All tooled up!

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….

Making good progress

It has been a little quiet on here of late but that is a good thing as it means we are flat out working on the Hercules project. This is Colin deploying our new secret weapon! More about this at a later date suffice to say at this time it is a game changer for us. Looks like the weather is going to keep us ashore for a few days which for once is a good thing as the post processing is a little behind. I am also taking time to review the big picture as it is very easy to go off at a tangent something we cannot afford to do during this meticulous search.

Never to be forgotten

One thing for sure whatever happens the Paul Meyer story is now well and truly in the public eye and out there for all to see. The BBC website within 24 hours of an update had over two million hits which is just amazing, latest can be found here. This last week has been busy with various TV production companies starting to take an interest however all appear to work on the same format which is, “We are exploring the possibilities for a client, what will the weather be like when we want to film and by the way we have no budget!” One absolute classic was “when do you expect to find the plane?” Guess I do not need to say anymore other than we are not working for nothing while everyone else gets paid, most importantly Paul Meyer and his family deserve the very best when it comes to telling the story.

America first!

America First everyone else behind, even the Queen!… Well I guess it makes a great sound byte for The Donald but in our case we are certainly putting America first as we continue to fight the corner for one of its lost. It does feel a little strange that a few Brits are doing what the USA pledged to do (leave no man behind) and even now after nearly fifty years the USAF shows no interest in helping to bring Paul Meyer home. Seems to me they are keen to tell us what didn’t happen but not quite so forthcoming when it comes to telling us what actually did happen.

As long as it takes

As much as we are progressing the search for the Hercules we are progressing the story with the fantastic help of Emma Jane Kirby and the BBC. I see this project as four distinct areas 1) What happened leading up to the flight? 2) what happened during the flight? 3) what happened after the flight? 4) Where is the aircraft? Slowly we are edging forward on all fronts and even now we must have the clearest detail ever with regard to what actually happened. It is now noticeable that those who crowed about knowing the full story and acted as judge and jury in fact knew very little and most have gone very quiet. There are however still a few that think the whole thing is a farce and a waste of time and have even accused us of being unashamed self publicists with the sole aim of monetary gain. Nothing much we can do about that sort of twisted thinking other than to prove them wrong which one way or another we will. I guess the biggest surprise of all to me is the way the USAF treated Paul’s wife and family and the way it continues to think about what happened almost as if it had nothing to do with them and the USAF are victims of conspiracy theorists! For a nation that takes pride in bringing everyone home it seems odd that even now the USA are not interested in what happened to Paul Meyer. Not long ago I announced that 2018 would be the year of the plane here at Deeper Dorset and even at this early stage I can now further that and say it will continue through 2019. If we found the aircraft tomorrow it would not be the end of the story, firstly because we don’t know that the remains will tell us anything but leaving it lost at the bottom of the Channel it will tell us nothing but most importantly so much information has come our way that we now have a massive job collating and verifying it all. I remember saying when we set out on this journey we would come at it straight and level, that we will continue to do only with even more vigour because it is now very obvious there is an injustice here that we have to put right.

Desperate Dolly

You may have noticed on the Deeper Dorset website there is a link to famous racing yacht Dolly Varden built 1872. With Deeper Dorset being all about maritime history when the opportunity arose to rescue her from a Dorset field after forty years literally in the wilderness rather than see her burnt I took it. At great expense she was moved undercover and initially I did a deal with The IBTC (International Boatbuilding Training College) to restore her and she was moved again to Boathouse 4 Portsmouth Dockyard. Sadly due to a change of management and a change of direction the IBTC let me down badly and we had to bring Dolly back to Weymouth where she is now incurring storage costs. All efforts to raise funds and bring this important piece of National Heritage back to life have so far failed and I am now at a crossroads. I have three choices, firstly just keep plugging away and hope that something happens, restore her myself something I am capable of doing but at my age not without help and finally scrap the vessel salvaging what we can. Obviously I am exploring the middle option however in order to even have a chance Dolly needs to be closer to Weymouth and preferably as close to the quay as is possible. All efforts to find a suitable building to rent have failed and at this time I am exploring the option of finding a space in a yard somewhere and putting up a temporary building. So if anyone in the Weymouth area knows of a yard I could rent or a big enough space anywhere local that won’t be an issue with residents please do get in touch. I took this picture of Dolly this morning which is not her best side and there is plenty going on around her but not on her, l hope that will be changing sometime soon. 

Room for a little one?

You need eyes in the back of your head working here and although we are wide awake and know what we are doing I would imagine the conversation on the bridge regarding what we are up to is sometimes interesting! The onus is on us to keep out of the way but we like to use every inch of space that we sensibly can as these things thunder down the channel. If we waited till we had loads of room to work we would never get anything done.

Phoenix from the ashes!

A little while back we announced that we had the ability to now check out sonar targets using camera systems however the learning curve has been steep from that point on. Ease of operation, deployment and additional boat handling requirements have been the focus and along the way we have crucified some expensive gear, parts for which we are now waiting for. As usual at Deeper Dorset we have been doing a little head scratching and whatever the situation we always learn from it. With that in mind we have now decided to build our own bespoke system using oil industry grade equipment rather than the lighter grade sports equipment we have operated so far. This equipment will be used to not only check out the sonar targets for the Hercules but for other projects we have in the pipeline. Making the best of a bad situation we decided it would be nice if we had better imagery, improved recording and archiving ability, had the capability to adjust lighting from the surface, had a better quality navigation interface, had an umbilical that can carry all the loads rather than an additional load carrying down line, had a system we could swop between boats, take anywhere, in fact the list of wants and improvements went on and on and we appear to have ticked every box. The picture shows the hub and the camera of the new system which can actually do a lot more than we require at present but gives us room to upgrade even further at a later date. All this doesn’t grow on trees and we have had to part with some other equipment to justify the expense, however our future looks firmly set in locating objects on the seabed using sonar and then checking out what they are remotely and to that end we have just upped our capability beyond our wildest dreams. Down side we have to wait 4 weeks but we have plenty of sidescan work to get on with for now.

All things sidescan sonar

Still waiting to resolve our camera problems we are bashing it big time with sidescan sonar right now. Scouring the seabed this year for aeroplanes and not knowing what we are going to find be it large or small is all consuming. The data is gone through time and again just in case we missed something first time around. We view it from different angles, use different colours, look at it close up and stand back and look from a distance trying to spot anything that may have come from an aircraft or at the very least is man made. When a nice 90 metre long shipwreck comes into view it does make a pleasant change! No point in wondering what this is? Job done tis a big ship.

Have you found it yet?

As the search goes on for the missing USAF Hercules those words ring in my ears most days now as I walk down the quay. I come out with all the usual lines that we we live and die by here at Deeper Dorset such as “Every day we know where it isn’t we are closer to knowing where it is” and “If it was easy everyone would have done it by now”. The story is very much in the public eye at this time and hardly a day goes by where we don’t gather more information, be it where the aircraft might be located or more about what actually happened leading up to, during and after that sad day. It is a full time job dealing with it all but there is a real sense of purpose that keeps us kicking the can down the road for as long as we have to. Despite all the searches and subsea work we have done before the logistics of working mid English Channel with a relatively small vessel in one of the busiest shipping areas in the world has ensured a steep and expensive learning curve. The upside to that is a couple of other projects we have lined up in the future are now looking much more realistic as we improve our equipment and hone new skills. All in all I am relatively happy with progress and we never expected it to be a breeze, however when we do find the needle in the haystack if anyone near me says we were lucky they had better move fast! We have another Deeper Dorset commandment “Luck is preparation waiting for an opportunity”.

We won’t miss it!

Whenever we can’t get out on the Hercules search due to fog or traffic and the weather allows we fall back on another area looking for another aircraft which is nowhere near as busy from the point of view of traffic but search wise is just as intense and meticulous. There is absolutely no point in searching if you are content to just miss a bit every now and then and hope it will be alright. The image is a plot of our activity and as you can see bottom left is a scale, the white lines represent the track of the vessel, the greyed out part defines the coverage of the sonar in this case two hundred metre runs and each pass we overlap the first pass by fifty percent. We have covered here an area around 800 metres wide and three and a half thousand metres long. All the numbers represent a sonar target that appears non natural i.e. given away by a straight line or a shape that doesn’t look like a rock and stands out from the general seabed appearance. We have this area absolutely nailed and nothing has gone unnoticed. However we are left with fifty odd targets to check out and we are hoping they are parts of an aircraft that hit the water at around 500 knots! The crash itself would be enough to spread the aircraft far and wide but fifty years of trawler activity doesn’t make the task any easier as oblivious the trawler men have further dragged everything around the seabed. There are a couple of relatively big lumps right of centre but the rest are small scattered targets which would take us weeks to check out with divers which is why we are so desperate to get the cameras repaired and back in action. Hopefully this shows the sort of intensity we put into these searches and the Hercules will be and is getting exactly the same level of effort and detailed attention. Every day we go out there to look for it we come back knowing another area where it isn’t! Which is exactly how you have to look at it till one day…..

Reflections

Wandering home after a beer the other night I took time out to take a few snaps and pause a while for some reflection! Seems to me my fantastic home town of Weymouth is being constantly let down by bad decisions and who knows what the future is for the harbour as the walls slowly fall into the sea. Very easy to get depressed about it all however at Deeper Dorset we fly the flag for the area and do as much as we can to help the old town. This is a fantastic place to live with a stunning history and in the past the town has risen above the plague, rebellion and the ravages of war so I am guessing  one way or another Weymouth will survive, tis just sad to see the way it is now. In the meantime life goes on and when we stated at the beginning of the year that this was the year of the plane I don’t think we really had full comprehension of what was to come. With the search for the Hercules well under way as is the search for the truth we have to be careful not to be sidetracked by another story that is developing nicely in tandem, seems missing aircraft are like busses they all tend to turn up at once.