THE AMBIENT LIGHT was dim when we dived. It was the Norwegian midwinter, and in addition there was a foot of ice over our heads at the surface!
We dropped through the Arctic haloclines, and then part of a wrecked fuselage became visible.
In the distance, a prominent German “bar cross” insignia appeared among the weedy growth on the starboard wing – what a way to be greeted at a WW2 aircraft wreck site!
On this dive, I decided to photograph the wreck in black & white, using Kodak Tri-X 400 film. In the ’90s this was one of my favourite films – I loved the quality of grain and amazing tonal range it offered, ideal to capture the Arctic ambience of the dive.
The waters were gloomy, so we got in closer to the wreckage. We explored the skeletal fuselage, then made our way over to the large engines. Two of the props were buried in the silt, but surprisingly the engine was in good condition.
All around the engines were strewn relics and debris from the crash. Twisted metal and hoses protruded from the seabed.
As we left, I remember looking back down and being able to make out the ghostly shape of the plane before it disappeared back into the time capsule it had occupied for more than 40 years.
In 2004, I had the chance to join Monty Halls on one of his round-the-world dive tours. I was on the trip as photographer and cameraman, and the assignment included the chance to visit Palau.
This Micronesian location is known for its spectacular islands and beaches, crystal waters and some of the most diverse reef-diving on the planet.
It is also well-known for its shark action at sites such as Blue Corner, but offers a great many wrecks – including a number of shallow aircraft. These are dotted around the islands in secret coves stuck among the mangroves – most are broken up, but are still worth snorkelling.
Aichi ‘Jake’ seaplane wreck in Palau.
Most famous is the Jake seaplane. This is a Japanese Navy Aichi E13A-1 that sits in just 15m of water close to the shore.
A slow-flying reconnaissance aircraft, it was the Allies that gave it the Jake name.
The wreck was spotted from the surface by a fisherman in 1994. It was in excellent condition, and the prop showed no sign of damage from being shot down, suggesting that the aircraft crashed during landing.
It certainly took a few blows when it hit the water. The motor has broken off and is partially sunk into the reef, with the wing pontoon and tail section lying nearby. As the wingspan is just 11m, we decided to split the team to prevent the site getting too crowded.
The reef was in great condition, with an abundance of fish and other marine life around. To get the scale of the wreck my buddy Gavin brought out his torch so that we could shoot those classic diver and wreck shots.