F8F Bearcat Redux (Pt Loma — 230 fsw)


I first dove the Bearcat back in June 2022 and it is an amazing wreck. It is very rare to find an almost completely intact single engine airplane wreck.

When I first dove it, I was concentrating on getting photos for identification and documentation and not for building a photogrammetry model. I was alone on the dive and trying to limit my bottom time.

Near the halfway point of the dive, I decided to start snapping photos in an attempt to get enough to build a “draft” model which is exactly what I did. The model was missing a few areas — primarily around the edges of the wings. It was also missing some detail at the tail section and the starboard side rear fuselage.

Below is the model I built after that first dive. It actually helped me confirm the airplane type by calculating the ratio of the wingspan to the length and comparing that to the ratio of the Bearcat.

Photogrammetry model after Dive #1

I’ve been wanting to return to “finish” the model. This time, I recruited Drew Wilson to dive with me.

The Dive

We have had some amazing conditions in the past week or so. The ocean has been flat and the wind has been minimal so we decided to book it and dive on Monday, Dec 19th with the primary objective being completing the model and Drew taking his natural light photos with me illuminating the wreck. We have worked out this routine many times and have a good sense of where each other are.

We were on the Marissa with Lora, Chris, Scout & Captain and had a nice ride down to south of Point Loma. The air temperature was cold but the ocean was like a lake and we ran across a large pod of dolphins — hundreds of them — which set the dogs off on a barking frenzy!

Below is a short, 2-minute clip of the dolphins playing by the boat.

Dolphins off Pt Loma

We got to the site and I knew right away that we were going to get some great visibility. You can see the downline streaming down into the water column right after we dumped it:

Down line

Drew and I dropped down the line and spent about 20 minutes on the wreck and had a total runtime of about 90 minutes. The water was pretty cold at 52F on the bottom and only 55F on the last deco stop at 20 feet. Drew had a scooter and so he left the downline and took some really cool pictures of me in solitude on deco.

Doing time – photo by Drew Wilson


Drew and I have a routine worked out over many dives where I take photos of the wreck using video lights for the photogrammetry model and Drew moves around and takes photos using the available light (which isn’t a ton at 230 feet here in SoCal) and me with my lights. It has a very cool effect. Here is a few of the photos Drew took:

Photogrammetry Model

The primary mission of the dive was to get the photos necessary to build a high-quality, complete model. I think the results came out very well. Below is a link to the “new” model online along with some screen captures.

F8F Bearcat

Below is a link to the model and some screen captures.

Screen Captures

Next Steps

I don’t currently have another dive planned on the Bearcat.

However, itt does look like you can see blue paint and possibly some white numbers/letters near the tail section and I’m guessing that with a little time I could scrub off some of the debris and get a partial tail code to help positively ID the wreck. At some point, I might get back to the wreck to work on that.

6 thoughts on “F8F Bearcat Redux (Pt Loma — 230 fsw)

  1. Hi Brett: I’d love to be able see this airplane! Back in the 90’s I used to dive a bunch of WWII airplanes off Pensacola. Once we thought we’d found an F8F. Part of the fuselage had been damaged, so it initially gave the appearance that it had the bubble canopy characteristic of the F8F. A closer look revealed (unfortunately) that it was yet another F6F, that were fairly common out there. Nevertheless, it was always a thrill to dive those airplanes. Thanks for this! I really enjoyed your work, and this one was especially interesting to me!

  2. Hi Brett, this is so amazing! Have you thought to export the photogram as a stereo 3D VR experience? or perhaps there is VR app which can view the photogrammetry natively. It would be amazing to explore the wreck virtually in an immersive experience, like your dive. Looks beautiful! And congratulations on the UPY award.

    1. Thanks for your comments & thoughts, Marten.

      I have thought about that a little bit but I’m far from an expert in 3D immersive technology. When I was working on the video for the UPY award, I did create a “movie” in the Metashape software that basically rotates the model so people can “watch” it. It looks like something you would see in a display booth at a trade show.

      If you have any thoughts or ideas, please send them to me and we can explore it.

      – brett

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