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Rodney Pearce
Researching & Finding Wrecks

People ask me all the time about research and how I go about it. All I can say is you need a lot of time to read and now if you are a computer buff every thing is on the web, however with me I am not computer minded so still do a lot of research the long way. My friend Don who I mentioned earlier does a lot for me as he has access to the various online institutes through out America and also it was passion of his to be involved in this kind of work.

Research is only what you make it and every little piece of info can make or break a case. Example with our finding of A19-130 a Bristol Beaufighter in 60 meters of water. We researched this for a year and came up with pages of info on the squadron, pilot, aero plane and the particulars of the crash event, all these put together made a very successful finding considering that the first attempt was a failure. I t was not until our next attempt a year later when we had additional info and this info was only a scrap but when added to the file made all the difference, also we used some new equipment and both there's combined enabled us to find the plane in the first 10 minutes of operation. This particular A/C is in remarkable condition and I include here a small piece on its history and also some pictures of the plane underwater.

Beaufighter A19-130 was assigned to 30 Squadron moved from Bohl River Airfield near Townsville, Queensland commencing on 17th August 1942 to Port Moresby and then on September 12 to Wards Drome near Port Moresby. From here they moved north in to Vivagani on Goodenough Island arriving there on the 28th of July, 1943. On the 8th June of the same year, W/C Clarrie P. Glasscock DFC took over as 30 Squadron's new commander and the Squadron's war time role was to blockade Japanese seaborne operations and to attack Japanese held airfields particular in the New Britain area.

A19-130 was a brand new Beaufighter belonged to 30 squadron and took off at 0920 hours on the 16th of August 1943 from Vivagani on Goodenough for fuel consumption and ornament test, basically a test flight.

Several minutes after becoming airborne and at a height of 1200 feet the aircraft's star board motor failed while crossing the west coast of near by Fergusson Island. Not being able to maintain height with a full war load, it was decided to ditch in near by Hughes Bay. After flying inland for a short period of time, they crossed the north coast of the Island at low altitude and prepared for a water landing. The forward escape hatch was jettisoned at 100 ft above the Bunai River mouth and power taken off 20 ft above the sea on a down wind water landing. No injuries were sustained and the aircraft sank in about 10 seconds. The dingy inflated automatically, but was punctured by the tailplane as the aircraft nosed over before plummeting to the bottom, and was abandoned forcing the crew to swim to shore.

So, from this you can see that as much info along with good equipment and research material is a must before even starting on a venture.

My research took me to start reading a great deal, something I never relay liked but I found the histories of the various squadrons fascinating and I found the local library an excellent source and also my friend Dave Pennefather's collection of research books another excellent source. From then on, I was always at David's place reading and with, David writing to the various departments of the Air Force and the Navy in America and the Australian War Museum, We put together a huge pile of info on the wrecks of the country.

One of my major researches was on the Dutch cargo ship s'Jacob, a cargo vessel sunk in battle off Porlock Harbour. At first we had very little to go on except that the "Jacob" was sunk off Porlock Harbour by Japanese aircraft. I gradually built up a file on this vessel and even today I am still adding to it.

A recent piece of info that came to hand was that of President Clinton posthumously awarding the medal of honor to a crew member some 55 years after the event. This was George Watson, a African American and "The George Watson Saga" makes interesting reading. After several years and failed attempts to find this vessel I recruited 2 friends of mine Alan Jamerson and Shane Crowley to take my sonar equipped vessel Barbarian 1 down to Porlock Harbour and start searching, with instructions to find it or don't come back alive.

We had narrowed down the position from photos and reports also where I had looked on several prior attempts. This is where patience and the right equipment come into being. Shane was very dedicated in finding it and above all he was meticulous in his sonar runs and this was in the day before GPS where everything had to be done with a hand bearing compass and radar, now it is just to easy.

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