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Rodney Pearce - How Did Niugini Diving Begin?

I became involved in salvage diving after finding the Yokohoma Maru and helping out with explosives and deep diving. Most of my explosive work was trial and error and I always remember fixing a case of high explosive to the hull of the "Tenyo Maru" to get inside it. Detourating the charge, then diving through the hole to get inside the wreck only to find the inside of the wreck was full on mines. The Tenyo Maru was a converted mine layer. This is back in the late 60's and from the Yokohoma Maru and Tenyo Maru I moved to Dreggerhafen in the Finschhafen area to salvage PT boat shafts and props, also shell cases and anything brass. It was here from Dregger that the 191 boat (PT) sailed from, later to be immortalized in Jack Fallows painting (Returning Under Fire).

Later I did a stint in Hong Kong with Tokyo Dockyards doing repair work to ships of all sizes. It was hear that I got the taste for travel and then spent the next 10 years in and out of PNG traveling Europe. My big passion in those days was to follow the Allied advance through Europe to Berlin. My hero after Cousteau was General George S. Patton and it was his advanced I followed from Luxemburg, through the little towns of the Low countries and Germany to the Rhine River and beyond.

After returning from Asia in 1971 I registered New Guinea Diving and set out to make my fortune in the diving industry doing salvage of war time wrecks and commercial diving. Alas this was not to be, but I always loved the smell of fuel oil on the surface after a big blast.

I brought my first vessel and an old girlfriend named her "Barbarian" as she thought it was appley named. Barbarian was a 10-meter displacement hull vessel and I refitted her out so I could extend my range of diving and stay at sea for a longer period. It was about this time when Dive Tourism started to come into voge so decided to take diving charters to these far flung wrecks and look for others.

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On a trip to Milne Bay with two friends Dave Pennefather and Bruce Johnson in 86 we found B-17F "Black Jack / The Joker's Wild" 41-24521 in 45 meters. Later we made a documentary with Steve Birdsall on this famous 5th Air Force Aircraft: Black Jack's Last Mission.

As time went on and business increased, I commissioned my second vessel Barbarian II. This was a purpose built dive vessel for the dive tourist industries and it made its maiden voyage in 1992. Barbarian has all the mod cons, air-conditioning, water-maker, dive compressors and many more features that make her very comfortably. She was also built out of artifacts that I had salvaged from wrecks over the years, such as portholes, light fittings and many other interesting hardware.

I now run Barbarian to the wrecks of PNG both aircraft a ship wrecks. From late October to May I operate between Lae and Alotau taking in 3 of the best wreck dives in PNG: Yokohoma Maru, s'Jacob and of course B-17F "Black Jack / The Joker's Wild" 41-24521.

From May to October, I operated out of Kavieng and take in the wrecks of Three Island Harbour as well as some excellent big fish excitement. I am not only in diving charters but also fishing charters, Cruising Holidays and because of my knowledge of the war years I am starting to get returning veterans.

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