Windansea AT-6 Plane Search (aka Tyler’s Adventure)

Background

Tyler and I were planning to dive on the Marissa a few weeks ago and we were trying to decide on site location. Tyler is always searching for new wrecks and had a hot lead on one.

Back in July 1966, famous actor Phillip Bent and folksinger Peter Sacshe were zooming around in a WW II AT-6 training plane. They were apparently doing low level passes and zooming over Windansea beach near La Jolla and trying to impress their wives and onlookers. Something went wrong and the plane crashed into the ocean, killing both of them.

Tyler had heard various rumors about the plane being reported at multiple different depths but then spoke with one of the divers that helped recover the remains and he gave us a very specific depth. He also confirmed that the plane was not salvaged.

The Dive

We got to the approximate location and spent about 30 minutes looking on the sonar system to find any anomalies. We found a couple and decided to dive one of them. We dropped the anchor, got suited and geared up, and jumped in.

Tyler was in a set of doubles and I was on my rEvo. I really don’t like diving rebreathers at relatively shallow depths but figured I should just dive it anyway. We both took scooters and a few reels and I just took my old GoPro mounted on my scooter instead of dragging along my full camera rig.

Tyler tied my large capacity reel into the anchor line and we started scootering around to see if we could find anything. Our plan was to follow the reef structure at the specific reported depth to see if we could find it. Luckily, we had amazing visibility. It had to be 40-50+ feet.

Tyler leading the charge

We found quite a few anchors and a gaff

But then we ran across a metallic object that we couldn’t quite figure out what it was:

After a while, we ran out of line on my reel and Tyler had to tie his reel into so we could continue on our little adventure:

After a bit more time, we ran to the end of Tyler’s reel and so he looped it around a kelp stalk:

I had a backup spool in my pocket so I gave Tyler my reel figuring he would tie it off and start using it to extend our “lifeline” back to the anchor.

Instead, Tyler put a strobe on the end of his line and we started to scooter around. I figured we would just stay around the area so that we could always find our way back to the strobe and hence back tot he boat, but Tyler had other ideas and off he went on a “kamikaze mission”….

Tyler “Free wheeling” the ride with no line

We then ran into a pretty large sea bass

After another 5-10 minutes of scootering aimlessly along, I had seen another very large sea bass but couldn’t get Tylers attention.

We eventually decided that we should surface to figure out where the heck we were!

Luckily, on my rebreather running a set point of 1.3, I still had about 20 minutes of no-deco time but Tyler had a deco obligation close to 20 minutes after running on air and not bringing oxygen for accelerated deco.

I surfaced, blew up a very large 5-6 foot tall SMB and started scanning the grey, cold horizon looking for the Marissa. I saw a small fishing boat nearby but then off in the distance I saw what had to be the Marissa. It was literally probably at least 1/2 mile away and it was anchored so it couldn’t easily come get us.

We had scooters so we started the long trek back to the Marissa and eventually got back on board and all was well, until…

We now had to bring up the anchor line AND the two reels of line AND the strobe Tyler had left. The front deck of the Marissa was a complete mess with reels and line and kelp:

After we sorted out that mess, I learned that poor little Scout had fallen into the ocean at some point during our dive!

He was bundled up in blankets but was still shivering a LOT. Luckily, I had my heated vest with me which we then wrapped around him to get him warmed back up:

Scout trying to get warm

I will have to let the team at Venture Heat know what we have found a new customer base for their products!

In the end, we saw 4-5 anchors, a strange metal object we couldn’t readily identify, a couple really big sea bass, and a lot of rocks and some kelp. But, it was a fun day nonetheless and we still have yet to find the AT-6 airplane.

References

GenDisasters – La Jolla, CA Converted Plane Crashes, July 1966

Plane Crashes at WindanSea, La Jolla

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