2019 Expedition

Search for the Samoan Clipper

Jul 14, 2019 to Jul 20, 2019 — NA111

Working with the Air/Sea Heritage Foundation, the objective of this expedition is to locate, identify, and document the wreckage of Samoan Clipper, a Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42B flying boat lost off the northwest coast of Tutuila, American Samoa in January 1938. If successful, the resulting survey will characterize an archaeological site with major significance to aviation and American Samoan history, determine the final resting place of pioneering Captain Edwin C. Musick and his 6-man crew, plus investigate the wreckage for evidence as to what lead to their fate.

Throughout the 1920s and 30s, Pan American Airways lead the way in establishing aerial links between the USA and the rest of the globe that would ultimately help to define the modern air transport industry. Sikorsky S-42 type flying boats, developed exclusively for Pan Am, served as the workhorses for this audacious effort and Samoan Clipper was the first of three such aircraft designated to make special long-range survey flights. The plane was tasked to inaugurate service between the United States and New Zealand by way of Alameda, Honolulu, Kingman Reef, Pago Pago in American Samoa, and Auckland. The man charged with this difficult undertaking was Edwin C. Musick, Pan Am’s Chief Pilot, who at one time held more records and honors than any other active flier, including the 1935 Harmon Trophy which recognized him as “the world’s outstanding aviator.”

Samoan Clipper was one of the first serious losses suffered by seminal air carrier Pan American in its long and illustrious history, and today no example of the innovative Sikorsky S-42 type aircraft survives in a museum or private collection, nor are there any currently known wrecks. In fact, barely any trace of this trailblazing fleet of flying boats still exists above or below the water. This expedition searching for the sunken Samoan Clipper represents a unique opportunity to study one of the most consequential of these craft and to do so in context of its pioneering survey work and tragic loss.

Sponsored by: Air/Sea Heritage Foundation

Meet the Team

Photo of Mike Brennan
Science/Data Team
Photo of Dan Cormany
ROV Pilot
Photo of Allisa Dalpe
ROV Engineering Intern
Photo of Madison Dapcevich
Science Communication Fellow
Photo of Mark DeRoche
Deck Chief
Photo of Summer Farrell
Argus Pilot
Photo of Allison Fundis
Expedition Leader
Photo of Michael Hannaford
Hercules Pilot
Photo of Christopher Jaques
Navigation Intern
Photo of Renato Kane
Navigator
Photo of Peyton Lee
Ocean Science Intern
Photo of Megan Lickliter-Mundon
Science/Data Team
Photo of Justin Lowe
Data Engineer
Photo of Deborah Marx
Science/Data Team
Photo of Stephen Matter
Video Engineer
Photo of Russ Matthews
Science/Data Team
Photo of Ed McNichol
Video Engineer
Photo of Miles Saunders
Navigator
Photo of Lonnie Schorer
Science/Data Team, Communications
Photo of Trevor Shepherd
Hercules Pilot
Photo of Wendy Snyder
Argus Pilot
Photo of Brian Soash
Lead Science Communication Fellow
Photo of Valeria Tamayo Cañadas
Science Communication Fellow
Photo of Suna Tüzün
Science/Data Team
Photo of Rebecca Wipfler
Science/Data Team
Photo of Samantha  Wishnak
Communications

Highlights

Video: Cold Case Reopens: Search for the Samoan Clipper
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Cold Case Reopens: Search for the Samoan Clipper
July 14, 2019
Video: Search for Samoan Clipper Joined by Pan Am Foundation Chairman Ed Trippe
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Search for Samoan Clipper Joined by Pan Am Foundation Chairman Ed Trippe
July 26, 2019
Video: Search for Samoan Clipper Joined By Maritime Archaeologist and Aviation Historian
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Search for Samoan Clipper Joined By Maritime Archaeologist and Aviation Historian
July 26, 2019