Forum artHighlights From the Forum

March 25 through 31, 2001

(click on the number to go directly to that message)
Fuel Consumption Mike Zuschlag
Speeding Up Into a Headwind Herman De Wulf
Re: Speeding Up Into a Headwind Dick Pingrey
Headwind and Speed Calculations Chris Kennedy
Received Signal Strengths Mike Everette
Re: Assumptions Tom Van Hare
Re: Received Signal Strengths John Rayfield
Tarawa Report -- General Ric Gillespie
Re: Fuel Consumption Randy Jacobson
Re: More Assumptions Ron Bright
More on Economical Cruise Speed Dick Pingrey
Re: Long and Nauticos P. Wesley Smith
Tarawa Report --- Archival Ric Gillespie
Re: More Assumptions David Evans Katz
Escape From Tarawa Tom King

Message: 1
Subject: Fuel Consumption
Date: 3/26/01
From: Mike Zuschlag

For Herman:

I've been re-calculating the fuel consumption myself, and while both of our calculations suggest that AE would *not* have run out of fuel immediately following the last transmission received by the Itasca as Long maintains, I'm a little confused by some of your calculations. Maybe you have access to numbers I don't have.

Why do you say AE maintained 43 gph for the 9.4 hours leading up to the "We must be on you" transmission? Kelly's telegrams instruct her to fly at 38 gph after the first 9 hours of cruise. Are you assuming that AE ignored the telegram and flew at 140 KIAS (which you calculate to be about 43 gph) as Long maintains?

How does one get IAS from fuel consumption and altitude? Don't you need to know the aircraft's weight at that time too?

How do you know it takes 1 hour and 100 gallons to climb to 8000' at the beginning of the trip? I don't see that in Kelly's telegrams.

Of the energy used to climb to altitude, how much would she get back in descen t to 2000 (or whatever) feet? How long would it take to glide down there and what would the fuel consumption be with the engines nearly idle?

I think it would an interesting exercise to assume she followed Kelly's instructions to the T, figure the air speeds, then figure the average headwind that would account for her average 112.6 GS to the "We must be on you" point (perhaps assuming it's right over Howland for the sake of argument). Then we can see if this estimated average headwind is consistent with the evidence Long uses.

--Mike Z.

Message: 2
Subject: Re: Speeding Up
Date: 3/26/01
From: Herman De Wulf

David Evans Katz wrote:

> In re Herman de Wolf's comment:
> >However, calculating in nautical miles proves Elgen
> >Long right about the headwinds since covering 2,220
> >nautical miles in 19.42 hours gives an average ground
> >speed of 112.6 knots.
> The math here needs adjustment. 2,220 divided by 19.42
> is 114.315; however, the denominator is incorrect. 7:42
> a.m. local time is 19:12 GCT, NOT 19:42. Hence, 19
> hours and 12 minutes into the flight equals 19.2 hours.
> The correct calculation should be 2,220 divided by 19.2
> = 115.625

2,220 nautical miles have to be divided by 19.7 since 42 minutes is 70 % of an hour. This results in an average ground speed of 112.6 kts. However, if the correct flying time was 19.12 hours then 2,200 : 19.2 = 115.6 kts. This means that the average headwind en route was 24.4 kts. This means that with the updated flying time AE/FN reached the point where they thought Howland was with 274.4 gallons of fuel remaining in their tanks. If they flew around for one hour at the same power settings they would have had something like 231.4 gallons remaining when they decided to head for the Phoenix Islands.

We do not know at exactly what time or at what point of their search pattern they decided to divert but with that amount of fuel they could have flown another 5 + hours (5.24 hours but probably less because of the amount of unusable fuelin any aircraft). At 43 gph. this translates into something like 753 nautical miles (minus some for unusable fuel). Quite a different picture from what Elgen Long depicts.

Message: 3
Subject: Speeding Up into a Headwind
Date: 3/26/01
From: Dick Pingrey

I think you cleared things up with your recent message. I suspect we are in complete or very near agreement. The main point being that the allowable increase in airspeed in a headwind is relatively small so as not to significantly increase fuel consumption. Long assumes a large increase in airspeed that would, almost certainly, significantly impact fuel consumption. I see no basis for this assumption but I don't have the aircraft performance tables to study.

I can't answer your a. or b. question as I don't have access to the necessary information. In reading your earlier message it seemed to me that you were confusing max range and max endurance but, quite obviously, you were not. All of this is speculation as we really don't have any firm evidence as to how the airplane was flown, the actual winds or even that altitudes flown. It is interesting to speculate on these matters but it is just that, speculation.

Message: 4
Subject: Headwind and Speed Calculations
Date: 3/27/01
From: Chris Kennedy

It seems that all this most recent work on fuel consumption confirms the following:

  1. AE and FN intended to arrive at Howland after about 20 hours flying time, and, in fact, did arrive in the area of Howland pretty close to that time.
  2. The main problem with the Long theory is that there is nothing really solid to indicate that the flight encountered conditions in flight that caused AE to burn up more fuel. Indeed, doesn't this most recent work indicate that you can replicate Long's headwinds and theory, and STILL not have to have the plane ditch?
  3. Since the Kelly performance figures indicated that the flight could stay aloft about 24 hours, and there is nothing to indicate that either pilot or plane was using more fuel than calculated, an arrival in in the Howland area after a little over 19 hours still leaves about 4-5 hours of fuel left. This is plenty to reach Gardner.
--Chris Kennedy

Message: 5
Subject: Received Signal Strengths
Date: 3/27/01
From: Mike Everette

Something that I find troubling in the thought-process of many on the Forum and elsewhere, is the apparent assumption that the signal strength figures like Strength 5 are absolutes and are quantified/quantifiable, or are the result of some standard to establish them.

They absolutely are not. NOT.

I hate to be the party pooper, but it is a fact that any radio operator's judgement of the strength of a received signal in those days (and, often, today) is totally subjective. In other words, if that operator THINKS the signal is "loud and clear" he/she will probably call it as an S-5 or whatever.

But what about signal strength meters, or S-meters, you fairly ask?

In the 1930s many radio receivers did not have them. Even in the case of receivers which did, those meters were designed to show one thing: maximum strength of a signal, for purposes of tuning "on the nose." There was NO reference to any signal strength figure (let's say, in microvolts) in the calibration of those meters. No matter what the scale may have said, it was strictly arbitrary.

Each manufacturer's receiver would be rated in terms of that manufacturer's standards, not referenced to an industry standard. No industry standard for calibrating S-meters existed until some time in the 1960s and even then most manufacturers did not adhere to it. About the only manufacturer whose S-meter calibrations were anywhere near related to "real" signal strengths was Collins Radio Company. Hallicrafters, National, Hammarlund et al were "tune for maximum deflection." In other words, an S-9 reading on a Collins receiver might well be a 20 db over S-9 reading on a Hallicrafters receiver. The hoped-for implication by the uninitiated, uninformed potential consumer would be, the Hallicrafters set was "more sensitive" (to which I say: In Your Dreams!!!! Collins was and always will be La Creme de la Creme of radios... and the most expensive, but darn well worth it if one could afford it).

It is simply not practical to state that an S-5 signal from NR16020 meant anything in terms of distance from Howland. Nor is it practical to say that the S-5 reception zone had any definite boundary. Radio signal propagation is not like shining a light beam down at the earth's surface. Especially at the low H-F frequencies we are dealing with here.

"Ground wave" signals at both 3105 and 6210 KHz can and do travel beyond the radio horizon. They are not "line of sight" as many people think is common with VHF signals (i.e. 120 MHz)... and even at VHF, signals are hardly line of sight. Why else would you be able to receive FM stations on your car radio in the 100 MHz region, when you are in the middle of a city 50 miles removed from the transmitting station? (The answer includes the word, "Reflections")

If Elgen Long's hypothesis (and Nauticos') depends upon such "absolutes" then I fear they will be dragging the bottom for years....

LTM (who always comes on strong)
and 73
Mike E.

Message: 6
Subject: Re: Assumptions
Date: 3/28/01
From: Tom Van Hare

I was thinking through the problem of the fuel burn vs. fuel on board and the simple questions of time-speed-distance. It might help if we looked at this "backwards", and did some calculations as to what the estimated maximum fuel burn would have been (using higher power settings, higher winds, etc.) as a starting point to see just how little fuel she might have had at the time of arrival in the vicinity of Howland given a worst case scenario.

My first question is would this be a worthwhile exercise? Thereafter, there is a question as to how to reasonably accomplish it: a) I don't have the Kelly Johnson charts; b) it might take a bit of discussion regarding just what "worst case" winds might have been. And finally, there is the question as to what might come of the discussion. Does it get us closer to any answers? Or might it be one of those lines of inquiry that unexpectedly comes up with some new direction or thought?

Any takers?

Thomas Van Hare

Message: 7
Subject: Re: Recevied Signal Strengths
Date: 3/28/01
From: John Rayfield

Mike Everette writes:

> "Ground wave" signals at both 3105 and 6210 KHz can and do travel beyond the
> radio horizon. They are not "line of sight" as many people think is common
> with VHF signals (i.e. 120 MHz)... and even at VHF, signals are hardly line
> of sight. Why else would you be able to receive FM stations on your car
> radio in the 100 MHz region, when you are in the middle of a city 50 miles
> removed from the transmitting station? (The answer includes the word,
> "Reflections")

I've also seen in the past, references to VHF signals that said that they are 'line of sight'. Not only is VHF not 'line of sight', but UHF (450 mhz range) and even 800 mhz. signals will travel further over the horizon than 'line of sight' (obviously, the higher the frequency, the closer to sight' it is). 'Absolute' 'line of sight' only exists in VERY high frequencies (such as microwave frequencies).

For many years, many people have made reference to the 'assumption' that Earhart 'must' have been within 50 to 100 miles when she was being received at the strongest signal level. This might be true ('might' is the key word here), IF the signal was being received via ground wave. But, what IF this signal was being received via 'skip'? In this case, depending upon the exact conditions (for example, sunspot activity, partially related to the sunspot cycle at that time, time of year, time of day, radiation angle of the signal from her antenna, and of course the frequencies being used), the signal could have propagated several hundred miles, with a very strong signal. Some have said that it must have been groundwave propagation because of the way the signal got stronger and stronger as she 'apparently' moved toward Howland. But again, this is not necessarily the case --- as she was moving toward Howland, other things were changing too --- for example, the sunlight was increasing, which would cause the 'skip distance' to typically decrease on the low frequency that she was using at that time. So, as she was getting closer to Howland, the signal could possibly remain the same, or get stronger, while being propagated via 'skip'.

My point is that it's been an 'assumption' that Earhart was within 50 to 100 miles at the point in time that the radio signals received were the strongest. This may very well be true, but, this is really only an 'assumption', since the same 'phenomenon' could be reproduced by 'skip' propagation. In the case of 'skip' propagation, she could possibly have been several hundred miles from Howland at the point of strongest signal reception.

John Rayfield, Jr. - KR0Y
Rayfield Communications, Inc.

Message: 8
Subject: Tarawa Report --- General
Date: 3/30/01
From: Ric Gillespie

I just got back home early this morning and I'm still not entirely sure what day it is in this part of the world. I'll get into the actual research results in later messages but for starters here's a general description of Tarawa.

Earhart Project expedition team member Van Hunn and I spent seven days in Tarawa, from Tuesday, March 20 to Monday, March 26, 2001. Our orginal plan had been to stay until Thursday, March 29 but when we arrived we learned that Air Nauru had changed its schedule and now only makes the return trip to Fiji on Mondays. This meant that we would either have to accomplish 10 day's work in 6 days or stay until April 2nd. We decided to book our departure for the 29th, and extend our stay if necessary. As it turned out we were able to complete our work and make the March 26 flight.

A word about air travel to Tarawa: At present, three airlines operate into and out of Bonriki International Airport on Tarawa.

Air Kiribati operates Chinese twin-turboprop aircraft (sort of like Twin-Otters) between Tarawa and the other atolls of the Gilberts archipelago. Each island has an airstrip (of sorts) and internal air service within the Gilberts seems relatively routine. Air Kiribati makes no international flights and does not service Kiritimati (Christmas Island) which is part of Kiribati. The only way to get there is to fly to Fiji, then Hawaii, and thence to Kiritimati. There is no air service at all to the other outer inhabited islands – Fanning, Washington, and Kanton.

Air Marshall Islands operates one flight per week to Majuro in the Marshalls. They now only have one airplane, an aging twin-turboprop Hawker Siddely, having sold their state-of-the-art but impossibly troublesome Saab 2000 to Vanuatu who have reportedly since sold the thing to somebody else. (That Saab is the same beast that stranded nine of us on Funafuti for six days in 1997.) Bottom line: nobody flies Air Marshall if they can help it.

Air Nauru is the only carrier now flying between Tarawa and Fiji. The airline's routes include service from its home base at Nauru (which, by the way, is pronounced "nawROO") to several destinations in Australia, the Central Pacific, and until recently, Southeast Asia and the Phillipines, with a total fleet consisting of one Boeing 737-400 (registration VH-RON). Needless to say, the airline is stretched a bit thin and the Australian Civil Aviation Authority recently shut them down for ten days until they promised to make administrative and infrastructure improvements at their home base. When Air Nauru doesn't fly, the government of Kiribati has to charter Air Pacific (the Fijian national airline) to fill in – an inefficient and expensive expedient. Air Nauru is now flying again but only on "local" routes around the Central Pacific. The airplane itself is clean and attractive and seems to be well maintained but delays and cancellations are routine. Both our arriving and departing flights were many hours late.

Unlike at Funafuti in Tuvalu, the airport on Tarawa is not a modernized WWII airstrip but is a new facility built on created land – thus the inhabitable area was increased rather than decreased by the construction of the airport. This is a major plus on Tarawa.

Tarawa, of course, is an atoll, an irregular ring of coral surrounding a central lagoon, but, as is typical of most atolls, only a portion of the coral perimeter is above water. The inhabitable portion is an eastward pointing wedge (>) roughly 50 miles in length made up of a series of small islands, each a mile or two long but only a few hundred yards wide. The entire string of islands is now joined by causeways so that a single paved road runs fron the northern island of Naa, down around the "elbow" at Bonriki (where the airport is) to the island of Bekinibeu (where the Otintaai Hotel is), to the island of Bairiki (where most of the government offices are), and finally to Betio (pronounced "BAYso") at the southern extremity. It was on Betio that the British colonial offices were located in the days before WWII. The Japanese occupied Tarawa in December 1941 at which time the British colonial personnel and Australian and New Zealand coastwatchers were rounded up and imprisoned. All of the Gilbertese, except a few on the northern islands who managed to hide, were shipped away to be laborers elsewhere in the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. In 1942 and '43 the Japanese brought in Korean workers and construction materials to turn Betio into one of the most heavily fortified islands in the Pacific. When American B-24s from Funafuti began to bomb the island in September of 1943 the Japanese summarily shot or beheaded all of the European prisoners. Among then was Capt.Handley who had helped search for Earhart back in 1937.

Another casualty of the Japanese occupation was the Royal Colony Ship Nimanoa which had taken Harry Maude and Eric Bevington to Gardner in 1937 and had carried the bones of the castaway to Tarawa and to Fiji in 1941. Later that year her captain grounded her on the edge of Betio's lagoon reef rather than let her fall into enemy hands.

She was a rusting hulk when, on November 20, 1943 the U.S. 2nd Marine Division came ashore across that reef. Japanese machinegunners hiding aboard Nimanoa riddled the wading Marines from behind as they struggled toward the beach. Naval gunfire and bombs from F4F Wildcats reduced the old ship to a pile of wreckage. Over the next three days, the Marines clawed their way ashore and finally rooted out and destroyed the Japanese defenders in one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war. Over 5,600 men (about 1,100 Americans, 3,000 Japanese soldiers, and 1,500 Japanese and Korean civilan laborers) died on an island two miles long by a few hundred yards wide in a period of about 76 hours.

I will make no attempt here to describe the ferocity of that action except to say that today, 58 years later, despite decades of intense residential and commercial activity and nothing even remotely ressembling any attempt at historic preservation, signs of the battle are everywhere. It is routine to scuff your foot on the ground and turn up a bullet or a shell casing. Pockmarked bunkers and blasted gun emplacements dot the landscape. Construction projects still unearth unexploded shells and bombs – and bones. The reef is littered with the rusting remains of tanks and "amtracs" (the amphibious landing vehicles used in the assault).

Van and I inspected and photographed the remains of several aircraft on the ocean-side reef. Most were evidenced by engines only but in one case a substanial portion of the aluminum centersection and wing structure of what appears to have been a single-engined Japanese aircraft were still present despite a worst-case situation where the wreck is alternately submerged and exposed by the tide. Its survival is doubtless due to the fact that Japanese aircraft aluminum was anodized against corrosion and, unlike Nikumaroro, Tarawa's reef flat (being in a more benign weather area) never gets pounded by heavy surf.

Over on the lagoon side (Red Beach #2 in 1943) we hired a local boat at high tide and paid our repects to the Nimanoa. Van had his mask and snorkel along and we both went over the side and visited the old girl. "Hands-on history" at its most poignant.

On Tarawa, one has the impression of being on the last scrap of earth on the edge of the world. It is as if some great ship has sunk stranding way too many survivors on far too little land. People live in extended family groups packed together on every available inch of ground. A house might be a one or two room cottage with a cement floor and a tin roof or, more commonly, simply an elevated wooden platform with a roof of coconut thatch. The only "green space" is the blue/green water of the lagoon which serves as a communal latrine. Drinking water is delivered twice a day by tank truck drawing from government desalinization plants. "Catchment" (rain) water is much preferred but not many people have enough roof area to collect signifcant amounts from the not-infrequent showers. Europeans and a few well-to-do people have houses big enough to maintain private cisterns.

Although English is nominally the country's "official language," few people in the villages or on the outer islands of the Gilberts speak anything but Gilbertese.

A walk down a residential street in Tarawa leaves you with three impressions: pigs, dogs, and kids. Most families have several pigs, kept in low pens and fed on coconut from the handful of trees on their land. Dogs are everywhere. It's inconceivable to be anywhere outdoors and not be able to see at least one, and usually two or three medium-sized, rangy, lethargic dogs. They are outnumbered only by the children, who are neither rangy nor lethargic. Well-fed, energetic, playful and often impossibly cute, they dash about like flocks of noisy birds. Older children are often seen in the clean and pressed uniforms of the various religious schools – Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, or Seventh Day Adventist (no Moslem, Hindu, or Buddhist). After high school many children continue their education overseas, usually in Fiji – and every year about 1,100 of them return home to look for jobs that are not there.

The unemployment rate is so high that no one seems to know what it is. It's just high, that's all. There is nothing to do. There is no industry. There are no tourists to speak of. If you don't work for the government or for one of the few foreign companies (Toyota, for example, has a dealership and maintenance facility on Bikenibeu) you get by from subsistence fishing and agriculture.

Any large infrastructure projects are sponsored by foreign governments or companies. Foremost of these is Japan in the form of voluntary war reparations. Except for an active Peace Corps office, U.S. aid is almost nonexistent. There is no U.S. consul. Australia and New Zealand each have a High Commission (embassy) on Bairiki and provide various services. There is also a British Consulate. The People's Republic of China has a huge embassy, but nobody seems to know why.

With so many people packed into such a small space, health problems are inevitable. Tuberculosis and hepatitis are endemic; cholera and dengue fever are a constant threat. For a visitor, a battery of shots beforehand and constance vigilance while you're there is the only way to come home healthy. Tarawa's only upscale hotel, the Otintaai, provides a clean, bug-free, air-conditioned room with flush toilet and shower with running hot (well, sort of warm) and cold (well, sort of warm) water for about US$45 per night. The menu in the restaurant is somewhat limited but the food is good. Even so, Van and I drank only bottled water, ate no raw vegetables, and no chicken. We ate mostly broiled fish and rice. Lunch away from the hotel always came out of a can. (It will be a while before I can look at another can of canned spaghetti.) The local snacks naturally reflect local tastes. Are you up for prawn flavored corn puffs or "Fici" brand fish flavored chips? Our caution paid off and neither of us got sick.

We rented a very decent Toyota Corolla (right-hand drive) for about US$27 per day and somehow managed not to hit any of the clueless dogs that are constantly in the road. You can't get lost on Tarawa. There is only one road. No stop lights, no stop signs, but watch out for the speed bumps (make that "speed hills").

Despite the abject poverty and overcrowded conditions, the people of Kiribati project no feeling of bitterness, desperation or despair. An uninvited European face on a village street is greeted only with polite smiles and perhaps a gang of giggling three-year olds shouting "I-Matang! I-Matang!" (Foreigner! Foreigner!). There is no begging or attempted salemanship. There is a strong sense of community and social peer pressure expressed in a Christian context. Some customs might strike us as antiquated. For example, a newly married couple is expected to produce a bloodied sheet on the wedding night to prove that the bride was a virgin. Success is announced the next day by the happy couple touring the atoll in the back of a truck that is swathed in red bunting. Failure can range from acute embarrassment for the families to annullment of the marriage.

Crime is very low by our standards (knock over a convenience store and where you gonna hide?), but drunkeness and vandalism are on the rise in the especially crowded districts of Betio. Perhaps the biggest long-term threat to a country made up entirely of low-lying atolls is global warming. By some calculations the whole place could be underwater in twenty years. I posed that prospect to my old friend Kautuna Kaitara, the head of the Kiribati Customs Division. He grinned and said, "Remember Y2K?"


Message: 9
Subject: Re: Fuel Consumption
Date: 3/30/01
From: Randy Jacobson

87 gal/hour figure is based upon the fuel added at Lae. The implicit assumption in all these calculations is that the plane was fully fueled upon take-off at each station, and re-fueled fully upon landing at the next station. To do so would be reasonably insane, as the heavier plane causes inefficiency of fuel rate/burning.

I suspect AE fueled the plane very much less than full during the short legs, and only fueled the plan fully when she was (1) either attempting a very long leg, or (2) knew that in the next few segments, fuel availability would be low.

BTW, all of the charts used by Fred Noonan have markings on them predicting where the plane would be using 150 mileage markers. These markers are in statute miles. 150 statute miles = 130 nautical miles (+or- a hair). After exhaustively analyzing all of the flights with known available charts used by the navigator, and reconstructing the flights with known winds, I find no evidence whatsoever that AE attempted to fly the plane at a 140 knot IAS, but only at a 130 knot IAS.

From Ric

Randy is right. While I still have the excuse of jetlag to explain my rudeness, let me say that I have read the recent forum traffic concerning fuel consumption and hereby declare that thread dead and buried until and unless somebody who knows what the **** they're talking about has something new to add.

Message: 10
Subject: Re: More Assumptions
Date: 3/30/01
From: Ron Bright

I would add to Boswell's known "facts" the following:

a. 1100 gals of fuel aboard
b. she was flying eastward
c. At 5:18 pm she reported a position, indicating an eastward flight, and 23k wind
d. Her transmission reception by Itasca got clearer and louder, to an S-5
e. she didn't see smoke or Itasca
f. weather conditions around Itasca were known
g. AE believed she was at Howland long/lat
h. She ran out of gas
i. Her receiver didn't work

From Ric

>a. 1100 gals of fuel aboard

Give or take a few gallons.

>b. she was flying eastward

More or less, at least up until sometime before 19:12Z.

>c. At 5;18 pm she reported a position, indicating an eastward flight, and 23k wind

But not the direction of the wind.

>d. Her transmission reception by Itasca got clearer and louder, to an S-5


> e. she didn't see smoke or Itasca

But there may have been no smoke to see.

>f. weather conditions around Itasca were known

Known to Itasca, that is.

>g. AE believed she was at Howland long/lat

Perhaps for a brief moment some time immediately prior 19:12Z, but as soon as she realized that Howland was not there she had to accept she was not at Howland's lat/long.

>h. She ran out of gas

She did? Who says?

>i. Her receiver didn't work

So how did she hear the "A"s on 7500?

Look - for crying out loud - you can not solve this mystery this way. A bloodhound can follow a scent to a lost person but Earhart and Noonan did not leave a scent. They could have gone here and they could have gone there. We can only consider the various places they could have gone and then see it there is any evidence that they went there.

One place they could have gone is the bottom of the ocean. We can not look there. Nauticos can not look there. All the naval and research vessels in the world can not look there. The expanse of ocean where they could have gone down is too impossibly huge and the target too impossibly tiny.

They could have also been taken away by the Japanese to who-knows-where? No one can look there either.

The only other place they could have gone is to some other island. Even with the most liberal assessment of their fuel, the islands they could have reached are few but, even so, islands are difficult to search and any surviving evidence may be very small.

It seems safe to say that if Earhart, Noonan and/or the Electra are ever discovered as the result of a purposeful search, rather than by accident, it will be on an island.


Message: 11
Subject: More on Economical Cruise Speed
Date: 3/30/01
From: Dick Pingrey

To add to what Simon #2120 said about the economic cruise speed. He is 100% correct that the most economic cruise speed changes (actually becomes slower) with the reduction in weight as fuel is burned. There is still one more variable and that is altitude. As the airplane becomes lighter it can and should be flown at a higher altitude where air resistance is less and there is also less drag. Because the airplane is lighter it takes less lift to sustain it in flight. Thus the air can be less dense and still support the weight of the airplane which happens at a higher altitude. The effect of climbing to higher and higher altitudes tends to keep the most economic cruise speed closer to a constant while reducing fuel consumption. This is usually accomplished in step climbs as weight is reduced with the consumption of fuel.

Now, how do we work this into the assumptions on how Amelia flew the airplane and resulting airplane performance?

Dick Pingrey 908C

From Ric

We don't. Johnson's recommendations made no such provision. We could assume that Earhart followed Johnson's formula religiously or that she flew a far more complicated and efficient program or that she foolishly squandered her fuel bucking a speculative headwind. In the end we'd know no more than we know now.

Message: 12
Subject: Re: Long and Nauticos
Date: 3/30/01
From: P. Wesley Smith

To Tom King and others whose skepticism is largely self-serving . . . considering the professional reputation of Nauticos one certainly should be optimistic and balanced.

From Ric

When someone says something that they can not or will not support with hard data it is not self-serving to call them on it. I do not believe that Nauticos ever said they expect to find bodies. I do know that Nauticos has said that they expect to find the Earhart aircraft but they refuse to produce the data to support that claim. They talk about the technique of "re-navigation" which they have used successfully in the past, but re-navigation relies upon having the original navigation data. Nobody has that for the Earhart case. We've seen Elgen Long's speculative reconstruction of the navigation and it is full of unwarranted assumption. The Cal/Tech study that supposedly verifies Long's work is not being made public.

Perhaps you know of some case where Nauticos (or anyone else for that matter) has been successful in a similar search?

Message: 13
Subject: Tarawa Report --- Archival
Date: 3/31/01
From: Ric Gillespie

Our mission in Tarawa was threefold:


Search the Kiribati National Archives for any documents that might enhance our understanding of events relating to the bones and artifacts found on Gardner in 1940 and generally increase our knowledge of the historical context. We also wanted to investigate the possibility that the bones and/or artifacts may have been repatriated to Kiribati when the Western Pacific High Commission was disassembled in the late 1970s.
Interview anyone who had lived on or visited Nikumaroro or might have first hand knowledge of the events and personalities of the island's colonial period.
Meet with senior Kiribati government officials to learn what plans they might have for Nikumaroro and to discuss contingency planning for the management of historic properties which may be found there.
All three missions were accomplished with varying degrees of success. No dramatic discoveries were expected and none were made - but a great deal ofne w information has come to light which fills important gaps in our knowledge of the island's history and will help us focus this summer's search operations.


We spent three full days (08:00 to 16:30) immersed in the Kiribati National Archives (KNA) and came away with 265 photocopied documents, plus the loan of three high resolution aerial mapping photos of Nikumaroro (which together cover the entire island) taken in 1985. From the government Mapping Agency we also have several copies of the new (1995) British Ordnance Survey map of Nikumaroro and the other Phoenix Islands. The map is based on the 1985 photos and an Australian ground survey that same year.

Ironically, we did not get to see the original file of Gallagher's telegrams describing his discovery of the bones. That file, first brought to our attention in 1997 by New Zealand author and TIGHAR member Peter McQuarrie, has apparently become an item of some interest and had been pulled by the head archivist who was away during our visit. The assistant archivist -- who, by the way, worked many hours of overtime on our behalf -- tried but was unable to locate the file. We, of course, have copies of the file anyway but it would have been nice to see the originals.

We had also hoped against hope that the prewar files of the Administrative Officer on Tarawa (Gallagher's contemporary, David Wernham) and the files of the Resident Commissioner of the Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony (Jack Barley) on Ocean Island had somehow survived the war, but that seems to be a forlorn hope. Anything that was on Tarawa or Ocean Island when the Japanese invaded in December 1941 was apparently destroyed. Aside from some documents which apparently, like the bone file, came from Gallagher's office on Gardner, the earliest files in the KNA begin after the reconquest of Tarawa in 1943.

We do, however, have some very interesting documents. For example:

The archives have John T. Arundel's diaries on microfilm. They are voluminous and span many years. They're also written in a scrawly, informal hand that is very difficult to read and the copy function on the archive's microfilm reader is broken. Nonetheless, I was able to find and transcribe a couple of references to Gardner Island in 1892, including a description of the number and nature of buildings Arundel put up there. These were:

1 store house -- 8 sheets iron
1 dwelling -- 12 sheets iron
1 cook house -- 6 sheets iron

This description is consistent with the very decrepit structural remains we have identified on Nutiran.

We now have much more detailed information about the original 1938 -1941 settlement process. We have several lists submitted by Gallagher detailing names and occupations of not only the men but also the wives and children and supplies that made up the progressive waves of settlement. We now know, for example, that 6 pigs arrived with the families of the original work party in April 1939 (contrary to Emily Sikuli's recollection that there were no dogs or pigs on the island in 1940). The arrival date of dogs and pigs is important in speculations about the scattering of the castaway's bones.

The lists are also useful in trying to resolve anecdotal accounts involving bones and aircraft wreckage. There has been much speculation about whether the islands first Native Magistrate, Teng Koata, returned to the island after leaving in September 1940 and may have been in charge while Gallagher was away in Fiji from June 1941 to his return and death in September of that year. Could this have been when the aircraft wreckage and bones on Nutiran were found, thus explaining why Koata never mentioned them to Gallagher? The latest of the lists prepared by Gallagher, apparently sometime in the spring of 1941, shows Koata's successor "Iokina" as "Acting Magistrate." Koata and his family are not on the list.

A long letter in Gilbertese from Gallagher dated 2nd June 1941 (shortly before his departure) is addressed to Iokina and gives him detailed instructions about what to do while he (Irish) is gone. Clearly, Iokina is being left in charge. There is no mention in the letter of continuing clearing or planting operations at any distance from the village, nor of working on any "vacation house" at the southeast end -- much less conducting any kind of search there. It now appears very likely that the clearing operations at Aukeraime and the Seven Site which are evident in the June 21, 1941 aerial photos taken by the U.S. Navy were accomplished prior to Gallagher's departure earlier that month.

A very rough map of the island drawn by Gallagher on or about March 23, 1941 officially designates the names of the island's various districts and passages. There is, of course, no mention of "Ameriki" -- the section at the southeast tip where the Loran station would later be built. A legend in Gilbertese at the bottom describes the boundaries of each district. A handwritten note in English in Gallagher's hand says:

Copy given to each family on 24/3/41. The names were decided on by a meeting of landholders on the evening of 23/4/41.
No mark or indication of any kind is present in the area of the Seven Site. Incidentally, the original name of Nutiran was "I-Nutiran" -- literally "New Zealanders."

A large scale (1 inch equals 100 feet) hand-drawn map of the portion of Aukeraime just east of Bauareke Passage was made by Gallagher and is dated March 19, 1941. It is titled Gardner Nikumaroro Island -- Land Boundaries -- Sheet 1 -- 'Bauareke' Passage Area--East. Nine land demarcations are shown and numbered. A key shows what family name corresponds to each number. It looks like the baby grave and shoe parts are in the ninth (last) land parcel which was owned by the "Anibuka" family.

On the reverse of the above-described map is another hand-drawn map, but this one shows the entire island and is unsigned and undated. In addition to the nine land demarcations shown on Gallagher's map, this one has six more continuing eastward plus another nine on the western side of Bauareke Passage, making a total of 24 land parcels in that area. On this map the southeast tip of the island is labeled "Amerika" which dates it to sometime after 1943 and probably later. Most interesting is a 25th land parcel shown all by itself in the area of the Seven Site. The key ascribes the ownership of this parcel to "Komitina" which is the Gilbertese rendering of "Commissioner," a generic term for the local British authority. (Gallagher spelled it "Kamitina." The wartime District Officer on Canton, Lt. Col. Huggins, signed his communications to the Gardner magistrate "Komitina.")

In yet another map designating island land holdings, drawn by District Officer J. N. Freegard on 15th October 1954, the same parcel of land is labeled "Karaka" (the Gilbertese rendering of Gallagher).

Although Gallagher himself never drew it on a map of the island (at least, not one that survives) nor mentioned anything in existing correspondence about having his own plot of land, it's clear that later authorities were under the impression that the Seven Site had been set aside by or for Gallagher. Had Gallagher wanted to have land on Gardner officially allocated to his personal use it seems like that authorization would have to come from higher up and there should be some mention of it in his file. There isn't. The maps made by Gallagher make no mention of Area 25 and yet later maps associate him with that location.

A series of telegrams to and from Gallagher prior to his arrival at Gardner may provide important clues as to why Area 25 was set aside and just how the discovery of the skull came about. On November 20, 1939, Gallagher -- at that time on Beru in the Gilberts preparing another load of settlers for the PISS -- received a communication from the Resident Commissioner on Ocean Island:

Following telegram has been received from Tremonger --- "Learn in conversation with N.M.P. Tutu that settlers Gardner Island complain one brackish well sole source of water. Cement cistern is cracked and useless." Please telegraph your views of this serious situation with learnt [sic] possible delay.
I'm not sure who "Tremonger" is and I'm not sure where Native Medical Practitioner Tutu is at this time or how he got word about the alleged water shortage on Gardner, but Gallagher is hearing from his boss that there's a big problem back in the Phoenix.

On November 23, 1939 Gallagher replies to the Resident Commissioner:

Pedro states Gardner will be all right until middle December. Tanks, barrels and suitable catchment are available for rain and sufficient rain has fallen lately on Sydney to put 3000 gallons in new cistern. In emergency 100 trees are available for toddy.
"Pedro" is Jack Kima Pedro (sometimes spelled Petro), the half-Portugese/half-Tokelau construction foreman who built the cistern on Gardner.

The same day, November 23, Gallagher sends another, more personal telegram to Jack Barley, the Resident Commissioner:

Please don't worry too much about Gardner -- I give you my word that I really think they are O.K. Tutu will be here in a few days and I will discuss matter further with him.
It is March 13, 1940 before Gallagher sends Barley a full report on the situation. By then he is back at his headquarters on Sydney Island, having called at Gardner to drop off new settlers (including Emily and her family) on January 12, 1940. He reports:
...The Magistrate [this would be Koata] was extremely surprised to hear that there had been any special anxiety regarding the water supply and stated emphatically that he had never had any cause to worry about the matter. Furthermore, the labourers all stated that they had not voiced any complaint. It would appear, therefore, as if the complaint originated from either the Native Dresser [this would be Ten Eneri], whom I forgot to question, or from one of the women on the island.
He goes on to say that although the cistern is not "cracked and useless" it seems to never be more than half full and may need to be "re-rendered" (resealed?). "I have given instructions for the cistern to be re-rendered on the next occasion on which it is empty and am sending the Public Works Overseer, Mr. Jack Pedro, to inspect the work before he leaves the Phoenix Group."

He also says, "It is my present intention to move to Gardner in June ...."

However, in June Gallagher is back on Beru. By this time Pedro is on Gardner checking the cistern. On June 18th Gallagher sends him a telegram asking: "Please telegraph whether there are forty kanawa trees on Gardner good enough to send to Rongorongo to be sawn into planks."

The next day Pedro replies: "Kanawa trees over hundred on Gardner."

This might be a very important exchange. We know that Gallagher had much of the furnishings in the new Rest House on Gardner made out of kanawa wood and that the coffin for the bones was made from kanawa, but it had never occurred to me before that, of course, there is no sawmill on Gardner. Apparently the only facility in the region that could saw logs into useable timber was at Rongorongo. I don't know where Rongorongo is but from other correspondence it's apparent that it is somewhere in the Gilberts. We know there were kanawa trees near the site where the bones were found and I had long suspected that the work party that originally found the skull was cutting kanawa. However, it is evident from the correspondence that kanawa cutting was not a priority for the laborers on Gardner. Their job was to clear land and plant coconuts. They had no need for kanawa and no way to cut it into planks.

I speculate that it was Gallagher's telegram of June 18, 1940 that prompted Pedro to send a work party to the kanawa grove at the southeast end and that the skull was found during that operation. I think that at least some of the clearing we see at the Seven Site ("Area 25") in the June 1941 aerial photos is, in fact, the harvesting of the 40 trees that Gallagher wanted. The water tank and other material from the village may have been to support the logging operation. It may also be that it was Jack Pedro who told Gallagher about the skull and the Benedictine bottle when Irish arrived in early September, by which time Koata was already enroute to Tarawa with the bottle. At any rate, it's clear that Pedro was present on the island during the period when the skull was found.

If this speculation is correct it means that Gallagher's description of when the skull was found (Telegram No.1 from Gallagher to Vaskess dated 17th October 1940, "…Skull discovered by working party six months ago -- report reached me early September... ") is a bit off.

Another fascinating piece of correspondence that emerged from the archives is a July 1960 letter from Leo Bowler, editor of the San Diego Evening Tribune, to the "British Colonial Secretary" on Canton Island. Bowler basically relates the Floyd Kilts story and asks for official confirmation. The letter is passed to D.J. Knobbs, the District Commissioner for the Phoenix Islands District at Canton who replies in April 1961: "...I have searched through the early records of the Phoenix Islands District and can find no report of the discovery of a skeleton on Gardner Island in 1938." He goes on the say that various aspects of the story, such as the boat trip to Suva, are highly unlikely. In the face of such official and authoritative denial, it's hardly surprising that the Floyd Kilts story died on the vine. I don't think that Knobbs is perpetrating any kind of cover-up. The whole bones thing was kept very quiet. Some senior administrators at the time (Harry Maude, Ian Thompson, Eric Bevington) had no knowledge of it. It's hardly surprising that Knobbs didn't know.

Nearly as valuable as the individually significant documents is the overall impression of the island's development, administration, and flavor as reflected in the routine communiques throughout the 1940s,'50s and early '60s. One gets the impression that Koata was a competent and very independent administrator. During his tenure as Native Magistrate there is very little communication between himself and anyone with regard to administrative matters or anything else. One of the few exchanges between Koata on Gardner and Gallagher on Sydney involves Irish squashing Koata's proposal to have only fellow Catholics settle on Gardner. By contrast, communications between various later British administrators and a progression of later Native Magistrates are characterized by innumerable whining queries about increasingly petty matters and annoyed paternalistic responses from the Brits. The impression I get is that Koata ran Nikumaroro as his own little kingdom and had little use for the new British kid who was in charge of the whole Phoenix settlement scheme. I think he was perfectly capable of doing all kinds of things that Gallagher never knew about. Once Irish arrived to live on the island Koata I suspect that Koata had no desire and saw little need to stay on.

We copied many documents and reviewed many more that describe the postwar progress and eventual decline of the Phoenix settlement. In brief, the settlement on Sydney was abandoned as early as 1956 because of internal turmoil and mismanagement. By the late '50s Hull was becoming overcrowded and there was increasing pressure to settle more people on Gardner than the island was ready to accept. A new village on Nutiran was contemplated and begun but apparently never finished. Beginning in about 1960, drought conditions began to impact the settlements on Hull and Gardner and by early 1963 conditions were truly desperate. Water was being shipped in and people were rationed to one pint per day (!). There was no alternative to evacuation of both islands and the residents were removed to the Solomons on November 17, 1963.

The above is, of course, just an overview of the mass of new information we retrieved from the archives and we have much more studying to do before we can be sure we’ve gleaned as many clues as possible from this new information.


Message: 14
Subject: Re: More Assumptions
Date: 3/31/01
From: David Evans Katz

Ric wrote:

>One place they could have gone is the bottom of the
>ocean. We can not look there. Nauticos can not look there. All the naval and
>research vessels in the world can not look there. The expanse of ocean
>where they could have gone down is too impossibly huge and the target too
>impossibly tiny.

Except that Nauticos is in the business of doing exactly that -- they look for tiny objects in very deep, vast expanses of ocean. And, apparently, they find them.

David Katz

From Ric

That's like saying that because a doctor is in the business of curing illnesses he can raise the dead. Name one instance where Nauticos (or Oceaneering International or Williamson Associates or Woods Hole or Bob Ballard or anybody) has ever searched for and found anything analogous to the Earhart airplane. These guys find things that are not lost. The locations are known within feasible constraints. Even so, the task is very difficult and it can take a lot of time, money, expertise and talent to locate the object. NR16020 is truly lost and any deep water search for it, based upon the information that is presently available, is deluded.

Message: 15
Subject: Escape From Tarawa
Date: 3/31/01
From: Tom King

Forumites who shared and helped with my puzzlement over finding British documents in the U.S. National Archives apparently produced on Tarawa well after the Japanese invasion of 10 December 1941 will be relieved to know that Peter McQuarrie's new book, Conflict in Kiribati, has resolved the issue.

It seems that the Japanese landed in December, knocked out the official radio, caused the grounding of Nimanoa, and did other mischief in December, then left, telling the inhabitants that they were captives and they'd better not try to escape. They then flew over the atoll regularly, but didn't come back in force until September of 1942. Most of the Europeans soon elected to escape. They got into contact with Suva using a radio that one of their number had secreted in the bush, and Sir Harry Luke arranged for the Fiji Government ship Degei to meet them at Nonouti. After some weeks repairing a damaged Burns Philp launch and two lifeboats (one from the torpedoed Norwegian ship Donerail, documents on which in the National Archives were what puzzled me in the first place), the main group started its arduous journey on 27 February 1942, reaching Nonouti on 9 March. The launch, with the only surviving functional motor left at Tarawa, towed the two lifeboats with 27 men aboard. The journey covered some 158 nm, and was pretty arduous -- they ran very low on water, and at one point the engine failed and they were at risk of drifting away into the offing, but got it started again. Degei was awaiting them at Nonouti, and they got to Suva on 18 March.

As we'd suspected, and as suggested by the National Archives documents, Dr. Verrier (previously Isaac, who detailed the Niku bones for awhile at Tarawa) was among the escapees, as was Dr. Steenson, whose notes on his examination of the artifacts told us of the man's shoe and the little corks on chains.

Tom King

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