This cache is the submerged wreck of U.S. B-24J "Liberator" bomber, which crash-landed on a reef in the Majuro atoll during WWII.
The difficulty ratings for finding this cache lie in the remoteness of the Marshall Islands, and the fact that the wreck is almost completely submerged, about 2.6 miles offshore.
Majuro atoll is a mere 4-5 hour flight southwest of Honolulu. The preferred way to get there is via the famous "Island Hopper", currently operated by United Airlines. The trip to Majuro is well worth it for the beaches and reefs alone. The water visibility is quite good and there are many beautiful beaches and coral reefs available for beachcombing, snorkeling and diving. The Marshallese are generally very hospitable, and the fresh sashimi is truly wonderful. Local handicrafters make beautiful baskets, necklaces and stick charts of local materials. The Marshallese are considered by some to have been the premier sailors and navigators of the ancient Pacific. To the eyes of Euro-centric sailors, the local sailing outriggers initially seem quite primitive. However, on second and third looks, some surprising and counterintuitive complexities are evident in these speedy and sophisticated little craft.
To reach the cache site, your choices are to wade out to the site at low tide, swim, or hire one of the local dive operators to take you out in a boat. If you are a strong swimmer and have snorkel gear, the swim out from Laura Beach is quite pleasant, and allows ample opportunities to view colorful corals, clams, and fish. In any event, you will need a mask, snorkel and underwater camera to log this cache.
On December 28, 1943, this particular bomber sustained significant damage due to intense fighter opposition over its target area of Taroa. It limped back toward its base in Tarawa on 2 engines, making it back as far as Majuro, where the pilot crash-landed on the reef. The crew were taken into custody by the Japanese, who then controlled Majuro. Their fate is not known conclusively, although local oral history states that they were beheaded by the Japanese. Execution was, alas, a common outcome for downed U.S. airmen in the Pacific, so this is very likely the fate of this aircrew.
For a much more detailed account of this plane and its history, please visit Dirk Spennemann's excellent account online.
Depending on the stage of the tide when you reach this site, the plane may or may not be visible above the water. When I visited the wreck site at slack tide three days ago, the tips of the propellers were just visible above the waterline. I was able to walk along the top of the wing with my head well above the water. Most of the aluminum wing is still intact, with three engines still attached. Most of the fuselage has disappeared, probably due to wave and tidal action over the years. Several other fragments of the plane are still visible nearby, including a Sperry Ball turret, the belly machine gun unit with one barrel of the machine guns still visible. This fragment is located a few feet to the rear of wing, and slightly to the right of midline.
To log this cache, you must do the following:
- On the remaining machine gun, just above the perforated and air-cooled section of the barrel, a single word is still visible cast into the metal. E-mail that word to me -- please do not post it on this site in your log. Corrosion or vandalism may eventually wipe this away. However, it remains so easily legible after 60 years in salt water that I suspect it will endure for at least another decade or so of geocaching.
- Post an underwater picture of you in front of one of the remaining props of this plane. Also feel free to post any other pictures of the plane or Majuro, other than the word on the machine gun barrel. Obviously these must be pictures taken after finding this as a virtual cache - not previously taken vacation shots or internet downloads.
- Take a moment to reflect on the many brave people who died on both sides of WWII in the Pacific Theater, and what life must have been like in those days, navigating the endless blue Pacific without a GPS....