Central Coast College Students Find Wreckage Of Rare World War II Plane In Ocean

Jul 24, 2017

Some Central Coast college students had the experience of a lifetime, taking part in an expedition which led to the discovery of a rare World War II era plane in the Mediterranean Ocean.

Sam Freed is a computer engineering student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo who was part of Cal Poly’s International Computer Engineering Experience Program. It’s an effort to give students some real life experiences to use what they’re learning in class. He calls it was an incredible experience.

Cal Poly Computer Science professor Zoe Wood and Christopher Clark, from Harvey Mudd College led the month long expedition to the Mediterranean Island of Malta, with three computer science students from each of the universities participating.

They’ve received two National Science Foundation grants which provide $50,000 a year for the program, which is in its fifth year. The idea is to give computer since students some real world experiences to go with what they learn in the classroom. Wood says the students focused on underwater mapping technology.

She says they hit the jackpot, finding the wreckage of a Fairey Swordfish, a World War II era torpedo bomber. The plane was a fabric covered biplane used by the British Navy in the first part of World War II. Swordfish bombers damaged the German battleship “Bismark” in 1941, allowing surface ships to catch up with and sink her. Considering the plane has been about 90 feet underwater for seven decades, it’s remarkably well preserved.

The Cal Poly professor says the team was able to use some of the information to find the history of the airplane. The plane had engine trouble, and had to ditch off the coast of Malta. But, a passing boat rescued the two man crew.

Wood says she’s proud of the plane’s discovery by the team, but even more proud of the experiences the effort is giving students.