Lake Mead B-29

 

Content copyright 2001 - 2012  In Depth International Inc. All rights reserved.

The search for Lake Mead's B-29 was complicated by rough terrain and rapidly changing depths, necessitating the use of an unorthodox imaging technique

CLICK HERE to read the formal paper presented at Underwater Intervention.

Extensive research by In Depth Consulting, including flight path simulations and analysis of accident report accounts, led to the establishment of a primary search area approximately 2 square miles in size. The target was located precisely on the boundary of the search area. In fact, the target was imaged after the survey vessel had already increased speed to turn to the next survey leg and it was not immediately realized that the target had been discovered. Located near the resting place of the B-29 is the drop-off to the riverbed, where 60 feet or more of sediment has accumulated since the lake's formation. Had the B-29 landed in that sediment, it likely would have been engulfed and lost forever.

In Depth went public with the discovery of the Lake Mead B-29 on August 9th, 2002.  A press conference was held at Las Vegas City Hall and was attended by all four major local television stations, local newspapers and nationwide news radio broadcasters.  To view one of the stories which ran that day, check out the archives of KLAS-TV and the Las Vegas Review Journal.  Since then, the story has been featured in Underwater, Sport Diver Magazine, Immersed, Dive Training, Sea Technology and Advanced Diver Magazine.

This 200m per channel image, used for detecting large targets, shows that even a B-29 bomber appears very small and easy to overlook.

Artists concept of what it must have looked like as the B-29 came flying in above the lake just before impact with the surface.

One of the only known images of B-29  45-21847 before the accident.

The Lake Mead B-29 as she has rested since crashing and sinking in July 1948, in what was once a tributary channel of the Virgin River.

Two views of B-29A 45-21847, illustrating some of the damage which occurred due to secondary impact of the nose with the lake bottom.

In 2012, In Depth will release a short documentary of what really happened to B-29 #45-21847, both in 1948 and after our team’s discovery and exploration of the wreckage in 2001-2002.  Never before seen underwater and expedition footage, interviews with actual crew members and a candid account of everything from threats the dive team received to details of a Federal Court case will all be included.

The REAL story of this wreck is fascinating. Stay tuned!

B-29 Photo Album

In July of 1948, a B-29A Superfortress bomber was on an Army Air Forces scientific mission to study variations in solar radiation with altitude as part of the Upper Air Research Project. The mission called for runs from "as low as possible" to 30,000 feet and back. The aircraft had taken off from Inyokern, CA and was on one of its final runs of the day. After completing a run to 30,000 feet east of Lake Mead, the crew began their descent and leveled out just 300 feet above the lake's surface. It was a midsummer's day and winds were completely calm. The crew described the lake as looking like a mirror, with the sun reflecting brightly off the surface. These conditions make judging height above the surface incredibly difficult. Combine that with an incorrectly set altimeter, thermal activity from midday heat and inexperience on the part of the pilots in flight over water and the stage for this accident was set.

The B-29 struck the water at nearly 250 miles per hour. The pilots were able to pull up and get the plane airborne again, skipping it like a stone across a calm pond. The impact had ripped 3 of the B-29's 4 engines from their mounts, set fire to the fourth and severely damaged the left wing and horizontal stabilizer. While initially the pilots were able to regain perhaps 200-300 feet of altitude with the plane's momentum, its fate was sealed. Within a few seconds the B-29 was on its way back down to the water. Fuel cutoffs were engaged and engine #1 was feathered as the pilots prepared the plane for ditching. They managed to bring it in tail first, slowly decelerating until finally the plane came to rest. All five aboard got out before the plane sank, escaping in two life rafts. About 12 minutes after ditching, the B-29 disappeared beneath the surface, not to be seen again for over 53 years...

November 2000 - Summer 2002