What Max discovered in Raja Ampat was a beautiful underwater world that was thriving with healthy coral and large schools of fish. At the time, no one was really traveling to Papua—formerly Irian Jaya—to dive, and so Max had the place to himself, finding wrecks, discovering dive sites, and naming them. 

P-47D Wreck Site 

With the help of the indigenous villages, Max dove his way around the Dampier Strait, navigating its currents and exploring what lies beneath. And one day, he found what he was looking for: a World War II-era American P-47D fighter plane.  

According to the missing aircraft reports, the seven-plane squadron of P-47D Thunderbolts left Noemfoor Island (today located in the Biak regency of Papua, Indonesia) on October 21, 1944, on a strike mission. On their way back, low on fuel because of bad weather, they decided to make an emergency landing in the sea near Wai Island. One of the pilots with more fuel than the rest climbed up to 13,000ft (4,000m) and informed base of their positions.  

The next day, a PBY Catalina—a flying boat and amphibious aircraft—helmed by First Lieutenant Al Barnes, searched for the seven Thunderbolt pilots based on the true bearing location received yesterday.  

Lieutenant Barnes found two survivors on Wai Island and another two at sea 10 miles apart. While making their way back to base, a fifth survivor was spotted on the other side of Wai Island where the first two survivors were rescued. With insufficient fuel, however, Lieutenant Barnes was unable to make a final landing. Instead, they threw him a water can from the plane...  and almost hit him on the head. 

Seeking the help of another PBY Catalina the fifth survivor was rescued, and the final two survivors the next day.  

Today, you can find these P-47D plane wrecks near Wai Island: one broken up at a depth of 2m because of wave action and the other two totally intact at 28m and 38m underwater, respectively. 

With the help of the Papuan villagers, Max found the first wreck 28m underwater, which can be found by using a tree as a marker: heading straight and diving to a depth of 28m.  


The second wreck at 38m, however, was accidentally found by Max’s friend who went to dive the 28m-plane wreck but chose the wrong tree as his marker. He found a P-47D wreck, indeed. However, it was not the same one because it was 38m underwater instead of 28m. If he hadn’t measured his depth, he would not have known he was at a different wreck, since the planes crashed in the same direction—the only difference is that one had its right wing tilted up, and the other its left.  

All seven Thunderbolt pilots were rescued in October 1944; however, to date, only three of the seven planes have been found. It’s speculated that with the locations of the other rescued pilots, the other four planes are likely deeper underwater and much farther from the beach.  

You can read more about the accounts of the rescue here and the wreck here.  

Raja Ampat: Indonesia’s Crown Jewel of Diving 

If wreck-diving is not your cup of tea, you can still be sure to find a dive site in Raja Ampat that will leave you speechless. If you've been to Raja Ampat before, you’d know that some dive sites have interesting names, including Chicken Reef and Sardines. All thanks to Max, who explored and named these sites based on his stories from when he first dove them. 

Sardine Reef 

Sardine Reef
Sardine Reef2

No, you won’t find sardines here, but what you will find is a dive site rich with diversity for as far as the eye can see. Sardine Reef is named so because when Max first dove the site, he saw so many fish packed in one area that he thought it looked like a can of sardines.  

Second only to Cape Kri in fish diversity, Sardine Reef is one of the most requested dive sites in Raja Ampat. Be immersed in large schools of batfish, giant sweetlips and even barracuda. Get lost as hundreds of trevally swim around you, engulfing you and your dive buddies in a whirl of reflective scales and fins. And if there isn’t already so much to look at, you can search the coral for pygmy seahorses, where you can often find four or even five on a single sea fan.  

Chicken Reef 

Chicken Reef
Chicken Reef2

Speaking of sharks, Chicken Reef, is another one of Max’s many adventures exploring dive sites in Raja Ampat. When diving with his buddy in the Dampier Strait, they happened upon a spot that reef sharks frequented. His buddy, terrified of the sharks circling around the area immediately pulled out his dive knife in an effort to defend himself, should anything happen. 

As his buddy, Max saw the whole thing unfold, and thought how silly it was for his buddy to pull out his knife against a shark that wasn’t even approaching him. Thinking his buddy was a chicken for getting scared of the reef sharks, Max decided to name the dive site Chicken Reef.  

Chicken Reef is one of the larger reefs in Raja Ampat that can be divided into four smaller dives: chicken reef, chicken bay, sleeping barracuda and surgeonfish slope. With such a large area to cover, Chicken Reef will have something for every diver, whether that be macro creatures or larger marine life. What you won’t find here, though, are swimming chickens.  

Melissa’s Garden and Mike’s Point 

Not all of Max’s stories exploring Raja Ampat are so humorous. Some of the most well-known dive sites in Raja Ampat are named after his own son and daughter, Mike and Melissa.  

Melissa’s Garden and Mike’s Point
Melissa’s Garden and Mike’s Point2

When Max’s first child, Mike, was born, Max naturally wanted to name the most beautiful site he’s dove after his firstborn. That site is now known as Mike’s Point, where you can be sure to dive among large overhangs, soft corals and groups of sweetlips. 

Melissa’s Garden and Mike’s Point3

And shortly after Melissa was born, Max dove a beautiful site that reminded him of an elaborately designed coral garden that alongside boasted a wide variety of fish. Enamored by its beauty, Max decided to name the now popular site after his newborn daughter: Melissa’s Garden.  

Read more about the dive sites that we offer at Papua Diving Resorts.