For divers, it's an unusual playground ... (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
For divers, it's an unusual playground ... (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)

A plane under the sea

  Indonesia: Banda + Raja Ampat - Oct-Nov 2015

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

At Raja Ampat, you don't just find coral underwater. There is also scrap metal from World War II. Fell from the sky!

Wreck of Wai

Indonesia cruise from Ambon to Sorong, that I made aboard the WaowThe first time I've ever been able to dive on an airplane wreck, I've had the opportunity to live a new experience: diving on an airplane wreck! The wreck in question is located on the reef of Wai, a small island near the large island of Batanta, in the northern archipelago of Raja Ampat.

Pulau Wai. Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.
Pulau Wai. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)

Waow burning

Updated February 2018. The Waow???? Unfortunately, this magnificent diving cruise ship that used to sail the waters of the Indonesian archipelago, and on which I had the chance to embark in 2015, no longer exists... ???? Unfortunately, it burned and sank in the bay of Cenderawasih, Indonesia, during the night of January 31 to February 1, 2018. I refer you to the message published on their Facebook page and on their site.

Until then, all wrecks that I've had the opportunity to dive on - famous wrecks like theAmoco Cadiz in Brittany and the Liberty in Bali, and many others less well known in the Red Sea, the Maldives, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. - all, therefore, were boats.

So, this November 4, 2015, when we announced the program of the day, I'm pretty excited. There is something unusual about diving on scrap that does not belong, for once, to the world of sailors, but to that of airmen! And it's also a bit of a dive into history ...

A remnant of the Pacific War

Wai Plane Wreck. (Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)

The aircraft in question is an American P-47D fighter. It crashed at sea on October 21, 1944, during the Pacific War, during the Second World War.

He was part of a squadron of seven planes, part of the island of Noemfoor for a mission over the island of Seram. But on the way back, surprised by the bad weather, soon running out of fuel, the pilots opted for a forced landing, thanks to a hole in the clouds. The detail of the story is reported right here and the, in English, at PacificWrecks.com. The seven men survived and were later recovered by the US military.

This is not the only aircraft sunk in the area, but this wreck is between 26 and 33 metres deep, making it one of the few wrecks in the area that is easily accessible for recreational diving. And its excellent state of conservation makes it a very nice subject for photography!

I'm lucky, because the viz, that day, is rather good and allows me to make some pictures from far away, giving a good overview of the plane.

View on the propeller of the plane. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
View on the propeller of the plane. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
The wreck lies between 26 and 33 meters deep. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
The wreck lies between 26 and 33 meters deep. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)

When I got back to France, I did a Google search to see what the plane looked like. Judging by this image provided by Wikipedia, a P-47D in flight, it looks pretty good:

P-47D in flight, Tennessee Museum of Aviation. (Source: Kogo / Wikimedia)
P-47D in flight, Tennessee Museum of Aviation. (Source: Kogo / Wikimedia)

More than sixty years later, this warplane has become a beautiful articial reef, which is as much fun for fish as it is for divers. And you can see by the position of the wings that it is in fact lying "on its back" in the sand and coral.

For divers, it's an unusual playground ... (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
For divers, it's an unusual playground ... (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
Without a flash to illuminate it, the wreck is a shadow in the middle of the blue. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
The wreck is a shadow in the middle of the blue. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
A shot of flash reveals the color of the coral at the end of the wing. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
A flash of light reveals the colour of the coral at the tip of the wing. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015)
The wreck attracts fish ... and divers. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
The wreck attracts fish ... and divers. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
Gaterini shelter under the cabin colonized by beautiful alcyonaires of a bright pink. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
On the other side, near the tail of the plane, sweetlips take shelter under the cabin, colonized by bright pink alcyonians. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015)
More than sixty years later, the propeller remained almost intact under its coral crust. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
More than sixty years later, the propeller remained almost intact under its coral crust. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
(Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
The plane is placed upside down, on the bottom of sand and coral. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
The plane is about fifteen meters long. (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015.)
The wreck is about 15 metres long (Wai Plane Wreck, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, November 2015).

The plane isn't very big, about 50 feet long. It has been nicely colonized by soft corals and it attracts fish. We see an emperor angel fish, a few batfish and I manage to scare some shy sweetlips who have taken up residence under the cabin.

I really liked this dive and my only regret is not being able to do it with nitrox (Air enriched with oxygen), which would have allowed me to hang out a little longer at this depth to make more images ... But a compressor failure, occurred during the cruise and irreparable at the time, forced us to to dive with air.

We finish the dive by gradually ascending along the Wai reef, which I find rather monotonous, compared to the profusion of life to which the waters of Raja Ampat have accustomed me, in the heart of the coral triangle. But the wreck in itself is worth seeing in my opinion as an underwater photographer. We do not have every day the opportunity to admire a plane from the Pacific War underwater.

????

I was a guest of the Waow from 27 October to 8 November 2015, for this diving cruise called "Secrets of Seram". All the opinions expressed here remain 100 % mine. 

  Indonesia: Banda + Raja Ampat - Oct-Nov 2015

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