We made this little video back in August which highlights the enormity of our task when we still had the weather on our side! The soundtrack is from “Flying home” written and performed especially for the project by our friends and huge Deeper Dorset supporters The Dolmen. We are still getting out there dodging the weather and battling with the now decaying in-water visibility however we will soon have to call it this year as winter descends. We are quite keen to follow up on the last of our sonar targets gathered this year so we have a fresh start and a new area to work on next year. We got very excited by one particular target that came to nothing last week but now another has caught our eye that we really want to check out before we are forced ashore. Back on terra firma it is frantic as we make a final push for this year and we go back over hours and hours of sidescan and video always with the fear we missed something. RWTwo is about to clock up 1400 miles on search duties and is starting to gasp a bit for some TLC which she will be getting soon. https://vimeo.com/287962995?fbclid=IwAR0KUoCam74Q7O2NTyOfH9BByg04akTHsnJxQPPTHC5M8sWZRyAiyF41JVQ
Exciting times ahead.. After three years of being messed about and shoved from pillar to post we now have a way forward with historic racing yacht Dolly Varden. Sadly it doesn’t involve my home town of Weymouth but it wasn’t for the lack of trying, just a shame there is such a lack of vision around here. More details soon but at last the boat is saved for the nation. Sub heading on the Deeper Dorset website says “Find the plane fix the boat” so I am now halfway there and can turn all my attention to finding that big bird. I mean how hard can it be????
The amount of rumour and conspiracy theories surrounding the disappearance of Paul Meyer beggars belief. I am doing my level best not to add to them but just chip away at each and every one a process that takes time and in most cases requires professional help. Slowly slowly we Are stripping back the stories and putting them in the possible or not possible trays and some we can now declare as at best fanciful.
Regards the last we can forget the story about the aircraft being intercepted on the German border, we can put to bed the story of an American mystery pilot who went up in a Lightning and shot him down as claimed in the book “The Lightning Boys”. We can also now view the conclusion at the end of the USAF report as either careless or requiring a rewrite of the laws of physics.
Right now I am spending time checking out all that was recovered after the crash and who recovered it, the bag pictured is something under scrutiny right now.
Grumpy bird awaits us at the entrance to the National Archives! For now I think we have checked out every line of enquiry at this fantastic facility with regard to Paul Meyer and the flight of the Hercules, we now have to look further afield. Same applies to the newspaper archives which we have trawled through again and again here in the UK and in the US. The more I delve into this story the more I realise we are missing key pieces firstly in the form of documentation which in the circumstances is not surprising but then there is Paul himself?
Bringing his story to life is key in understanding what happened almost fifty years ago, suffice to say I really do not buy the fact that he was just a drunk that made a really bad decision there is much more to it than that. At the military academy he was described as a Huckleberry Finn kind of character which seems a little odd in the light of how others saw him certainly during his time in Germany and the UK.
What I would really like to know is what was he like prior to being in the military and also during his time in Vietnam which no one as yet seems to want to talk about. That said there may be nothing to talk about but for sure if we are really going to bring this man home we have to leave no stone unturned. There is a lot more to all this than meets the eye and that is the reason I am on this seemingly endless road.
What have we here then? Centre stage the dunny from Dolly Varden soon to be off to Blakes for restoration, we know King GeorgeV spent time onboard Dolly I wonder if the value of the bog increases if we could prove he used the facilities?? Everything else is torpedo related and is soon off to a museum. The motors are part of a collection I rescued a few years back and now after much effort virtually every piece of that collection has been saved. I donated three complete (yes complete twenty odd foot long) torpedoes to the Castletown Regeneration Project, one to a dive centre and one to a technology college. There are three motors in restoration now due to their importance and the one remaining motor will be receiving the attention of Simon Brown. Project complete big bits of local history saved by Deeper Dorset. Yay.
When I started The Shipwreck Project a good few years ago now it was primarily based around diving and trying to get folks involved in maritime history, sadly it didn’t work out and hard expensive lessons were learned. Trying to do too many things at once is a failing of mine but that said in my defence if you don’t push on lots of doors you will not find out which ones open. Deeper Dorset is much more focused all about the local area and its maritime history above and below the water. At this time I am concentrating on two projects finding the Hercules and saving racing yacht Dolly Varden, typical me I choose two with a difficulty level off the scale! There is of course a bigger picture and shaping that is what keeps me going fighting like an alley cat. If I was to tell you what the bigger picture is I would be laughed out of town…… This either makes me visionary or mad!
It might look a bit Heath Robinson but we are slowly refining and tuning this bit of kit into our eyes beneath the waves. As can be seen a couple of posts back it has already found its first shipwreck and we are now very quickly able to check out sonar targets without wasting diver time. It didn’t come cheap nothing to do with being in or on the sea ever does and with that in mind I am now already starting to think about how we are going to fund the project if we haven’t found the aircraft by the end of the summer and our Kickstarter funding has run out. One thing for sure we wouldn’t be where we are without the Kickstarter backers and the publicity that surrounded the campaign, another thing for sure we are not going to give up we are way too far down the road for that to be an option. This project is not just about finding the aircraft it is just as much about telling the real story that according to many of today’s armchair aviation experts is already done, dusted and out there! Nowt so queer as folk best describes them I guess.
As we search for the remains of the Hercules we are often reminded just how much lies at the bottom of the English Channel. This is the wreck of a British minelayer from WW2 and back in the 90’s we were the first divers to visit her. She is upright largely intact 130ft long and lies in 210ft of water. By the time we complete our search we should have a nice little sonar image library of mid channel wrecks, not a bad little by-product to have.
The best day this year as we roar out into the channel yet again. We are settling into a routine now scouring the channel looking for what may remain of the Hercules. As the press interest dies and the hard up film production companies have given up ringing asking me to give away everything for nothing we settle back into a tough regime of long hard days punctuated by even longer days post processing and researching. This is a tough task and only the tough ones are left, it was never going to be a five minute operation ending with an instant result. Even our critics have gone quiet for now and silence surrounds us as we just keep smashing it the only way we know how.
As the title suggests this screen grab is a little shabby but in the can we have some nice footage of a mid 19th century iron sailing ship. This is what a virgin shipwreck looks like and don’t the fish just love it. Discovering and recording shipwrecks is what we do all at our expense and whilst we are pleased to uncover yet another piece of maritime history there is a downside. We are now able to do this without putting a diver in the water which from the point of view of safety is fine it is over 200ft below the boat but I find it sad that the spirit of exploration has all but died in today’s diver. I was very lucky to have been around as a diver and skipper in the hey day of channel shipwreck exploration which nowadays is looked back on by many with derision. I am forever being told mainly by academics and those that have been brain washed by them “we should leave things for future generations”. This particular shipwreck is barely showing above the seabed and in only a few years it will have disappeared. There is evidence all over the site that it is being battered by trawling but in the end it is erosion that will finish it. I now have the only record of this site by getting off my ass and getting out there and doing it. God only knows what this information would cost to gather if left to those that are paid to protect our maritime history? Leaving it for future generations equals an excuse to do nothing and an opportunity to label those of us that really care as grave robbers. The really bad news is that as the likes of Historic England run out of money in time we will end up with blanket bans on shipwreck sites and areas of interest that will make it look like we are doing our bit in the eyes of the International community. Finally if anyone can think of a shipwreck around the British Isles that was found by anyone other than an amateur explorer I would be interested to hear about it… I rest my case and as usual this is the musings of an old fool!
Gearing up the wheelhouse to recommence the Hercules search after a weather break. I would like to have everything set up permanently but RWTwo has another life as a dive boat and sadly divers and delicate electronics are a recipe for disaster! Come the winter I think I will be carrying out some alterations to the boat or replacing It, either way I need to end up with a dual-purpose dive/survey boat that I am not dismantling and rebuilding every time it changes role. As for the search we are now moving into the second area of interest having completed sonar operations but not camera operations in the first. Relentless is the word that springs to mind….