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Old 14-04-2002, 12:13 AM
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World's No 1 Diving Destination

Did you know, that Readers' Choice Awards have voted Papua New Guinea, the [color=sea-green] World's No. 1 Diving Destination. [/color]

What a wonderful honour !
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Old 14-04-2002, 06:48 PM
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Finding Beaufighter A19-130 27 July 2000

Story courtesy of Rod Pearce :

I slowed my descent for the last 20 or so metres so Don could get the first glimpse of our 'target' 60 metres deep in Hughes Bay on Fergusson Island. I received the double thumbs up and a yell that I interpreted as success, our 'target' being A19-130, a British-made WW2 Beaufighter, Mark X. British-built Beaufighters were prefixed A19 and Australian-built were prefixed A8.

As I descended the last 20 metres the most amazing sight unfolded before my eyes: a completely intact Beaufighter lying on the bottom in an upright position. There were the engines, twin Bristol Hercules XVII *1720 hp) with their propellers bent backwards due to the water landing, the cockpit with the escape hatchmissing and where landing, the cockpit with the escape hatchmissing and where the pilot W/C Clarrie P Glasscock DFC clambored out shortly before the plane sunk beneath him. Two other crew members, Navigator F/O R.A. Kelly and passenger, Wing Commander J. H. Glasscock (the pilot's brother), exited through the upper hatch.

Number 30 Squadron moved to Port Moresby from Bohl River near Townsville, commencing on 17 August 1942, and then on 12 September to Ward's Strip eight kilometres north east of Port Moresby. From here they moved north again to Goodenough Island, arriving there on 27 July 1943. On 18 June of the same year, W/C Clarrie P. Glasscock DFC took over as 30 Squadron's new commander. The Squadron's wartime role was to blockade Japanese seaborne operations and to attack Japanese held airfields particular in the New Britain area.

A19-130 was a brand new Beaufighter and took off at 0920 hours on 16 August 1943 from Vivagani on goodenough Island for fuel consumption and armament tests. Basically a test flight.

Several minutes after becoming airborne and at a height of 400m the aircraft's starboard motor failed while crossing the west coast of nearby Fergusson Island. NOt being able to maintain height with a full war load, it was decided to ditch in nearby Hughes Bay. After flying inland for a short period of time, they crossed the north coast of the island at low altitude and prepared for a water landing. the forward escape hatch was jettisoned at 30m above the Bunai River mouth and power taken off 6m above the sea on a down wind water landing. No injuries were sustained and the aircraft sank in about 10 seconds.

The dinghy, which inflated automatically but was punctured by the tailplane as the aircraft nosed over before plummeting to the bottom, was abandoned, forcing the crew to swim to shore.

Discovery! Rod in the cockpit
Photo by Don Fetterly
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Old 14-04-2002, 07:00 PM
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A search was conducted by other flight crews of 30 Squadron in the vicinity of Fergusson Island for the missing Beaufighter. F/L Ball together with W/O Hardman in A19-97 found the missing crew members shortly afterwards ashore in Hughes Bay. Subsequently a seaplane was dispatched and it picked up the three crew members and returned them to their Squadron at Vivagani.

As I looked around the sunken Beaufighter, into the cockpit and then into the observer's hatch, I noted ver little marine growth. Everything was there just as the crew left it 55 years ago. Several large grouper had made the aircraft their home and smaller fish covered the site. In the cockpit you had to chase the smaller fish out of the way just to get a look at the layout of the controls, gauges etc. Three gauges are missing probably due to corrosion. The throttles are retarded and the propellers are in fine pitch, all relatively to a fully controlled landing.

Strangely, neither propeller was feathered.

Continuing along the wings, several pices of wing skin are missing due to the hydraulic action of the water landing. The observer's 303 machinegun is also missing, jettisoned before ditching and the tail plane aft of the observer's position has beenpushed back and is now beneath the rear of the aircraft.

After only eight minutes on site and finally with Don's alarm bells ringing, it was time to ascend. As we neared the surface and swapped to the O 2 for a 20 minute decompression, Don was in seventh heaven over the find and was already planning the next day's dive when we would film it.

We did two more uneventful dives to film A19-130 and recorded 16 minutes of video. This will be passed on to the RAAF for their records. As a side note, on this expedition we found two other aircraft and plan to research their history and again write them up for publication at a later date.

My interest in A19-130 began with a chance meeting in a Sydney Dive shop of a fellow diver who was interested in WW2 aircraft. He told me about a book he had just read about Beaufighter Operations in Papua New Guinea. The book profiled several WW2 ditchings and one of these was A19-130. It went on to describe the circumstances relating to the mishap and I thought it would be possible to find the aircraft given enough research and provided that Hughes Bay was not too deep.

Photo: RAAF Beaufighter over Owen Stanley Range:
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Old 14-04-2002, 07:07 PM
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I contacted a friend, Don Fetterly of Tucson Airzona, to research this aircraft and to compile a report of the facts relating to the ditching. some 200 pages later we had a working dossier and a base upon which to start our search.

Don's report is an in-depth document comprising declassified Corona KH-4A satellite imagery of Hughes Bay taken in the 1960's. Also included were the official RAAF records of the incident and topographic models of Fergusson Island. All this information was important to start our search for A19-130.

Armed with this dossier we planned our first outing to the area in January, 1999 and entered Hughes Bay on the second day of the expedition. Nautical charts of the area were not detailed enough so the Corona satellite imagery became very useful. It was this imagery that provided us wiht a more accurate picture of the area and detailed search methods could then be put into place.

The search continued until day three when the local constable approached us. After determining our reason for being in the area he arranged a meeting with the village elders to discuss what they knw of the aircraft. The meeting was held on board the boat. I anchored off the river mouth on the south side of the bay, and was informed by the locals that the aircraft flew just above the trees at the river mouth then flew out into the bay and ditched. Without prompting, the villagers stated that they had recovered a window from the plane, which had been jettisoned as it passed over the coastline. This was in fact the pilot's escape hatch.
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Old 14-04-2002, 07:10 PM
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Later we were approached by a young man who told us his father had told him a story of a plane crashing in the water and the crew swimming ashore where they were cared for until a seaplane arrived and evacuated them.

With this newly gained knowledge, we focused on the West Side of the bay starting at the river mouth and moving west. We continued the search for another two days before heading back to Lae. Our efforts at that time were to no avail.

With this information form the villagers we had now localised the area that we would seach in future and plans for a return trip were made. It was imperative that we organise some type of sonar to aid in our search and the best type was a Side Scan Sonar, which images the ocean floor. This is where Don's great knowledge of missile technology would come in and he immediately set about designing one.
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Old 14-04-2002, 07:14 PM
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On arriving back in my home port of Lae, a number of calls were made to various dealers in side scan technology and I soon found out that the price was well beyond what I was prepared to pay. Another type was needed. It was then we decided to make one using an array method and a converted paper chart recorder.

Side Scan Sonar consists of two major components, a display unit and a towfish connected by a long length of cable. The tow fish is then towed behind the vessel at a predetermined depth. This then looks sideways from the vessel's course, and builds up a picture of the ocean floor.

We purchased several books on the subject but soon found out they were written for Einstein and not for the average homebuilder. However we perservered. don modeled the transducer array and together we gathered the components to make a towfish. At its completion we ahd a very fine unit indeed, built of PVC pipe, wooden tail fins with transducers expoxied into the side of the PVC pipe and connected to the tow cable.

By July 2000, 19 months had gone by and Don was on his way back to Papua New Guinea to join me once more to look for A19-130.

Photo of Rod Pearce 2001:
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Old 14-04-2002, 07:21 PM
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I called into Alotau to drop off a team from the RAAF who had been attempting to recover four sets of human remains from another wartime plane I had previously discovered. This was an Australian Beaufort A9-217, located near the Trobriand Islands.

Don and I departed the next day for Fergusson Island. On our way we deployed the sonar equipment, which had not yet been tested, and found we did not have enough power in the chart recorder transmitter to obtain an image even in shallow water.

Drastic measures were called for so we used the vessel's onboard colour depth sounder and modified it in the field using a rather large soldering iron, a hammer and lots of improvisation. This did in fact work and we had a nice clear picture looking out form one side of the towfish to distance of 150 metres.
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Old 14-04-2002, 07:25 PM
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We entered Hughes Bay and prepared for the search. The two commenced and after 10 minutes Don yelled 'Target, Target, Target'.

Now as every wreck finder knows you do not find a wreck after 10 minutes deployment so we kept on searching. Every time we went pas this one particular area we received a reading. No matter which way we went the image was still there.

So the next day after much discussion about the object and what it might be, we decided to convert the now 'Side Scan Sonar' back to a normal echo sounder to see if we had really struck 'pay dirt'.

The colour sounder soon picked it up, and what we had on the screen was a smallish 'object' rising about two metres from the sea floor, which was much denser than the surrounding seabed.

Photo of Rod Pearce's Dive Boat: Barbarian II
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Old 14-04-2002, 07:35 PM
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We worked the anchor as close to the 'object' as we could without actually fouling it. Enthusiasm was running high as we geared up for the first dive.

Oxygen was placed at a depth of three metres along with spare tanks and regulators. The water was warm and visibility looked to be about 20 metres as we commenced our first dive.

Footnote:

Rod Pearce's love of diving is second only to his passion for WWII aircraft wrecks, but underwater only. He operates the dive boat Barbarian.

Email: niuginidive@global.net.pg

Website: www.niuginidiving.com
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Old 14-04-2002, 08:05 PM
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Mention some of your research methodologies

People ask me all the time about research and how I go about it. All I can say is you need a lot of time to read and now if you are a computer buff every thing is on the web, however with me I am not computer minded so still do a lot of research the long way. My friend Don who I mentioned earlier does a lot for me as he has access to the various online institutes through out America and also it was passion of his to be involved in this kind of work.

Research is only what you make it and every little piece of info can make or break a case. Example with our finding of A19-130 a Bristol Beaufighter in 60 meters of water. We researched this for a year and came up with pages of info on the squadron, pilot, aero plane and the particulars of the crash event, all these put together made a very successful finding considering that the first attempt was a failure.

It was not until our next attempt a year later when we had additional info and this info was only a scrap but when added to the file made all the difference, also we used some new equipment and both there's combined enabled us to find the plane in the first 10 minutes of operation. This particular A/C is in remarkable condition and I include here a small piece on its history and also some pictures of the plane underwater.

Tell us about the history of A19-130 Beaufighter

Number 30 Squadron moved from Bohl River, near Townsville, Queensland commencing on 17th August 1942 to Port Moresby and then on September 12 Ward's Strip 8 km north east of Port Moresby. From here they moved north in to Vivagani on Goodenough Island arriving there on the 28th of July, 1943. On the 8th June of the same year, W/C Clarrie P Glasscock DFC took over as 30 Squadron's new commander and the Squadron's war time role was to blockade Japanese seaborne operations and to attack Japanese held airfields particular in the New Britain area.

A19-130 was a brand new Beaufighter belonged to 30 squadron and took off at 0920 hours LT. On the 16th of August, 1943 from Vivagani on Goodenough Island for fuel consumption and ornament test, basically a test flight.

Several minutes after becoming airborne and at a height of 1200 feet the aircraft's star board motor failed while crossing the west coast of near by Fergusson Island. Not being able to maintain height with a full war load, it was decided to ditch in near by Hughes Bay.

After flying inland for a short period of time, they crossed the north coast of the Island at low altitude and prepared for a water landing. The forward escape hatch was jettisoned at 100 ft above the Bunai River mouth and power taken off 20 ft above the sea on a down wind water landing.

No injuries were sustained and the aircraft sank in about 10 seconds. The dingy inflated automatically, but was punctured by the tailplane as the aircraft nosed over before plummeting to the bottom, and was abandoned forcing the crew to swim to shore

So, from this you can see that as much info along with good equipment and research material is a must before even starting on a venture.

Source: Pacific Wrecks
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