Tyler had a few targets that we wanted to look at. They were all in the 170 foot range and so we arranged a day on the Marissa to go take a look. We weren’t sure what conditions were going to be like so we had a few different plans but ended up going to dive the targets.
We dove three targets and had some interesting discoveries. I then went and dove a boat that Tyler randomly found a few weeks ago and built a model to help try to identify it. I’ll cover that in a different post and will keep the focus of this post on the targets.
Dive 1 – Target @ 170 fsw
We were planning to do “round robin” diving so that we could make the most use of surface intervals. E.g., Tyler would dive one site, then we would go to another and I would dive that site while he was on a surface interval, etc.
We got to the first target and it looked pretty good. Tyler and his friend Lauren jumped in to take a look. The found yet another dumped airplane that was upside down. They didn’t take any pictures, but we’ve seen plenty of dumped planes so no big deal.
Dive 2 – “Target 3” @ 170 fsw
For the second dive, Tyler had identified two small “bumps” or “divets” in the data that looked like they could be airplanes. We generally see a round divet in the sand when an airplane sinks. Keep in mind that this is the type of data Tyler uses to locate potential targets. It is sometimes the tiniest little blip that just looks a little out of place to a trained eye. (Note: the labels for the targets were added after we did the dive and identified them).
Below is a picture of the sonar and sidescan image from the larger of the two sites. We decided it looked pretty good so I geared up and jumped in.
We have a system we sometimes use to alert a diver on the surface that it is worth diving. The diver takes down an apple and releases it if the target is good. If it had been another dumped plane, I would just keep the apple.
I got to the bottom and immediately noticed that almost the whole rear part of an airplane was there so I sent up the apple. A few minutes later as I was taking photographs, I saw the wings and they looked “clipped” like the other dumped airplanes and my heart sank. I knew Tyler would be excited and gearing up to come check out the target. However, there was something a bit different about this wreck.
I decided to start my ascent after taking a few more photos — my hope was that they would notice my bubbles from ascending and realize it might not be worth diving. As I was coming up, I heard a very loud noise and figured it was a tanker going by. I stayed deep below my deco stops because tankers and large ships can have a very, very large draft (30+ feet deep).
It turns out, that it was none other than the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) heading out to sea. It is one of the larges aircraft carriers in existence. You can see how close it got to my downline with the small buoy on the surface!
By the time the Nimitz had passed and the noise abated, I went up to do the rest of my deco and then heard Tyler and Lauren splash in.
Tyler came over and I was trying to tell him what I found but neither one of us had wet notes so we had a bit of a disconnected discussion. I was trying to make symbols for an upside plane, but a larger one. At one point, Tyler signaled to ask if it was a boat and I nodded yes without thinking too much. Within a few short seconds he was powering down the line on his scooter and I tried yelling at him but it was to no avail.
It turns out that it was probably good that Tyler did dive the site to get a second set of eyes on it. He found remnants of a parachute and also thought that it was a “real” wreck and not just a dumped airplane.
Below are a few pictures of the site. You can see most of the rear part of the fuselage (which is never there for dumped airplanes) and the wings don’t look cleanly cut. Also note that triangle type device in the rear which we think might be for the rear tire/landing gear. At this point, we believe it is a TBM Avenger that is upside down and we are pretty sure it is a “real” wreck.
Dive 3 – Nearby Target
While we were looking around the area on the first target, we picked up a bunch of sonar hits from what seemed like smaller debris field areas. Since the plane above didn’t have the engine, we though that maybe one of the nearby sites was the engine.
You can see all the marks we had been making in the area on the screenshot below. You can also see the signature of something on the right side of the sonar image.
We decided that I should go check it out to see if it was the engine.
I dropped down and ended up finding another upside airplane. This one also looked like it had been dumped but it was so close to the first plane (less than 100 feet) that we weren’t sure. It didn’t have the tail section, but similar to the last site, the wings didn’t look cleanly cut.
It also had an interesting structure attached to the belly (top of the upside down plane) that we think might have been part of the mechanism to drop the bombs or torpedos. There is also an odd shape at the rear section of the wreck. We think it might have been armor for where the pilot sat. However, it would have been on the bottom of the plane which doesn’t make a ton of sense.
The object in front might be an oxygen tank. In addition, and possibly an important clue — there appears to be an oil cooler off of one of the wings. It is doubtful that would exist if the plane was dumped.
Below are some pictures:
In addition, I also took a short video
We are currently deciding whether to return and try to find more clues or more debris areas. We are also researching possible wrecks and accidents in the general area. One possibility that came to mind is that maybe the two airplanes collided. At this point, it is all conjecture. I’m pretty sure the first plane is a “real” wreck given the evidence but I’m not sure it will ever be identified. If we do return, I will probably build a model of the first wreck to potentially help identify it.