Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lagoon Aircraft Wreck Positive ID Details

Exact matches of key points have been made that make it certain that the aircraft wreckage off the powerhouse in Saipan’s lagoon is a Kawanishi H8K flying boat.

You will notice in the photos above that a piece found on the seafloor directly in front of the left wing root at the wreck site has a, now broken, plexiglass bubble centered in 2 rows of rectangular windows that exactly match the roof of the cockpit area in the top view of a restored H8K sitting in a park in Japan.

There is also an antenna seen just aft and to the right side of the cockpit bubble on the restored aircraft that exactly matches a through hull hole and mounting screw locations on the wreck. The mount hole has the same airfoil shape as the antenna.

You will also notice that the top view of the restored H8K also has, between the engine nacelles on the left wing, 4 round (painted red) access panels that correspond exactly with the same panels seen on the left wing of the wreck in the Saipan lagoon.

You will notice the remaining piece of an under wing float matches its counterpart on the restored aircraft exactly.

A row of small rectangular windows aft of and athwart the nose gun bubble match photos of the restored ship and the bubble found at the wreck site.

And finally, please note that the prop hub spinners are similar to and the 14 cylinder engines are identical to those specified for the Kawanishi H8K. The Saipan wreck is probably, but not certainly, a type 2 model H8K of which 112 were produced between 1943 and 1945. For certain it is one of the 4 H8K models.

Click on any of the images to enlarge and show more detail.

In previous posts here, here and here you can see some other photos germane to the identification. Also see photos in posts immediately below this one.

I have a lot more photos should anyone wish to research further.

Thanks go out to Harry Blalock for providing the underwater camera work on dives we made to the wreck site. Thanks also to Richard Sikel who found the top view photo on the internet that showed the matching parts evidence. Toshi, Jeff and several other folks were very helpful in the search also.

There are two monuments at the wreck site, one Japanese located near a stack of oxygen cylinders in from of the left wing and a large Korean monument located forward of the right wing. I wonder if we should add a marker with a picture of the plane as it was and a brief description of the planes specifications at the site. Dive site maps can be changed slowly as print editions are consumed and edited before new ones are printed. Dive Master orientations for their tourist and local visiting divers can be given with confidence, knowing that the wreck is indeed a Japanese H8K flying boat.

One last item: A metal tag said to belong to the wreck and removed some time ago may hold clues to exactly which H8K is on the lagoon floor. Additional wartime record searches may yield valuable information about her crew, mission, and other interesting parts of the personal story of this valiant airplane and it’s final crew.


scubatripp said...

Wow great job Bruce. This is really exciting and to now be able to say as you say "with confidence" is really exciting.
Again nice work.

bigsoxfan said...

Now I can sleep at night, knowing what plane is in the lagoon. Sarcasm aside, I'm jeoulas (and a bad speeler) Wicked good job; tracking down the elusive make of the plane. Looking at the pictures now, I can see how the trail was confusing. Linguistaclly (I suppose if I'm going to use big words I should use spell check, but my battery is dying and I'm tired and lazy)Anyway. I don't think a plane as an inatimate object can be valiant. Last plane, valiant crew?? Oh screw it, its your blog and a great job of work putting all the pieces together. Did I tell you on my last full day on Saipan I found the beginning of what is most likely the southern jeep trail to Tapacho from Kannat Tabla. Almost there. Glad you got to the bottom of the story.

Mutton is leaving UB tonight. The missus isn't hopeful it will make it through Saipan customs, but stranger things have happened. Much stranger. I told the girl to tell them it was Mongolian Spam, hopefully that description will be within their comfort levels. If it makes it, I'll let you know and please to contact Leah at Godfather's. It was either do the exchange there or at Body Motion and I'm not sure Olivia would be into that. This is going to be a legendary can of Mutton. Hand carried by an exotic dancer from outer Mongolia, to Saipan and thence the USPS to Alberta.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Yeah, it was fun tracking it down.

Sure a ship can be valiant. They have persona. So boats ships, airships and flying boats can definately be valiant. In fact, the Brits even have one named HMS Valiant.

I have followed the trail down from Topachao as far as one of the mid level ridgelines. Would like to go all the way to Kanat Tabla.

So do I have it right...someone from there will hand carry the canned muttonspam to Saipan, then deliver it to Leah at Godfathers where I will go to pick it up and mail it on to Simon?

I think I owe it to myself to check out this Body Motion place if Olivia wouldn't like it.

Simon should bronze this can of mutton rather than eat it. At the least we should have the exotic dancer kiss the top of the can with lipstick on so Simon gets the full effect. (:-))

Thanks for reading, Mark. HOpe all there are well.

bigsoxfan said...

I should have news about the spam, Monday afternoon. It will be air conned in Gods, so shouldn't spoil. There are two cans in the box, one for you. plus ten bucks for shipping.
The trail from kannat tabla is fairly easy to find. Instead of taking a right into the upper parking lot, go left. At the turn for the pool go straight. ease to the left at the small barracks building, mind the dog. immediantly opposite the barracks is a stone lantern, up the hill by that latern is a small shrine about 50 yards up. The road goes towards tapacho, I didn't make it all the way, but confidence is high.
Olivia would probably Bobbitize you, should you venture into body motion, but the lipstick idea isn't bad. Good luck

Richard Sikkel PADI MSDT said...

The trail you're discribe doesn't make it to Mt. T. The jeep trail starts behind a house further up the Kannat Tabla rd. The other trail menaders thru a farm (i believe owned by World Resort) and should come out at a property at Isa dr.


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