|UNEXSO divers uncover a mystery from the 'Papa Doc' wreck|
|Friday, 21 January 2011 17:06|
For centuries, the world has had a fascination with shipwrecks and buried treasure. To this day, undiscovered artifacts and preserved relics of the past hide in the deep reluctantly awaiting the moment where they will be rediscovered by mankind.
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- When the dive team at Bahamas Dive shop UNEXSO (Underwater Explorers Society) goes diving, there is always a hope of seeing that extraordinary ‘something’ to remember the dive by; a true ‘one for the story books’.
That is exactly what happens when one finds buried treasure, as scuba instructor Jim Bader found out when he rediscovered a WW2 Rifle Bayonet at a dive site called ‘Papa Doc’, named after the Haitian dictator Papa Doc Duvalier, who died in 1971.
‘It was just there, peeking out at me’ Jim recounts, ‘I felt a rush all over and realized that I just got lucky’. The bayonet had somehow worked it’s way up and out of the sand, probably due to hurricanes, storms and surge, slowly revealing the tip, until it was noticeable.
A few hours of research and some phone calls had confirmed the terrific find as a rare 16 inch 1943 WW2 M1 Garand United States Army Rifle Bayonet, made in Springfield MA, by Wilde Tools.
Over the years, the odd bullet has been recovered, but nothing as exciting as this.
The Story of Papa Doc
It was 1968, and a group of mercenaries had pulled together to travel by ship to Haiti, to join the fight against the ruthless dictator Papa Doc Duvalier.
They had loaded the 70ft motor vessel Yorel II, with guns and ammunition, weapons and men, and set out one night from the shores of Grand Bahama Island. Vastly overloaded, they capsized and sank into the sea, the vessel being so heavy, there was no hope of righting and it is speculated that there were no survivors.
Surprisingly over the years the ocean is still giving up treasures piece by piece, in places where divers pass by all the time not realizing what lurks under the sand.
A newer wreck, a tugboat called the ‘Badger’ was put down in the place of the disintegrated Papa Doc and is visited by divers today on a regular basis. Sunk in about 50 feet, the Badger is a great wreck for any level diver to explore, particularly the newer divers discovering a wreck for the first time.
One call to the Garand Collectors Association, an American based rifle collectors club, revealed the bayonet’s authenticity.
After Jim brought the bayonet in, it was soaked overnight in fresh water. Slightly softened, the 43 years of growth and coral was easier to remove, and using a small chisel and soft hammer the team chipped diligently until the metal, which was in astonishingly good condition, revealed the facts they sought.
Just above the hilt, markings for Wilde Tool company and below the United States Army emblem with the date of manufacture are clearly stamped.
Although many bayonets were made, this find is rare due to the 16 inch length and manufacturer Wilde Tool. The standard issue bayonet was cut down frequently to 10 inches and few 16’s remain.
Needless to say this exciting and rare find will be on display in the UNEXSO museum where divers and visitors can enjoy a look into the elusive past of the Bahama’s ocean history, which even today, is still being uncovered.
Photo 1: Scuba instructor Jim Bader rediscovered a WW2 Rifle Bayonet at a dive site called ‘Papa Doc’, named after the Haitian dictator Papa Doc Duvalier, who died in 1971. (Photo: Eddy Raphael)
Photo 3: When the dive team at Bahamas Dive shop UNEXSO goes diving, there is always a hope of seeing that extraordinary ‘something’ to remember the dive by; a true ‘one for the story books’. (Photo: Eddy Raphael)
Photo 4: Although many bayonets were made, this find is rare due to the 16 inch length and manufacturer Wilde Tool. The standard issue bayonet was cut down frequently to 10 inches and few 16’s remain. (Photo: Eddy Raphael)
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