Sunday, December 25, 2011

Emerald Airplane: Rare World War II plane spotted in ocean off Jupiter, Florida.

Video by PT Search on Dec 22, 2011

Randy Jordan found an airplane in 185 feet of water off Palm Beach, Florida this week. Here is a short video of his findings.

By Pat Beall, Palm Beach Post
December 25, 2011

Jupiter —  Randy Jordan was just following the fish.

Diving at a depth of about 200 feet four miles off Jupiter Tuesday, the owner of Emerald Charters wasn't expecting to see much more than sand and seafood.

But the deep waters were hiding something: the remains of a mostly intact aircraft upside down on the ocean floor.

Jordan says experts shown video and photos of the craft identified it as a WWII-era Curtiss Helldiver SB2C.

"It's a very rare airplane," said Jordan. "There may be only one flying now."

Local WWII aircraft buff Kevin Knebel, who has seen video of the dive site, said it wasn't surprising that a WWII plane would be found off Florida - "planes are scattered up and down our coastline" - but it is unusual that one would be unidentified, and that it appears to be a Curtiss Helldiver.

"I think this may be the first Helldiver ever found" off the Florida coastline, he said. Knebel speculates the Helldiver, a Navy aircraft, could have come from Key West on a training exercise. In addition, in 1942, the U.S Navy trained WWII pilots at Witham Field in Martin County.

Since his discovery, Jordan and other divers have been down to the plane just once, though there are plans to take more divers to the site to help solve the mystery of how the craft came to be resting on the ocean floor.

But the divers are moving cautiously. For one thing, Jordan points out, there could be live ammunition. A dive bomber, the Curtiss Helldiver bristled with weaponry: torpedoes, machine guns and bombs were all standard issue.

And there is another reason for keeping a respectful distance. "It may be a grave," Jordan said. "Somebody was on that plane."

For now, what's visible is the fuselage, wings and tail, with the bomb bay doors closed. The engine is detached and lying in front of the aircraft. The landing gear is retracted. The propeller blades are bent.

If it is a Helldiver, it would be the second such underwater find in two years. In January 2010, the owner of a scuba shop found a SB2C Helldiver off Hawaii in about 50 feet of water. According to press reports, the U.S. Navy was preparing a plaque to mark the site.

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