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NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (May 3, 2002 – CNN.com/AP)---The undersea explorer who found the Titanic will search the Pacific around the Solomon Islands for the remains of PT-109, John F. Kennedy’s World War II boat.

Robert Ballard plans to use remote cameras to locate the 80-foot, wooden-hulled patrol torpedo boat that was commanded by Kennedy. National Geographic is working with Ballard on the search, set for this month.

It may prove a difficult task. PT-109 sank on August 2, 1943, after it was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer. Two members of Kennedy’s crew died in the collision. The young naval officer and 10 other survivors swam 15 hours to reach an island.

Kennedy pulled an injured crewmate to safety by swimming with a strap from the man’s lifejacket in his teeth. They later swam to another island, where Kennedy carved a message into a coconut and gave it to a native islander to take to rescuers.

In 1999, Ballard said PT-109 is "not lost, just misplaced, but it’s like looking for a coffin from an airplane in a zone where they’ve dumped a lot of unexploded ordinance. It’s no fun."

A film and magazine article on the expedition are planned as part of a presentation on the 60th anniversary of World War II battles in the Pacific.

The late president’s brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and daughter, Caroline Kennedy, have given their blessing to the expedition after being assured that the site would not be disturbed, said family spokeswoman Melody Miller.

"It is, after all, a gravesite," Miller said.

Ballard’s office said he was traveling and unavailable for comment Friday.

PT boats were used to attack ships, lay mines and smoke screens, rescue downed aviators and carry out intelligence operations.

They had mahogany hulls, and plywood was used for the internal structures, chart houses and gun turrets.

Divers have been able to bring up artifacts from other sunken PT boats, said Donald Shannon, curator of the PT Boat exhibit at the Battleship Cove museum in Fall River, Massachusetts. Any metal parts of PT-109 may still be visible, such as the engines, guns and torpedo tubes, he said.

Some of the water around the Solomon Islands is shallow because of coral reefs, and other areas are much deeper. Shipwrecks are better preserved in cold, deep water, he said.

"We don’t know exactly where it went down, and the boat could have drifted for any amount of time and landed in any amount of water," Shannon said.

Other people have tried from time to time to find PT-109, but Ballard has the most sophisticated operation and a track record of finding lost ships, he said.



HONIARA, Solomon Islands (May 19, 2002 - SIBC/PINA Nius Online)---International divers have arrived in Gizo, the capital of the Solomon Islands' Western Province, to search for the wreckage of former American President John F. Kennedy's PT109.

Kennedy and most of his crew escaped after their Patrol Torpedo boat was sunk near Gizo during the Allied campaign to push Japanese forces from the Solomons.

On the night of August 2, 1943, the boat was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer, the Amagiri. Two of his crew were killed but thanks to Kennedy's efforts 11 survived.

The group of divers will be led by Ron Ballard, who discovered the wreckage of the liner Titanic in the Atlantic. Ballard arrived in Gizo on board his diving vessel.

A National Geographic Society team with the divers hopes to film the wreckage of PT-109.

The team is working on a film about Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963 while president.

An island near the spot where PT-109 sank is called Kennedy Island.

For additional reports from the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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