The Hunt for the Lost Clipper

Welcome to The Lost Clipper blog

Since 1999, I have sought to answer the nearly forgotten question of "What happened to the Hawaii Clipper?" Together with you, the readers of this blog, I intend to complete work on a book and documentary on the who, what, where, when and specifically why the Pan Am flying boat and its passengers & crew vanished. Thanks for your visit and I hope you will join and return to this blog often.
  • Hawaii Clipper paddle
  • Eruption in Rabaul
  • 2016
  • Chuuk
  • Just a Common Soldier
  • Inside the OSMO Case
  • Guy in Truk Lagoon on the Hunt for the allusive proof Hawaii Clipper


Long Lost Photo of Hawaii Clipper

Hawaii Clipper paddle

Every now and then the Internet still manages to surprise me.  This week I purchased an image that was apparently lodged in someones personal photo album from the late 1930’s of a vacation to Hawaii and wouldn’t you know, right next to grandma was the Hawaii Clipper.  I have long believed that I had seen most of the known images of this particular Pan Am Airways Martin M-130 flying boat, however, surprise!

Pan Am China Clipper Landing

Ever wonder what a Martin M-130 Flying Boat sounds like as it lands?

Usually any archive footage of the Pan am Clippers has a soundtrack of musical instruments however in this rare motion picture clip, you will hear the four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S2A5G Twin Wasp 14-cylinder radial engines singing their own tune as it lands near Alameda California.  The aircraft shown is the Philippine Clipper – NC 14715.

Today in the headlines I read where some families who lost relatives last March on the doomed Malaysian Airlines flight 370 will claim the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the plane is irrelevant … and that the airline still has a duty to pay them. Emotions aside, I found it interesting that one of the case rulings that will contribute to the litigation stem from Pan Am Airways Hawaii Clipper flight 229 lost July 29, 1938.

Malaysia Flight 370

In this new 2016 lawsuit, claimed under the Montreal Convention — an international treaty — when a plane flying between countries crashes … people suing the airline don’t have to prove any negligence … only the fact that the aircraft crashed is enough, part of the defense will rise from the lawsuit “Choy v. Pan-Am World Airways” in 1941. The Choy family took Pan Am to court in New York for the loss of Wah Sun “Watson” Choy, a passenger carrying three million dollars in gold bank notes as Chinese War Relief funds for Chiang Kai-shek’s fight against the Japanese invasion prior to World War II.

Malaysia-Airlines-Flight-370 route

Unfortunately for the Choy family, the lawsuit failed and the airline prevailed in court sighting the clause “on the high seas” in Admiralty terminology stating it was intended only as a geographical expression “capable of expansion to, under, or over, as scientific advances change methods of travel.” This court specifically extended the purview of the statute, reasoning that a cause of action arising above the high seas demanded as adequate a remedy as one arising in a vessel on the seas, and that the statute was not intended by its nature to be restrictive in its application. As part of that, as explained to me, unless negligence could be proved, there would be no $160,000 payout per passenger.

Noffsinger Clipper

To this very day, the bulk of the 777 aircraft has yet to be located and like the Martin M-130 Flying boat, has prompted many theories about its disappearance. Neither the crew of the Hawaii Clipper or the Malaysian aircraft relayed a distress signal, indications of bad weather, or technical problems before the aircraft vanished. In this current case however Malaysian police identified the Captain as the prime suspect if human intervention was the cause of the disappearance, after clearing all other passengers of any suspicious motives.

“Now here is something you don’t see everyday”

Yes, I have said that quite a few times and today is one of them.  Check out this very interesting photo of a World War II era Japanese fighter aircraft perched in a tree.

Japanese Zero

I imagine the pilot survived the epic landing and was thanking his lucky starts as descended from the lush canopy of trees onto terra firma below. Incidentally, the aircraft in the photo is located roughly at Lat 4° 12′ 0S Long 152° 10′ 60E which will put you on Rabaul (a township in East New Britain province, on the island of New Britain, in the country of Papua New Guinea). I believe it was later lowered (thanks for the heads up Lee) and may now be as shown below.

Zero part 2


When it was new, I imagine it probably looked pretty much like this before the accident.  In the local Tolia language, Rabaul means mangrove and was invaded by the Imperial Japanese Navy and Army in early 1942.   They stayed put through the war (being bypassed by Douglas MacArthur) and finally surrendered to the Aussies in September of 1945.

Aussies in Action

Today, Rabual is a tourist destination and popular for its many volcanoes, diving and snorkeling in its warm tropical waters and its still visible World War II sites.  Before the 1994 eruption, it was a popular commercial and recreational boating destination; fewer private small craft visit now, but 10-12 cruise ships visit Rabaul each year, including the Queen Elizabeth carrying up to 5000 passengers. Tourism is a major industry in Rabaul and East New Britain generally.

Eruption in Rabaul

Now THAT is really something you don’t often see!

+++ For Lee – Was it this one? +++

Japanese Aircraft in Papua

A similar Japanese aircraft display in Papua New Guinea.


Happy 2016!

2016A new effort for a new year – Welcome 2016!

December 7th

Today is the day Americans reflect upon the attack of our homeland which ushered the United States into World War II.  For me, I take this moment to not only reflect on the sacrifices of honorable men and women during World War II who would have much rather spent their time pursuing a career, a dream or raising a family, but also the millions of people who felt the loss of those people that did not return.

Pan Am Hawaii Clipper Comes Home.jpg

Slightly similar to the feeling of loss felt by the families of from the war are the Hawaii Clipper passengers and crew families and their loss. Today, they still don’t know what happened to their loved ones however I’m working to reverse that fact.


Last year, we took a bold step on a small Pacific island and successfully narrowed the mystery down to a fifty yard grid.  Somewhere on that small patch of land is the answer if World War II started in Pearl Harbor or in Truk Lagoon.

Flying above Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon in search of Imperial Japanese Navy holspital ruins

In this view out the fuselage hatch is a GoPro Hero 3 attached to the port wing of a Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander above Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon. From this vantage point, it was obvious that looking for the ruins of an Imperial Japanese Navy field hospital swallowed by seventy years of jungle growth would be challenging.  Guess what?

Truk Seaplane Base

We found it!  Now, after three trips, a forth and final expedition is being planned.   This search will be the first when the actual dig site has been identified and the means to properly conduct field forensic recovery is in place.

I cannot leave this post without reflecting about something far more important.  This particular day of December 7, 2015, has even more sorrow than usual because of yet another attack by an enemy which hates democracy and free speech.  In addition to the freedom to choose which God to worship, these cowards lack human empathy, dignity and respect for peoples of all nations that do not share their radical cult of hate and double standards.   Please join me in solidarity to reflect on Americans in harms way – whether they be in the military, the police, emergency respondents or the neighbor who sacrificed their blood for a fellow American they didn’t even know.

Barack Obama

A wreath stands in place at the USS Arizona Memorial, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

God bless the United States of America.

Remeber those who have served this Veterans Day

Today, we all should recognize Veterans Day.

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Armistice – truce – was signed by the Allies and Germany, thus halting the carnage of World War I. The official end of the war was declared by the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919. World War I pulverized parts of Europe and left nearly 30 million soldiers wounded or dead. Some predicted it would be the war to end all wars but sadly was not.

Armistice Day became an official holiday in 1938 and following WWII and the Korean War, many veterans pushed to expand the significance of Armistice Day to include all those who served their country. President Dwight Eisenhower and Congress authorized changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor veterans of all conflicts America has entered. Consequently, Veterans Day is more encompassing than Memorial Day, which primarily honors our fallen warriors.

Veterans Day is designated to commemorate all living and deceased veterans who heeded the call of duty. That would include those missing in action, our wounded warriors, former prisoners of war and millions of veterans who have served both in war and peace and today our veterans are stationed around the globe providing disaster relief, fighting ISIS and helping to keep us safe.  On this day, and every day, let us be thankful for their service and pray for their safety and eventual return home.

God Bless America and our veterans and think of them as you watch this tribute video:

Just a Common Soldier

Just a Common Soldier


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 461 other followers

%d bloggers like this: