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RAAF Catalina sunk off Napa Napa in Fairfax Harbor
On February 28, 1942 two flying boats Catalina A24-3 or Catalina A24-6 were at their moorings off Napa Napa, in Fairfax Harbor. Both were strafed, set on fire and sunk by six A6M2 Zeros from the 4th Kokutai led by Harutoshi Okamoto during an air raid against Port Moresby. They drifted onto the reef, and sank. The wreckage of one of the two was rediscovered in 2003 by the POMSAC (Port Moresby Sub-Aqua Club) while the InterOil Refinery was being constructed nearby.

Catalina Discovery
In 2002 Napa Napa was being developed as a oil refinery facility by InterOil. At that time, SCUBA divers surveying for the factory rediscovered a PBY Catalina wreck on December 16, 2003 just offshore.  Evidence that the wreck had been discovered previously was indicated by the top of the cockpit was cut off, perhaps in a salvage attempt during the war.  But, the wreck was unknown to the dive community.

To this date, its exact identity has not been proven.  A controversy developed around the wreck for several reasons.  First, the local SCUBA associations wanted to dive the wreck, but the company developing the oil refinery, InterOil, wanted the area off limits as it is offshore from their factory. The SCUBA association, lead by Mark Palmer fought to keep the site open to divers.  Secondly, live bombs were discovered aboard the wreck.  Divers from MilSearch, an Australian munitions disposal team were hired to clear the site of bombs. They dredged around the wreck, and then removed a dozen 250kg live bombs, and dumped them miles out to sea, where they would not be disturbed. Today, the area is again off limits as it is inside the boundary of the Oil Refinery's unloading area.  But, many SCUBA divers have dived the site with permission.

Mark Palmer adds:
"The damage you  mention was already done prior to my finding it and it is obvious that someone had found it some time ago but when they left PNG the whereabouts left with them. The machine gun was taken, I believe, by MilSearch when they took the bombs off it at the direction of InterOil - contrary to directions from the curator of the National Museum. This Catalina is written up by a friend of mine in Australia named Michael McFadyen. I want to keep a permanent record with our dive club - the Port Moresby Sub Aqua Club (POMSAC) so that knowledge of wrecks does not get lost or forgotten."

John Douglas adds:
"I dove the site before the bombs were removed.  The water was somewhat murky, and the wings were sagging  inward, and had soft and fan corals growing on them.  I saw a large circular object, that might have been one of the bombs in the tail."

Harumi Sakaguchi adds:
"In the first dive, visibility was so poor that I had to be guided by a search rope used by a more experienced diver-friend of mine. But I can recall vividly the excitement I felt as I finally touched the Catalina that had been sunk by Japanese Zeros through the first staffing attack of Port Moresby Harbor [Fairfax Harbor] by Rabaul based Zeros in the Pacific War. Luckily, visibility was far better in my last dive. Through the preceding dives, I had almost memorized the contours of the Catalina, wrecked and at rest in the murky bottom. Now, I could discern the plane's grandeur; though broken and crumbled, it looked menacing and determined to fight. I lingered as long as I could on that dive that I knew would be my last one of this historic plane. Fleetingly something made me remember the body of Nancarrow had never been recovered. Perhaps he was near me, trying to touch me in the opaque water. Prodded by my buddy Mr. Mark Palmer, I surfaced, with utmost reluctance. The strong sun blinded me. Port Moresby, across the harbor from Napa Napa, was afloat between the sea and the sky, like a city in a world of fairy tale, utterly oblivious of the event of 28 February 1942 that touched the lives of so many people - including myself 62 years later."

Justin Taylan adds:
"I dove the site in August 2004. The first day I attempted to dive, it was too murky, almost zero visibility.  The wreck is located just off a coral reef shelf in about 45-50 feet of water. The second attempt, the visibility was only about a meter or so.  Still, the wreck is an impressive site.  The massive wingspan is bow shaped, and heavily damaged on one side and resting against the reef wall, burned out.  The bottom is sandy.  The nose is fully intact, and in the cockpit both pilots seats are there, rudder pedals and instrument panel.  The tail is broken off and twisted behind it, possibly move during the bomb removal.  Both engines are angled downward, and the propeller of the starboard engine was visible. I made a rough sketch of the wreckage afterwards. The video footage recorded was murky only details were visible close up, not the overall view of the wreck."

Photo by Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), February 28, 1942

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Stills from video by Justin Taylan, August 2004

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Second Catalina
The wreckage of a second Catalina (pieces only) was discovered slightly to the south, this was undoubtedly the other Catalina.  This wreckage is located by InterOil, near the new harp built for unloading oil tankers. The area is considered off limits to divers.  The pieces were discovered during the construction.  Likely, the other Catalina burned more and less of it sunk or has otherwise disappeared.

Wings Official Magazine of the RAAF "RAAF 'Fleet' Rescues" by P/O C. A. Burley page 10-11
"Once the captain of a Catalina lost his anchor. He asked if Lega and Loi [Papuans working for RAAF Air Sea Rescue] could dive down into Moresby Harbor [Fairfax Harbor] an get one from a cat sunk at its moorings in 45' of water early in the blitz. He told the boys how to open the door and where to look for the anchor in the aircraft. Lega and Loi did it in 10 dives. Each time they stayed under for 1.5 to 2 minutes. They then brought up the anchor, weighing the better part of 20 lb, up without worrying about tying a hauling line to it."

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