The really special thing about diving the B17F Black Jack wreck is the fact that the plane is so intact! Sitting as she does, on a sandy seabed in clear blue waters with visibility that can easily reach 40m+… It is almost like diving a set from a Hollywood movie!
The nose is badly crumpled from the impact of the crash landing. And the propellers on the four engines are somewhat twisted… But the rest of the plane is basically all there which is quite remarkable after over 73 years underwater.
Apparently the plane sank within 45 seconds of coming to a halt. And the crew only just had time to scramble out with the 3 wounded members. Which meant that apart from two waist guns and the radio transmitters, that had been jettisoned before prior to ditching, Black Jack took all it’s contents with it to the sea floor.
Pierce, Johnson & Pennefather found machine guns still in their turrets. Hundreds of rounds of ammunition in the tracks to the guns. Plus the twin tail guns could still be moved freely in their mounts.
The other very significant thing about diving the B17F Black Jack wreck is the depth. Which at nearly 50m depth she is at the very limits of recreational diving. And although it’s a straightforward dive, in as much as the water is clear and there are no major hazards or obstructions outside of the plane, decompression and bottom time are critical to a safe overall experience.
Two divers are reported to have lost their lives diving the B17F Black Jack wreck since it was discovered. So it has to be said that this is a dive only for the experienced and competent. There is a permanent guideline from the shallow reef. Which leads you down the slope, and at around 15m you will be able to see the wreck below you.
There is usually a fairly strong current that sweeps along the slope so the line is great to guide you and provide a reference point – particularly so on the way back…
The line goes all the way down to quite close to the huge tail of the wreck and from there you should head to the front of the plane to take in it’s full size.
Entry into the plane is possible but given the depth of the wreck, the extreme likelihood of nitrogen narcosis and all the potential hazards inside, only the most foolish would even consider doing that – just don’t go there! A much safer option is to look inside the cockpit, as the windows are open.
The current is usually strongest out in front of the plane. Swimming against it will increase your air consumption even more. So take great caution with your air supply and retain half a tank for the ascent and inevitable deco stop on the rope.
Diving the B17F Black Jack Wreck – Useful Sites
– By far the most comprehensive site is b17blackjack.com run by Justin Taylan who also runs the excellent Pacific Wrecks website and who gave me permission to use the above water images of Black Jack.
– Rod Pearce also has some interesting stuff on his site Nuigini Diving.