Diving Papua New Guinea: Milne Bay – Diving the B17F Black Jack Wreck

The damaged nose of the Black Jack wreck

The really special thing about the Black Jack is the fact that the plane is so intact and sitting as she is, on a sandy seabed in clear blue waters with visibility that can easily reach 40m+, it’s almost like diving a set from a Hollywood movie.

The nose is badly crumpled from the impact of the crash landing and the propellers on the four engines are somewhat twisted, but the rest of the plane is basically all there which is quite remarkable after over 67 years underwater.

Apparently the plane sank within 45 seconds of coming to a halt and the crew only just had time to scramble out with the 3 wounded members.

Which meant that apart from two waist guns and the radio transmitters, which were jettisoned before prior to ditching, Black Jack took all it’s contents with it to the sea floor.

Pierce, Johnson & Pennefather found machine guns still in their turrets with hundreds of rounds of ammunition in the tracks to the guns and the twin tail guns could still be moved freely in their mounts.

The other very significant thing about the Black Jack is that at nearly 50m depth she is at the very limits of recreational diving and although it’s a straightforward dive, in as much as the water is clear & there are no major hazards or obstructions outside of the plane, decompression & bottom time are critical to a safe overall experience.

Two divers are reported to have lost their lives diving Black Jack since it was discovered, so it has to be said that this is a dive only for the experienced & competent.

Glenn from Tufi Dive coming down the line

There is a permanent guideline from the shallow reef, which will lead you down the slope, and at around 15m you will be able to see the wreck below you.

There is usually a fairly strong current that sweeps along the slope so the line is great to guide you and provide a reference point – particularly so on the way back…

The line goes all the way down to quite close to the huge tail of the wreck and from there you should head to the front of the plane to take in it’s full size.

Entry into the plane is possible but given the depth of the wreck, the extreme likelihood of nitrogen narcosis and all the potential hazards inside, only the most foolish would even consider doing that – just don’t go there…

A much safer option is to look inside the cockpit, as the windows are open.

The current is usually strongest out in front of the plane and swimming against it will increase your air consumption even more, so take great caution with your air supply and retain half a tank for the ascent and inevitable deco stop on the rope.

Diving Papua New Guinea: Milne Bay – Black Jack B17F Wreck Photography

If ever there was a wide-angle dive – this is it… take your fish-eye lens if you have one, but if not use the widest lens you own or can borrow as you will need it.

I personally used the Nikon 10.5mm fish-eye with a D300 set to ISO 400.

Diving Papua New Guinea: Milne Bay – Useful Black Jack B17F Wreck Sites

– By far the most comprehensive site is b17blackjack.com run by Justin Taylan who also runs the excellent Pacific Wrecks website and who gave me permission to use the above water images of Black Jack.

Pacific Wrecks also has a very good section on Black Jack.

– Rod Pearce also has some interesting stuff on his site Nuigini Diving.

Diving Papua New Guinea: Milne Bay – Black Jack B17F Wreck Dive Operators

Tufi Dive Resort: It is a about a two hour trip across Collingwood Bay from Cape Nelson to Boga Boga and you need good weather to do it, but Tufi Dive do the Black Jack regularly on special request. I dived Black Jack with TufiDive and both Glann & Archie, the dive leaders at the resort, know the wreck well and how to dive it safely.

– Rod Pearce includes Black Jack on his wreck diving specials on his boat MV Barbarian so you can combine diving the wreck with meeting one of the men who discovered it!

– Craig de Wit on Golden Dawn include Black Jack as part of the Milne Bay itinerary the boat does at certain times of the year. I first dove Black Jack from Golden Dawn back in about 2001 and Craig also knows the wreck well and how to dive it safely.

Diving Papua New Guinea: Milne Bay – Black Jack B17F Wreck and Boga Boga Village

No trip to dive the Black Jack would be complete without a visit to Boga Boga village where you will be made very welcome by the very friendly villagers.

It’s location on the white sand beach makes it very picturesque indeed and it makes for a very pleasant surface interval to wander round the village.

Boga Boga Village Image Gallery

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