Lying at the top of the island nation of Nauru, among the remaining phosphate pinnacles and between the jungle that has grown in the tropical environment of this Pacific Island, is the wreckage of a World War II bomber plane.
The plane is part of the occupation story of Nauru, when the Japanese had hold of the island in an important strategic location for it's assault on the Pacific. The plane, the US Coral Princess, was on a bombing mission but was hit by Japanese fire in June 1944. Wreckage landed all over the country, but most of it remains where it landed, being up on the highest point of Nauru, near the very anti-aircraft gunner that brought it down. All 6 men on board were killed on impact, with just 2 bodies initially recovered from the difficult terrain by the Japanese occupants.
Some parts of the plane are now on display in Canberra's Australian War Memorial, and a couple of pieces are in the Nauru Military Museum and in someone's front yard along the international runway, but the rest is still right where it landed.
Laying eyes on the crumpled but distinctly unnatural pieces of the plane is the reward for climbing in and over the trees, plants, and rugged pinnacles, after finding the right path from the middle road towards Buada Lagoon. I went with a couple of pretty sporty people, one of which had done the "bomber track" before, and was confident of where we were going.
Searching for the marking pink ribbons along the way, the track is sometimes clear, and most times not. It's hard going, and pretty dangerous at times, and a wrong foot could definitely have had me still up there! We got lost a few times, and I needed help to get through and down from the climb on more occasions than I would like to admit!
It started to rain just as our group had reached the top, and I gave way to safety and concentration rather than taking the volume of photos I could have. Much of the sights of the various parts of the plane will now have to remain in my own memory.
The wreckage is scattered all over the area, and it paid to keep an eye out for any metal-like bits, to discover another section of the small plane. Some lying on top of the pinnacles, some have come to rest down the crevices of this strange landscape.
So rare is it to have the opportunity to feel like you are discovering something, which is how coming across this wreckage seems. Knowing it's there, and hearing the stories is one thing, but putting in the effort to go and see it was incredible. I was pretty proud and pleased with myself for making the trek - and getting out of there alive and in one piece!
Nauru is a tiny nation, with limited tourist spots to check off, but this little adventure is certainly one to try - with someone who at least has a vague idea of where to go! Many locals I have spoken to have not done the walk, nor even know where to start it, so visitors need to do some asking around. The vision of the engine lying there on the highest point is reward for the physical challenge!
(Thanks to Pacific Wrecks, for the information on the wreckage!)