Highlights From the Forum
November 5 through 11, 2000
(click on the number to go directly to that message)
|1||Interview With Betty||Ric Gillespie|
|2||Position of Ontario||Randy Jacobson|
|4||Re: Electras Left||Herman De Wulf|
|5||Re: Midpoint||Tom MM , Ron Bright, Randy Jacobson|
|6||Underwater Searching||Steve Gardetto|
|7||Earhart’s Voice||Don Neumann|
|8||Midpoint Coordinates||Bob Brandenburg|
|9||Yau Fai Lum||Ron Bright|
|10||Occult References||John Pratt|
|11||Re: Yau Fai Lum||Mike Everette|
|12||Re: Position Report?||Patrick Gaston|
|13||Re: Occult References||Bob Brandenburg|
|14||Re: Speculation Time||Alan Caldwell|
|15||Recognizing AE’s Voice||Don Neumann|
|16||WOJ Again||Warren Lambing|
|17||Re: Betty’s Family’s Shortwave||Mike Everette|
This is a preliminary report on our extensive interview with Betty, a shorter interview with her friend and neighbor John H., and our visit to Purdue University. We shot nearly four hours of videotape and several rolls of still photos. It will take us a while to get the interviews transcribed, but here’s a summary of the most significant new information.
We now have the original correspondence between Betty’s neighbor/friend John H. and Fred Goerner concerning the notebook. John first wrote Goerner’s publisher, Doubleday and Company, in July 1970 asking for Goerner’s address. On August 2, 1970 Doubleday replied that they couldn’t release Goerner’s address but if John would write a letter they would forward it to Goerner. On August 10, 1970 John wrote a letter outlining the basics of Betty’s story. On August 21, 1970 Goerner wrote directly to John saying that he “would be pleased to hear more information with respect to the message your friend received in 1937.”
John wrote back and included a transcript of the notebook entries and some explanatory notations. On September 4, 1970 Goerner wrote back, “Well, to tell you the truth Mr. (H), I can’t make anything out of the message Mrs. (Betty) received. The figures do not seem at all relevant, especially the supposed position reports. It almost sounds as if several broadcasts were being received on the same frequency at the same time.” He then asked some questions about trying to establish the date and whether Betty had received any correspondence from the Coast Guard. He closed with, “I do appreciate your having taken the time to communicate with me about the matter. I’m just afraid though that without a great deal more clarification of the messages it would be impossible to make any determination from them.”
John wrote back answering his questions as best he could and suggesting that Goerner might be able to find something in Coast Guard records. Goerner sent John a postcard on September 21, 1970 saying that he would “pursue the matter with the Records Division of the U.S. Coast Guard ... I’ll let you know if anything turns up.” Whether or not Goerner actually did any follow up is unknown but John never heard anything further from him.
The real significance of the signed and dated correspondence with Goerner is that it confirms that Betty’s notebook and the story associated with it existed long before TIGHAR’s investigations.
John H also had notes dating from that time documenting Betty’s mother’s recollections. Betty’s father died in 1969 but her mother, Olive, lived until the 1980s. According to John’s notes, Olive’s recollection of the incident is slightly different from Betty’s. Betty did not remember her mother being present while AE was being heard but Olive said that she did hear some of the transmissions and that she recognized Amelia’s voice, having heard her on a commercial radio broadcast fairly recently. It was also Olive’s recollection that the neighbor, “Russ”, WAS able to hear some of the transmissions but not as well as Betty. Olive remembered that her husband had been skeptical at first but after listening for a while had become quite excited and had taken the notebook with him when he went to inform the Coast Guard. Betty is adamant that she retained the notebook while her father went to the Coast Guard station.
It was Olive’s recollection that the radio was a “Sears Roebuck Silvertone cabinet set.”
John H. also looked up W40K and identified him as Francis G. Carroll who, in 1970, was living in Smyrna, Georgia. He intended to contact Carroll but never got around to it. He also identified W40J as Weldon W. Shows of 1470 Bates court N.E., Atlanta, Georgia; but again, did not contact him.
Betty, by the way, had never heard of Francis Carroll, never knew anyone in Palm Beach, and seems to have only the vaguest notion of what a ham is.
Betty’s recollections during the interview were generally consistent with what she had previously told us. She was, however, able to clarify some important points and confirm that she just does not remember others:
Ballparking those coordinates on a map of the Pacific I noted that they seemed to fall very close to the direct route from Lae to Howland somewhere just south of Nauru. The next day – Monday – when we were at Purdue, I checked a National Geographic map of the Pacific that is in the Earhart collection and has pencil marks on it which seem to be in Noonan’s hand. (This is the same map we discussed earlier on the forum which has Enderbury Island in the Phoenix Group underlined). There is a pencil line drawn from Lae to Howland and, upon closer examination, the midpoint of the route is carefully marked with a plus sign. That, of course, is where the USS Ontario was supposed to be positioned. After I got home last night I checked the Ontario’s log for July 2, 1937.
During that day she steamed from 3° 9′ south latitude, 165° 11′ east longitude at 8 a.m. local time; to 2° 59′ south latitude, 156° 20′ east longitude at 8 p.m. local. In other words, Betty seems to have heard coordinates that represent a position very close to the midpoint on the Lae/Howland leg. This could be extremely significant.
Although there was mention in the press that the Ontario would be stationed at the midpoint of the flight, I don’t recall that the actual lat/long of that midpoint was ever published (we need to check that). It makes no sense that AE would be transmitting a position that could not possibly be her present position unless, as Betty says, Noonan was incapacitated and she really had no idea where she was and was just reading numbers off a map in desperation.
We need to calculate the coordinates for the actual midpoint of the Lae/Howland flight. Does 3° 09′ south, 165° east represent the pre-computed midpoint? Or is it Fred’s notation of where he really was at the midpoint of the flight?
This could give us a clue as to how to interpret the other strings of numbers Betty wrote down.
The rest of our research at Purdue was less productive. We looked at pair of Amelia’s trousers that are in the collection hoping that they had buttons we could compare to ours, but the pants had only zippers on each hip. Incidentally, the leg measured 39.25 inches long and the inseam was 29 inches – which seems a bit short for someone who was supposed to be 5 feet 8 inches tall.
The paperwork referring to the first world flight did not include any reference to a ham network.
Much of the Earhart collection is unavailable at the moment because it’s being scanned and put on line. The project is far from complete and is still in a Beta test phase.
Bottom line: Betty’s notebook is getting harder and harder to explain unless it is an imperfect record of genuine post-loss communication from Amelia Earhart.
The position of 3°9′S, 165°E is the position reported by the Navy for the USS Ontario (same reports provide the Myrtlebank position), but is/was not the precise location where the Ontario was on the overflight. This position was not published prior to the World Flight, but was mentioned in Navy radio message traffic and perhaps news media by July 4th time frame. Where the Navy got this position is unknown, but it was probably obtained by plotting the mid-way point on the Lae to Howland flight on a map.
Sounds like those coordinates were the “agreed upon,” planned or assigned location for the Ontario. Logically, Noonan would have those coordinates as where he could expect Ontario to be. I’ll try to pin down exactly when they appeared in the official message traffic and I’ll also review the press coverage we have to see if they were mentioned by AP, UP, or the Herald Tribune.
The notes on your interview with Betty are very interesting. Haven’t had time to study them in detail yet, but I wanted to get back to you ASAP with the answer to your question about the midpoint of the track from Lae to Howland.
The rhumb distance from Lae to Howland is 2255 nm, and the midpoint is at 3°2′ South, 165°10′ East. I read this from DMA chart INT-52, which has a resolution of about 2 nautical miles.
The position written in Betty’s notebook is about 7 miles south and 10 miles west of the midpoint. It could be FN’s estimated position, or it could be his prior estimate of the midpoint position. If he had a smaller scale chart than I have, it would be an easy mistake to make – lay off the rhumb track, bisect it, and pick off the midpoint coordinates.
From Skeet Gifford
I measured the mid-point DISTANCE of the Lae-Howland leg on a Lamber Conformal chart, scale 1:7,000,000. It is S02 18 E164 52. This is the route assumed to have been planned that dog legs around New Britain. A Great Circle route Lae-Howland would be about 28 nm north of the above point.
This is very interesting. It is obviously NOT the case that either the casual observer or the meticulous navigator can plot the midpoint of the Lae/Howland route and reliably come up with 3°9′ South, 165° East. It’s obviously an arbitrary, agreed upon position “representing” the midpoint. Next question. Who knew about it and when?
According to my information (which is Air Canada’s) there were four airworthy Electras (at least there were last summer C.E. 2000). Therefore I take it that the one in Australia is also still flying. But I’m not sure it is still a Lockheed 10B. It may have been re-engined. Is there anyone Down Under who can find out? I don’t have Laurie Ogden’s address. All I know is that he lives in or around Sydney. Ric’s information that there are at least a dozen Lockheed 10 remaining, including probably the one and only 10E remaining of the 18 ever built, is interesting. Minus the four airworthy ones mentioned above (and the XC-35 at Smithsonian) that means there are at least another 7 around. Any idea where they are ? Does anyone know where this information can be obtained ? The 10E normally had a pair of 600 hp P&W Wasp S3H1s. If Linda Finch’s Electra has 550 hp engines it is not quite a 10E, is it? It engines have the same power as the XC-35.
LTM (who likes to
know where precious things have been left)
Herman, you’ve got some bad information. There were 15 10Es built, not 18. They all had Pratt & Whitney Wasp R1340 S3H1 engines which were 550 h.p. Later versions of the R1340 (such as the AN1 variant that was on the North American AT-6) were 600 h.p.
Surviving Electras I know about are:
*Owner planned recovery in 1999. Not known
if recovery was accomplished.
I doubt that I have exactly the agreed upon coordinates, but using the following for Lae and Howland:
Lae: S 6°44.1′, E 146°59.3′ (Sorry, I can’t remember where I got this. Hope it is close.)
Howland: N 0°47.8′, W 176°38.1′ (“New” position) Others may have slightly different coordinates, but hopefully these will do for this purpose.
After a quick run of those numbers with my hand calculator (and for the Mercator route, table lookups for meridianal parts) I’d say –
Great Circle Route Midpoint: S 3°7.5′, E 165°14.5′ (at E 165° Lat would be about S 3° 10.5′)
Mercator or Rhumb Line Midpoint: S 2°58.2′, E 165°12.5′ (table lookups make this a little coarser an answer)
It is not readily apparent to me which (GC or Mercator) FN would have used – they are so close that one could argue for the Mercator for simplicity. The GC midpoint is for practical purposes equivalent to your interpretation of Betty’s coordinate. Slightly different start and end coordinates would change things a little. Virtually every navigator would scale out something different if measured on a chart.
From Ron Bright
If I understand your question you asked who knew where the “midpoint” (approx) was and when did they know it since it was an “arbitrary...position representing the midpoint.”
It seems the entire Navy and Coast Guard knew that the Ontario was going to be stationed at the “midway” point between Lae and Howland. Itasca radioed Coast Guard SF on 27 June 37 that the Swan, Itasca and the Ontario were on “station”.
The Lexington Commander in his report of 20 Jul 37 indicated that the station was “3° South, and 165 East,” and obviously Ontario received orders in late June to be at that Lat/Long. Common knowledge officially; I don’t know when that report was made public.
TheOntario’s midway position(not lat/long) in the Pacific was reported in the NY Times on 24 Jun 37. Radio traffic from Ontario and Itasca must have been heavy.
The 3°9′ South and 165 is no doubt a planned, agreed upon position but perhaps not the absolute exact mid-point.
The final question is how would that lat/long be transmitted via short wave/Electra radio within the first few days of Earhart’s disappearance. (Unfortunately, we do not know when Betty received the transmission) There seems to be no other reference to Ontario, in her notebook. And as you point out what earthly reason would AE have in sending out Ontario’s position?? She was not 50% off. Some jerk could have made a good guess at the midway (Ontario’s position) and thrown that into the mix!
From Randy Jacobson
Please accept my humble apology, as the information I provided earlier was incorrect. The Navy had the Ontario located at 3°S, 165°E, according to the Earhart Search Report, Lexington Section, Annex B, page 2 (the annex that discusses facts, rumors and hypotheses). All documentation regarding instructions to the Ontario said for it to be halfway between Lae and Howland, for both the first and second attempts. No precise positions were provided. In addition, I went through all radio messages from the Ontario, looking for position reports (including weather reports) and found none in that area. Further, there is no documented weather report from the Ontario sent to the Navy during that time, which is entirely curious, as that was the primary source of weather info for the Fleet Air Base in Honolulu to provide AE. I’ve no idea how or where the Navy got the location of the Ontario. The imprecision, however, leads me to speculate that it was supposed to be an approximate position only. Based upon all available information, AE had no real idea of where the Ontario actually was, except that it was at the halfway point.
The real question is why would AE be providing navigational data several days later that had no bearing on where she ended up (no pun intended). Most curious, most curious...
I disagree with your supposition that Ontario’s position was supposed to be approximate only and Earhart had no idea where the ship would actually be. Ontario’s assigned plane guard station was 3°5′ S, 165° E. How do I know that? On March 14, 1937 Ontario was en route from Samoa to her assigned plane guard station for the first attempt when she reported:
CROSSED ONEHUNDRED EIGHTEITH [sic] MERIDIAN ENROUTE TO PLANE GUARD
STATION LATITUDE 03 05 SOUTH LONGITUDE 165 00 EAST FOR EARHART FLIGHT
Earhart cracked up at Luke Field before Ontario actually reached her assigned station, but this message at least tells us specifically where she was headed. If Ontario had orders to proceed to that specific position it seems safe to assume that the Earhart flight had also been informed as to just where they could expect Ontario to be.
When Ontario is ordered to do it all again for the second world flight attempt no new coordinates are assigned. She is just told to go to the previously assigned position. If Noonan, in preparing for the second attempt, made a notation (on a map or otherwise) of the lat/long where Ontario was supposed to be (a reasonable thing to do), that notation can be expected to have been 3°5′South, 165°East.
Ontario’s log, in fact, shows that she did not go to any one position and stop but cruised around the general area. Likewise, the position described in the Lexington report (3° S, 165° E) is a generic description. It’s neither specifically where Ontario was supposed to be nor where she actually was.
The position written in Betty’s notebook seems to be 3°9′ South, 165 East – with a question mark indicating that she’s not sure she heard it right. The numbers “5” and “9” are the most easily misunderstood of all spoken numerals – that’s why we now say “five” and “niner.” If the 9 she heard was actually a 5, then it’s an exact match to Ontario’s assigned plane guard position. If the 9 was heard correctly then it’s probably Noonan’s notation of a celestial fix at the midpoint of the flight that showed him to be a bit south of course.
It looks to me like Betty’s notebook contains an extremely obscure piece of information that can reasonably be expected to have been written down aboard the Electra and was not available to the general public. This is a McGuffin, folks. Its presence in Betty’s notebook means that the transmissions she heard almost certainly came from Amelia.
To disprove that hypothesis you have to show that:
Ron Bright’s suggestion that “some jerk” could have made a guess at the midpoint and just happened to hit upon these coordinates does not explain why a hoaxer would have Amelia giving coordinates that could not possibly represent her present position. That is, of course, also what bothers Randy.
But if we’re going to assess whether or not the coordinates written in Betty’s notebook may have been said by Amelia we have to take them in the context of the situation described by the other notebook entries. AE has no idea where she is. Noonan is hurt, delirious and worse than useless. Time is running out. The water is rising. She is desperately sending out any information she can find that might help someone figure out where she is. We know that it was Noonan’s habit to write little notes to himself and to her regarding position, heading changes, miles covered, miles remaining, etc. Some of those scraps of paper from earlier in the flight are in the Purdue collection. Is it so hard to believe that under these circumstances AE could pick up such a note and read it off, not taking time to plot out what it meant?
In describing the underwater search done on Niku III, you memorably characterized the visibility in the lagoon as “sucko.” Would you say the low lagoon visibility was due to the bad weather experienced by the ’97 expedition, or is it a typical condition seen in previous expeditions?
One of the aspects I’ve appreciated about the Forum is the feedback from the people who’ve actually set foot on Niku (i.e., “been there, done that, got the T-shirt”), demonstrated recently by the updates on the current battered state of the SS Norwich City. As one of the aims of Niku IIII is to search the offshore and coastal area around the Norwich wreck for Electra remnants, how do you envision that will be done? Is the water too deep or unclear or rough for wading or diving? Is it suitable to bring one of the “Naiads” into the area for visual or sonar searching, or is the risk of collision with unmarked coral/Norwich wreckage too great? Is there a significant difference in the area between high tide and low tide? Given that the surf there has been turbulent enough over 70 years to effectively reduce the hulk of the ship to scrap metal, how rough are the normal surf conditions on that part of the island, aside from storm-induced roughness, as in ’97?
It sounds like searching in this area holds some real possibilities, based on the information that hard research has turned up, but at the same time it looks to be particularly challenging.
LTM (who in this
case doesn’t want to hear the cry of “Surf’s Up!”)
The poor visibility in the lagoon is, unfortunately, not a function of bad weather. There’s a shallow layer of silt on the bottom that seems to get stirred up by just normal wind and chop. We’ve never seen good visibility in the lagoon.
The search for wreckage near the Norwich City means dealing with two very different environments. The reef flat itself dries at low tide and is relatively easy to search – just walk around. There is also nothing there unless some piece of debris got hung up in the Norwich City junk. Searching the ocean just off the edge of the reef means searching a ledge that is about 50 feet down and extends seaward several hundred feet. Divers from Nai’a took a preliminary look at it last summer but saw nothing that looked out of place. As long as the sea remains calm, divers can be supported by a Naiad that can get right up to the reef edge. If the sea is not calm you probably don’t want to be in the water that close to the reef face anyway. Beyond the ledge the reef drops off very steeply to several thousand feet. We won’t try to search that area.
>....sometimes only a few words in the middle of a sentence being
From my own, somewhat limited, experience with two-way radio communications, the use of a ‘push-to-talk’ mic results in a very abrupt & usually “noisy’ termination to a conversation, which is quite noticeable to the person on the receiving end & usually conversations seem “clipped’ or cut short by the sometimes premature use of the P-T-T button. Did “Betty’ indicate any such sudden ’interruptions’ of the several communications she was receiving?
While AE’s voice was to some extent unusual, with its mixture of mid-western & “down-east’ accents, I’d question whether someone who’d heard her talk over a commercial radio station on one occasion, would have been able to “recognize’ her voice over such a long range, short wave broadcast, especially under the circumstances described by ‘Betty.’
From military radio experience, we were always better able to recognize our buddies’ “key” on CW than we were ever able to recognize their voices on the two-way voice radio systems we employed.
There were many interruptions in what Betty heard but trying to remember and articulate their precise nature after 63 years is not a reasonable thing to expect her to be able to do.
We have two other accounts of people recognizing Earhart’s voice on the radio. Walter McMenamy who heard her transmissions during the Hawaii/Oakland flight in 1935 claimed that he recognized AE’s voice when heard distress calls the night of July 2nd. Also, Nauru radio said that the unintelligible voice they heard on 6210 that same evening sounded like the same voice they heard from the plane in flight the night before “but without the hum of plane in background.”
Betty also claimed to have recognized Amelia’s voice, although she can’t recall now where she may have heard it before. She described the voice as “sort of whiny.” I would agree with that general characterization of the sound. I would call her accent somewhat affected.
When considering the latitude of the midpoint, I suggest that you use the rhumb line coordinates, not the great circle coordinates.
FN really didn’t have the means to fly a great circle from Lae to Howland. To fly a true great circle requires near-continuous small course corrections, which were not feasible due to the limits of his navigation methods, and the inherent limited accuracy of the compass in the Electra.
Even if he attempted to fly an approximation to a great circle by flying along chords of the GC, he still would need navigation precision that was just not available to him. His only practical option was to fly a rhumb course to Howland. That plots as a straight line on a Mercator chart, and the distance involved is only about 15 miles longer than the great circle distance.
BTW, the rhumb course intersects the 165 East meridian at 3°00’ South.
That all makes sense, but Ontario – for some reason – was heading specifically for 3°05′ South, 165° East. The similarity of those coordinates to the entry in Betty’s notebook has got to be more than coincidence.
Out of curiosity, what frequency and power was Yau Fai Lum’s short wave transmitter, K6GNW, located at Howland on 2 July?
He reportedly maintained daily schedules with Honolulu, Baker and Itasca. He must have had a pretty good short wave. Would his transmitting log still be around for 2-9 July 37?
Did Lum, to our knowledge, ever pick up any short wave signals post-loss?
Tom Gannon, one of the “Two Toms” who first brought the Phoenix islands hypothesis to TIGHAR’s attention, corresponded with Yau Fai Lum back in 1989. Gannon is also an avid ham so his questions to Mr. Yau were of a technical nature. In a two page letter dated January 10, 1989 Mr. Yau provided the following information.
A half century is a long time ago to remember things accurately. For memory has faded and time has taken its toll. I will try to give you a short synopsis of my nine months on Howland Island. ...
We worked for the Dept. of Interior, three Hawaiians from the Kamehameha School and myself, the radio operator. I had a SW3 radio receiver and a home built transmitter with a 807 in the final. The Zepp antenna hung from the top of the flagpole to a shorter pole 65 feet away. Our electrical sources were borrowed from the Army with their hand-cranked generator which put out 400 volts, storage batteries together with a generator-charger, and a dynamo. I had special authority from the FCC to operate on 31 meters on the Coast frequency, because the ham bands had too much QRM. ...
I was never in contact with Earhart, for that was left entirely to the Coast Guard. My SW3 receiver only had a few coils in the ham band and two that I wound to receive the coast Guard frequency on 31 meters and a broadcast coil to receive KGMB in Honolulu. I do not know anything about hearing signals from Earhart after she went down.
From this we can conclude that the references in the Itasca log to “Howland” hearing post-loss transmissions from the plane refer to Coast Guard radioman Frank Cipriani, not Mr. Yau.
>It looks to me like
Betty’s notebook contains an extremely obscure piece of
I see the logic that this is an “occult” reference. Actually, right now there are two such potential references:
which are candidates for “occult reference” status.
The Norwich City takes a bit more effort:
>From Mike E. the Radio Historian #2194:
There is another reference:
Suitcase in the closet in California
If this reference is supported by the family, it demonstrates more directly than either of the above that Betty’s Notebook contains internal evidence not available to the public. It may make this reference worth serious pursuit. Ric indicated that he had an appropriate method for inquiry.
(I find it amusing that many of us first heard of AE through a brand of luggage.)
If Betty’s Notebook is accepted as convincing proof that post-loss radio communications took place, the next issue is validation of the contemporary assertion that the right engine must be running to power the radio. In fact, the Radio Rangers probably have a good estimate of current requirements for both transmitter and receiver already, along with documented knowledge of the batteries available in the Electra electrical system. The “Engine Operable” requirement seems to be well supported, but collecting the argument into one document might be worth the effort.
I agree with you ... mostly. First, let’s talk about the concept of the “occult reference” (a nice term that was, as I recall, invented by you). An “occult reference” is defined as information that is not accessible to the vast majority of contemporaries. I regularly use the concept of the occult reference as a way of assessing the credibility of psychics who offer their help in finding Amelia. Most of them claim to be able to contact or “channel” AE’s spirit, so I tell them:
Before I spend a lot of your time and my time I’m sure you won’t mind helping me confirm your ability to obtain information from Amelia. Due to an unusual circumstance, I happen to know a piece of information about Earhart that very few people, if any, know. As a matter of fact, it may be fair to say that the answer to the question I’m about to ask you is now known only to me and to Amelia. If you can correctly answer my question I will be convinced that either you can obtain information from the spirit of Amelia Earhart or you can literally read my mind. In either case, I will be immensely impressed and we will proceed from there. Ready? Here goes. What is the name of the hotel where Amelia stayed while she in Bandoeng, Java?So far, merely asking the question has been sufficient to end the conversation. Nobody as yet has even tried to answer it. (If anyone out there thinks they know the answer please email me privately. I won’t necessarily think you’re psychic but I’ll be very impressed nonetheless.) The point is, it’s a classic and highly reliable method of assessing credibility – almost like a secret code.
Okay, so are there any known occult references in Betty’s notebook? Certainly such notations as “KGMB” and “31.05” and references to “Howland” do not qualify. That information was widely available via the news media. However, if when Betty wrote “N.Y. N.Y.” she meant “New York City” (she thinks that’s a possibility but she can’t be sure), then it a very small step to “Norwich City” and a dynamite occult reference – but there is just too much speculation involved to hold that possibility up as proof of anything. Remember, this is how psychics work – they provide general information that the subject then modifies to fit the desired message. In this case there is no reason to think that there is any intention to defraud or mislead but the wishful thinking process is still just as powerful – and dangerous.
The suitcase in the closet can, I think, be considered a marginal occult reference. Without knowing whether the reference rings any bells in the Earhart or Putnam family folklore, the very fact that the quote specifies “California” means that the speaker was aware that the Putnams at that time had more than one house and that one of the houses was not in California. That information was certainly not secret but neither was it widely publicized.
How about W4OK? It turns out to be the call sign of a ham who was active in 1937 and who lived on the same great circle (radio propagation path) as Betty and Gardner Island – and there’s an anecdote that claims that the individual said that he had “talked to” Earhart. An occult reference? Certainly. Just a coincidence? Perhaps, but the coincidence of Betty jotting down a random, misunderstood sequence of letters and numbers that has those properties is no less remarkable than the possibility that Earhart said them.
It’s the lat/long position that really floors me. This seems to be truly occult information known only to people intimately involved with the first world flight attempt and never made known to the general public. It’s presence in Betty’s notebook is all the more remarkable because is does not make sense as something that would be said by a rational Earhart or a rational hoaxer, but is entirely believable (to me anyway) as something that might be read from a note or out of a notebook by the terrified, desperate woman Betty’s notes describe.
Just as important as the occult references is the lack of disqualifying references – described circumstances that are known to be incorrect. For example, Charles McGill of Oakland, California reported on July 6th that he had heard:
Not only is the message suspiciously similar to the more fragmentary “281 Message” reported earlier by the US Navy, but the apparent description of an airplane afloat and still transmitting is contrary to our understanding of the reasonable possibilities. McGill, by the way, was subsequently investigated by the Coast Guard and found to be a hoaxer.
Similarly, the note in a bottle recently touted as the “Noonan Document” said that the plane was sinking because “the starboard gas tank ruptured” (there were three fuel tanks in each wing and the rupturing of any or all of them would not cause the plane to sink). The letter, supposedly written by Noonan, also makes reference to Amelia wearing her good luck elephant hair bracelet (which she is said to have left behind in New Guinea). Interestingly, the hoax does not contain instances of information that might prove to be occult. Hoaxers fashion their tales from published information and their own imaginations. They don’t generally include apparently nonsensical information because they want to be believed.
In summary, I’ll say again that I think Betty’s notebook is a post-loss radio message McGuffin – a smoking gun that establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that transmissions were being made from the Earhart aircraft after it disappeared. The scenario described by the notebook supports, but does not prove, the Niku hypothesis. There are other islands the airplane could have conceivably reached. It does, however, (in my humble opinion) send the Crashed-and-Sank hypothesis to Davey Jones’ Locker.
A bit of interpretation of the technical stuff...
The National SW-3 is a three-tube regenerative-type receiver. Very basic, very inexpensive, very lo-tech even for 1937, but very reliable. Made by National Radio Co. of Malden, Massachusetts, from about 1930 perhaps until or through WW2. It used plug in coils for coverage from below the broadcast band up to at least 20 MHz and may have even been usable to 30 MHz. While it’s simple as they come, it’s also “hot as a firecracker.” It was known as the “Thrill Box” and a lot of 30s hams used it.
The 807 tube in the home-brew transmitter is capable of about 50 to 60 watts plate power input, on CW, depending upon the plate voltage applied.
Home built transmitters were the norm in the 30s. Parts were cheap and much more readily available than they are today.
> the Zepp antenna hung from the
This antenna could probably be worked on the 80, 40 and 20 meter ham bands with no problems, using an antenna coupler/tuner. It would also work on the 31 meter band, which was in the 9.5-10 MHz region, without too much trouble. A Zepp is a pretty “forgiving” antenna.
> Our electrical sources
I’d hate to hand crank a generator that put out enough power to run a 50-watt rig...! But if the transmitter had about 400 volts on the plate of an 807, that says to me about 40-45 watts input was it. Assuming an efficiency factor of 70% for a Class C amplifier in CW mode, they were putting out 25-30 watts. Entirely reasonable to work Honolulu on the frequencies mentioned, in daylight.
>I had special authority from the FCC to operate on 31 meters on the Coast
QRM is the Q-signal meaning “interference.” That means the ham bands must have been pretty crowded back then, even way out in the Pacific.
>My SW3 receiver only had a few coils in the ham band and two that I
Hand wound coils were common and easy to make. If you did not have the one you needed for a particular frequency band, you’d just use a piece of cardboard tubing (toilet tissue rolls are good for this) and the base from an old glass receiving tube with a pin pattern that matches the coil socket. It’s not hard to come up with a rough idea of the coil specs (# of turns etc); this receiver is very noncritical and forgiving.
Just for information....
By the way, last year I was in communication via the net with David Lau, the grandson of Lt. Henry Lau. David told me then that Yau Fai Lum was still around, but did not say more. I have asked a number of questions of David, regarding his grandfather; but so far nothing new has come to light.
I’ll report whatever I find out.
LTM (who likes home brew) and
>Is it so hard to
believe that under these circumstances AE
No, it’s not so hard to believe – in fact it’s about the only thing in Betty’s notes that would make much sense at all.
What’s difficult to believe is the entirety of the transmission, which portrays an Earhart reduced to such utter, incoherent panic that she is transmitting her struggles with Fred and reading numbers off paper scraps. It’s hard to accept that, even in extremis, AE wouldn’t say something like, “We are down on an island south of Howland. There’s a shipwreck on the beach. I think the name is Norwich something.” Admittedly the signal was fading in and out but nothing in Betty’s notes comes close to a rational distress call, even a fragmentary one.
If the transmission was authentic, it seems to me more evocative of a mid-ocean splashdown than an island landing. Your plane is sinking and there’s nothing outside but miles and miles of miles and miles. Now there’s a situation that might reduce even the most unflappable soul to emotional gibberish.
Are there any contemporary accounts of Earhart’s behavior under stress? She is generally portrayed as a cool customer, even when (frequently) lost, but that image may come mostly from her own writings.
Of course, most of Earhart’s long distance flights were made alone but we do have one account from Paul Mantz as related to his biographer Don Dwiggins in Hollywood Pilot (page 101/2):
That passage always struck me as very odd, but when you look at Earhart’s flying career there are no references to aerobatics or any of the “cowboying” around that typifies young pilots. In fact, she resisted soloing long after her instructor thought she was ready. She wanted to be very sure she could handle any eventuality before she went up alone. It appears that Earhart was uncomfortable with anything but “straight and level” flying. Nothing wrong with that (as I’m sure most airline passengers would agree) but her panicky reaction to a mere steep bank rather tarnishes her nerves-of-steel image.
There’s also a piece of newsreel footage where Amelia is trying out a new parachute training tower (Putnam was involved in the construction of the same towers that ended up at Coney Island and the Airborne School at Ft. Benning). She sits on a bench and is hoisted up to the top of the tower at which point the bench drops a few feet before the ’chute blossoms and AE lets out with a terrified shriek. On another occasion she was supposed to go underwater in a hard-hat diving suit but when it came time to go over the side she couldn’t do it.
She was a very complex woman whose undeniable courage was apparently rather narrowly defined.
> What does the propagation analysis say?
The propagation analysis is not finished yet, but the results thus far suggest that the probability of Betty hearing Earhart on at least one harmonic when we think she did was about 20%, which is equivalent to one chance in 5. And, yes Ric, this is much better than the long odds I sent to you privately a while back.
The reception probability hinges on several variables, including, inter alia, the details of Betty’s antenna arrangement and the assumed output power of Earhart’s transmitter at the harmonic frequencies.
Thanks to Harry Poole’s outstanding on-site work, we now have a pretty good understanding of how Betty’s antenna could have been rigged. There are basically three ways her father could have run the wire within the house (the exterior arrangement seems pretty clear), and there are significant performance differences among them at the higher harmonics.
The question of how much power Earhart’s transmitter radiated at the harmonic frequencies of interest remains unanswered, so I’m currently assuming the full 50 watts rated output on each harmonic, just to bound the solution. If reception was impossible on a given harmonic with full rated power, then it doesn’t matter what the actual radiated power was. But if reception was possible on a given frequency at full rated power, then the question of actual harmonic power radiation comes into play. I plan to address that issue by reducing harmonic power in discrete steps to see where the propagation fails, thus establishing the lower bound on feasibility. When all the calculations are completed, I’ll send the details to Ric for posting so there can be review and debate about what the feasible radiated harmonic power levels could have been. If an informed consensus emerges on power levels that support reception, then we will have substantial support for the “Betty heard Amelia” hypothesis. If not, then we can make a conditional statement to the effect that reception was possible provided that radiated harmonic power levels exceeded some specified thresholds.
BTW, I’m also working on the Rock Springs intercept, and preliminary results there are promising.
But the devil is in the details and, to paraphrase Robert Frost, I have miles to go and details to check before I can report.
> She has no real clue where they ended up
I’m having difficulty with this speculation. Under what circumstances would AE not have a clue where she ended up? I could see some doubt if FN had been incapacitated about the time they left the Howland area but not if it happened upon landing at Niku. Even in the former case she would have known roughly where she was – four hours SE of Howland on a small island or some reasonable report.
I can understand her trying to read his notes off and maybe not understanding them but she should have been used to them by this time on the trip. I would think the first thing she would say is, “We’re on the beach of a small island about X number of miles SE of Howland . It is probably one of the Phoenix islands. I’m fine but Fred is hurt. Need help as soon as possible.” THEN she might start trying to pin down the location more precisely and trying to help Fred as he may be their only chance for survival. That’s what I would do but then obviously I’m not AE. I suppose concurrent priorities would be attempt to make radio contact, look after Fred, prepare a signal fire, look for water and food, think about shelter. The amount of time and effort put into radio contact might be mitigated by the fact she had had no success of that all the way from Lae vs. desperation of the situation. How much time spent on Fred could have been determined by his condition. She may not have thought about a signal fire if she thought someone could easily see the plane on the beach. She also might not of thought about food and water if she thought rescue should have been swift and the plane might have been her initial choice for shelter.
That’s my speculation for the year. My bigger concern is there seems to be no evidence any of that occurring. That might lead to a suggestion something other than that occurred. But what?
Based upon some very scant evidence and anecdotal accounts we formed a picture in our collective mind of where the Electra ended up and what subsequently happened to it and its crew. Then along comes Betty’s notebook which seems to describe a somewhat panicky 911 call from somebody who is in a situation very similar to what we had constructed. Upon close examination it appears that the 911 call contains information that indicates that it is almost certainly genuine – if not perfectly understood. Is it reasonable then to question its credibility because it fails to accurately describe our preconceived notion of what the circumstance SHOULD have been like?
>....We have two
other accounts of people recognizing Earhart’s voice on
AE was very well known to McMenamy, who’d no doubt spoken with her in person on occasion & could have been expected to recognize her voice, even under the circumstances he allegedly encountered when he claims to have picked up her post landing messages... as for Nauru, they merely reported the same (unintelligible) voice they’d heard earlier only this time without the sound of aircraft engines... obviously that voice & sound of aircraft engines, in that isolated part of the Central Pacific, would have been reasonably concluded as belonging to AE, even though they’d probably never heard her voice before.
In the case of ‘Betty’ & her mother, it seems (to me anyway) somewhat of a stretch that they ‘recognized’ AE’s voice, having only heard it briefly on a commercial radio broadcast or possibly in a newsreel interview. Given the content & the intensity of the radio conversation, where she even identified herself as Amelia Putnam, they were probably convinced the voice they were hearing was actually that of AE, & not because of having casually heard AE’s voice on some other occasion.
All we can do is acknowledge the opinions expressed by the people who had the experience. If, based upon our own experience, we find their opinions incredible, that’s always our prerogative. At a minimum I think we can probably all agree that whatever voice Betty and her mother heard was not inconsistent with what they thought Earhart sounded like.
Please understand, a part of me wants to believe this is a for real reception of AE after landing on Niku, but part of me is very skeptical of it. So I will, at least half heartedly play Devil’s Advocate. It would great to know who W40K was working on July 4th or 5th 1937, to at least see what meter band he was working in. as far NY being the Norwich City, good possibility, but could also be W40K working a Ham in New York? For that matter WOJ, not sure if that has any significance, somehow I got lost as to how WOJ comes in, but since it appears to be a call sign for a short wave station, it could be for example a Network feed. Please consider there are no satellites in 1937, and some Networks used short wave radio for a feed. Here is a quote from a web site dealing with the west coast networks (http://www.oldradio.com/archives/prog/westcoast.networks):
The switch from CBS to Mutual was scheduled for December 29, 1936, the date which marked the expiration of the CBS/Don Lee contract. (In fact, for the last three months of the contract the CBS West Coast programs were produced at KNX and fed to KHJ for transmission to the network.) The stations on the new Mutual network were the four Don Lee-owned stations, plus KFXM San Bernardino, KDON Monterey, KXO El Centro, KPMC Bakersfield, KVOE Santa Ana, and KGDM Stockton. Also joining the network via short wave hookup were KGMB Honolulu and KHBC Hilo. (A number of Pacific Northwest stations were added the following year.)Please note that KGMB was receiving the Network feed via short wave, that short wave feed relay had to have a call sign. WOJ appears from what Hue Miller wrote to be in the area of Miami FL, not a bad place to put some type of relay station, perhaps with feed out of NY NY. I want to believe it is the Norwich City, instead of NY NY, but it would be nice to get rid of some nagging doubts.
To summarize what we know so far about WOJ (thanks to Hue Miller):
The January 1947 “List Alphabetique des Indicatifs d’Appel des Stations Terrestres, Mobiles, et Fixes” lists:
No such station appears in the Dep’t of Commerce list of all USA call signs 1935 nor is there any such station in the Benere volumes for 1935-1937.
Let’s suppose for a moment that the station did exist in 1937 and carried a short wave network feed from Mutual Radio in N.Y., N.Y. to KGMB, thus explaining why “KGMB” “N.Y. N.Y.” and “WOJ” (and not, therefore, W4OK) appear in Betty’s notes. By definition then we must also suppose that Mutual Radio was transmitting a radio drama of some kind that contained the other information in Betty’s notes and that that drama was broadcast by KGMB. The abundant official radio traffic describing KGMB’s activities in assisting with the Earhart search makes it very clear that no such radio drama was broadcast. KGMB did carry the March of Time broadcast on July 8 but that half-hour show with commercials and musical cues bore no resemblance to what Betty heard.
For Janet Whitney:
>the same model radio that Betty’s
That is an excellent idea. We should be able to narrow the field and come up with the correct model, and if one can be found, and we can get its owner to agree, we certainly can test it.
Any meaningful test should, of course, include measurement of sensitivity and signal to noise ratio. Those are easy to do.
>My great-grandmother owned a big 30’s Philco
“Terrible” is a pretty general term. Most of those old sets seem to have selectivity of around 15 KHz, maybe 20. That is much wider than a communications receiver, but is consistent with the need to produce “high fidelity” audio. Anything sharper than 15 KHz will produce significant distortion of the audio due to “sideband clipping” in the I-F stage. This is not a problem in communications work because of the limited frequency response of voice transmissions, but for music, etc., it will really degrade the reproduction and a casual listener will not like it.
>And stations would constantly fade in
This sounds, to me, like normal propagation phenomena at short wave.
>Hams could often be heard over SW broadcast stations.
This is the hallmark of poor image rejection. I would be willing to bet that you may have been actually tuned to the 14-MHz (20 meter) ham band, trying to listen to SW Broadcast, but actually hearing the images from the 19-meter SW broadcast band at 15 MHz... and of course, the ham signals were seemingly interfering, but really were right where they were supposed to be. In a superheterodyne radio with a 455-KHz I-F, the images pop up 910 KHz above the signal freq (or below, depending on which side of the signal frequency the local oscillator is operating on).
I have seen the same thing happen with a 1939 RCA all-wave set that I own... it doesn’t just happen on 20 meters but that seems to be the worst case.
Did Betty say anything to indicate how old the radio was, when they may have acquired it?
For Hue Miller:
Have you any Sears ’n Rareback literature from the 30s?
LTM (who reads the Sears catalog regularly, as she meditates) and
It’s Betty’s recollection that the set was quite new. Her father “Ken” and their neighbor “Russ” had something of a friendly competition going to see whose radio could perform better. That’s what prompted Ken to put up “the big aerial.”
I don’t happen to have a 1930s Sears catalogue right handy but it seems like such a thing shouldn’t be too hard to find. Locating a “Silvertone Cabinet Set” in a museum or collection could be a bit trickier.
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