American B17 Bomber `Black Jack'

12-Jun-2013 Back to Image Gallery

American B17 Bomber `Black Jack'


This beautifully intact World War 11 aircraft had just been discovered before I joined a cruise aboard MV Telita, owned by Bob & Dinah Halstead. I was very excited having the opportunity to capture images of this classic war bird but it was a very challenging dive.

The aircraft rests in 45 meters of water and at this depth light levels are low, bottom time is short and decompression stops on the way back up are essential. Allowing for descent and ascent time I would have just 15 minutes at this depth to capture the images I needed for publication in my next book, Australia and The South Pacific, due for release in 1989.

This called for a well structured and executed dive plan between my model, Christine Deacon and I in order to achieve successful images. Fortunately we both had a lot of experience with deep wreck photography so we completed the dive with just enough air for our long decompression and grateful for the spare air cylinders available as backup in case they were needed.

We were blessed with calm seas, cloudless skies and 50 meters visibility. It turned out to be one of the best deep, decompression dives I have ever done.

Photo Data: Location: Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea Genre: Extreme Wide Angle Sunlight
Nikon F3 with Nikkor 10.5 lens, Aquatica Housing & Dome Port. Manual Exposure Mode. Strobes turned off. Kodachrome 200 ISO Film, Aperture F2.8 @ 1/30th Second. Image by Kevin Deacon.

Photo Hints: The key to success in this situation is to have a conservative shot list visualised before the dive. Then a dive plan must be formed and discussion between photographer and model is essential so both parties are clear about the shooting positions, picture angles and model co-ordination. With just 15 minutes or less the dive must flow like a well rehearsed dance.

On such dives I never plan to capture more than two key angles of a deep wreck but I always have a third angle in mind should time permit. It rarely does!

Interesting Facts: The Boeing B17 Bombers were the largest aircraft in the American Air Force during the early part of WW11 and flew many missions through Europe and the Pacific. They had a wingspan of 115 feet and were heavily armed with machine guns hence the term, Flying Fortress'. Aircraft like these and the fighter planes in support were the key to winning the war. Especially in the Pacific.

This B17, named Black Jack, suffered engine failure returning from a bombing mission over the Japanese Base in Rabaul. Captain Ralph Deloach executed a perfect belly landing on the water thus allowing all the crew to escape before she sank into deep water just meters away from the coral reef.

Natives from the adjacent village of Boga Boga paddled out in canoes, rescued the pilot and crew and assisted with their evacuation back to their base in Port Moresby.

Back to Image Gallery