Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Battery Ramsey debris field

Our exploring has continued. One of our goals was to find the remnants of Corregidor’s “Searchlight Number Three.” There were eight major searchlight positions on the island, seven on the western or “head” end and one on top of Malinta Hill, facing east. SL3 was located near the bottom of Cheney Ravine, southwestern head area. Without a GPS we would never have attempted to find it.

Our friend John, who has been there, said that the easiest way to get to SL3 is to follow the ravine bottom. Since it is dry season, we did not expect to be wading through water. We walked to Battery Cheney and then began the descent down to the bottom of its namesake ravine. There used to be a concrete bridge, but it was destroyed in the war. Whenever we walk from Battery Cheney to Battery Hanna we have to find our way down one side and up the other of this usually dry ‘riverbed’ near the old bridge. In reality, there are no rivers on the island, although many of these run-off channels remind us of such.

We started down the rocky ravine. The GPS said that we were 425 meters from our destination – not very far, really. It turned out to be rougher going than we had thought, with many large boulders to negotiate, and requiring great care not to slip on the rocks. A whole ‘nother meaning for “rock and roll!” There were a few areas with almost flat sand and gravel surfaces, too, much easier. On our left bank we could see that there had been a road or path at one time, which would have made our going a lot easier had it had been cleared, but it was totally overgrown, so we stuck to the rocky riverbed. About halfway to our goal, we had to maneuver around a very large obstruction, probably the remnants of another bridge. Soon afterward, we came to a part of the ravine that was narrow and had standing water. We decided then that we would not go on, given the difficulty, slipperiness, and footwear unsuitable for walking through water. So our quest to get to SL3 was scrubbed, at least temporarily.

Very near our house is Battery Ramsey, which had three, 6-inch disappearing guns. When you visit the site now, you will find that the gun on the left is still in place. The gun on the right was thrown from its pit, and its pedestal stands tilted on its side. The center gun is gone entirely, and there is a huge crater where it and a powder magazine were located.

Battery Ramsay survived the Japanese invasion. It was not until 1945, when the Americans were bombing the island to “soften it up” for an invasion, that Ramsey was destroyed. Considering the large amount of concrete that made up the battery, it was not unreasonable to assume that there must be chunks of concrete located nearby. Once again, our friend John provided us with some helpful information. He and Karl had come across several sizeable chunks of concrete on the hill below Ramsey, and they told us if we followed the old road we would see the concrete.

So off we headed. Once again we relied on the GPS to get us started. We had no trouble finding the start of the road, which, like almost all of the old roads, is easily spotted as a level area with an upward slope on one side and a downward slope on the other, since Corregidor has very few naturally flat areas. We managed to go about halfway to the hairpin turn that we knew we had to reach to access the lower road. All of a sudden, the going got tough – some of the thickest bamboo we’d ever encountered and no bypass option. We kept looking for the path of least resistance, and Marcia used snipping shears to make a passage, while Steve kept an eye on the GPS to make sure we stayed true to the course. By the time we reached the hairpin turn, we were exhausted and decided to call it a day. Since we were just below Battery Ramsey, we opted to climb up the steep hill and shortcut our way home. It was somewhat strenuous, and we encountered another – smaller – stand of bamboo, but we made it. The next day we headed back, able to get to the hairpin okay following the path Marcia had made the day before, and followed the sharp turn to the right. We ran into more undergrowth, but could see through it to what looked like clearer road.

All of a sudden we broke through, and sure enough, the road was much more passable. Soon we came to the Ramsey debris field. Chunks of concrete were everywhere. Two chunks were huge, with one at least 2-by-2-by-2 yards. Imagine the force needed to throw a chunk of concrete weighing 10-plus tons several hundred feet. Smaller pieces were everywhere. On the homeward trip, we again opted to climb straight up the hill, eliminating the walk back to the hairpin turn. (It is much easier going up a steep hill than down, since a fall going uphill means you drop onto your hands and knees, while a fall going downhill is much harder to control, and can lead to a bad tumble or worse.) In the photos, Marcia is wearing gloves, highly recommended unless hiking a cleared trail.

Recently, while clearing an area around their houses, our friends Ronilo and Gilbert found a metal plate lying on the ground. We include a close-up photo. The plate is about 1.5 by 2.5 inches. As you can see, the manufacturer reads Westinghouse, and there are numbers at the upper left including (6-1-26) which we interpret as June 1, 1926. You can also clearly see the words “switchboard panel” as well as other information. We hope some of our readers can tell us about the equipment that would have carried such a plate. We suspect it was from a phone switchboard.

We will be on a private tour the next week, occasionally reachable by email. We may or may not report on the tour depending upon the wishes of our guests.

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