On a December 2011 technical dive four miles offshore Jupiter, Florida Randy Jordan, owner of Emerald Dive Charters made an exciting discovery. The remains of a mostly intact WWII era Curtis Helldiver SB2C was resting upside down on the bottom at a depth of about 200 feet.
As Jordan swam along with his group of technical divers expecting to see little more than sand a group of frightened fish caught his eye. A very experienced diver, he knew that something was strange when the startled fish turned right and started swimming cross-current away from him. Jordan says that when frightened fish normally swim with or against the current.
“Swimming sideways of the current usually means they’re going somewhere,” he observed. Jordan followed the fish and they led him to the aircraft where they were seeking refuge.
The Aircraft lay upside down in the sand with the fuselage, wings and tail visible. Bomb bay doors in the fuselage were closed and the engine was detached and lying in front of the aircraft. The landing gear was retracted. The propeller blades were bent; evidence of the watery landing.
Upon inspection Jordan was able to determine the plane’s engine was not from a modern aircraft. “That right there is from the 40s,” says Jordan, “There were some things that identified it immediately as a wreck of historical significance,” he says.
Having no cameras with him when he first discovered the sunken aircraft Jordan returned two days later to record video. He shared the video with The Warbird Information Exchange, an online forum for warplane buffs, and Kevin Knebel, a WWII aviation buff. With data collected they were able to determine the aircraft was a World War II Era Curtis Helldiver SB2C which is an extremely rare aircraft. According to Jordan, “There is only one left in the world that flies, and one on display in a museum.”
Randy Jordan and his divers are working with the Navy to positively identify the airplane and determine how it came to be at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. They are being very cautious as there could be live ammunition. The Curtiss Helldiver was a dive bomber bristling with weaponry: torpedoes, machine guns and bombs were all standard issue.
And there is another reason for keeping a respectful distance. “It may be a grave,” Jordan said. “Somebody was on that plane.”
Because of the plane’s historical significance, the exact location has not been released and Jordan is taking only the most qualified divers to the site. “It may be a grave site,” Jordan says,”We are doing our best not to disturb it.”
Any salvage of the plane is governed by the U.S. Navy and Jordan says, “if the Navy would allow me to, I would like to donate it to a museum and raise money to restore it.”