RACINE, Wis. – The wreckage of a plane once owned by the SC Johnson Co. of Racine which crashed in 1938 has been found at Manokwari Bay in Indonesia during an expedition by the Johnson family, the firm's chairman and chief executive officer says.
Fisk Johnson said Tuesday the plane was located in 90 feet of water during a drive trip in which he was accompanied by his brother and sister, Curt Johnson, chairman of JohnsonDiversey, Inc. and Helen Johnson-Leipold, chairman and CEO of Johnson Outdoors and chairman of Johnson Financial Group, as well as their mother, Gene Johnson.
Fisk Johnson's grandfather, H.F. Johnson Jr., flew the plane to Brazil in 1935 looking for a permanent supply of carnauba wax, which was then the key ingredient in Johnson Wax. After H.F. Johnson Jr. returned, the company sold the Sikorsky seaplane to a petroleum company.
The plane apparently split apart as its pilot was taking off from Manokwari Bay in 1938 and crashed, said SC Johnson spokeswoman Kelly Semrau. The pilot swam to shore.
The Johnson family said that, after finding the plane, a granite plaque was placed at the site inscribed with the words: "I am Carnauba, my true home is not this bay but the hearts of all who love adventure."
Fisk Johnson said it seemed magical to see the plane in the water.
"We've all dreamt of the moment that would finalize Carnauba's incredible journey. Now that it's here, words simply can't capture this experience," he said.
In 1998, Fisk and Curt Johnson and their father, the late Sam Johnson, flew a replica of the plane to Brazil to re-enact the 1935 flight. They had searched for the original plane the previous year but came up empty.
"It was as if Dad was with us," Fisk Johnson said after the craft was found. "We could feel his spirit and his love of adventure. At that moment, the past and the present met: one adventure coming to an end, and the promise of the next just beginning."