During my ill-fated trip to Bikini Atoll, we ended up diving quite a few WW II airplanes that had been dumped near Kwajalein Atoll. Tyler and I had seen some ROV footage of something similar off Point Loma and we decided to charter the Marissa with Lora and Chris to investigate and perform a number of dives to document and photograph the wrecks.
We have identified both F4U Corsairs and SBD Dauntless aircraft. They all have their engines and cockpit instrumentation removed and most have the wings largely removed as well. This is somewhat similar to the wrecks I dove in the Marshall Islands.
We found an online book by the National Park Service that mentions a survey conducted by Pettus in 1995 that identified a debris field of WW II aircraft but we have found no other documentation or pictures of the dumping.
It is likely that they stripped the valuable parts (engine, instrumentation, etc) from badly damaged airplanes that were too expensive to repair and then dumped the carcasses off the back of aircraft carriers as they were coming in to port.
We have nicknamed this spot The Junk Yard.
The Wreck Sites
Given the state of the wrecks, we have decided to release the locations of each of wreck that we have visited and photographed.
Note that they are all generally in the 200 to 240 foot range so we don’t recommend diving them unless you are comfortable at those depths. Also, Pt Loma often has very limited visibility with currents often present and at those depths it is dark. Basically, you should be very comfortable in “harsh” deep conditions if you plan to dive any of these. Also remember that these are officially Navy property and nothing should be removed or disturbed.
We are confident that there are more wrecks similar to these in the general vicinity.
Below is a detailed map that shows the location and a preview photo of each wreck that we have dove.
Photos / Site Descriptions
For each of the sites show above, we have detailed photos and a description below.
Corsair @ 210′ (Dived 19 Sept 2021)
32o 37.087′ N, 117o 16.359′ W
Luckily, I had great visibility on the last of these wrecks that we dove. I was able to get some good pictures and build a photogrammetry model of this aircraft. I’ve included a link to the photogrammetry model along with some screenshots of the model and actual photos from the wreck.
Below are some screenshots from the model. I think the interesting thing to notice is how the front of the nose is caved in and pushed to the starboard side.
Here are some photographs of the wreck. Probably some of the best visibility I have seen at depth in this general location.
Corsair @ 237 feet (Dived 4 Aug 2021)
32o 37.674′ N, 117o 16.986′ W
The photos below aren’t the best since visibility is usually limited with conditions often being dark and with a lot of particulate matter in the water. They are primarily useful for identifying the type of aircraft.
Corsair @ 220 feet (Dived 9 Aug 2021)
32o 36.952′ N, 117o 16.528′ W
Dauntless @ 210 feet (Dived 4 Aug 2021)
32o 37.140′ N, 117o 16.422′ W
Dauntless “Inverted” Wing Section @ 205 feet (Dived 10 Aug 2021)
32o 37.130′ N, 117o 16.355′ W
This site was very dark and “dirty” with a lot of particulate matter in the water. It appears to be a wing section from a Dauntless that is “inverted” or upside down. You can see the wheel wells in the pictures below and the fuel tank in another picture which helped identify the aircraft.
Dauntless Wing (Previously dived by Tyler)
32o 36.107′ N, 117o 16.420′ W
This site was originally dove by Tyler and a few friends a while ago. At the time, it was unknown that there were a lot of other abandoned airplanes in that same general area. Below is a video that was take of this site.
National Park Service – Cabrillo Shadows of the Past