We were diving off the Johnson Atoll on the morning 13 January 1956 when, Jan, my navigator, and spotter, picked up something smallish on telemetry. We were scouting for wreckage from The Blast and Jan was sure we’d found something. The murk of the Pacific was exceptionally soupy that day. Even in the VAP suit my skin was itchy. Visibility was three feet at best but Dowser was sniffing our way down. You never know what’s in these waters. The murk is so thick it’s been said the sea has trapped the very souls of those warriors who’ve died in it. Too strong for even heaven. Or hell. My eyes strain against the black and my head starts to pound. Best to just keep my eyes closed and listen, let Dowser drive.
Just about anything going by will set Dowser off. A steady rhythm of “blit…blit…blit…blit…”, then a rush of “BLEE BLEE BLEE BLEE” and then back to the rhythm. “What was that?” Jan’s voice sputters inside the VAP helmet. “Ghosts.” It’s possible. Ghosts go by frequently but Dowser stays on course. We’re not looking for ghosts, we’re looking for stash and nothing can sniff out stash better than a Wreckage Dowser 928/10, Class II. One part kennel reject, two parts swedish engineering and about fifty million parts Czech gadgetry. We keep diving and the itch from the Blasted water is almost unbearable. Dowser’s getting excited and starts barking as we approach the stash. “Send down the basket?” Jan’s voice again. “Not yet. I want to see if there’s anything left down here.” I hate having to wait for the basket to come back up when it’s empty. Seems like a waste of time. I’d rather wait at the bottom, sorting through the stash.
The closer we get to the stash, the faster Dowser swims, like a horse bolting for the barn. It’s a small aircraft.
“Jan. Aircraft: Turboprop, Electra 10E. What’s that from?”
“What’s the wing tell you?”
“Can’t tell yet. It’s buried.”
“Well let’s clean it out. Sending down Zorin.”
Twenty minutes later Dowser announces the arrival of the Zorin. Unsecuring it from the tether cable I set it to work blowing out the black sooty debris from under the left wing. What a mess. The Blast soot is really bad for Dowser so I send him up the tether for a bit. I can hear him complaining through the VAP helmet speakers. “Stay,” I tell him. I think it’s all the behavior mods they require, makes a Dowser antsy. “Good boy.” Within the hour the Zorin has blown out a space big enough for the camera pod to clear the underside of the left wing.
“NR16020” I call up to Jan.
“NR16020.” he repeats it. “NR16020. Shit. NR16020?”
“Ollie, call your wife and tell her to put your piece of crap condo on the market. We just found Amelia Earhart’s Electra.”