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November 5 through 11, 2000 (page 2 of 2)

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18 Re: Speculation time Mike Holt
19 Re: Speculation time Tom MM
20 WOJ Redux Hue Miller
21 "Never attribute to malice..." Marty Moleski
22 Re: Speculation Time Tom MM
23 WX forecasts, etc. Steve Gardetto

Message: 18

Re: Speculation time

Date: 11/11/00
From: Mike Holt

Rick Seapin wrote:

> It has been well documented (New York Times, Los Angeles Times
> newspapers) that people in the know (Mantz, Putnam, Byrd) believed AE/FN
> probably ended up somewhere in the Phoenix island group. The question is:
> why was only a cursory search done of these islands? I can’t put my finger
> on it, but something is not KOSHER with the search.

I always had the same impression of the search. It seemed to me that whatever was planned as a search quickly became a group grope and lost both intensity and direction.

Ric wrote:

> The Senior Aviator, Lt. John Lambrecht, presumably made some kind of
> report to his commanding officer, Capt. Wilhelm Friedell. We don’t know what
> he said, but somehow Friedell ended up writing an official report that said
> that no signs of habitation were seen on any of the islands when in fact
> Lambrecht had seen clear signs of recent habitation on Gardner.

Does anyone know what Captain Friedell thought of having his battleship ordered to wander off on a search for a civilian woman?

> At the very least, when Friedell handed off command
> of the search to the captain of the Lexington a few days later, why didn’t he
> say, "Be sure and send someone to check out Gardner. Our pilots said it
> looks like somebody might be there but we couldn’t take time to investigate
> further."? Maybe he did say something like that, but there’s no record of it.

What did Captain Friedell tell the Lexington? Was there a written report handed to the Lexington? What’s in the Lexington log?

> The Earhart search was mismanaged and the mismanagement was subsequently
> covered up but there is no indication that I have seen of a high level
> conspiracy to not find Amelia.

I read somewhere that it was the mid-30s when Annapolis was given a lot more attention that it had received in the past, after recognition of inabilities on the part of a large number of graduates (Check the fates of USN ships in the era 1883-1938: there was a huge percentage of losses in non-combat situations. For the period 1938-1960, that number drops dramatically. I can work the numbers up again if anyone’s interested.) Is it possible that some shortcoming their education had rendered the naval officers there less than willing to conduct a search? No, I’m not sure that knowing this, or quantifying it somehow, will do the Forum any good.

> "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by mere incompetence."

Does anyone know who first said this? When I make a t-shirt that has this on it, I want to be able to have a proper citation. (I’m also looking for the first evidence of "What does not kill me makes me stronger," but I think that was from Star Trek.)

From Ric

We don’t, unfortunately, have any candid comments from Friedell and his official report, of course, is very -- well -- official. The best indication of the attitude of the ship’s company, however, might be the headline of the ship’s newspaper The Colorado Lookout: PLANE SEARCH HALTS CRUISE.

I have no idea who first said, "Never attribute to maggots that which can be explained by mere incontinence" but it seems particularly apropos these days.

Message: 19

Re: Speculation time

Date: 11/11/00
From: Tom MM

Ric wrote:

> Upon close examination it
> appears that the 911 call contains information that indicates that it is
> almost certainly genuine -- if not perfectly understood.

The declaration of almost certainly genuine, especially at this stage, give me the willies. Especially if other "post loss messages" show promise via Bob B’s work and the chronology project. I do agree with others who think that the other aspects of a message (radio technical issues and content/format) should play some part in the overall evaluation of authenticity.

At the very least, Betty heard the coordinate description in several variations. Her first writing of South 391065 z or E can be interpreted so many ways as to be useless, and it contains the extra 0. The second version in brackets does look to be the same handwriting, but yet slightly different, as if it was written at a different time. You say that Betty wrote that at the same sitting, just before turning the page, but you are relying on some pretty distant memories for that. If the book was later shown to or even discussed with the Coast Guard or others, someone before TIGHAR may have played with the possible interpretations and suggested the bracketed interpretation which she then wrote down. Then there is the issue of how really secret this apparently pointless piece of info might be. Are you certain that the Putnam publicity machine didn’t crank out huge amounts of radio and newsprint about how the flight across the Pacific was to be undertaken, with names of ships and close enough positioning to make this info public? A call to the local Coast Guard Station back then might have been enough to come up with a midpoint coordinate. Even a visit to a good library would do.

Anyway, I would suggest a scaled rating system -- maybe on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 being certainly genuine -- equivalent to the logged messages received by the Itasca or Lae. I would expect most would fall in the 0 to 1 range.

Tom MM

From Ric

I pushed Betty hard on this during the interview (before I knew anything about the possible significance of the coordinates). She had already said that the explanatory note in the upper left corner of page 49 and the bracketed notation "There was a man with her..." on page 51 were added fairly recently (within the last ten years or so) and I had assumed that the coordinates in brackets on page 53 were also a later interpretation. Betty was adamant, however, that they were an original entry. I pointed out to her the similarity in the angled notation and brackets used on pages 51 and 53, but she was insistent that the entry on page 53 was original and that she had bracketed it because she knew it was something important. This contention is borne out by a transcription of the notebook made by her neighbor, John H., when he contacted Fred Goerner in 1970. John’s transcription includes the bracketed coordinates on page 53 exactly as they appear in the notebook (S 309′ 165° E) but does not include the brackets notation on page 51 or the explanatory note on page 49.

Was the Ontario’s assigned position well-publicized? If it was we should be able to find it. All of that pre-flight publicity is still around. So far I’ve been able to find no reference to those coordinates anywhere except in the March 17, 1937 radio message from Ontario to her base in Tutuila, American Samoa.


Message: 20

Re: WOJ Redux

Date: 11/11/00
From: Hue Miller

> 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

--I do not feel this would be the most likely situation, in this regard: a relay station servicing Hawaii would, I feel, be on the West Coast. ( Although I cannot disprove that idea, I could supply examples of "West Coast to Pacific radio circuits". Whatever WOJ did, I feel had to do with communications with probably So. America and the Caribbean.) I believe Hawaii would have been serviced by special high-quality phone lines to the west coast, then relay station there. (My father worked at such a station, but for teleprinter instead of voice circuits, in western Washington. Let me tell you, the acres of antennas on telephone poles was something to behold, and made any long- distance radio enthusiast long to try out the top-notch receiver and antenna combination.)

The lit I have, has only minimal info on WOJ. However, here are some clues that might help figure what WOJ did, and how it fits into Betty’s picture:

Hialeah FL fixed-point stations WNC, WNC2 thru WNC5, WOJ

Lawrenceville, NJ fixed-point stations WNB, WOB, WOF, WOK, WON, WOT, WOT2 thru WOT5, WTZ (and maybe others I didn’t see in the list.)

The Berne call-sign list of 1947 makes it clear that these are not shore-to-ship telegraph stations, as were WAX and WOM, Hialeah.

I am thinking WOJ was an overseas telephone station of the AT&T network. The clue to me, is the number of call signs at one plant, in this case especially the NJ site. ( Typically, the big stations with rows of transmitters had groups of call signs assigned to them, call signs differentiating frequency bands of operation or beam direction for one particular branch of the operation. ) And the seeming similarity in style of the call signs in these 2 examples. If I’m right, proof of this should not be too long in coming, as there has to be some listing of this in the listener’s reports to the radio magazines.

As for nailing down more specifics on Betty’s radio: I cannot access any catalogs for many months. (Living in 4 states in the last 10 years pretty well shuffled things.) The fact that it was a "cabinet set" ( I assume meaning the same thing as the more common, and now current term, "console radio", i.e. floor standing upright cabinet ) means that it MAY be better than average, but not necessarily. If one really wanted to research this, one could look into some collection of schematics for, say 1936-1937 and pick out the Sears models. There won’t be all that many, and you can pretty well get an idea of their capability. If you want a real-life model to test, you can find a similar schematic from some other brand, say Sparton, RCA, Philco, etc., which gives you a similar capability with greater likelihood of finding such a set on hand. There’s nothing magic in these schematics, manufacturers had to use basically quite close circuits, same tubes, etc.

If you really wanted to be gung ho, you could feed in a talk show into the "external modulation" jack of a signal generator connected to your test radio. You adjust the test generators output downward till you start losing understanding of what is going on in the talk show speech. Then you measure the actual input to the radio with a selective voltmeter. That might be more realistic than the usual single-tone test.

I just happened to be relaxing with a ’36 Short Wave Craft magazine and I see that it lists some of the call letters I mentioned in my last post, the call letters that I considered associated in some way with WOJ. Well, I see that these call letters are listed in this issue of SWC, but not in my ’35 radio list. By way of explanation, I could only offer, that this was a period of explosive growth in radio communications, maybe like the growth of the telegraph almost 100 years earlier, or the growth of networked computers about 60 years later.

One of the stations listed as being on the air 1936 is WNC Hialeah. I want to make clear that I believe this is only one call sign for the same international-traffic station, which I also believe, and believe time will prove, includes the facility or service with call letters WOJ. I consider that there is practically no more doubt that WOJ was in fact contemporary with the year Betty reports for her reception. Perhaps as the subject of call signs and locations and purpose and owner becomes clearer, I will compile and summarize that data, for the sake of TIGHAR’s own files, if that is wanted.

As for the purpose of WOJ: the listings for the "sister stations" (WOB, WOK, WNC etc. ) say, for example, for one specific call letter appearing on one specific channel, "Phones Bermuda evenings", or "Phones England mornings". I do not know whether that means "links overseas phone calls" or not, but I suspect so, in addition to one-way business messages, news reports, and such, anything that would pay. The Lawrenceville NJ radio site with many transmitters makes me suspect the owner was AT&T -- or was it IT&T. ( Mackay and some other well known communications-company names of the same era only provided telegraphic messaging, as far as I know.)

The lists also advise that some overseas stations in this "Phones somewhere" class, had regular broadcast programming at other hours. ( US stations were prohibited from this, I believe.)

I vaguely remember from the early 1960s hearing such AT&T stations. There was no shortage of them. Satellite systems a few years later put a gradual end to that. Those of us who listened to news broadcasts up through the 1960s and a little later will recall the "short wave radio" sounding reports filed by overseas reporters in our local radio news programs.

To summarize: Although I have not found the definite black-and- white listing yet-- I am still working on this -- it does appear that:

1) WOJ was one of a group of call signs attached to a Hialeah FL short wave communications station

2) the station did exist in 1937

3) the station provided voice messaging service -- maybe including news reports and telephone traffic -- to specific overseas countries -- in the overall area of South America or the Caribbean -- and probably on a fee basis (altho I don’t think I can prove this latter part just yet.)

>Miami would more then likely make a good short wave feed to Africa, or South

I am wagering WOJ had nothing to do with broadcast relays at all. I suspect I will have proof of this in the near future.

> All I am saying it would be nice to get better dates on WOJ and
> get and idea of what it was used for, for all I know it could be use for CW.

I believe the information coming in, will rule WOJ in. ( Yes, I did start out thinking I would prove that WOJ didn’t come on line till later than 1937.) And that it will rule out CW operation.

> I am also not sure that WOJ would have anything to do with what Betty heard,
> other then perhaps being on or near the frequency she heard, which would be
> of interest. But is also of interest to rule it out.

You know, these old vacuum-tube receivers do drift, in their tuning. Depends on the ambient temperature, if it is steady or changing, the quality of the radio, and the frequency band. I would think up around 16-18 MHz she would need to tweak the tuning, to keep on frequency, at least once in a 20-45 minute stretch. I am thinking it possible the reception includes snatches of more than one thing going on. Else how explain 2 call letters for stations with highly different purposes? BTW, the "Fixed-point" stations WOJ, WNC, WOK, etc. were intended to sit on their channels; unlike ham radio, they really weren’t intended, and may have been physically impossible, to retune, other than to switch to another defined channel. Also, the Fixed-point stations ran, as in the example of the stations above, at least 2000 watts, up to 5000, and not infrequently more. So at Betty’s, this would, I think, be a very strong signal. More speculation, and not much help, sorry: but maybe the WOJ reception was an overload or image signal picked up on her radio? ( image = signal not really there, due to receiver limitations / weaknesses ). In that scenario, WOJ would have to be about 900 kcs away from the "actual" conversations Betty was listening to, and came in as a kind of "override". If I can find some actual frequencies for WOJ, I can maybe rule this in/out.

Hue Miller

From Ric

The notebook says quite specifically W4OK Howland port "OR" WOJ Howland port. Betty did not hear both call signs. She heard something that might have been either.

Message: 21

"Never attribute to malice..."

Date: 11/11/00
From: Marty Moleski

>> "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by mere
>> incompetence."
> Does anyone know who first said this? When I make a t-shirt that
> has this on it, I want to be able to have a proper citation.

A citation I found says:

Hanlon’s Razor provenance:

A corollary of Finagle’s Law, similar to Occam’s Razor, that reads "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." The derivation of the Hanlon eponym is not definitely known, but a very similar remark ("You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.") appears in "Logic of Empire", a classic 1941 SF story by Robert A. Heinlein, who calls it the “devil theory” of sociology. Heinlein’s popularity in the hacker culture makes plausible the supposition that “Hanlon” is derived from “Heinlein” by phonetic corruption. A similar epigram has been attributed to William James, but Heinlein more probably got the idea from Alfred Korzybski and other practitioners of General Semantics. Quoted here because it seems to be a particular favorite of hackers, often showing up in sig blocks, fortune cookie files and the login banners of BBS systems and commercial networks. This probably reflects the hacker’s daily experience of environments created by well-intentioned but short-sighted people. Compare Sturgeon’s Law, Ninety-Ninety Rule.

> (I’m
> also looking for the first evidence of "What does not kill me makes
> me stronger," but I think that was from Star Trek.)

What does not kill me makes me stronger.
– Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzche (1844-1900)

"Maxims and Arrows" (8), Twilight of the Idols, 1889, tr. R. J. Hollingdale, 1968

Found at Quotations.

Note to the TIGHAR moderator: feel free to apply Ric’s Razor to this submission.

Marty #2359

From Ric

There’s a corollary to Ric’s Razor that says, "Erudition always trumps irrelevance."

Message: 22

Re: Speculation time

Date: 11/11/00
From: Tom MM

Thanks for the additional info on the notebook. The fact that the bracketed coordinate was in the 1970 transcription helps, but it still leaves about 33 years to have found its way there.

Here is what drew me to the concern. I believe I see differences in the bracketed coordinate in the S, E, 3, and to some extent the 5 from those clearly written as part of the sequential stream of info. Might be worth having someone who is qualified in such things look at it.

The other issue which in retrospect I think I stated poorly is that anyone who knew that the flight was to be from Lae to Howland could have picked out (arbitrarily) the midpoint from a chart in a library, or made a call to a knowledgeable friend, and gotten something close enough to perpetrate a possible hoax. Nowhere does the message refer to a ship or other notable feature at that point - that would have been quite convincing, if the info was not public. Instead, it is just a coordinate along the route, and anyone could have picked that out reasonably well. There is a temptation to assign value to it because today we know that the Ontario was stationed nearby, but we are reading that into the message. Remember also that hams are interested in communicating with distant places, and may have had good charts/maps themselves.

Tom MM

From Ric

One of the steps we have planned is to submit the notebook and handwriting examples we collected from Betty to a Forensic Document Examiner recognized as an expert witness by courts in California.

I’ll argue with you about the likelihood of a hoaxer hitting upon those exact coordinates.

>... anyone who knew that the flight was to be from Lae to Howland could
> have picked out (arbitrarily) the midpoint from a chart in a library,

But it’s not the midpoint in the flight.

>or made a call to a knowledgeable friend, and gotten something close enough
>to perpetrate a possible hoax.

The knowledgeable friend would have to be intimately familiar with the flight preparations.

>Nowhere does the message refer to a ship or other notable
>feature at that point -- that would have been quite convincing, if the info
>was not public.

You miss the point. If the message referred to the Ontario (the coordinates having been received by the hoaxer from his knowledgeable friend) then it wouldn’t make any sense at all for Amelia to be sending those coordinates. The presence of those coordinates in the notebook only makes sense if the speaker does not understand what they mean.

>Instead, it is just a coordinate along the route, and anyone could have
>picked that out reasonably well.

No, it is not just a coordinate along the route. In fact, (somebody correct me if I’m wrong) it is not a coordinate along the route at all. It is (IF we assume that a "five" is heard as a "nine") exactly the assigned plane guard position of the Ontario.

>There is a temptation to assign value to it because today we know that the
>Ontario was stationed nearby, but we are reading that into the message.

Yes, we are interpreting an entry that Betty was not sure she heard correctly (hence the question mark) very slightly and in a logical way to something that fits perfectly. We’re doing something similar when we select W4OK over WOJ, and when we connect "George" and "get the suitcase in my closet" and "Calf." into a single phrase. Our speculation about "N.Y. N.Y. or something that sounded like New York" actually being "New York City" and possibly therefore "Norwich City" is more of a stretch, but it’s the same process. This is not changing the message to something we want it to say. We’re starting from the assumption that the message was imperfectly heard (as noted in the original entries) and that whatever was actually said made sense to the speaker when she said it within the context of her situation. We’re looking for interpretations that turn apparent gibberish into meaningful communication.


Message: 23

WX forecasts, etc.

Date: 11/11/00
From: Steve Gardetto

Thanks for your continued patience in answering my basic questions about the recent and pending expeditions.

In describing how the 4 castaways on Niku III came to stay onshore, you mentioned, "As we were getting ready to return to the ship we received word that the weather forecast for the next day was for significantly higher seas...."

How did Nai’a obtain weather forecasts, and will there be any change on the next expedition? It sounds like you had at least 12-hour weather warning back in ’97. IIRC, the last expedition tried out some satellite phones that didn’t work so great, but I’m wondering if Nai’a, as part of her normal dive excursion operations, has been upgraded with Internet access, allowing the team to possibly obtain longer-lead-time and satellite forecasts?

Although the wide availability of digital cameras by prospective expedition members may make this question irrelevant, does Nai’a have a darkroom, or are expedition photos only developed afterwards back on Fiji?

Finally, you’ve vividly described, as a literally life-and-death adventure, the difficulties of coming ashore on Niku when the swells are running high. If Niku IIII is unfortunate enough to encounter similar wave conditions, do you have an alternative approach in mind for embarkation?

LTM (who’s had her share of ups and downs)
Steve G., TIGHAR # something or other

From Ric

Nai’a’s weather info came from an HF SSB radio fax system (I’m not sure how it worked). Our sat phone worked great. Don’t leave home without one. I’m not aware of any internet-capable upgrade to Nai’a but, depending on the media arrangements, we may have that capability on the expedition.

We’ve always done all of our photo developing after we got home. As you say, digital technology will change that somewhat but really good photos will still probably rely on conventional technology. Good photos depend on good optics and so far I have not been impressed with what has been available on digital camera bodies.

Finally, we’ll be going at a time of year that should greatly minimize the chance of tropical cyclone activity --- but if we get real unlucky, we’re screwed. There is no alternative way to get ashore (unless you have a helicopter handy).

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