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B-17 Search 1998
The Salvage

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Our first breakfast at 07:00 – it was great the weather seems to be kind to us with broken clouds and no rain.

It was decided that the parts lying on the lake bottom would be gathered and further analysis of the condition of the aircraft and the placement of the anchors would be the agenda for the day .

Divers using small 100-200# lift bags would send up parts that had been placed into divers goodie bags or just ties directly to the lift bags. The small kicker boat would retrieve the bags send the bad back down to the divers and take the parts to a team on the shore with a power washer.

The shore team power washing B-17 parts.

Bob and Zak ready to dive for more parts.

Rick and the large boat came to set the anchors and Mark ran that operation.

Note the two white markers directly over the engines of the B-17.

Divers marked the #2 and #3 engines with small floats. It was then we noticed something strange. Mark and I discussed the matter and called a meeting after dinner to talk over this new observation. In 1998 the aircraft’s relative position to the shoreline was such that the aircraft was facing toward up stream. Since 1998 the aircraft has moved some small but significant distance down stream. More importantly the aircraft turned almost 90 degrees toward the shoreline. Divers also noted that the top blades of #1 that was straight and undamaged for many years was now bent on the tip. It was surmised that some ice of substantial thickness must have caught the props blade and move the aircraft and turned it facing more toward shore.

It is remarkable that the B-17 came to rest in this particular location. This body of water is known locally as Birch Lake. Called that because this is where the specie of birch trees start to show up in the Boreal Forests. Birch Lake and Dyke Lake are all connected. They connect to hundreds of other lakes and eventually flow to the Churchill Dam Facility approximately 70 miles to the south. Depending on the needs of the dam the water current increases and decreases as needed. The B-17 location is in a significantly reduced current area. Less than 1 knot of current surrounds the aircraft and extends to almost 50 feet from the aircraft. Beyond the 50 feet, the current become unworkable by divers – currents of 2-3.5 knots are experienced when divers searched the lake floor for other artifacts away from the B-17 resting site. The 1 to ¾’s of a knot current aids the divers in their tasks by keeping silt moving downstream from the worksite, keeping visibility as high a possible.

Don and Hamilton make comments about the great condition of the metal as it comes to the surface.

Zak holds the wing tip – its condition is flight worthy.

At the end of the day, divers logged over 8 hours collectively on the aircraft and dozens of valuable and re-usable parts were recovered. Everyone put in a very full day of hard work and had a great time doing it.

It is impossible not to notice the pristine scenery that surrounds us. We all are in awe with: