I was brought up in a coastal town on the island of Malta. As a child, war stories told by older members of our community described air raids being watched from rooftops, bombs falling in streets close by and, most fascinating of all, of watching planes being shot down into the sea. Such stories have been confirmed by the accounts of former servicemen who served on board rescue launches often under threat from enemy aircraft. These brave men spent long hours at sea searching for and rescuing downed pilots. In the decades that followed the end of World War II, pieces of aircraft were occasionally dragged up in fishermen’s nets or brought up by divers. Rarely, remains were salvaged for restoration and eventual display in a museum.
For some years now, I have been involved in the systematic survey of the seabed off the Maltese Islands. Using state of the art sonar, underwater robots and rebreather diving technology we search for, map and study the islands’ underwater archaeology. Most frequent of all the various cultural remains located on the seafloor are aircraft crash sites. The state of preservation of these sites varies enormously. Sometimes, all we find are concentrations of aircraft debris, signs that the aircraft crashed into the sea at terminal velocity. Occasionally we are regaled with the opportunity to study an intact aircraft - sitting on the seabed as though it just taxied into its place of rest. Such perfectly preserved aircraft provide evidence for the skills of these airmen who under much pressure, possibly even wounded, managed to ditch their aircraft in the water.
I am privileged to collaborate with a large and varied group of brilliant people who all contribute to making this research a reality. As an avid believer in sharing the results of our work through the media, seminars and academic journals I also hope that some of these aircraft may one day be accessed as underwater archaeological sites. For those who do not dive, the plan is to make available virtual visits via the world wide web.
Through Bremont’s blog you can keep up to speed with our ongoing research and discoveries.