The search for the wreckage of Amy Johnson’s aircraft has kept divers, researchers, and historians busy for many decades – and always without success. Now a team of amateur enthusiasts from Canterbury Divers (a branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club) have taken up the challenge.
After collating all the existing research into what happened when Amy Johnson’s Airspeed Oxford ditched – including witness reports, tide and weather charts for the day, and diagrams and photographs of the aircraft’s structure – the team are about as prepared as they can be to embark on what could be an historic search. Having worked on several other historic wreck sites in the past, and carried out dives in support of three English Heritage projects this year alone, the team are well aware of the task they face.
Using the latest technology in affordable Side Scan Sonar (manufactured by Lowrance and very kindly loaned to the project by Navico – the UK distributor of Lowrance marine electronics) the team will be carrying out a detailed survey of the sea bed around the most likely crash location. This will take the form of sweeping the entire area in search of sonar “hits” and then dropping divers into the water to investigate each of these “hits”. This painstaking work is set to take some time as the logistics of the project are very challenging.
The believed location of the wreck is about 12 miles out to sea, in an area of shifting sand banks, right in the middle of the shipping channels, and in a location where tidal currents are often sufficiently fierce to prevent any diving taking place. The underwater visibility is often less than a metre, and the water is cold in the summer and freezing in the winter.
One further limiting factor is that the team are self-funding, sharing fuel and maintenance costs between members and operating from two small and very elderly inflatable boats. So with the kind of pioneering spirit that they hope Amy would have approved of, the search is on…