F4U-4 Corsair (Dana Point, CA — xxx fsw)

I stand on the shoulders of giants.

Tyler and I were in search of new dive sites. Our first dive of the day on an unknown site ended up being some kind of barge. We had two other targets to investigate that day and spent some time metering both. Tyler felt one was better so we suited up and jumped in not knowing what we were going to find.

Below is a general overview of the dive, the dive site and some pictures of the wreck. I will post a second story about the specifics of the engine in a few days.

Imagine gearing up, jumping into the water, and going down a long descent line and then seeing this:

We knew right away we had found a plane. The diamond tread is a dead giveaway.

As we investigated, we also noticed a large number of scorpionfish. We both started looking around and then the engine with the exposed pistons came into view:

I can’t really explain the feeling you get when you find something new when you aren’t sure what it is going to be.

It is like Christmas when you were young, believed in Santa Claus, and had a present under the tree that you just couldn’t wait to unwrap to find out what it was. It turned out to be the one gift you had been hoping for. For me it was Legos. Now it is an airplane wreck.

After our decompression stops, we debriefed on-board the Marissa. Tyler knew when he saw that engine, at that angle, that he had seen it before.

He pulled up the UB88.org site and, sure enough, they had found the wreck 10 years ago! As usual. they had done a thorough detective job and had identified the wreck and the circumstances around the crash. I highly recommend you read their dive report. Their research is impeccable.

As if that wasn’t enough, as I was getting ready to leave the site, a giant bass showed up. It didn’t stick around long so I couldn’t get a good picture, but here is a snapshot from GoPro footage:

Below are additional pictures of the two main areas of the wreck site – the landing gear and the engine/prop.

Landing Gear & Tire

Engine

“Yellow Rust” — Some Detective Work Required

It was truly a superb dive and the detective work to figure out the congregation of scorpionfish and the yellow has been fun.

In all my dives on wrecks, I had never seen yellow “rust” like this before and so it got me wondering. I had also never seen that many scorpionfish in one place “nesting” like that. I initially thought that the yellow was due to some kind of element in the metal alloy that had been used. But, as others pointed out, the different pieces (pistons, shaft, engine block, etc) would all have different metals and so it would be strange for it ALL to be yellow if that were the cause.

At the same time, I couldn’t figure out why all the scorpionfish were nesting / breeding in that specific location. After all, it was pretty far from their normal habitat (rocks/reef). Then I got an email from a “friend-of-a-friend” who is a marine biologist that shed some light on both peculiarities. It said, in part,

“Any indication of a ground spring of fresh water or sulphur or something at that spot?”

Well, that pretty much gave me everything I needed. For those who don’t know sulphur (or sulfur), under normal circumstances, is a yellow element. There must be some kind of sulfur spring in that location. The last question to be answered is: why are the scorpionfish “attracted” to the sulfur and do they return every year or do they live permanently in that location?

References

UB88.org Corsair Dive Report

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