Solana Beach P-38 Lightning (Revisited)

Intro / Background

We initially dove this P38 in 2022.

Lora @ Marissa Charters recently ran a trip to visit this deeper P38 off Solana Beach and then a shallower but more visited P3-8 off Torrey Pines. It was a “double P-38 day.”

I had a very specific dive plan since I wanted to be alone to take photos for a photogrammetry model of the shallower P-38 (more on that in an upcoming post – the model came out very good).

My plan was to be the first in the water on the deep P38 off Solana Beach since I had already built a nice model of it, get a few pictures, practice in California water with my Retra strobes, and then start my surface interval while everybody else was still on that wreck or doing their decompression. This plan would allow me some “alone time” on the shallow P38 which would be ideal for taking pictures for a photogrammetry model.

The Dive

My plan worked pretty well. I splashed soon after we had the downline setup on the first P-38 and Drew joined me. I had let him know that I would be leaving early to limit my deco time but that he should stay and enjoy the wreck. There were going to be plenty of divers in the water in the off-chance that he would have any issues.

The dive was uneventful. Drew and I were the first divers on the wreck. The surface visibility was absolutely horrible (Drew lost the line on deco) which made for a very, very dark bottom condition. I’ve posted some pictures below of the dive. On my way up the line, I paused and took a few natural light photos of all the other dives on the wreck.

If you look at the post for the prior dive and the natural light photo I took there, you can definitely see the difference between those conditions and the most recent dive.

There were a few wolf eels and a big ling cod on the wreck along with schools of very large rockfish.


Below are a few of the photos. Conditions were not ideal and I’m adept at using the Retra flashes in clear water but haven’t spent much time with them in local waters so it was also a learning dive.

Fish crowding the wreck!
Wolf eel
Ling cod
Drew at work
Divers on the wreck
Divers on the wreck

Divers on the wreck

I find two things really interesting and amazing:

  1. The amount of life on these wrecks is really cool. There are a ton of fish and other creatures all over the wreck.
  2. The P-38 only had a single pilot, but it is a pretty big airplane (52 foot wing span). However, when you get 8 divers on it, it seems really small. 🙂

Next Up

I’ll publish the model of the shallow P-38. It is a good one….

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