This will become an issue soon in this update.

So without the staff photographer in country (read Flip) we missed the photo op at BAC/HPO. More of that will continue until Flip arrives.

Went by Coral Reef Research Foundation to check in with the whiz kids and their AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles), and also to see if we could beg, borrow or buy a lens for the GoPro camera so the underwater view is not distorted. Flip failed to read that in the owners manual of his new camera, which they fail to tell you. But since CRRF has about 20 GoPros that they set up all over the Palau reefs, they know a few things about what really works well underwater.

Gotta love the signage on the AUV.

Saturday, March 17

Saturday was an nterview day. Drive up island to see a guide up on Babelthop near the Capitol in Melekeok. He will show us some aircraft debris later at a Corsair crash site we found in 2000.

Can you tell it's raining at the interviewee's house?

Stopped in at the Civic Action Team (CAT) headquarters, currently staffed by Navy SeaBees, to say Hi. Interviewed a guide in Airai about an airplane crash site he has tried to guide us to twice over the past 5 years with no luck. Made several more phone calls and drop-bys with no results except messages left.

Sunday, March 18

Off to the mangroves up in Ngaremlengui to expand our knowledge of a Corsair crash site we found 5 years ago. There is a Marine aviator MIA from that crash. In 2011 we revisited the mangroves a couple times and kept finding more and more parts of the Corsair. You can read more about this site in the final report for our 2011 mission.

We're trying to pinpoint the cockpit area of the Corsair to assist JPAC when they come to do a recovery of the MIA. This Corsair exploded above the mangroves and we have yet to find a piece bigger than a coffee table.

So, Joe calls the hotel and we plan to meet up at the entry road to Ngaremlengui off the "compact road," which is the nice new smooth road that runs all the way around the big island of Babelthuap. The creation of this road was underwritten through the "Compact of Free Association" between Palau and the United States). This is the part where no cell phone comes in. So we arrive just prior to the designated time of 10:30 a.m. No Joe. We wait, a nice shelter is here for a bus stop, brand new, nice bench seats (staff photog is still not with us, so no pic of bus stop). We enjoy the quiet, chat about life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. We wait. Ok, a new plan: I will drive the 4-5 miles in toward the dirt road turnoff to the old lighthouse and the mangroves to see if Joe is waiting there, Pat will stay at the bus stop and ride in with Joe when he arrives. I drive in, I drive out, no Joe. Pat is still waiting. We still have no cell phone. Two hours later, we flag down somebody headed into Ngaremlengui, ask if we can borrow their cell phone to call Joe. Yup, he forgot his cell phone, BUT he is dropping off Mom and will call Joe from her house and then head back out to tell us the message from Joe. We wait.......some local folks doing some taro farming stop in at the bus stop to have lunch in the beautiful shade and they try to call Joe, BUT there's no cell reception here. We wait. OK, here comes our guy with the phone message from Mom's house and guess who is following him? Yup, it's Joe. It seems Joe got to our meet point early, thought he missed us and drove in to the 8-inch guns and waited there.

Hey, we got a group picture taken without Flip's help. Actually, this is from the archives - 2011.
L-R: Wesley Abbey, Flip Colmer, Dan O'Brien, Derek Abbey, Molly Osborne, Pat Scannon, and Joe Maldangesang.
It's at one of the 8-inch guns where Joe was waiting for us...this year.

It's now 1 p.m., no time to really attack the mangroves, tide is coming back in and time to head home.
Lesson learned: always carry a cell phone.

Monday, March 19

We are going to make it into those mangroves yet. Joe meets us at the hotel, so he does not lose us. We purchase a new cell phone, stop and buy some air time at the phone store, and we're ready to go.

The words for today are: successful, exhilarating, physical, hydration, man-am-I-tired-but-feel-really-good! We found 18 new parts of the Corsair! We're getting a more defined pattern of where certain parts are clustered. 3.5 hours in the mangrove, 40-minute round trip hike from the van to the start point...a good day.

Rather than write a thousand more words right now, I'll just show you a few pics:

Wanna spend an afternoon in the mangrove swamp? Here's what we get to crawl through.
All afternoon. That stuff at the bottom is water. And mud. Lots of mud.

Pat Scannon and Dan O'Brien AFTER fun in the mangroves.

Corsair parts.

More Corsair parts: aluminum wing rib structure. If those little yellow rulers were worth much,
every AOPA member in the world would be rich.

Ok, Flip has arrived safe and sound from Detroit to Palau via Narita, Japan.

- Dan O'Brien

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