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Raja Ampat Dive Sites the P47


Raja Ampat Dive Sites the P47

Local Guide to Raja Ampat Dive Sites the P47

Raja Ampat stands out as the world’s most diverse ecosystem, boasting many coral and marine species in its tropical paradise. However, the northern region of Raja Ampat is also home to the wreckage of a P47 Thunderbolt, known as “Santa Maria,” which has a captivating history.

The P47 Thunderbolt, a North American fighter aircraft, played a significant role in the Pacific theatre of World War II. Despite being eventually replaced by the more renowned P51 Mustang, the P47 maintains one of the most impressive combat records of the war.

As for the “Santa Maria,” piloted by Major Harry Orden, he did not witness the war’s conclusion. On October 21, 1944, Major Orden led a strike group, “Tubby Flight,” comprising seven P47s, on an attack from their base on Noemfoor Island in the Biak region to Haroekoe in the West.

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Running low on fuel during their return due to unanticipated fuel consumption and disorientation caused by bad weather, the decision was made to ditch all seven planes in the ocean through an opening in the clouds. While six P47s successfully ditched, the seventh climbed to a higher altitude to radio their last known location before joining the others near Wai Island in the Bantanta region of Raja Ampat.

Although all seven pilots survived the emergency landings and subsequent night, the squadron lost all seven P47s. Divers have located three of the wrecks, and it is believed that there may be up to 10 other aeroplane wrecks in the reefs surrounding Wai Island.

Among the three discovered P47s, the “Santa Maria” is the most intact and accessible, resting at 28m on a sloping reef. The second lies at 38m on the same reef system, requiring experienced and qualified divers to explore. The third is entirely broken up in 2m of water.

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The “Santa Maria” presents an awe-inspiring sight, lying upside down with its fuselage and wings intact. Due to its depth and position on the reef, the wreck has been well-preserved, protected by the strong currents common on the East side of Wai Island.

Over the 60+ years underwater, coral growth and marine life have made the old warplane their home, featuring colourful soft coral growth and groups of Barracuda around the wreck. Despite its modest size, with a wingspan of only 12m, the reefs of Wai Island teem with marine life and impressive coral growth, making Wai Island itself one of the most picturesque islands in the Raja Ampat region.

For divers who appreciate history, exploring this wreck is a must. Be sure to include it in your list of dive sites to experience in the area.

About Meridian Adventure Dive  

Situated in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, Meridian Adventure Dive is a PADI 5 Star Resort and winner of the PADI Green Star award. Scuba divers enjoy our professional services that have become synonymous with both the PADI and Meridian Adventure names.

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Picture of Adrian Stacey
Adrian Stacey
Scuba Diver ANZ Editor, Adrian Stacey, first learned to dive on the Great Barrier Reef over 24 years ago. Since then he has worked as a dive instructor and underwater photographer in various locations around the world including, Egypt, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico and Saba. He has now settled in Australia, back to where his love of diving first began.
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