A lot! Can I leave it there? No? OK. My partner in production and everlasting friend who never stops asking me to share what we found and what’s next for the Lost Clipper has doggedly been after me for a couple of months now and I finally figured out why it took me so long to write a response – thank you Jeff for being so persistent.
Cue mysterious music with an Asian flair – maybe something from James Bond’s “You Only Live Twice” Soundtrack? Now we’re cooking!
I have been reluctant to pen ANYTHING because this fourth trip back to Chuuk has answered many questions – but also created others. The one BIG question to answer is yes – we located the slab. Let me back up here for just a moment.
Typhoon Amy Happened.
Amy was first noted as a tropical depression early on April 29, 1971 and became a typhoon on May 1st. The cyclone then intensified into a destructive Category 5 super typhoon with sustained winds of 175 mph the following day and produced a compact eye wall 10 nautical miles wide.
The monster storm track made a direct hit on Truk Lagoon (now Chuuk Lagoon) and caused one fatality. On May 18, the Federated States of Micronesia was declared a disaster area by FEMA and identifying that the weather station and over 2,250 homes were destroyed with a total of 6.4 million dollars in damage. ($39,642,050 in 2018 terms)
I mention this because it was during this super typhoon that the slab I had been seeking for almost two decades was destroyed. Not so much directly, but by the recovery efforts later as told to our team members on this most recent trip. The image above is actually from Typhoon Maysak which also hit Chuuk (March 31, 2015) and not Amy, but it gives an indication of the destruction on Chuuk.
Finally the major orphan puzzle pieces were reoriented and fit. During the 2014 mission, Jeff and I had been able to witness the demolition of a modern concrete slab for a home installed in 1984 and we were shocked to find remnants of an older slab (and items of the long-lost Japanese Navy Hospital), but no intact 1938 slab.
Could we be in the wrong place? Could this be a hoax? Is it buried further down in the earth? Our team had relentlessly scoured the mountains, lagoons, fortifications… everyplace… and we were sure we were just missing it. It actually never occurred to me personally that it would be gone.
We had endeavored to find any sort of indicator in 2014 yet not realizing that all the proof we needed was actually in our very hands; from a penny dated to 1984 (just under the home slab) to corner remnants of the 1938 slab complete with Japanese Navy Construction markings and plenty of medical artifacts such as tiles, bottles, bowls and tools.
So there it is – we missed it because it was moved – but moved where and can we still locate the missing passengers and crew of the Hawaii Clipper? I think 100% yes – it’s just a bit more complicated.
A new page must be turned. Now that we finally know where to look, the mission can be updated to be a recovery effort and creating a crime scene excavation similar to that for an archeological dig. In my hands in the above photo is the most solid piece of evidence of the existence of the slab and general location of where we should look next to recover any DNA evidence.
Perhaps the best thing I have ever discovered was this group of men surrounding me. Bill Stinnett, Myron Hashiguchi, Douglas Marar, Stephen Clouse, Stephen Murphy, Javier Pena, Ollie Dale, Maxim Jago, Bob Perry, Tony Johnson and Jeff Riegel – all have hearts of gold, looked out for each other as fellow adventurers, and each put their own sweat in doing whatever it took to bring home these missing Americans.
The story is now getting even more exciting as plans have already begun in the recovery of those fifteen men waiting to come home. I was very hopeful I would find the slab intact but Typhoon Amy wrecked that long before I had ever heard of Truk Lagoon. Now it’s time to focus on recovering the remains and sharing the story of how this long-lost aircraft was believed to be carrying a huge sum of ransom money for aviatrix Amelia Earhart.