17
Feb-2017

Diving a WW2 Bomber Wreck in Fiji

Diving a WW2 Bomber wreck

Wing section of the WW2 B26 Bomber Plane, off Beachcomber Island

AN ELUSIVE PLANE WRECK

 

John leaned off the side of the boat.

He peered into the waters below, desperately trying to make out any outlines which would vaguely resemble a crashed plane.

We’d been drifting around an area off Fiji’s Beachcomber Island in search of the wreck. A World War 2 B26 Bomber had crashed in the area back in the day, believed to have killed all those on board.

Some years ago, the wreck was a regular dive site for the companies servicing the area. However in recent years, there appears not to have been the demand for the dive – and the in-house dive team at Beachcomber Island had since shut up shop, taking away any sources of information regarding the site.

RELATED | JET SKIS & SNORKELS AT BEACHCOMBER ISLAND

The island’s skippers were unsure of its exact location – and it seemed the other dive teams in the area were also unable to pinpoint the site.

To make things more difficult, the mooring which once signalled the dive site, was now underwater.

In true John-and-Juliette-travel-style, we were armed with only GPS coordinates, trusty Google Maps and no actual physical map of how to get to the site.

The last time we had relied on coordinates and Google Maps in Fiji, it resulted in a disastrous misadventure – but we were certain this time would be different. Plus we had extra help – our Fijian skipper.

 

Leaving Beachcomber Island to dive a WW2 B26 Bomber wreck

Leaving Beachcomber Island to find the wreck

GPS COORDINATES: BETTER THAN INSTINCT

 

As we scoured the waters with an eye carefully on the GPS system, we wondered why this incredible piece of history had been forgotten in recent years.

Our GPS coordinates had lead us to a spot in the middle of the ocean between two islands. John donned his snorkel and mask to dive into the water in the hope of catching a glimpse of something on the sea floor.

“I think it’s here!” John exclaimed with confidence. “I can definitely see something…”

But no sooner were the words out of his mouth when our skipper shook his head. He looked unconvinced.

“No, it’s not here. This is not the site,” he told us.

Oh. Okay.

He started up the boat again and took us a little further to the spot where he believed the wreckage lay. Looking at his face, he began to look more and more confused and less assured of his own instincts.

John and I exchanged glances as our skipper looked into the water. 

“I think we go back to where you said it was,” he told us.

Resorting to our GPS coordinates and Google Maps trick, we drifted back to the previous location. John got his diving gear on and decided to descend into the water by himself first, to establish whether this was actually the correct location. I stayed onboard with our skipper as we followed John’s bubbles.

A few moments later he ascended, signalling me to join him – diving a WW2 Bomber wreck was about to be ticked off our Fiji bucket list.

Diving a WW2 Bomber wreck

Wreckage of the B26 Bomber, Fiji

DIVING A WW2 BOMBER WRECK

 

The B26 Bomber is broken up and scattered on the sea floor. A piece of rope connects the different parts of the wreck.

As I joined John underwater, the shadows on the sea floor became clearer. We began to make out the outlines of wing sections, both engines, a propeller, a pilot seat, electronics, even ammunition.

 

Diving a WW2 Bomber wreck

Wreckage of WW2 B26 Bomber in Fiji

Propeller of B26 Bomber wreckage in Fiji

Close-up of propeller of B26 Bomber wreck

 

I remember after our last wreck dive, the MV Raiyawa off Tivua Island, thinking that shipwrecks were a bit spooky. And that was a purposely-sunk vessel, not a ship that had come to a tragic demise.

This wreck was different.

Diving the WW2 Bomber wreck was fascinating, but also tragic. A reminder of those who sacrificed their lives in the 1940s around the world. According to other divers, the occupants were killed but their skeletons have never been found.

Seeing entire wing sections on the sea floor was haunting. This was the final resting place for the plane – but I wondered where was the final resting place of these men. What were their families told? Where are their living relatives?

 

What appears to be a seat of the B26 Bomber

What appears to be a seat of the B26 Bomber

 

What was also tragic is the lack of information about this plane and its history. John and I tried to search for information about it online, but there are few clues as to the story behind this wreck.

We kept following the rope but eventually started making our way back to an area for our 5-metre safety stop.

 

THE UNDERWATER SHOW

 

As we ascended, we were delighted to come across a huge coral structure exploding with fish life, just 5 metres below the surface. 

We floated in the most gorgeous cobalt blue water. If it weren’t for us needing to retain our regulators in our mouths, our jaws would have dropped wide open.

It was like a fish playground: parrotfish, sergeant fish, damselfish, all-the-colours-of-the-rainbow fish darting in and out of coral as if they were playing a round of hide-and-seek while swinging and sliding and generally having the time of their lives.

 

Coral off Beachcomber Island

Bommies, Beachcomber Island, Fiji

Clams, Fiji

I could have stayed there for 20 minutes, but our air pressure levels gave us no option but return to the boat.

Our skipped assisted us and noticed our wide smiles.

“Now, don’t you forget this site!” John told our skipper, who assured us it was locked in his memory.

As we arrived back on Beachcomber Island, the resort’s staff were eager to find out if we had found the wreck. In a manner that can only be described as authentically Fijian, the staff were all as ecstatic as we were that the trip had been a success.

We’ll be adding some video this piece shortly as well as uploading it to our new YouTube channel. Please subscribe so you can be alerted when our dive videos are up!

 


DETAILS: There are day trips available to Beachcomber Island but you can also stay there overnight at Beachcomber Island Resort. Note that there is no permanent dive centre on the island. If you plan on diving a WW2 Bomber wreck, please give advance notice so staff can coordinate your dive trip.

 

Wreck diving Fiji: Diving a World War 2 Bomber Wreck

 

DISCLAIMER: We were graciously hosted by Beachcomber Island Resort for our day trip and dives to the wreck. As always, our opinions are 100% our own. 

Untold Morsels

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  • Whenever I look at your beachy, tropical posts I am always reminded that I think I chose the wrong life! I love historic buildings but lately, I have been missing my Cali roots, beaches and sunny days. I’m tired to being surrounded by buildings and missing Palm Trees. Fiji absolutely looks heavenly! #FarawayFiles

    • Beaches are pretty special…we will miss living here when the time comes for us to leave. If it makes you feel better, right now it’s absolutely bucketing down with rain, our house sounds like its flooding and the humidity is out of control! Summertime in Fiji…

  • Untold Morsels

    How fascinating. The war in the Pacific isn’t so well known apart from Pearl Harbour so I’m glad you have raised awareness of the tragedy that spread way beyond Europe and Japan. What depth is the wreck at Juliette? Hope everything is going swimmingly for you in Fiji and it’s great to have you back on #FarawayFiles

    • You’re quite right, it’s often not been publicised about as much as other parts of the world. Fascinating to see but sad not to know more about the story behind it. This one is about 26m at its deepest. Nice to be back in the heat after our winter ski trip to Japan, but not enjoying the wet season so much…

  • Coleman Concierge

    I have done any number of caving trip armed with nothing but GPS coordinates. It’s so cool when you find it. You had me worried in your story that you were looking with the wrong geodetic datum (Earth curvature model). In Arizona, that would be about a 300′ error. Not a big deal in a boat with visibility perhaps but it meant the world when you were looking for a tiny hole in the ground. Awesome story telling. Way to put me in the scene

    • Thanks! Glad you could feel part of the story! John had also downloaded a nautical navigation app which we checked up on as well, although Google Maps seemed to be the more reliable of the two!

  • Louiela

    What a thrilling way to share your story in search of WW2 B26 Bomber Plane. I felt your mixed emotions as well when you found the plane wreck, the puzzling questions of what happened to the victims and when you discovered the great marine ecosystem beneath.
    Looking forward for your videos.

  • TravelwithBIRD

    This is something truly special and amazing! I mean, for me it would be just a perfect trip to go to such paradise place like Fiji and enjoying such a vacation, but to have the chance for such a discovering dive, that is fantastic. Must be incredible feeling to see this wreck underwater and try to imagine how it has been there back in those times… your photos are amazing btw!

    • Thanks! Fiji is an incredible destination, made all the better with the incredible dive sites around. Thanks for the compliments regarding our photos – we sure do love underwater photography.

  • Clare Thomson

    So glad you found your wreck, Juliette. It must be fascinating to explore a historic site that so few people have seen. The colours of the sea and fish make this an extra special dive in any case. Thanks for sharing with us on #FarawayFiles

    • Thanks Clare! For such an incredible wreckage I am surprised more people don’t go out there or know about it.

  • Mel

    Most of our trips start with trying to figure out where something is, too! What a cool experience to dive to a plane wreck. I think your choice of “haunting” to describe it is a good one. I guess touring anywhere someone died is a little creepy, but interesting! The coral is lovely.

    • Thanks Mel – glad we’re not the only ones who travel like this! Yes, absolutely incredible to see a plane wreckage underwater, but all wrecks like these are quite sad when you know someone has died.

  • Janine Good

    Seeing wreckages from planes and boats I find quite haunting. I can’t scuba dive for health reasons, but marvel at photos that you get from your various dives. I would be sad too wondering if the families got closure as you mention the skeletons were never found and very little information was available. Unsolved MIA soldiers make me very sad as that door is never closed for living family. I loved the reefs too that you captured with your lens. Just stunning.

    • Haunting indeed – but good to know these people are not forgotten entirely. I hope you get the chance to live underwater vicariously through our blog!

  • Kassie- The Fly Away Life

    This is so cool! It’s sad that the wreck wasn’t on the regular rotation of dives since it looks fascinating! I totally agree that wreck dives are a bit spooky but I would still love to see a plane wreck like this one someday!

    • Thanks Kassie! Quite incredible to see an entire plane broken up and scattered on the sea floor – definitely a first for us. Hope you get to come and dive this wreck one day in Fiji!

  • Clíodhna Ryan

    Ok the nerd in me was on the edge of my seat for every word. This is so cool! It’s a pity there isn’t more information available about it, especially when relatives of those killed could still be alive today! I would absolutely love to see something like this and love that your post will now help others locate it.

    • Thanks I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I would love to find out more – I hope someone comes forward with some more information actually, would really love to know more.

  • Wow I’ve done SCUBA diving once and it was one of the most epic things I’ve done. I could only imagine how much creepier and more surreal shipwreck diving is! Diving or not, your post just makes me want to jet-set to Fiji! It looks so beautiful!

    • Cool – where did you go scuba diving? I hope you can continue with it and get certified – it’s a pretty incredible experience! Hope yo make it to Fiji – lots of great diving but also non-diving activities too!

  • We have done something similar off the coast of Honduras – followed along a rope underwater to bits of a plane wreck right off shore. The wild life in Fiji is MUCH more beautiful. So gorgeous and not so panic inducing as the last wreck dive story! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles – cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

    • Wow how fascinating! What did you see in Honduras? What kind of marine life was there? And yes, far less panic than the loss of visibility during the last wreck dive!

  • Wow. The water is awesome and I really love the activities you can do <3 Can't wait to go there!

    All the Best,
    Jan Limark | Brotherly Creative

  • Idora Yasin

    Those photos look so spooky! You both had such an adventure, I felt like I was there with you with how eloquent you write! Cheers to more adventures.

    • Thank you so much, what a lovely compliment about my writing! Certainly more adventures to be enjoyed…and told.

  • Lauren Craving Sunshine

    THIS is why i can’t wait to get to Fiji! the underwater world is just incredible! Did you see any exciting fish whilst on the wreck?

    • This time, not many fish on the actual wreck itself. Certainly coral that had formed over it. The exciting fish were all on our safety stop on the coral bommie!

  • Travelling Dany

    Oh gosh! My husband would go insane! I will show him this article, what an adventure!!

  • Smidge

    This is a fascinating post – I really want to know the story behind the bomber. I also like how your GPS worked better than your guide 🙂 Great underwater shots and the place looks gorgeous!

  • That’s so cool! I would love to do this. I did some wreck diving in the Philippines but these also look amazing. Great photos!

    • What was the wreck diving like in the Philippines? I hear the diving there is beautiful, that’s on our list of places to go diving.

  • Sibeal Turraoin

    Wow that looks amazing! I love how it looks like a skeleton! It must have been difficult not to disturb anything

    • Thanks – crazy to see such clear outlines of the parts of the plane. it was so broken up that it was easy to avoid touching or disturbing anything, as we didn’t have to swim through any sections of the wreck.

  • Danik Bates

    Wow, this looks interesting and so loved to do this. But first of I have to learn to dive! 😀

    • Yes! Diving is lots of fun and I highly recommend getting certified. Then you can do your own cool adventures underwater 🙂

  • Corinne Vail

    I would love to do this, but I’m not dive certified. Do you think you can see some of it if you are just snorkeling? I’d love it.

    • Not this wreck, sorry. There are some incredibly beautiful snorkel spots in Fiji, although that is usually over coral reefs. The wrecks are a bit too deep if you are staying on the surface.

  • Kevin Hodgon

    I do love a bit of scuba diving and this wreck is incredible. You have some really great pictures too. Thanks for sharing.

  • Elisa Subirats

    Wow, what an adventure! I don’t have enough experience diving but this is sth I would like to do by myself, I love archaeology and all this stuff! And of course, there is the underwater show like you call it, what a complete dive!

    • Thanks Elisa! Quite an adventure – but those days are the best! Have you done much diving? You do need to be Advanced as the wreck is more than 18m. It’s quite incredible to see though. A great experience.

  • Anwar

    This looks so incredible! I just did my first wreck dive in Egypt and it’s made me want to dive many more now!

  • Wow, this is so interesting. We’ve always wanted to go wreck diving, it just adds that extra level of history to something already amazing and a place many won’t get to see!

    • Thanks – wreck diving is fascinating! And a tad creepy. But a great way to learn a bit more about history too.

  • OMG I love this! Great photos. I’ve always been really fascinated with WWII because my family was involved so I would LOVE to do this. I can’t believe they are able to find things like this when the ocean is so big and all that. History is awesome. Thanks for sharing

    • Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the story. It’s quite an incredible history isn’t it. I’m sure there are plenty more wrecks like this that are yet to be discovered too.

  • Tasha Haley

    This is amazing. I have only dived a couple times before but I want to do more of it…. especially in Fiji! Thanks for sharing this – added it to my bucketlist

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