Don Fetterly       WWII Historian & Traveler

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The Barbarian in New Guinea

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(l to r) Don Fetterly and Rod Pearce with sidescan sonar tow fish gear

Speak about your travels to the Pacific
My travels to the Pacific began with an extended vacation in December 1986 to Australia to scuba dive the Barrier Reef and tour the country. I was able to take in qualifying races of the Americas Cup and sample the culture, food and wines of Australia. In December of 1987 I dove the wrecks of Truk Lagoon (Chuk). This is when I became infatuated with researching and diving on WW 2 wrecks.

In December of 1988 I spent a month diving in the Solomon Islands and Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu. It was while diving off Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal that I found my first wreck, a P-39 Aero Cobra, it was an accidental find while drift diving about a quarter mile off the beach. The aircraft had not been previously discovered but was known by a village elder who confirmed the discovery. The diving on Espiritu Santo was focused on the wreck of the President Coolidge.

My first trip to New Guinea was in November of 1989 when I took part in my first wreck hunting expedition. The expedition surveyed the condition of wrecks in Hansa Bay. After Hansa Bay I joined up with Telita in Milne Bay where we dived on more wrecks and reefs. One wreck in particular was quite memorable due to its remote location and normally undiveable seas. The wreck was that of the President Grant a Liberty ship that had run up on Ulma Reef and broken up over the years. Ulma Reef is located SE of Milne Bay. Visibility was in excess of 200 feet and the sea was glass flat with no wind for two days of fantastic diving on the wreck and drift diving along Ulma Reef. We were the first recreational divers on the wreck and the first to visit the site in 15 years according to Bob Halstead.

So taken with the beauty and uncharted nature of New Guinea I returned nine months later for a second trip aboard Telita, this time to dive in and around Kavieng where we were able to dive on a Japanese freighter near by minisub and fighter. I was also privileged to experience the absolutely magnificent Silvertip shark feed with six to eight foot silvertips passing between divers at less than arms length. From Kavieng we sailed down to the eastern tip of New Britain Island to dive the wrecks of the Rabaul area.

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