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B-17 Search 1998
The Salvage

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Early the next morning we left on the road called the highway. Less than .5 miles out of town the highway turned into a dirt and gravel Road. 12 plus driver headed north to Lobstick, a local name for an area where the fishing and hunting lodges picked up supplies and where we hoped to transit the aircraft from water to land for disassembly.

The Truck in this image carries all 12 team member’s gear. This was the best part of the highway.

The drive from Lab City/Wabush took 3.5 hours. We arrived at Lobstick at about 11:30.

After seeing the waters edge and discussing the possibilities of using this site to haul out the B-17 with a 200+ ton crane, we loaded up the 28 X 10 foot aluminum fishing boat and 14 people crammed all our gear and our bodies onto the boat and headed north to the B-17 sinking site.

Rick was the Capt. of this fishing boat as well as a seasoned guide. He knows these waters well and he got us to the camps site near the B-17 in record time - 3 hours. Along the way John tries to catch some sleep. Since our departure on Monday sleep has been hard to get. Overnight delays and late hours arriving and departing have the crew worn down before we even got to the camp. As usual with these projects just getting to and from the site takes it toll on moral and stamina.

To the right, John Schliemann catches up on rest during the boat ride north.

Tuesday August 17th at approximately 15:30 we finally arrived at the place I left in August of 1998. The scenery has changed due to the water height. But I recognized the channel where the B-17 rests - the old Louie Falcour’s dilapidated fish campsite in the distance - and the familiar swarms of hungry mosquitoes that descended upon us with eagerness as soon as we got off the boat. When the wind stops blowing, they attack. Keep in the wind was the word and immediately the Deet started flowing.

The water was almost 5 feet higher than in 1998. It was hoped this would help with the current. Higher water can mean less current. From the initial site of the area it seemed the water was not moving. This was a good sign. It was also misleading, as we would soon find out. With the higher water the water clarity was reduced. Silt and soils along the edges of the forest have now become part of the waterway making the water more turbid. It made it less palatable to drink with brown pieces in every glass and in what few Ice cubes we could make. It also hindered the diver’s vision but it was not a complete hindrance. It took hours to get all the gear moved into the tents and makeshift lodging. The camp consisted of three large tents on the hill in from the waters edge.

The two tents on the left were sleeping quarters and the one on the right was for cooking and meals.

This is the new and more advance toilet that the Shaw team constructed – you did not want to see the first toilet – trust me.

If you showered the mosquitoes could smell your clean body. The image below is a shower powered by 200 gallons per hour - 1 inch pump that would later be used to sting (remove) the water from the aircrafts fuel tanks. It delivered a steady stream of 55 degree water that would literally take you breath away instantly. I used it once; everyone was concerned for me as I had turned blue from the cold event.

Pat Connors was the project’s chef. He was in charge of feeding and keeping happy 13 hungry divers and workers. So far real good.

Gary Sr. is to the right – Gary and his son Gary Jr. Sleep in a campsite just off from the main camp. The tents were very crowded so they set up their own place to give us more room. The guides were always accommodating and very helpful.

Little did we know that these bare accommodations would be soon be classed, by this expedition, as royal accommodations as the next days and weeks unfolded.

Gordy Forguson is prepared for the flying enemies that attack us much like the Messerschmitt ME-109 fighters did to the B-17s over Germany. Mosquitoes, black flies and timber flies they plague the day to day minute to minute activities of the group. After a few days with no shower they seem to be less a bother. I wonder what that means?

More to follow keep checking back to learn how the aircraft was lifted transported and dismantled.

18:00 the same day - The team was eager, as was Don, to see the B-17 and insure it was still there and in good condition. Zak, Mark and John geared up and Bob and Gordy took the Probe hand held sonar unit to relocate the exact site the aircraft. In less than 30 minutes I had determined the aircraft’s position relative to the Camp. This was done by using a hand held sonar device.

We slowly towed the divers to the site and they went to take a look and brought back some metal. Don was very nervous. Much to the excitement of all, divers and team members, the aircraft was there pretty much where we left it in 1998 and intact, or that is what we first thought. Divers brought to the surface a piece of an engine cowling and exhaust system. Don definitely breathed a sign of relief. You CANNOT image the hours, dollars, hopes and fears that have followed Don Brooks in his tenacious efforts to see this bomber recovered.

Underwater Admiralty Services, Inc. has spent hundreds of hours in designing the lift system, rehearsing the rigging, briefing the team members, accumulating the smallest yet sufficient amount of equipment to complete the job, completing all Canadian and US paperwork to insure this project was above board and legal in all business, historical, and international aspects.

Prior to the arrival of the team members, the equipment was staged for transport at the UAS, Inc. facility in Washington State.

Not enough can be said about Paul Park. Paul is the technical engineer for the company. Paul keeps thing working and he is great at survey operations. His hard efforts and continuous suggestions were critical to the operations success. Paul handled most of the logistics needed to get all equipment tested, loaded and transported to Labrador. If it is broke Paul can fix it.