SEATTLE — Hundreds of feet below the surface of Lake Washington, divers are documenting history.
"The water is very cold, extremely dark," said diver Kees Beemster Leverenz.
He and diver Alex Adolfi are part of Global Underwater Explorers in Seattle.
They are finding old boats from the 1800s, coal carts more than a century old and aircraft on the bottom of Lake Washington.
"It's sort of a graveyard of our history over the past 100 to 150 years in Seattle.
It's absolutely like a museum, a very dusty museum," said Leverenz.
On August 26th, 1956, the pilot of a Navy P4Y bomber forgot to set the flaps that allow the plane to get airborne faster.
It only got about two feet off the runway at Sandpoint Naval Air Station.
Shortly after takeoff, it crashed in Lake Washington.
All 11 crew members survived.
"The front of the airplane sank really quick. It took probably, maybe two minutes for the whole thing to go down. The whole thing was adrenaline.
It happened so quickly," said Navy radar operator John Madden.
Madden is now 82 years old.
In October, Madden joined divers Leverenz and Adolfi onboard a boat as they prepared to explore the bomber he escaped.
"It's strange to feel that something you were on 62 or 63 years ago is down there and you came out of that.
Just seems like yesterday," said Madden.
Using very bright lights, 150 feet below the surface, Beemster Leverenz and Adolfi are able to get a good look at the
P4Y bomber. "This airplane in Lake Washington is far and away the best preserved example that I've ever seen.
Both of the wings are still attached.
The tail section is attached.
You can read the serial number," said Beemster Leverenz.
Beemster Leverenz has visited the plane 30 times and taken 3,800 photographs.
Those photos are stitched together, using a software program, to create a high-resolution 3D model.
Six decades after his near death experience, John Madden is mesmerized by the images.
"It's just like exploring outer space because no one knows what's there," said Madden.
The team from Global Underwater Explorers hopes to preserve history for generations to come.
"If you don't have a story to attach to a shipwreck or an airplane wreck, that thing is really just a piece of garbage that's on the bottom. But, nothing survives forever under water," said Beemster Leverenz.
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