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Paradise Q&A:

Rod Pearce

PICTURE: ROBERT UPE

This veteran diver is credited with finding some of the most significant World War 2 plane wrecks under the sea in Papua New Guinea.

Q: Which plane would you list as the most significant? A: Blackjack, an American B17 bomber that is intact in 43 metres of water at Cape Vogel, Milne Bay. Blackjack was perhaps the most famous bomber in the south-west Pacific and went on many successful missions. It went down in 1943 after a bombing raid on

14 Paradise – Air Niugini’s in-flight magazine

Rabaul. It developed engine trouble and had to ditch. All 10 crew got out alive because the plane floated for a while before sinking to the bottom. Q: Can you briefly tell the story of one of the more fascinating wrecks? A: There is a Beaufort A9-217 that crashed at Kawa Island in 1943. All on board were

lost. I found this in 2000 and with the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) did a recovery of the MIAs (people missing in action). The plane had been part of a bombing mission on Rabaul with 12 other Beauforts. On the way back to their base they split up and it’s thought A9-217 was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Q: Which military have you assisted in searches for their aircraft? A: Australia Japan, and the US. Q: Are there more wrecks to find? There are hundreds of aircraft war wrecks around PNG, then add those in the Solomon Islands and Indonesia and you have thousands. Q: What are you currently searching for? I am looking for Australian pilot Bill Newton’s Boston A28-3, lost at Salamaua, just south of Lae. He won the Victoria Cross for a series of daring attacks on the Japanese base at Salamaua, but ditched his burning plane after it was hit by ground fire. He was captured and later executed. Q: Do you work alone or with a tried and tested crew? A: I work in with people in the know and who have the knowledge to look for these aircraft, but I do all the research and planning. Q: How long have you been diving in PNG? I first started diving in PNG in the late 50s, but really got into it after leaving school in the late 60s. Q: Were you born and raised in PNG? A: I’m Australian by birth but grew up in Rabaul, where my father worked for the trading company Colyer Watson. We then moved to Lae in 1963. Q: What are the hazards of your work? A: I have been hit by the bends a number of times from deep diving and I have had to be re-compressed in Sydney after being flown out by medevac. Q: Where are you based now? A: I live on board my vessel, Barbarian, at Rabaul Yacht Club. Q: Do you do charters? A: Yes, it is available for charters for divers through the islands, but my main interest now is finding aircraft and searching for servicemen missing in action. n

Paradise: the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini, July/August 2016  

The July/August 2016 Issue (Vol 4, 2016) of 'Paradise' magazine, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini, the national airline of Papua New Gu...

Paradise: the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini, July/August 2016  

The July/August 2016 Issue (Vol 4, 2016) of 'Paradise' magazine, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini, the national airline of Papua New Gu...