Forum artHighlights From the Forum

April 15 through 21, 2001

Contents:
(click on the number to go directly to that message)
1
Evidence Bob Sarnia
2
Re: Evidence Tom Van Hare
3
Re: Evidence Bob Sarnia
4
Re: Evidence Alan Caldwell
5
Membership Campaign Andrew McKenna
6
Why I Send Money to TIGHAR Dave Porter
7
Membership Hath Its Privileges Ron Bright
8
Re: Membership Hath Its Privileges Ed
9
Watching and Waiting Don Neumann
10
Heroes and Common Folk Don Neumann
11
Re: Membership Hath Its Privileges Charles Lim

Message: 1
Subject: Evidence
Date: 4/16/01
From: Bob Sarnia

This is my first posting since becoming a paid-up member of TIGHAR (although I don’t have my card yet). Let me just say that I neither expect nor seek any special consideration with regard to my postings. I’m just one of the guys, albeit a “ditched” theorist.

Alan Caldwell said: “If anyone thinks something happened to AE other than going to Niku I’m OK with that but tell me what evidence you have for your idea. Not what your theory is but what evidence supports it.”

Further: “If you believe they ran out of gas prematurely tell me what evidence supports your idea but not what additional speculation could make that possible. That gets nowhere.”

Alan, respectfully, you’re a hard man to deal with.

If you take away from the forum all theories, speculation, supposition, ideas and hypotheses, as well as all the coulds, shoulds, and woulds, you’re going to end up with a situation drier than Death Valley in high summer.

Sometimes a crime is solved without the presence of any hard evidence; in such cases, it’s called circumstantial evidence, and that’s what we have here.

Very little evidence is extant today regarding AE’s last flight, other than a few abstract radio messages, and even those are being pulled apart, to wit, the “only half-hour left” controversy, and now, even the “gas is running low” part of that message.

Pretty soon we’ll have people saying that AE wasn’t even aboard the Electra; that FN took off from Lae without her.

If AE’s 0742 “gas is running low” message is considered speculation, then Niku obviously falls under the same category, and you agreed with that, Alan, when you wrote in your 2nd posting on April 11th: “If there is no evidence to support a speculation then why not go with a theory (I fail to see the difference between a theory and speculation) that IS supported by some evidence? Now you might counter that the evidence on Niku hasn’t been proved and YOU WOULD BE CORRECT but at least there is some (?) whereas there is NONE anywhere else.”

Alan, Niku is pure 100% unadulterated speculation, theorizing that the Electra crashlanded there. There is no hard evidence to support that theory; further, three expeditions have searched the atoll for such evidence, and each time those searching have left empty-handed.

Oscar Boswell recently wrote, paraphrasing: “My point has always simply been (people) fail to recognize their own assumptions as assumptions, however easily (they) recognize assumptions made by others.” It’s like the pot calling the kettle black. Assumptions are assumptions regardless of which side utters them, and we’re both uttering them, because there is little hard evidence to discuss.

We are being told that the radiomen’s entries were wrong, the ship’s officers wrongly copied down log entries for the Itasca Report, the newspapermen did a poor job of reporting; everything and everyone is wrong if their entries or reports do not gel with the Niku hypothesis. Yet there is no hard evidence to back this contention.

Elgen Long’s book is not to be trusted, yet his interview with CRM Bellart regarding RM3C O’Hare is used as “near proof” that O’Hare wrongly made the “only half-hour left” log entry.

It’s only after having made the point that Ric says it could be regarded as anecdotal.

One thing I learned in studying criminology: “Impressions reported soon after an event are generally the most accurate.” I believe the same applies in this case, too.

What surprised me, however, was Ric’s April 11th reply to a posting by Andrew McKenna, in which he wrote: “Never underestimate the ability of the ’crashed-and-sankers’ to ignore evidence.” What evidence?

Okay, so the gloves are off!

I say, “Never underestimate the ability of the Niku-ites to ignore common sense.”

Regards, Bob Sarnia


From Ric

My gloves are still on because you seem like a nice guy and a reasonable man. I’m happy to discuss these points with you.

Let’s start with the clear understanding that both crashed-and-sank and landed-at-Niku are hypotheses – theories – and, as you point out, speculative by definition. The dispute seems to be whether there is evidence to support either theory. To address that question we must define what we mean when we say “evidence.” If evidence is the same as proof, then there is obviously no evidence to support either theory or they wouldn’t be theories – one would be historical fact and the other would a disproven hypothesis. So if evidence does not mean proof, what does it mean? I would suggest that “evidence” is something that appears to have a bearing on a particular case and MAY BE INTERPRETED to support a particular hypothesis. In this respect the word “evidence” is synonymous with “clue.” It is not until the case is proven that anyone knows for sure which clues or pieces of evidence pointed in the right direction.

Okay, so what kinds of evidence might be expected if an airplane crashes at sea?

  • A radio call saying that the aiplane is about to run out of gas.
  • A mayday call announcing an imminent ditching.
  • Flares, life rafts, people in the water (alive or dead).
  • Floating debris (seat cushions, insulation, luggage, etc.) and an oil slick.
Of these, only the first is even alleged to exist in the Earhart case and, as we’ve seen, its interpretation is highly debatable. Don’t get me wrong. Plenty of airplanes have crashed at sea and left not a trace of evidence, but absence of evidence is not evidence.

Now, what kinds of evidence might be expected if an airplane lands in a remote location and the crew eventually dies there?

  • Radio distress calls for a limited time.
  • Some kind of signal or marking on the ground to alert searchers.
  • The eventual discovery of airplane wreckage.
  • The eventual discovery of human remains.
All of these clues exist in support of the Niku hypothesis. I hasten to add that none are, as yet, conclusive, but they do exist, whereas, for the crashed-and-sank hypothesis the clues aren’t even there to be interpreted.

Crashed-and-sank is a default explanation for what happened, but defaults are only desirable in the absence of something better.

LTM,
Ric


Message: 2
Subject: Re: Evidence
Date: 4/16/01
From: Tom Van Hare

Bob Sarnia wrote:

> Pretty soon we’ll have people saying that
> AE wasn’t even aboard the Electra; that
> FN took off from Lae without her.

Ah, how perfect. As if we don’t have enough conspiracies, stories and novels already out there! This one, however, is just too much!! You could write a whole book on it.

Imagine how Amelia didn’t want to be in the public limelight anymore; how superior that would be to a plan that actually crash landed on an uninhabited island (at great risk!!) as that one novelist wrote.... Oh, we could go so far with this new line of thinking – how she could have hired a crew of Philippinos to fly the plane and crash it into the ocean next to a ship that GP had out there; or... hey, we could even have the Japanese involved – they buy the plane for its technology, giving Amelia the money she needs to escape her terrible controlling husband.... and in the end Amelia retires to an unnamed New Jersey suburb, which she calls “the good life” (thus justifying every suburban dreamer’s existence).... This is really compelling stuff!!

Well, for me, the one really neat thing at the whole Earhart story is that you either fall into one of two camps – and you alone decide which:

1. Those who romanticize it all (when basically what we have is a dead pilot and navigator after a plane crash – not so romantic, huh?) and dream of a thousand stories that avoid the recognition of the full realization of the real tradegy – we all search for meaning in pointless tragedy, afterall; and

2. Those who ascribe to the intellectual, investigative process, sifting through evidence or potential evidence and trying to surmise a possible answer – who are fully willing to walk away from any theory once it is disproved by fact.

I love to dream, however, what attracts me to TIGHAR has to do with the process. This is a mystery, and a damn good one, to be sure, but in the end, this is an investigative, intellectual process – and that is the real challenge, not what size shoes she wore, or how much gas she had on board....

Thomas Van Hare


Message: 3
Subject: Re: Evidence
Date: 4/17/01
From: Bob Sarnia

Thomas Van Hare wrote: “What attracts me to TIGHAR has to do with the process. This is a mystery, and a damn good one, to be sure, but in the end, this is an investigative, intellectual process – and that is the real challenge.”

I totally agree. I’m in it for the intellectual ride. Though many of our views differ, I have learned much from the Forum, and reading the opinions of others has opened up for me a new vista of ideas that I might otherwise have overlooked, and it has sometimes taught me not to be too dogmatic about my own. It has been, and is, a stimulating experience.

I was only kidding about the gloves, Ric, although I’m sure you don’t need to be told that.

May I return to AE’s 0742 radio message, the part that was entered into the log as “gas is running low,” because something about it still bugs me.

In the recent discussions about “evidence” and “fact,” many pilots have stated it was commonly used to indicate they were getting close to their reserves which, if true, would mean that AE had approx. four hours of fuel left at that time. As I am not a pilot, I cannot disagree or argue with them, so I have to accept their explanation.

However, when did this particular nuance of otherwise common words first come to be accepted among the flying fraternity? How widespread was its usage – military, civil, or both? Would AE have known of it in 1937?

More importantly – and I have never seen this question raised on the Forum – why would AE use flying jargon (known only among fliers) when communicating with sailors (the radiomen aboard the Itasca)?

Each different branch of the military has its own peculiar jargon, which I’m sure is not fully understood by other branches.

Was she actually running low on gas, or is this a question of semantics?

I am well aware that one doesn’t fly from A to B with just enough fuel to reach B; you always carry more than you need to cover all or most exigencies.

Personally, and I have said this before, if I was really running low on gas, I would make sure that any message I sent explaining my situation was abundantly clear. Forget the jargon!

Are there different reads on this?

Regards, Bob Sarnia.


From Ric

I think there may be a bit of a misunderstanding here. The phrase “gas is running low” is not now, and never was, aviation jargon. It means just what it says. The trouble is, it may mean different things to different people, depending on the context. The point the pilots on the forum were making is that, in an aviation context such as Earhart’s, you are definitely “low” on fuel when you have four hours left.

Your question about when this concept first arose is a good one. It’s always a mistake to assume that because we think of something one way now, people have always thought about it the same way. In this case, we have Air Corps Lt. Dan Cooper’s comment in his report on the Earhart flight (July 27, 1937) in which he opines “... Judging that her estimated time of arrival at Howland [was expected] to be 0735 and the end of her gas supply at 0900 gives a safety factor of only 1 hour 25 minutes or approximately 7 %. Note that 20% gas reserve is usually required.”

Cooper, like everyone else aboard Itasca, just accepted as fact that Earhart ran out of gas and then used that as evidence of her incompetence.

LTM,
Ric


Message: 4
Subject: Re: Evidence
Date: 4/17/01
From: Alan Caldwell

> Alan, respectfully, you’re a hard man to deal with.

Fortunately, Bob warned me he was going to bombard me and I take in the good spirit it was intended. Ric is right in that Bob is a good guy and a welcome addition to our group – even if he is all wrong. (Just kidding Bob.)

As usual we get tangled up in properly conveying our ideas with words that are not all that easy to define. “Evidence” is one that confuses us. Bob, I well know the value of circumstantial evidence in a criminal trial. I’m not only a retired USAF pilot but I’m a criminal defense attorney. I deal with little details and fuzzy facts all the time. In court I will get killed if I miss some tiny issue so to that extent I am a bit hard. I like things black and white but know most things are gray. I approach this mystery the same way I would a criminal case. I have to build it brick by brick and the only use for speculation is to game out possibilities so I can make an argument where little or no evidence exists. As to the definition of words in the legal community a word must be given its number one meaning in the dictionary OR there must be an explanation if a secondary meaning is used. “Evidence” is not proof. It is a sign or indication. I see the word used as if it meant hard fact or proof of something. That’s not the correct use of the word. We can qualify the word by saying “I have hard confirmed evidence,” for example, which has a rather obvious meaning.

We don’t have much of that. In some cases I think we imply the evidence is pretty much in concrete when actually it hasn’t been confirmed but that may be because there is so little doubt that it can virtually be accepted. An example would be that our daring flyers took off at 10:00am local Lae time. That was reported from Lae and I think we take that to be a fact when actually it would be difficult to actually prove. We take it as fact they leveled off at 7,000’ after take off because that’s what AE reported – and so on.

As to the “evidence” on Niku each individual piece has not been absolutely confirmed to be what it is thought to be but there are so many clues that put together make a stronger case for Niku than an alternative theory.

I fuss about theories that have NO clues to support them and even if true cannot be tested and so leave us at a dead end. For example, the theory they ran out of gas sometime after their “last” message. Let’s suppose they did. Now what? What would be the next step in the investigation? Search for a plane on the bottom of the Pacific? Where would you search? No, Elgin Long does not possess any magic information as to where the plane was at any time after it left Lae.

But do I want people to quit speculating? Not at all. It would be nice if they thought out their theory a bit before popping out with it. I don’t ask for proof of their theory. I ask for a well reasoned theory as opposed to a flat conclusion. As I posted before when someone says there might have been external factors affecting their gas consumption I don’t deny that could be true but I ask “what external factors” might there be. Suggesting one factor might be unexpected head winds shows me the theorist has not carefully followed the forum or they would know that the head wind component has been computed based on known flight time and assumed flight airspeed. We also know those head winds were predicted before the flight. We also know the flyers actually experienced whatever headwinds there were and would not have continued if they were too adverse. Do we even really know that? Actually no but to believe otherwise makes little sense. If they don’t report an engine failure we have to assume one didn’t fail. If they say they are at 7,000’ we have to assume they were. If they didn’t turn back at the go no go point we have to assume they believed they had adequate fuel. Fact? No, but the closest we will get to one.

Another reason I wouldn’t suggest the speculators quit speculating is that it would make this forum pretty dull. What would I have left to whine about and what would you have to knick at me about?

Finally, out of a significant portion of our bantering about comes excellent ideas and rabbit trails that need to be chased down if only to narrow our problem.

Alan
#2329


Message: 5
Subject: Membership Campaign
Date: 4/18/01
From: Andrew McKenna

This posting followed a series during which a non-member lost his temper and left the Forum in a huff.

Ric wrote:

>Mr. Seapin has submitted a further posting that does not meet basic forum
>standards for civility and has communicated his desire to no longer subscribe
>to the forum. I have respected his request and removed him.

Guess he had a hard time withstanding the peer review.

Personally I am glad he has gone off to milk someone else’s cow, but that was not the intention when I started my Membership Campaign.

It is not the intention of TIGHAR or the Members on the Forum to drive folks away, unless they misbehave beyond the pale, which as far as I can remember has only happened twice, and I am not counting Mr. Seapin who removed himself.

What is important is not Mr. Seapin’s poor attitude, but the fact that TIGHAR is a MEMBERSHIP organization, and cannot survive without MEMBERS. Let’s re-focus on that. Seapin and his ilk will never sign up, but how about the rest of you?

Reviewing the testimonials by Roger Kelly and John Clauss, you remaining lurkers can see that you could be joining a group of very interesting, serious, and dedicated folks. We are trying to be inclusive, not exclusive.

We invite you to join us in the rigorous process of examining the evidence, and each other’s ideas on how to solve the mystery.

We still have 420 lurkers who should consider becoming TIGHAR members, er, rather 416 lurkers (420 minus 3 who signed up, and minus one who lost control and crashed at sea trying to milk a cow).

In my opinion, TIGHAR has an excellent chance of solving the mystery. We will be the ones who either prove or disprove the NIku theory, and either way we will be closer to the answer. It is a fascinating intellectual problem, and the process of working on solving it is extremely educational, engaging, eye opening, and gratifying. I get more than my money’s worth every day.

Once again, I invite all of you Lurkies to join us and enjoy “owning” a piece of the project. It costs less than 15¢ a day.

Who will be the next to step up to the plate?

LTM (Whose cow feels better already)
Andrew McKenna


From Ric

There’s not much I can add to Andrew’s appeal except to remind everyone that there is an alternate way to approach the ugly fact that it takes money to search for answers. The “other guys” are not soliciting charitable contributions and are not conducting an open investigation in the interest of history. They are looking for investors to help finance their business plan. Our search is an intellectual exercise. Theirs is a commercial enterprise.

Commercial enterprise is great and we’re all capitalists at heart, but some subjects are better addressed for the common good rather than for individual profit. I’d rather see important historical artifacts in a public museum than in a theme park. I think truth is better served by free and open discussion than by proprietary studies. I think there is nothing more powerful than people who band together and willingly contribute their resources – intellectual, physical and financial – to seek out answers, not to make a buck, but because the very process of searching for answers is enriching.

Sorry. I’ll get down from the pulpit now. If you think that what we’re doing here has value, please join TIGHAR.

LTM,
Ric


Message: 6
Subject: Why I Send Money to TIGHAR
Date: 4/18/01
From: Dave Porter

As long as we’re on the “membership campaign” thread, I thought I’d share a few thoughts. I too have a “large,” by current standards, family (wife and three kids) and not a lot of money, (about 40K annually) but I still manage to give money to my church, sponsor a child in Central America, and send TIGHAR $20.00 per month. I find a way to support these organizations because I think that the work that they do is valuable.

In TIGHAR’s case, I’m pleased to offer support for many reasons:

1. How many other Earhart researchers apply rigorous evidentiary and scientific standards to their work? How many offer ALL their research for review by all comers? How many allow strangers who DON’T send money to participate in the process electronically?

2. The Voyage of Discovery educational project: The kids in Barb Norris’s elementary school class are being taught critical thinking skills. That alone is worth the price of membership. I just hope that the NEA doesn’t get wind of it.

3. Furthering the cause of historical aircraft preservation. Since I’m writing this on April 17, it’s worth noting an article I read recently in a back issue of Soldier Of Fortune magazine. They did an “expedition” to the Nicaraguan crash site of a B-26 that had been involved in the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Were they recovering remains for families? No, that had been done on a previous trip. Were they looking to create an historical site? No. Their main purpose seems to have been an opportunity to walk around the jungle with AK-47s, get their pictures taken with a wing section that they removed from the crash site, and editorialize about how much fun war would be if only the CIA would stop meddling in it.

4. The Forum: Again, this alone is worth the cost of membership. In the two years I’ve been hanging around, in addition to all the On Topic stuff, I’ve picked up countless bits of cool knowledge that you folks just put in as asides. And I’m quite sure that this place we’ve all come to know and love doesn’t pay for itself.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. You should also know that I’m not just blowing sunshine up Ric’s kilt. Ric and I have had some fairly substantial, though civil, disagreements on off topic stuff, and I’m still happy to send my money because what TIGHAR is doing is worth supporting. To all my fellow members, I salute you. (and being a Drill Sergeant in the Army Reserve, rest assured that it is a quite proper and correct salute) To the rest of you, what are you waiting for?

LTM, who was always quite proper and correct,
Dave Porter, 2288


From Ric

Salute returned.

To give credit where credit is due (and as noted on the TIGHAR website) – the quarterly costs for the forum Listserve subscription are covered by a grant from Select GIS Services, Inc. (GIS stands for Global Information Systems) thanks to the good offices of its owner Jim Thompson, TIGHAR #2185.


Message: 7
Subject: Membership Hath Its Privileges
Date: 4/18/01
From: Ron Bright

Do we TIGHARS have a fight song? I know we have caps, and shirts, in TIGHAR colors. Go Niku Go!


From Ric

Of course! It’s called “The Earhart Song” (sung to the tune of The Air Force Song).

ahem

Off we go, seeking Amelia Earhart,
Come along, it’ll be fun.

Waste your days list’ning to lies from old farts,
Sail away, die in the sun.

Down we dive, searching the reef for plane parts;
Up with none. Hell of a bore.

We’ll blame Japan,
She’s on Saipan,
Or maybe that’s her now at the front door.

Songs are easy. What I’ve always felt we really need is a secret decoder ring but I’ve never been able to find a vendor.

LTM,
Ric


Message: 8
Subject: Re: Membership Hath Its Privileges
Date: 4/8/01
From: Ed of PSL

As a courtesy, could you describe how those who are non-members can join? I know that it’s been described before undoubtedly but a new post would guide those wanting to sign up now.

Thanks,

Best regards,
Ed of PSL


From Ric

I thought you’d never ask.

There are many ways to join TIGHAR:

On Line Click here: Membership or click on any prop and shovel icon on any TIGHAR web page; then just follow the steps. This is a secure page for credit card transactions.
By Snail Mail You can print the membership form on the Membership page, or just write your name, address, phone number, and email address on a piece of paper and send it to us.
By Fax You can fax us the form on the Membership page, or the piece of paper you’ve written your information on, along with your credit card number and expiration date. 302 994 7945 is our fax number, and it’s secure.
By Phone Call (302) 994-4410 during normal business hours and ask for Ric. You’ll get a man claiming to be me who will chat pleasantly and ask for your name address and credit card info. You can even leave the information on voicemail if no one is there. It’s secure.
By Mental Telepathy We’re working on it. The vibes are definitely there but we haven’t yet figured out a way to handle the financial transaction that’s not vulnerable to abuse.
Other Information

Here are the categories of membership:

$45 if you’re a senior or a full-time student
$55 for an “Associate” membership (beyond student and not yet to senior)
$100 if you like the title “Sponsor”
$500 if you prefer “Donor”
$1,000 if you’re a “Patron”

(We considered titles like “Comandante” and “Grand Vizier” but decided to be more conventional lest people think we’re not serious about money.)

We accept checks or money orders payable on U.S. or Canadian banks in U.S. dollars (make payable to TIGHAR); VISA; and MasterCard.

The address is: 2812 Fawkes Drive, Wilmington, DE  19808  USA

LTM,
Ric


Message: 9
Subject: Pilot Elitism
Date: 4/11/01
From: Don Neumann

Ric said:

> ...Now, what kinds of evidence might be expected if an
>airplane lands in a remote location and the crew eventually dies there?
>
> • Radio distress calls for a limited time.
> • Some kind of signal or marking on the ground to alert searchers...

Maybe I’m just not paying close enough attention to Forum postings, however I can’t recall any of the post-termination radio messages ever providing any clue as to the location of the specific site of the landfall from which they may have originated, (only one sequence of such messages was roughly triangulated in the Phoenix Chain) in fact it is my recollection that subsequently, none of these transmissions were ever authenticated by anyone, as to whether or not they actually came from the Electra.

Though Lt. Lambrecht (in his own report) stated he had seen “signs of recent habitation” after making several circuits & zooming passes over Gardner Island, I don’t recall there being any sign of the Electra (observed by the Lambrecht flight) or what might have been interpreted as aircraft wreckage, let alone any signals or markings for the observation of searchers.

The most compelling “evidence” that Gardner/Nikumaroro Island was the final landfall for the flight, was the fact that FN’s LOP, where it would have intersected with Howland, would on its SE extention, also intersect very close to Gardner Island, thus making Gardner a much more desirable navigational target & also within the estimated, remaining fuel supply of the flight (as opposed to any other landfall in the Gilbert or Marshall Islands).

Though as I have observed in previous posts there were equally valid reasons for _not_ flying to Gardner (Lack of any two-way radio communication with Itasca/no notice of such intentions to Itasca/lack of any basic survival equipment/food/water for any extended stay on any uninhabited island.)

Actually, none of the available options was all that appealing, however, flying to Gardner would have involved the more positive action (at least they would have been going somewhere on their only navigational plotplan, within their remaining, estimated fuel supply ) & could have provided a desperately needed landfall, whereas the other options almost guaranteed a ditching at sea.

The anecdotal recollections of Kilts & Niku Island residents of aircraft & human remains being seen/found on the island, were subsequently, at least partially, confirmed by the Tarawa records containing Gallagher’s reports of finding human remains (which he ’speculated’, may have belonged to AE) & the bones recovered were sent to his superiors, who never affirmed Gallagher’s ’speculations’ as to whose remains the bones belonged.

Two separate reports at that time, of examination of the bones, were inconclusive, though TIGHAR did have these reports reviewed by forensic pathologists who, though somewhat in disagreement with the conclusions of the original examiners, were still unable to identify such remains (without actually examining the bones) as being either AE or FN, within any reasonable certainty.)

Though many of the other artifacts found, during the several expeditions to the island, have been reasonably identified with the 1930s era, none have been identified as belonging to either AE or FN, nor has any piece of aircraft material ever matched up with the Electra, even though there is no known instance of any other aircraft having landed/crashed on or around the island.

The search has thus, seemingly narrowed down to the deep blue sea (with no really reliable clues as to just where to begin searching the vast ocean bottom of the Pacific) or continue the search on or around Nikumaroro Island for whatever other artifacts can be gleaned from it’s surface or the lagoon bottom or the cold, dark depths of the void at the edge of it’s coral reef flats.

All of these options involve lots of time, human effort & cash to finance all the transportation & equipment needed to do the job & unfortunately, unless someone actually finds the Electra, its identifiable remains &/or the remains of the crew, there will be no ‘cigar’ at the termination of such efforts & the mystery will remain.

To all who have decided to continue the quest, my greatest admiration & I truly wish you well in your respective endeavors, however, I will continue to watch & wait....

Don Neumann


From Ric

Taikung Jen, in a conversation with Confucius:

I’ll teach you how to escape death.

There is a raven in the eastern sea which is called Yitai (dull-head). This dull-head cannot fly very high and seems very stupid. It hops only a short distance and nestles close with others of its kind. In going forward it dare not lead, and in going back it dare not lag behind. At the time of feeding, it takes what is left over by the other birds. Therefore, the ranks of this bird are never depleted and nobody can do them any harm. A tree with a straight trunk is the first to be cut down. A well with sweet water is the first to be drawn dry.

This quotation was used by Ernest Gann as the prologue to his novel Fate Is The Hunter. It has sat in a small frame on my desk for the past thirty years.

Message: 10
Subject: Heroes and Common Folk
Date: 4/19/01
From: Don Neumann

Ric quoted:

> ...Therefore, the ranks of this bird are never depleted and
> nobody can do them any harm...

To paraphrase Mr. Lincoln, who once said “The Lord must have loved the common folk, because he made so many of us.”

As a society, we generally hold in highest esteem & seem to venerate those relatively few among us who seem willing to assume the greatest risks & who often seem (rightly so) to reap the greatest rewards. Unfortunately, such attitudes could lead one to conclude that the world is simply divided into two separate classes: those who are willing to seek out & accept great risks, presumably for the greater rewards or sense of fulfillment such actions usually generate & those who do not or will not accept such risks except in self-defense.

Should everyone in our world adapt the former attitude, our world would no doubt resemble most of the &action’ films & TV programs we view, where the heros & heroines are in a constant state of animation, aggitation & anxiety, always searching out new & exciting/dangerous challenges.

In order to obtain any sense of balance in our confusing world, we certainly need both, those who are willing to do & dare & those whose lot in life seems to be one governed by a more cautious & temperate contemplation of the world’s problems & challenges, unwilling to attempt to climb every mountain just because it’s there or jump upon every bandwagon because it seemed like a good thing to do at the time.

Perhaps this difference in human behavior might be likened to Aesop’s tale of the Tortoise & the Hare or the flaming camp- fire that provides heat & light for a few moments & the smoldering coals that provide warmth for the entire night.

Perhaps there is much to be learned from us ground-level ’Dull-Heads’, if only that we provide some sense of equilibrium for the ’high-wire’ activities of the more ambitious & adventuresome among us, which certainly doesn’t mean we can’t still admire & cheer them on for their courage & fortitude, in the pursuit of their respective endeavors.

Perhaps the ’Dull-Head’ motto might best reflect an old aviator’s dictum that Ric has quoted on occasion: There are old pilots & bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.

Don Neumann


From Ric

An interesting subject, and not entirely off-topic (Earhart was certainly a risk-taker). Like you, I would not want to live in a world full of Rambos, nor do I consider myself to be any kind of “hero” or “adventurer”. Pointless displays of bravado are stupid – whatever the context. The kind of courage I’m interested in is intellectual courage – the courage to take a position and defend it, and also the courage to admit error and benefit from correction.


Message: 11
Subject: Re: Membership Hath Its Privileges
Date: 4/20/01
From: Charles Lim

Ric wrote,

>Are we really that intimidating? You make it sound like deciding to become
>a monk. It’s not quite the same thing.

Well you all are experts and I’m NOT one. It isn’t the same as being a ‘monk’ at all, I know that. There is no reason why I shouldn’t join at all cos I know that what I’m paying for is worth every cent.

When I first went to the site years ago I remember feeling intimidated by the wealth of knowledge that Tighar had built up, it is like WOW you GUYS KNOW THAT MUCH?? It is not the people Tighar that is intimidating it is their expertise, because I know that I could never match it or contribute anything towards (apart from $$) that would make a real difference to the work you guys do.

Perhaps I should contribute my $$ and make that difference cos it all I can do.

Charles Lim
(Don’t u have to be a “monk” if you wanted to start a cult anyways??)


From Ric

One of our most intimidating traits is our ability to mix metaphors. All the expertise in the world is just so much hot air without the money to put it to use. I’m always a bit flabbergasted by folks who apologize that all they have to contribute is dollars. It’s dollars that make it possible for the airplanes to fly and the boats to sail and the bush knives to swing. What really sets TIGHAR apart is that we GO and DO which, in turn, produces new information to which all that expertise can be applied. Without the financial contributions of the TIGHAR membership we’d just be endlessly chewing over the same over-masticated material that Earhart researchers have been jawing for 60 plus years.


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