Jul 022012

Propellor of the Pete Floatplane

About the site

Following up from two weeks ago, I thought I’d add a few lines about another plane wreck I dived while staying at Lissenung Island Resort. The place featured above is a Japanese “Kate” bomber. Unlike the Allies, where American crews were assigned to a single aircraft, Japanese crews jumped in the closest available plane. The occupying Japanese moved to destroy all records in PNG towards the end of the war, and these two facts mean very little is known about the history of the Japanese plane wrecks around Kavieng.

This particular plane was a Nakajima B5N, nicknamed a Kate bomber by the Allies and wrecked sometime during WWII. With a crew of three, she was the standard torpedo bomber for the Imperial Japanese Navy throughout the war. This particular plane now sits in about 12m of water close to Kavieng. The sandy bottomed location doesn’t make for great vis, but the wreck is upright and intact, and the shallow waters allow lot of time for different photo angles on the place.

Kate bomber from above

About the dive

With the conveniently shallow depth, this wreck made for a relaxing third dive for the day. With other guests choosing to hang out and relax for the afternoon, I was close to having the site to myself. Angmai the wonderful guide very patiently hung out in the background while I moved around with the camera. I had brought along one of my off-camera strobes, more usually deployed in caves. It took some experimentation to find the best distance to maximise the off camera light without flaring out. I also gave a moray eel a nasty surprise when I went to place the strobe under the port wing – in the ocean, it’s best to check thoroughly before reaching where you can’t see.

About the photo

The shot above is one of the few where the off camera lighting adds something to the wreckage. Given the low vis, I had real problems trying to outline larger features with additional light. The strobe light would flare off the sand in the water or the glass fish in the body, creating a hot spot without hitting the wreck itself. By placing the strobe here on the engine block, the light source itself is hidden by the propellor blade. It reveals additional details in the front of the plane that would otherwise be dark, draws the eye and adds a touch of colour.

The second shot here was taken as I finally ascended from the wreck to the boat above. I was trying to get an overall view of how the wreck lay on the bottom. Unfortunately the vis ran out before I could get the whole plane in, but you can see the wings outstretched to the left and right, and the three dark spaces where each member of the crew sat. The yellow splodges are tiny fish following me up the water column from the wreck below.


  4 Responses to “Off camera strobes on the wreck of the Kate bomber”

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  1. Thats a really clever photo.

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