March 2, 2004. Morning.
All packed and waiting for the ups truck to arrive with the POW's pin's that I ordered. at approximately 0800 Molly Barrows, a reporter from W.E.A.R. Channel 3 TV called to wish me a safe trip, and that she mailed me the tape of the interview she did on my father, the USS Houston and my trip to dive on the USS Houston, that aired on Channel 3 news at 6 pm, March 1, 2004.
While checking my e mails, I received one from Greg Smith (who dived on the USS Houston several times and I met at the USS Houston reunion just before I made my trip) and one from Bob Barth (who is long time friend of the family that my father, John W. Ranger had enlisted him in the U.S Navy, which started his career as a Navy diver. Bob Barth is known as The Father of Saturation Diving, and his work on the Genesis and Sealab program. "The Sea Dwellers" written by Bob Barth and publish by Doyle Publishing Company is a book of his life on the bottom of the ocean. When I informed Bob of my dream to dive on my father ship, he got behind me and started me back on the road to diving. With some of his equipment and help I was able to make my dream come true. ), both men wishing me good luck and safe trip. Greg Smith also wrote that he wished he was going on the trip too.
After calling the airline to check on the flight, the flight was leaving on time around 3:05pm.
1045- The UPS truck arrived with the Pow's pins and I packed them away in the suitcase. Now I waited, I had trouble sleeping last night. Kept going over what I needed to do and pack. Did I have all my dive gear? Was I overweight? I can not believe I'm going. All this and more ran through my mind all night long.
1054, I sent out my last e mail to everyone telling them I will be e mailing them from Jakarta when I get there. I also sent Val a picture of the tile with all the survivor's signatures that I could get at the reunion. Then I closed down for the trip.
My mother came to the house to pick me up to take me to the airport. I already said my good-byes to my wife when she headed off to work that morning. I know this is going to be a long trip. I have been trying to go for three years. The first time was after 9-11 and that part of the world was not safe. Then when I got ready to go, SAR was going strong over there and made travel in that part of the world unsafe, so I canceled the trip. Now I don't care what is going on in that part of the world, I'm going to make this dive on the USS Houston before I can not dive anymore. So off to the airport I go.
NOW THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
I arrived at Pensacola airport on time and checked into the ticket counter. My two bags were inspected and sent on their way to the back. The inspector was also a diver and retired military too and wanted to know where I was going. I informed him of my plans to dive on the USS Houston and little about the ship. He stated that he would look it up on the internet when he got home that night. Off I went to the gate where the plane would be pulling in. I said my last good-by to my mother and sent her home. I still had a long wait for the plane and she did not need to be hanging around the airport with me. Off she went and I headed to the snack bar to get some lunch. It feels strange this time waiting here at the airport. I have made several trips out of this airport over the years but this time I was heading overseas to dive on the USS Houston.
I was informed that now the airplane would be taking off late, and I would still make my flight in Houston. Now we were in the air heading for bush international airport in Houston Texas. When we landed at the airport, I had little time to make it to the next airplane. It was several terminals away and I was having trouble making it to the gate. Just my luck the flight to la was late too and I would be leaving late. Finally I was back in the air heading for my next stop. When I arrived at la, I had to ride a shuttle to another building to check in with china air. The china air personnel where very friendly and got me checked in and headed to the gate. This time I had several hours to wait, so I walked around and got something to eat. Then it was time to board the airplane, as I sat in my seat, I could hear several different languages. I knew I was heading into a different part of the world where English was not the main language. While onboard the flight to Taipei, I met Loren Irwin from San Diego, who was on his way to Philippines (P.I.).
He takes a trip once a year to the P.I. to see all the out laying areas. The flight was a long one, 14 to 15 hours in the air. I tried to sleep most of the way but could not. When we landed in Taipei it was 0535 their time and around 1700 hours in the states (Florida). They are approximately 12 hours different. I walked around the airport for awhile. Got something to eat and waited to board the next flight. The first thing I saw was a big sign about SAR. I found out if you where visiting Taiwan, before you left the airport, you had to have your temp taken and if you were running a fever, you were put in a hospital. They take SAR very seriously over here. While seated in the waiting area, I met another American going to Jakarta to get married there. He was from Rhode Island. I did not get his last name but his first name was Tim. we talked about the USS Houston and the navy. He was in the navy for a couple years. Now he is a fire fighter in Rhode Island. We did not get to sit together on the flight over but met back up in the terminal. Then I got a little run around by the police just as I was trying to get through immigration. Finally I got some good directions and had to buy a visa to enter Java. It cost me $25.00 dollars. Then I got my passport stamped. The lines where very long, so I took a picture of the lines and sign. Now I had to recover my bags. When I arrived at baggage I could see that my bags where off the belt and sitting alone. I noticed that the bags had been marked on the outside. So when I went through customs, I was stopped and searched. The bags where opened and I was informed that I could not sell any of my diving gear and they let me go. The weather at the airport was cloudy and raining. I followed the directions that Brad had e-mailed me. Brad Gift, a Scuba diver that I had been e mailing over the past three years about diving on the USS Houston. . Brad who lives on the island of Java, learned of the team that we were putting together to dive on the USS Houston for the 60th year and wanted to dive with us. When Brad heard that I was making the trip, he offered me his help, his house and to be my dive partner while I dived on the USS Houston). As I was coming up on the area that Brad told me to go too, where he or his wife would met me. Eunju (Eunju is Brad's wife, Korean born and a Scuba diver.) came up to me and asked if I was jerry. I informed her that I was and she introduces her self to me. We then headed out of the building because it was so crowded and raining so we went straight to the car. I should have got some money exchanged there because later I could not even pay for the dinner (later story). The road out to Brad's house takes 4 hours if the traffic is light. The way they drive over here is dangerous. They drive on the left and have two lanes, but get four vehicles in them. The city is dirty looking and allot of new tall building's with the poor living under the over pass. Then you leave the city for the country side. The country side is beautiful, lot of rice field's with the villagers working them. Goats, water buffalo at the side of the road. Finally we got to Brad's house. After seeing all the small houses along the way, run down and dirt floors. It was refreshing to see Brad's house. It was surrounded by a brick fence with two painted fish on the walls next to the gate. The house had it own court yard that you could see when the gate was opened. It was a short drive up the drive way to the houses. There were two houses on the property. The one to the right was called woody. It was the first one built and they stayed in it until the house to the left was built. Three dogs met us at the car. Eunju showed me my room; there were three rooms that ran along the back and an open area looking out to Sunda Strait. I was given the middle room with two beds, ice box and stand-up closet. The first room was for Eunju's friend that was visiting from Korea, I had not met him yet or the entire trip. The third room was Brad's daughter (Crystal) then there was the bath room that we all had to use. Sink, shower and toilet, with white /brown tiles. The whole house had white tiles floors. Next to the bathroom is the kitchen big and open. Upstairs is the master bedroom where Brad stayed. When you walk out of the downstairs room onto a wooden deck where the bar and table was at, you could see the sunset from there over Sunda Strait. The lower area by the river was Brad's dive shop and his dive boat. The house was beautiful and next to a river that ran into Sunda Straits.
After I cleaned up and put my gear away, I was taken to the blue moon bar and restaurant to eat Indonesian food. Without the local money, I had to let Eunju pay for the dinner. While we were eating, a friend of theirs drove up, (later I found out that they had been called that I was at the bar) and stayed while we ate. The food was spicy and good. Then we had a beer with the bar owner and family. I played pool with the manager of the biggest hotel on the beach. We were also invited to a birthday party there on Saturday night for Eunju's friend. Brad called from Singapore stating that he would not be back until Friday night. He also stated that there would only be four good days of diving on the USS Houston sun, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. This disappointed me because I was hoping to make 10 days of diving on the USS Houston. This means that I will have over a week of down time away from the USS Houston. I informed Brad that we would talk when he got back about the dive plan. Then the weather turned bad, a storm and hard rain started to fall. The power went off several times before we left to go back to Brad's house. When we arrived at the house I said my good nights and headed off to bed. The weather is hot with some breeze coming off the ocean. There is no air conditioning in the room except a ceiling fan. I had no trouble at first falling asleep. But sometimes during the night I woke up and could not get back to sleep. Then the traffic on the road in front of the house started up. I tried to sleep and stay in bed, but I could not. I was up at 0630 their time watching the waves come in from the Sunda Straits hitting the beach. I wanted to go over to the beach, but there was a problem. The river has big lizards in it, so you can not swim across. The other way is to walk down the road a while then cross over a bridge to get to the beach. So I just stood there and watched the waves come and the fisherman go out to the strait. Later that day after checking my gear I found out that the bulb from my dive light did not make the trip. So Eunju drove me back into town to a dive shop to get one. The drive is three hours long. When we got there, they did not have a bulb so I had to buy a new flashlight. They placed the bulb on order for me. Eunju then took me to store to change out my money. Then we went to another store to buy some food and drinks for the house. Then we had the three hour drive back to the house. We got home just in time, because brad arrived home too. We both talked for awhile about the dive trip and what we were going to do the next day. Brad informed me that I planned the trip just right. The currents on the ship were bad all year long and I got here when there were going to be five straight days of diving. Then it goes to one dive a day or a couple of days before diving again. After that the current's is going to get stronger after these five days. we planned to dive on Sunday, two in the morning and one night dive, on Monday we planned to dive one in the morning and one at 8pm. then on Tuesday three dives and Wednesday two maybe three dives. We also planned to stay at a resort near the boat a couple nights. After talking to Brad about the trip we called it a night. Again I had trouble making it through the night sleeping. I may have gotten three hours of sleep.
March 6, 2004
I rode into work with brad that morning to meet up with his relief. For Brad to take this week off, he had to have someone come in from Korea to take his place so that the airplane could fly on Tuesday. We met up with Troy (Brad's relief) at his hotel in Jakarta and took him to get his car and driver. Then out to the base that housed the airplane. I got to see where brad works out of and his newly painted airplane. While I was there I sent Rebecca an e mail. I found out that Brad's house looses power a lot and his phone goes down so he can not receive and send e mails. Then we took Troy back to the hotel and we went to lunch at Chili's restaurant. It started to rain hard; the streets started to back up and flooded. We still had to meet up with Patrick (Brad's dive partner, who is from Canada, working over in Java) to get the oxygen safety breathing gear to have on the dive trip just in case something happens. We will be diving in an area of the Island that does not have a Hospital and its good have some safety equipment onboard the boat. We met up with Patrick, got the equipment and started to head home in the rain. The traffic was not moving due to the streets backing up. Then we noticed that the gas was low, so we started to look for a gas station. Gas stations are run by the government and there are not many of them. Just as the gas gauge showed empty we found one. With the gas tank filled we headed for Brad's house. While on the toll road we spotted another truck flipped over on its side. This is the second one today. Brad said that he see at least one a day when he makes this trip back and forth to work. We stopped half way to use the bathroom at a rest area. You had to pay for the service, which was a hole in the ground and some water to wash down with. The smell was so bad that you had to hold your nose. But you still had to give them some money to use it. When we arrived home Eunju had dinner ready. After dinner I started to pack my dive gear, when I found that the new flashlight I got from the dive shop was not working and now I will have to take it back to the dive shop after the dives. Now I'm down to two small flashlights. Eunju stated that I could use her flashlight if needed. I got the POW pins, the tiles and the flag ready to go too. After loading the truck and trailer with all the dive tanks and dive gear I headed for bed. It is now 10:37 pm and we have to get up at 0330 am to head to the boat. Again I had trouble sleeping. Maybe it was just getting closer to having my dream come true or jet lag.
March 7, 2004
With the truck loaded up and Eunju not going on the first day, Brad and I head toward the village. It is a 2 hour drive down a bad road. During the trip to the village it rains the whole time. I saw several other villages and people along the way. At one point we saw a female walking down the street nude. Brad stated that there are several of them without clothes and a home. They just walk the streets looking like that. When we got to the village the road was starting to flood. With his 4 wheel drive truck we made it back to the villages. When we arrived at the villages, we are met by the captain and some of the crew. We carry all the gear out on a pier to get to the boat. Brad informed me that the pier was not as long as it is now. That Patrick and he gave the captain money to have the pier made longer so they could get to the boats. That the boat could not get closer to it, because of the shallow water. We loaded up the boat and headed out to the American ship. The captain knows the ships as: the American ship, the Australian and the Japanese ship. They do not know them by their names. We arrive over the USS Houston at 8 am and we got ready for the first dive of the day.
The first dive on the USS Houston
We got our gear on and were standing by to enter the water. The captain and crew were trying to hook on to the USS Houston. The captain knows where it is by the matching up with the land. One point on Panjan Island and the other back to Java. Once we were anchored on the ship, Brad and I were to go down and hook another line on to the USS Houston in case the other line broke loose. We both where not going to take down any camera's at first because we where taking down the lines. To get down to the USS Houston we had to jump in the water and swim to the anchor line to go down to the ship. Brad went into the water first and then I went in. We both met at the anchor line. I was having trouble catching my breath so it took me a little more time to get ready to go down. As I hung on to the anchor line and looked around at the island, I was wondering what the survivors where thinking as they swam toward it. I pulled myself together and took a breath off my regulator started down to the USS Houston. We had to go down 60 feet to the edge of the ship. I started to see the edge and the hull around 40 feet from the surface. Then we stopped at the anchor line. We were around the aft mast area. Brad started to look for a good spot to tie up at. I just floated there thinking to myself. three years in the making, 36 hours to get to Jakarta, 4 hours to drive to Brad's house, two hours drive to the village, 45 minute boat ride out to the USS Houston and now I'm touching the USS Houston. Then I took a few minutes to remember the Officers, Sailors and Marines that did not come back. I said to myself: fair winds and following sea's. Then Brad motioned for me to come to the line where I got to finish putting the line on the ship. With the line secured to the USS Houston, the captain could now recover his anchor line. At this time Brad asked me if I wanted to go back up and get our cameras because the water visibility was great. Then we decided that since we would be down here for 30 minutes and then on the surface for 30 minutes that we would get the cameras then. If the visibility is this good now it should be good on the next dive. We then started heading aft following the side of the ship. We then headed for the bottom just aft of the ship. I could see the aft screw shaft and the rudder clearly; they were not covered over by dirt. It would have been a beautiful shot with a camera, if I had one. I was asked by one of the survivor's to look at the rudder. He wanted to know which position it was at and if there was any battle damage. He stated that he was aft turning the ship when the rudder would not turn anymore. He could not steer the ship at the end. When I got to the rudder, I could see that it was turned and making the ship turn to the right. I went all over it and did not see any battle damage to it to keep it from turning. As I came around and headed up from the rudder, I could see fishing net floating over head. I backed down and could see Brad pointing to a hole in the net that he had gone through. I made it through the hole in the net and headed over to him. We checked out the port screw shaft and the screw guard. We then moved toward the side of the ship checking out the missing port holes along the way. When we got to the side of the ship, I looked over the side where I could see the legs of the aft mast as they headed down to the deep. Then I followed forward a pipe welder to the side of the ship. I had seen this pipe in several video's of the ship shot by Patrick. I followed the side of the ship until my air supply was getting close to where we had planned to head back to the anchor line. I showed Brad my air supply and he acknowledged me with the thumbs up sign. I took my last look at the Houston and headed up the line. Brad stopped at the 15 foot mark on our depth gauge, so we could make our safety stop. While we hung there for three minutes I tried to make out the USS Houston below. All I could see is little fish swimming by and green water. Then it was time to make the last 15 feet to the surface. When I surfaced, the waves where getting rougher and making the swim to the ladder difficult. With the help of the crew taking my fins as I gave it to them. I climbed up the ladder with the rest of my gear. I took off my dive gear and got ready to go back down. The tanks where changed out and the camera gear ready for the next dive just as the rain started to fall. I really had not seen the sun since I arrived in Jakarta. While waiting for the surface time to run out, Brad and I talked about the first dive. Brad informed me that this was the first time he ever had great visibility diving on the USS Houston. I informed him that I saw a video of the USS Houston with that type of visibility during the 60th year by Dave's crew.( David Fallot, American who work over in Java with the Oil company, had head up a dive team of several country to dive on the USS Houston for the 60th. I had been in contact with him by e mail. Dave had also sent me some pictures of the USS Houston that they took during the dives) Brad said that we were lucky to get this type of visibility on the first dive and he hopes the next dives are the same. The current chart showed that the currents were getting stronger while we waited and then they would go to zero current. With zero current it may let the stuff in the water settle to the bottom. We are hoping for good visibility. With fresh tanks and my dive computer working we made our dive plan, which is to go to the hanger bay area. We stood on the side of the boat waiting on the time to be up.
The Second Dive:
With Brad's gear up over the side he went, with the help from the captain's son who gave him his camera while I got my fins on. Now the sea surface is starting to rock and roll. With wet decks from the rain, I slipped back onto the bench. I recovered from the slip and over the side I went. The captain's son handed me my camera and I swam over to the anchor line where I met up with Brad. My breathing was a lot better, so we headed down to the USS Houston. Again I touched the ship with my hand; I was thinking that the visibility had changed from 20 feet to 5 or 6 feet. This time I had my camera and started taking pictures while we headed to the hanger bay area. We arrived at the hanger bay door. As I looked into the dark hole which held the aircraft which my father worked on, I could see light coming through the port side which was now the top side. The sight I'm seening now, I had just seen a couple day's earlier at the USS Houston reunion from a video that Sharron Long (Next generation) had brought back from her trip to Java. Sharron Long went out to the USS Houston during her trip and had divers lay a wreath on the ship. But now I was not looking at the video but actually seeing it for myself. We could not stay very long, due to the air supply. I did not enter the hanger bay at this time but I did touch the hanger bay door area looking for a spot to put the tiles. I did not find one and was going to go deeper in when I noticed that I had reached my 1/3 air rule (use of 1/3 air to get there, 2/3 to get back to the line, and a safety stop at 15 feet for 3 minutes or more). I informed Brad of my air supply and we headed over the top of the hanger bay back to the line. I took pictures of an open hatch and holes in the ship. When we got to the line we headed up to the safety stop. I tried to see the USS Houston but it faded out of sight as I headed to the safety stop. While I was waiting for the three minutes to run out, I was thinking how lucky I was to be here diving on the USS Houston. If I did not make anymore dives on it, I had seen what I came for and anything else is gravy. Then to the surface we went with Brad heading for the ladder first. The water on the surface was rough and stilling raining. Again the captain's son recovers my camera and fins. Then I climbed onboard the boat and took off my gear. We were not in any hurry to change tank's since the next dive was going to be a night dive on the Houston. Brad and I talked about the next dive. Since it was a night dive we wanted to go over the area that we dove that day. So we picked going aft and then over to the hull up to the screw guard then back to the safety line. All we had to do now was wait for five to six hours to do the night dive. The sea was starting to pick up even more now. The rocking motion of the boat over the waves kept me from sleeping. Brad did not have any trouble sleeping during this time. Around two hours out from the dive, we had some food before the dive. We were still waiting for the current to slow down and get to zero or at least one or two on the current chart. The rains were coming off the mountain range and where we were the rain was so strong that you had trouble seeing the shore. Sometimes we had to keep our wet suit on to keep dry. Then it got closer to time to make the night dive, my stomach was starting to rumble. Then while talking to Brad, I lost it. It was probably good that I did that because I felt a lot better after it. This dive brad and I decided that we would not wait at the surface but to meet down at the bottom. All suited up and over the side we both went. I grabbed my camera from the boat crew and down I went with my light on. Going down to the Houston was so different this time, so dark and you could see all the stuff floating by. I have made several night dives over the years that I had been diving, but this one meant more to me. Brad and I again met at the bottom of the safety line, checked our gear and air. I then shined my light over the Houston; all you could see was what I hit with my beam of light. Ghostly feeling looking at the ship. I could see Brad's light so I kept it in sight. While I checked out the night sea life, I came across my first lion fish. It was small, but I tried to take a picture of it before it swam off into the night. We went by the aft mast legs and I followed them out with my light until they disappeared into the dark. Then we followed the side of the ship to the rudder area and turned back to the screw guard. I tried to see everything before my air supply reached the air pressure mark to start heading back. We both worked our way back to the safety line and headed back up to the safety stop. While waiting for the three minutes to go by, I said to myself. Now I know how it feels to be bait on a line waiting for the fish to come by and take a bite out of me. Several different kinds of fish swam through the light beam and around our heads. As we broke surface, the waves where rough, the surface currents were stronger and it was night time. This made it more of a challenge to get back onboard the boat. I again gave the camera and fin to the boat crew and climbed up the ladder after waiting for the waves to go by. While onboard the boat, we packed up our dive gear so we could head back to shore. The boat crew untied us and the captain headed toward the small light on shore. Brad and I talked on the way back about the dive. I told him about the small lion fish that I saw and piece of metal that I believed to be part of the Houston. It was large and light and I put it by the safety line so I could show him on the next dive. The boat ties up at the pier and we unloaded only what we needed for the night. The boat crew would stay onboard the boat and guard the gear. Brad and I headed back to the vehicle and then to a small resort down the road at Merek.
At the resort we got a room each and headed to the restaurant to get something to eat. We both had some fried rice and a coke for dinner. After dinner we called it a night and headed to the rooms. It seems that I was the only one to get a hot shower, which lasted two minutes before getting cold. I hit the bed and slept until 0230 when I was back up. Again I could not sleep so I stayed outside and watched the sunrise over the straits. It was still raining out at sea and heading our way. Everyday it has rained since I have been here. I can't wait to see the sun. We had some breakfast that we brought with us and headed back to the village. We loaded up for the trip back out to the USS Houston. This time we were over the USS Houston in 20 minutes.
On this dive, we were to take down another line and move forward to the hanger bay area and tie off a new line so we could hook on it on the next day dives. We also were to take down the 53 POW pins, my dad's watch and two tiles to take pictures of and place the tiles in the hanger bay area. After talking about the dive, we got ready to go, but the surface current was running fast and the winds did not help. Now we entered the water with Brad going first, with me following. As I hit the water, Eunju's light came off and started to float to the back of the boat. I had to swim and get it before it floated away. I had to swim back to the side of the boat and get my camera before going down. After getting the camera the boat crew gave me the green bag. The green bag contains the 53 POW pins, my dad's watch and two tiles. As I was getting close to the anchor line a big wave hit me and down the green bag went to the ship. The green bag was now free falling to the bottom. I was now so tired from being hit by the waves that it was hard for me to go down to the bottom but I made it down to the side of the ship. At the bottom I could not catch my breath. My air supply was already 1/3 low, so I told Brad it was not a good dive for me and to abort the dive. We worked our way back up to the surface. I got onboard and Brad took the line back down to re-tie it closer to the hanger bay. After Brad resurfaced over the hanger bay, we pulled him into the boat using the line that he took down. Now when we come out tomorrow for the next dive, we will be closer to the hanger bay to work from. Then Brad and I talked about the next dive on the USS Houston. Since it was going to be at 8 pm and a night dive, we decided to go back to Brad's house and fill the tanks up for the next couples of days of diving. So the captain headed the boat into shore and off we went. When we arrived back at the pier, we unloaded the tanks and carried them back to Brad's vehicle. Then we had the long two hour dive back to the house. This time the road had a lot of traffic, which made the trip longer. After arriving at Brad house and unloading the tanks we started to fill the tanks. I also checked out my dive computer which was acting funny. When I opened the battery area, I found the battery to be rusted. So I cleaned them up and made sure the water could not get to them. All the tanks were reloaded on to the truck and the gear checked out, we sat down to dinner that Eunju had made. We sat outside on the dinner table, had a real good meal and watched the sunset over Sunda Straits. You have to see the sunset for yourself, because I can not do it justice by telling you what it looks like. Breathe taking makes you want to stay over there and not come home. After it got dark, Brad and I answered some e-mails, and then we went to bed. Sometime during the night the electricity went out. No fan, good and hot, I was back up. By this time I should have been able to get a good night sleep, but no.
That morning we all were ready to leave for the trip to the village to meet the boat. Now we had that two hour road trip over the bad road. If they would just fix the big holes it would not take so long to get there. This time it was Brad, Eunju and I making the boat trip out to the USS Houston. We arrived over the ship around 7:30 am. When we arrived, several fishing boats were using the lines that we had tied to the ship. Now the captain told them to move on so he could tie up. Now we are ready to enter the water. This time I'm going to take my USS Houston hat down to get some pictures of. We were going to stay around the hanger bay area during this dive. So off we go, Brad, Eunju and then me. We all three met at the bottom and checked our gear, then off to the mouth of the hanger bay. When we got there, we looked into the hanger bay door. There was a lot of the floor and items blocking the entry way. You still could go over the pile but the visibility was not good and if the silt got kicked up, then we could not see each other. So we decided to swim around the outside and take pictures. I took some pictures of the hanger bay area and hatches that I found. It was a good dive but not very clear. Then it was time to head back up to line. We all met up checked the air supply and headed for the safety stop. While at the safety stop the line was pulling us up two feet then down two feet. This was from the action of the boat on the surface. During that time, my hat worked it way free and fell down to the USS Houston below. Now I have lost my green bag and my USS Houston hat. We all surfaced and headed to the boat. Again the waves were very rough and high. We all had trouble getting on board. After all the gear was off and the tanks changed Brad asked about the hat. I informed him during the safety stop; the hat broke free from the surface action and fell to the ship. Then we talked about the next dive while we got something to eat. This dive is going to be to the front of the USS Houston, then back to the hanger bay area. Now we had to wait until the current got slower to dive in. We lay around waiting for the time to enter the water. Now it was time to enter the water. This time I took two small American flags strapped to my boot. This way I would not loose them. I wanted to take something back to the reunion to show them. When I got to the bottom I was still having trouble clearing my mask. So I decided to remove the extra lens to help me see underwater when I get back from the dive. We all followed the edge of the ship forward until we reached the 110 foot mark, then we leveled off and headed back to the hanger bay area. It was a good dive, I saw a lot of the foreword ship area, but did not see the anchor chains or the broken area of the bow. Then the time ran out, up to the surface again another safety stop, this time longer due to the depth. The surface was still rough and rolling making getting out of the water hard. Once onboard the ship, we talked about the next dive. This time it has to be a 90 foot or less. We decided to check out the hull and aft of the ship. After planning the dive, we had to wait until the next slow current time. We lay around and tried to sleep. Unable to sleep I watched the sun try to come out and took some pictures of the mountain area, power plant, Merak, Panjang Island and Bojonegara. I even took pictures of the boat crew. Finally it was time to suit up and roll over the side. We all met at the bottom next to the line. This way we did not have to battle with the surface currents while waiting on everyone to get to the line. Down at the bottom we checked air pressure and off we went to the hanger bay to hang my American flag over the opening of the hanger bay. It took a couple of minutes to get it hung, and then off to the hull area. The hull had allotted of plants growing on it. It is also covered with dirt coming from the shore area. Then we saw what looked like the stab. We followed it aft to the rudder area. On the way I could see where it started to drop off to the keel of the ship. The aft stab area had a tear placed in it. It looks like something had hit it, no hole, just pieces pulled away from the ship. We continued to the rudder area again. Saw the nets covering the top area of the rudder. I could see the rudder was up and turning the ship to the right. Then we stopped at the port shaft, took pictures (they did not come out). Then on the way back, stopped at the p- guard, took some pictures (to dark). Then we headed back to the hanger bay to recover the American flag that I had placed on the ship for the second time. We cut it down, folded it in some what fashion. Brad clipped it to his be vest so we would not loose it. I lost a green bag, my Houston hat, all on the ship. I did not want to loose this flag. We got back on the surface and then on the ship. Brad informed us that the flag fell back to the ship when he got to the surface. The surface was real rough and it was hard to get back in the boat. Enuju almost fell for it, and it took her awhile but she caught on. They had placed it up side down from the mast of the boat. We rode all the way back to the village with it like that. The distress sign for the USS Houston. We arrived at the village as the sun was going down, got some sunset pictures of the mountain and power plant. Then off to the resort to check in and to get a half ass warm shower. 3 minutes or less, navy shower. No one believes in hot water except the big resorts. We ate dinner and called it a night. I could not sleep the whole night. I walked outside and checked out the water front. No stars, just black sky. I finally laid down waiting for the morning to come. It finally arrived. We had some peanut butter sandwiches to eat for breakfast. Then off for the fishing village making it there around 0730. Load up; and had to have another boat take us out to the bigger boat. The tide was out and the water level was very low. We also had the dog on this trip too. I forgot to mention that we took a small dog from Brad's house for the two day trip. Now we get on dive site. Can not enter the water until around 0900, this is when the current slowed down on the bottom. The boat captain informed me that the current was too fast. He does not know about the table of currents that we are working off of. The current can be rolling along, and then it slows down to let you dive on the USS Houston. The surface current is still a little fast and rough. Brad informed me that when he first started coming out to the USS Houston, he did not have a current chart to go by. They would throw things in the water and count how fast it would float by the boat. Then they would dive on the Houston when it would slow down. Now he dives by the current chart.
The captain and I talked (I should rephrase that) we tried to talk about the USS Houston. I showed him where his boat was tied up to on the ship, by the USS Houston chart that I brought along for the dives. Now he knows what he is tie up to and fishing over. The captain told me that they find the Houston by dead reckoning from the shore of Java and Panjang Island. When they get close, they drop an anchor to hit the ship. Some of them have lost there anchor by hitting the ship in the wrong area. They only get you close to the ship. The diver has to go down with another line so that the anchor can be removed from the ship. The captain knows the ship as the American ship. When the divers are down with the line they can position the lines to the area that they want to dive the most. We had two lines down. One near the aft part of the ship, it was close to the aft mast, forward of the p-shaft guard. The second line was tie to the stanchion near the main mast, under the gun tubes. This let us go forward and down the main mast. Also back to the hanger bay area. Now it was time to enter the water. We again met down at the bottom of line one. Then we started to go down the leg of the aft mast. I could see the first level as we went down it. It was covered with growth like the hull of the ship. We were hoping to see the green bag on the bottom, but we could not see the bottom. We got to the last level; it was sticking out at 96 feet. There was nothing but dark water after that. We started back to the line area. I saw a puffer fish that was big hanging around the legs by the last level. I saw a sting ray flying through the legs a couple feet back.( no camera to shoot , film got hung up in the camera) we made it back to the ship deck where I looked down and saw a reel looking object between the deck and the legs of the aft mast. Brad took some pictures of me holding on to the ship. The current started to pick up, so we had to hang on to stop from moving. After the pictures we headed up the line to the surface. After the safety stop we boarded the boat. On that dive I also took the small American flags along with me. This was the third trip I took them down with me. We removed our gear and wet suit's to get dry. Another long wait and this would be my final dive on the USS Houston. It would be the main mast, bridge area, and director. This would be the deepest dive yet! The wait was long, we tried to sleep and I may have gotten a cat nap. But I was up most of the trip. We ate and then talked about the USS Houston. The Japanese ship and the HMS Perth. Brad said that he saw guns still in the Japanese ship when he dove on it. The HMS Perth is falling apart and breaking up. Then it was time (1657) for our last dive on the USS Houston. We made sure the flashlights worked due to the dark area we were going. We all left the boat and down the rope we went. We went down rope # 1 where we were going to cut it before going over to rope# 2. We had some trouble cutting the line. Eunju cut the line above the deck. We wanted all the line off the ship. I had to cut the rope off on the lower end. We then headed to line two. The visibility was poor. You had to use the flashlight or look for a black objects moving in front of you. Sometimes I would loose them, but I knew where they were heading and kept moving toward the #2 line. I saw the hanger bay top hatch, looked in it and saw fish swimming out of it from the darkness. I then arrived at line #2 where tie up to the stanchion under the gun tubes was. Brad then gave Eunju the camera and we (Brad and I) headed for the bridge. Eunju stayed at the line for a safety diver while we went down the main mast. We saw the bridge area, where the bridge area was filled of slit and dangerous to enter. Then to the second level where there were no lights or guns, just the shields for the guns. We left that area and headed down to the crow nest (director). While looking inside I could see by flashlight that it was filled of sea life and no glass. Then I looked at my depth gauge and it read 120 feet. I should be right on the bottom. Then I turned my light to the bottom and noticed that I was just off the bottom. The light shines over a flat gray surface and it was ghostly quiet. No fish and dark, I took a last look inside the director before I noticed that my bottom time was running out. Brad was up about 10 feet waiting for me to get to him. We both looked at our gauges and started heading up the mast, but on the back side. I was trying to see everything I could before getting back to the deck. We had to start up due to a longer safety stop. I kept looking back as the ship disappeared under me. Then it was gone. I said to myself and the men still onboard, fair winds and following seas, your families miss you, take care. Then I made it to the safety stop where it felt like it would never end. We had fish that was playing with us but the line was going up and down trying to pull out of our hands. Eunju was just floating off to my side and Brad was under me. His bubbles where hitting me and making the fish run away. The safety stop was over and we headed for the surface. Eunju was first to the ladder and in the boat when I arrived at the ladder. I climbed the ladder and pulled myself in the boat for the last time over the USS Houston. I was just getting the hang of diving the USS Houston. The USS Houston is not an easy ship to dive. For the next two weeks the current will only be good at night to dive the USS Houston. So I will have to try again next year or so. I had a heavy heart as we headed back to the village. The sun was setting and it was nice sunset, so I tried to take some pictures of it and the villages. I also took a lot of the Java coast and the island as we came in. The rain was coming over the mountain when we arrived at the village. Several men helped us to remove all the gear from the boat. We paid the boat captain and left the village. Back to Chilgon where Brad lives which takes us two hours to make. We met his daughter at a restaurant for dinner. Then back to the house for the night. I went to bed around 2200 and was up at 0220. Could not sleep and stayed in the bed until morning.
March 11, 2004
This day was clean up day and time to do our dive books. We cleaned up the dive equipment in fresh water and filled some tanks for our dive on Sunday. Then we went over the dive computers and filled the dive books out. We looked at pictures that brad took with his underwater camera. Some did not come out, which was a disappointment. Then we went to the blue moon for dinner and called it a night.
March 12, 2004
Up early to go to Jakarta so that I could return my dive flashlight that I bought, because it did not work. But first to the American Embassy to exchange money and buy some food. Then we went to the dive shop where I got a new bulb for my flashlight and gave them theirs back. Eunju wanted some Korean food so we stopped at a Korean market. When you come to town you have to get everything before going back to Brad's house. On this trip we took in a movie. I saw Cold Mountain while they saw the movie love. After the movie we headed to the mall to eat. We walked around for a while looking at the stores. Then it was time for the long drive home. When we arrived at the house everyone said good night and headed to their rooms.
March 13, 2004
Today we are going to take Brad's truck back to Jakarta to pick up Brad's rubber boat. Brad also wanted to buy some fishing equipment while we were there. We could not pick up the boat in the car yesterday. We met Daniel at his boat shop in Jakarta. Daniel imports boats to the island for a living. He was going to show us a local place to buy fishing equipment. We got to the local market place where we parked in an Old Dutch fort. We looked around in the fort and went to the second floor. We could see the ship parked and where they had cut off the water over the years. The water used to come right up to the Dutch fort, but it does not now. Then we took in a museum of Java history of their boats and fishing. Took some pictures of the Dutch fort and museum. Then off to the market place to buy some reels and poles. It was a hole in the wall shop, but had everything Brad needed to get started fishing. After getting the fishing equipment, we went to another restaurant for lunch. I had pepper steak and it was very hot. After lunch off to Daniel's shop to get Brad's rubber boat. While at Daniel's, Brad was shown how to make his fishing lure up, while Daniel put the fishing line on the reel. The boat was loaded as the rain begins to fall. We said our goodbye's and headed back to the house. We also took Johnny along to Brad's village where he took a bus up to Merek to recover Daniel's car. Daniel had picked up a boat from there and drove it back to his shop leaving his car in the village. Since it was late coming back, we stopped at the blue moon for dinner. I ordered a hamburger Java style. They mixed something inside the meat. Some what good but not an America hamburger. Back to the house where we unloaded the boat. Then we checked on e mail while Brad put the fishing gear on the big boat. I answered the one from Rebecca (wife) and sent one to Val, trying to find other spot where the survivors where held on the island before leaving the island on Thursday. I then called it a night.
March 14, 2004
Up the next morning getting my dive equipment ready for a dive trip to an island in the middle of Sunda Strait just down from Brad's house. We had to leave early due to the tide at the mouth of the river. If we did not leave on time, the tide would get too low for the sea otter to get out the river to the sea. The river is the only thing keeping the mouth open to the sea. Brad had his friend come along with us, so that someone would be on the boat to recover us if we got to far from the boat during the dive. Also to watch the boat from anyone coming onboard to take our things. Off we went, going through brown river water until we reached green sea water. We decided to fish on the way to the island. Both lines in the water, we noticed a boat in trouble. We pulled the lines in and went over to them. We towed them to the shore where they could get into their village. We then went to the small island in the middle between Java and Sumatra. The coast off the island that we are diving at, protect us from the Sunda Strait current. But there was some wave action on the bottom. Which made us go back and forth? When we got anchored, we suited up and over the side we went. The water was warm and somewhat clear. I wish the USS Houston had more days like this. I took a lot of pictures of the sea life, and then I noticed that Brad had disappeared. He was just taking a picture behind a rock and I could see his bubbles. But now they where gone and Eunju had gone up to the boat earlier. I was alone on the bottom to take pictures. I had a lot of air in my bottles so I was going to take my time on the bottom. This dive was the kind of dives that I did by myself back in the states. So I headed closer to the shore line taking pictures. I saw a horn fish and I was getting in position to take his picture. It would have been a good picture but there was no more film in the camera. Just my luck, no film left and a pretty picture. I headed for the surface, finding a rock to hang on too at 15 feet for my safe stop. After 3 minutes I surfaced about a hundred feet from the boat. I could see Brad, Eunju and the Captain looking in the water for my bubbles. So I swam over to the boat, got in and dried off. We had some lunch and brad was going to take a nap before diving again. I left the boat and swam in to the rock shore. I swam to the rocks and waited for the wave to come in so I could get up on them. I walked the rock shore line finding a lot of flip flops, some floats which I picked up. Then I found a back pack which I put them in. I felt like Robinson Caruso on the island. Then I found some foot prints in the sand. There was someone on the island or had been there that morning. I came up on a turtle bed where someone had removed the eggs. A little farther down, I found a canoe boat out of wood that had water in it. A path where someone had been walking through. I kept going down the beach where I came to a house that was build out of brick. The house was falling down and no roof. Then a goat came out from behind the house, walking toward the woods. I turned and could see the boat coming to get me off the island. I swam out to the boat, so they did not have to beach it. We then went a little farther down the beach to a cave area to dive. Brad said that you can dive through the cave. But we decided that the waves action was to rough for us to go through the cave without getting bounced around. We suited up and over the side for the second time that day. The bottom had more rocks and less sea life on it. We still looked around and took pictures of star fish and any other things I could get in my lens. The water was not as clear as the first dive. We all stayed together this trip and took a lot of pictures. Brad tries to take a lot of close up's of the sea life that we could find. Then Eunju and I started up and stopped at 15 feet for our safe stop. Brad was going to take one more picture before heading up to the boat. As we just hang suspended in the water waiting on the time to go by, Eunju just floated so still, while I rocked back and fort. I tried to take a picture of her just floating out there. Then the time was up and we headed back to the boat. It was hard to get out of the water due to the wave action and Brad's small ladder. Even Brad had to be helped onto the boat. All of us onboard, we headed back to Brad's house hoping that the water level was high enough to get the boat through the mouth of the river. We kept our wet suits half on in case we had to enter the water to push the boat through the mouth of the river. I tried to get some sun on my back as we made the 30 minute ride back to Brad's house. Brad got the boat line up for us to enter the mouth of the river, when we hit the sand. The motor was raised up some and we were able to get through the mouth of the river. No one had to enter the water to push the boat. After tieing up to the dock, we unloaded the boat and clean up started. This time I had to get my stuff ready for the flight home. Brad wanted to go diving on Tuesday if he could get the day off. I had to stopped diving on Wednesday for the trip home on Thursday, or at less 24 hours before flying. While brad was cooking some hamburgers, I got a shower. We ate dinner on the porch and watched the sunset over Sumatra. I took some pictures hoping that they came out. Some of my underwater pictures did not come out like I wanted them too. I did not find this out until I got home to the USA. After dinner Brad had to pick up his daughter and I went to my room to write in the book. While I was writing I must have fallen asleep.
March 15, 2004
Brad had to go to work today. I'm writing in the book waiting on Eunju to get up. I cleaned up the underwater camera and case for the trip home. I needed to air out my equipment more today. I also wanted to help Eunju put her book case together. I told her I would fix it for her before I left for the states. While I was working on the book case in woody, the weather turned bad and started to rain. I took some pictures of the rain coming down on the river and porch. We waited for Brad to return from work to eat. Then we sat around talking about the days that we dove on the USS Houston and the island. I only had a couple more days on Java and then I would have to return to the USA. The next couple days, Eunju took me back to the city to buy some items for my family. I tried to pack some of them, but some of them where to big, so Brad said he would mail them for me.
Brad and Eunju took me to the airport for my trip home. We took some pictures and said our good by. I told them that if it was not for them, this trip would have not happened. We became good friends over the three weeks that I was there. Brad and Eunju did not want me to go, but the time had arrived. I sent them on there way so that they did not have to wait with me.
Now it was time to go to the holding area for my flight. We boarded on time and were delayed on the take off. I tried to sleep on the way to Taipei but no luck. It seems that I could not get into a pattern of sleep while on this trip. When we landed in Taipei, we were placed in holding area guarded by military. Something was going on in the country. Our carry on bags was gone through several times before we boarded the next flight back to the states. I found out later that the prime minister and his second in charge were shot on the other side of the Island and the airport was under military control. They let us board the airplane and got off on time. Very long flight back to the states arrived at night in LAX. Called home to let them know that I'm on my final flight to them. Arrived the next morning in Pensacola. Good to be home, but I would like to have gotten more dives on the USS Houston. I was very lucky to find Brad and his family to put me up and get me to the USS Houston. Like Brad said I could have not planned it any better to get there when we could dive for four days in a row on the ship. Thanks Brad.
I kept in contact with Brad and Eunju over the next couple months. Brad and Eunju made another dive on the USS Houston on April 3, 2004, where Eunju found my green bag at 115 feet next to the superstructure. The bag contained my dad's watch, which was filled up with sea water and turning brown of rust. The two tiles which they put back on the USS Houston hanger bay on the next dive. The 53 POW/MIA pins, which where placed in fresh water, but still became damaged later. The watch and pins where sent back to me. Thanks Eunju for finding them. Over all the trip was a great one and I will never forget the sights of the USS Houston, Java and my friends, Brad and Eunju? This was a once in a life time trip.