Gillam Survey
Site Description
cockpit
Cockpit and controls. TIGHAR photo by John clauss.
The wreckage is concentrated between 1737 feet and 1689 feet elevation. It is distributed for 19 linear meters along a narrow (less than 1m), steep drainage that runs east-northeast down to a muskeg valley. This drainage, running through metamorphic rubble over a series of rock outcrops and logs forming small waterfalls, is continually filled with varying levels of water in warmer months due to the temperate rain forest environment. Winter snowfall averages 32 inches in Ketchikan with annual rainfall totaling 132 inches.13 Pooling water levels were 5cm or less and water was cascading over a small section of the wreckage during our survey. The sides of the drainage are equally steep and densely forested with both mountain and western hemlock, Sitka spruce, and knee to waist high under story vegetation. The primary wreckage concentration includes the bottom of the instrument panel and controls (sans wheels), cockpit, bulkhead and cockpit door, auxiliary fuel tank, left wing, partial right wing (inverted with exposed landing gear retracted), cowling sections, torn fuselage sections, empennage (sans rudders), and the severed outboard right wing section (inverted). Post crash damage over time has resulted from compression by snowfall, impact by deadfall, and salvage efforts.

The fuselage area is particularly compromised. Most of the roof and sides of the fuselage have been separated from the deck. Much of the fuselage behind station 239 is crushed and hidden from view under the inverted right wing section.14 This wing was inverted during the removal of the right engine.15 Overall, it appears the entire debris field has moved very little since the time of the accident.

Removal of mounting bands on auxiliary fuel tank.

Of note among the remnants of the fuselage is the aluminum auxiliary fuel tank. It is similar to the auxiliary tanks known to have been mounted in the Earhart Electra.16 Still structurally sound with steel bands securing it to the floor, the tank sustained only moderate damage. The tank’s mounting bands were carefully cut, and the tank was moved to allow for the removal of dado-like objects for laboratory examination. The tank was then replaced as found.

A pair of c.1940 women’s shoes were found in the exposed fuselage section. These shoes most likely belonged to Susan Batzer, the young stenographer employed by Morrison-Knudsen who expired 48 hours after the accident from injuries sustained in the crash landing. Ms. Batzer’s body was recovered a month after the survivors were rescued.17

Very little wreckage is apparent on the slopes above the streambed. Exceptions include a section of engine cowling 13 meters north/northwest of the baseline at 21 meters down from the datum, and two engine cylinders with one oil cooler 10 meters south/southeast of the baseline at 18 meters down from the datum. The overall absence of engine components reflects the known removal of the right engine for exhibition in the Pioneer Air Museum of Fairbanks and the propensity for engines to separate from the nacelles upon impact with terrain.

Wreck survivors’ latrine area.

An additional concentration of artifacts appears to be the remains of an improvised latrine established by the wreck’s survivors, located 19 meters south/southwest of the baseline at 30 meters down from the datum point. The latrine area contains the toilet seat and aluminum chamber pot from the aircraft lavatory, as well as the remnants of a tin can.

Despite the crash landing, over 60 years of heavy snowfall and continuing water flow, salvage operations and possibly some looting activity, most of the aircraft remains intact though significantly damaged. The left wing exhibits the faded USA flying flag insignia required for all civilian aircraft operating in Alaskan airspace during World War II.18 The cowling sections, horizontal and vertical stabilizers as well as the severed portion of the right wing also retain clear evidence of their original paint scheme.

 

Flag on left wing.


13 The Tongass Visitor Guide (Anchorage:Alaska Natural History Association, 2004), 9.
14 See attached diagram referencing the area of station 239 within the cabin area of a Lockheed Electra fuselage.
15 Don “Bucky” Dawson, Telephone interview by TIGHAR Deputy Project Archaeologist Gary Quigg, February 1, 2005.
16 See attached photographs of both the Gillam auxiliary tank and the Earhart auxiliary tanks.
17 Arthur Rypinski, “The Men Did Their Duty: The Story of the Ketchikan Electra Crash,” TIGHAR TRACKS Vol. 20, no. 3 (December 2004): 22. This is a good overview of the crash, search and rescue.
18 Don “Bucky” Dawson, Personal e-mail communication to TIGHAR Deputy Project Archaeologist Gary Quigg, February 13, 2005.

Introduction Purpose Background Research Fieldwork Site Description Aircraft Parts Recovered Interpretation Research Results
Eligibility for National Register Acknowledgements Bibliography Appendix 1: Site Map Appendix 2: Lockheed Electra Appendix 3: Putative Heat Shield Appendix 4: Putative Heat Shield/Lockheed 10B Appendix 5: NC-14915 & WSC-146

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