Torrey Pines P-38 Lightning (130 fsw)


I first wrote about the P-38 in Torrey Pines back in mid-2020. It is a well known wreck that was discovered a number of years ago and has been deteriorating due to multiple factors. After our dive on the deeper P-38 in Solana Beach, we were headed to this wreck. Since I started building photogrammetry models, I had always wanted to make a trip back to this wreck to document it.

I finally got the chance and took advantage of it.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a plan that would allow me to get some decent bottom time on the wreck without any other divers. The other divers knew about my strategy and I think they gave me a few extra minutes as well. I spent about 25 minutes alone on the wreck and took about 750 photos for the model.

It came out really nice. The pink from the strawberry anemones is nice and I like the contrast with the yellow from the corrosion of the engine cylinders. The white “blobs” you see around the wreck are squid eggs.


All 744 photos aligned on the first go-around. I built a few different versions and qualities of the model. I also tired a couple different textures with different post-processing photo adjustments. I didn’t want to go overboard. I’ll show some of the differences below.

Before / After Color Correction

As you can see, there isn’t a large difference, but I do think the colors “pop” a little more afterwards. The water here in California is sometimes “green-ish” and you can see the effect more-so on the left version.

Online Model

Below is a link to two different on-line models on Sketchfab. You can zoom in, find a wolf eel, and explore the wreck!

The first is a Lower Resolution model more suitable to mobile and the second is a High Resolution model for laptops and desktops. Note that I have seen issues on Chrome on OSX on the High Res version.

Low Resolution Model (Mobile)
High Resolution Model (Desktop)

Model Screenshots – Full Model

Below is a selection of screenshots of the entire model from a few different perspectives.

Model Screenshots – Details

Below are some highlights of specific sections from the model. I’ve included a schematic below to assist with the identification of the different areas.

Gun at the front

The P-38 actually had 4 x 50 cal guns and one 20mm cannon — all of which were in the nose of the aircraft. That presented some interesting design challenges given the difference in weight of the ammo and trying to converge firing on a single location. Note the ammo boxes as well. I believe what is left of this wreck is probably the 20mm cannon.

Also note the seashell detail at the front of the gun. 🙂

I’m sorry to report that divers have take the ammo that used to exist in the front ammo container. Below are two pictures I took in Aug 2020 (left and bottom right) and then one from the most recent dive. You can see that the ammo is now gone. 🙁


The P-38 had two Allison V-1710 V-12 engines. They were each 1,475 horsepower. Note the yellow coloration around the cylinders.

Turbo Superchargers

The P-38 had General Electric turbo superchargers. They allowed the aircraft to perform better at altitude but also had the effect of muffling the exhaust making it relatively quiet. The superchargers are about midway back on each of the pontoons right behind the trailing edge of the wing but forward of the twin oil coolers.

In this model, I honestly didn’t realize it, but there was a wolf eel peaking out from the port side supercharger. You can see it in both the online “live” model and in the screen captures below.

Thanks To…

Chris & Lora at Marissa Charters – they really know how to work with technical divers, all of our gear, and our various odd runtimes and other needs. They also get the drop right on target. On the P-38 is 5 feet in front of the wreck in the perfect place.

Also thanks to my fellow divers. I appreciate the courtesy of working with me to ensure that I got some time on the bottom with this wreck with no other divers. It really does make it much easier and I know it is in imposition on the other divers. I hope you enjoy the results and can show all of your non-diver friends what you get to witness.

4 thoughts on “Torrey Pines P-38 Lightning (130 fsw)

  1. Hmm. When I changed the texture in settings from LD to HD, I got this messg:

    “3D/WebGL context error
    Your browser seems to have hit its 3D capability limit. The page needs to be reloaded to fix this.
    If the problems persists, you can try to close other tabs with 3D/WebGL or restart your browser entirely.”

    I reloaded and all was fine. Although it looked the same to me as before I switched from LD to HD.

    1. Thanks for letting me know. I’m not sure of the solution but I am looking at an alternative to Sketchfab but it also has some different limitations. There are essentially a bunch of limits on mobile browsers in terms of memory, etc.

      – brett

      1. Turns out that it worked just as well on my iPhone (13 Pro Max) as on the iPad. Really amazing amount of detail.

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