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The Salvage

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Is about 1:00 am and most of the dive crew is out watching the northern lights dance across the sky. Many of the crew have seen the phenomena before up in Alaska, but all agree that this display is extraordinary. The entire sky is filled with the glowing and billowing curtains of light. We can only handle about 10 minutes before the attack from the insects becomes too much to tolerate. The mosquitoes and black flies don't seem to sleep.

This morning Zak awoke with pain in his ears, he too has developed an ear infection, something that freshwater diving will promote. The discomfort is such that he sits out the first dive of the day. The diving does continue with attachment of lift bags and securing of rigging. The team continues to search for the starboard wing tip and recovery of other parts from the riverbed.

Zak's condition improves so that he can resume diving. It is still painful, but the infection is not preventing him from clearing. He goes back into the water and resumes work with the team on preparing the aircraft for lifting.

Don, Joey and Hamilton start to fabricate and rig up the lift bag inflation hoses. Each of the custom 7,500 pound lift bag has 2 inflation locations at either end of the bags. As the lift bags will be wrapped around and under the nacelles the "T" style inflation hoses that are being made up will assist with even inflation of the lift bags.

Pictured at right, recovered exhaust components cleaned and stacked on shore.

Don and his experts are very please with the condition of the parts that are being recovered. They report that 70 percent can be returned to use while the balance are valuable as templates.

When Joey and Hamilton are not cleaning recovered parts, they are supporting the dive team by keeping the air tanks filled and assisting the team with their equipment as they enter and leave the water.

Camp Life

The weather has been very cooperative with the team's efforts. Temperatures have ranged from highs in the low 70s to lows down around freezing. The wind has not been excessive and there has been rain, but is has been falling, sometimes pouring, at night.

The extensive system of lakes and rivers, it is indeed often hard to tell the difference, provides a rich breeding ground for the large numbers of mosquitoes and black flies that are a constant companion. Using insect repellant that is 100 percent DEET seems to help limit the number of bites to 20 or 30 per day. In the dive crew tent the guys rigged mosquito netting over the individual cots to help keep the pests in check.

There is also the timber fly that has such a long drill on it that you expect to find an exit wound when you are attacked by one these beasts.

Hamilton on one of the warm days.

Joey, Zak and Hamilton on one of the cooler days.

It starts to get light around 5:00 am and darkness falls around 9:30 or so at night. The food is hearty and we have been getting on dive in the morning and another dive or two in the afternoon.

While the tents and heater do provide protection from the elements, most of our clothing and gear stays wet or damp. The inside of the divers tent often looks like a laundry with all the clothing and diving undergarment hung on lines to dry.

Diving Conditions

The current in the river has been a manageable 1.0 to 1.5 knots. Out further from the shore and the aircraft it picks up to an excess of 3 knots. On a few occasions a diver will find himself in the swifter current and once surfaced find that he is clear of the river and out in the bay below the run.

Gary Jr. and Gary Sr. have been doing an outstanding job in providing us dive support with the small aluminum fishing boats.

The water temperature has been 55 degrees and visibility has been as good as 20 feet and as poor as 6 to 8 feet, better conditions than what we are used to diving in here in the Puget Sound.

The dives have been lasting between 45 and 75 minutes in the shallow waters of the river.

Even though fresh water is less buoyant than saltwater the dive team has been using extra weight to help overcome the current.