Forum artHighlights From the Forum

May 6 through 12, 2001

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Jewel of the Sea Ric Gillespie
Neutron Activation Analysis Lawrence Glazer
What's in a Name? Dick Evans
Sir Harry Luke Phil Tanner
Re: What's In a Name? Chris Kennedy

Message: 1
Subject: Jewel of the Sea
Date: 5/8/01
From: Ric Gillespie

Tom King and I had a very pleasant and informative morning at NOAA headquarters yesterday and I'm pleased to report that Space Imaging and the Lockheed/Martin IKONOS 2 satellite have delivered some really spectacular imagery our favorite atoll. Research and practical use aspects aside, Niku reveals itself as a green and turquoise jewel framed in a thin white line of surf and set in a blue/black sea. Absolutely stunning.

The bird looked down from 700 km above the Earth (that's 438 miles folks) at an angle of 79 degrees at about 11 o'clock Niku time on the morning of April 16th and found the island to be about 10 meters from where the U.S. Navy said it was in 1943. The steep look-down angle means that we have zero sun-glint off the water and an as-good-as-it-gets view of the reef, land areas, and lagoon.

We have a few little wisps of cloud over the lagoon and their shadows provide just enough depth to create a nice three-dimensional effect. One little cloud (Murphy's Cloud), of course, has to be parked right over a part of the lagoon that we'd like to see but the 1985 aerial photos we got from the Kiribati Archive cover that spot with better resolution anyway.

From a research standpoint, we've only just begun to explore what we can learn from this imagery. We already know that, not surprisingly, there won't be much new information from the deep water surrounding the island. Even though we have good water penetration, perhaps down to 100 feet in the blue-green band of the multispectral imagery, the reef slope drops away so steeply that you can't see its surface. (Imagine looking almost straight down on a southwestern U.S. "mesa".) Our view of the lagoon bottom, on the other hand, is limited only by the turbidity of the water and Murphy's Cloud. We have gorgeous imagery of the land areas both in color, with 4 meter resolution, and in black and white, with 1 meter resolution. This will be of priceless value in planning, coordinating, plotting, and evaluating archaeological work on the ground.

We'll get a picture up on the website as soon as we clear the details with Space Imaging but, in the meantime, we're hoping to mail the color prints out to all contributors to the satellite fund on Thursday (May 10).

A big TIGHAR thank you to everyone who helped make this possible.


Message: 2
Subject: Neutron Activation Analysis
Date: 5/8/01
From: Lawrence Glazer

This is a longshot possibility for finding the smoking gun.

There is an analytical technique called neutron activation analysis. A sample of material is bombarded with neutrons in a chamber and this results in a recordable spectrum of all elements present in the material, and their proportionate quantities (i.e., parts per million).

It is used to determine whether the subject sample was part of a known production run, by comparing the subject sample's spectrum with that of a known sample from the specified production run.

It works because any metal that was liquified and then poured will contain small quantities of impurities -- stuff that was not intended to be part of the material, but got in there anyway. Every batch is thus slightly different from every other batch. But every product fabricated from the same batch has exactly the same composition as all other products produced of that material from that batch.

As I recall, past expeditions have found both metal and plexiglass (windshield?) pieces of shape and thickness consistent with known parts of AE's 10-E.

I know neutron activation analysis works on metal; don't know if it works on plastics, but would be easy to find out.

I wonder if records still exist which would be sufficient to trace any of the metal or plexiglass in AE's plane back to the creation of these materials -- not their shaping into aircraft parts, but their actual creation. The reason it might be possible is that aircraft manufacturers' specs for such materials are quite high (because of the stresses such parts have to survive, and because of the consequences of a part's failure in flight, as you know), and I assume that this was true even in the 1930's. Thus, such records would have been created.

If they WERE created, and if they can be FOUND, and -- the biggest "if" of all -- if these records can be used to trace PRESENTLY LOCATABLE parts made from the same batch(es), then neutron activation analysis might be able to give us a definitive answer.

Lawrence M. Glazer

From Ric

We carefully considered neutron activation analysis back in 1996 when we were working with ALCOA trying to pin down the origin of the "24ST Alclad" in artifact 2-2-V-1 (the section of airplane skin). Ultimately, the problem we ran up against is that in those Depression days before the huge expansion of the aviation industry that started in 1939, manufacturers (like Lockheed) bought their aluminum in small batches based upon orders in hand --- sometimes literally airplane by airplane. There's no way to get a sample to match against where we could be sure that it was from the same batch used to build c/n 1055 (Earhart's Electra).

I don't know if neuton activation analysis would work on polymethyl methacrylate. It was manufactured by Rohm and Haas here in the states under the trade name "Plexiglas," in Britain as "Perspex," and later in the states by DuPont as "Lucite;" but it's all the same stuff. It was very expensive and in the mid-1930s was used primarily in the manufacturer of a new technology -- jukeboxes -- with aviation a distant second. Because it was nonstructural, no close accounting was kept of production batches and who they went to.


Message: 3
Subject: What's In a Name?
Date: 5/9/01
From: Dick Evans

Regarding the name Norwich City. As I recall the name coiuld be read on the bow of the ship (1944) although it was not very plain. On one occasion several of us walked thru the hole torn in the port side of the hull and climbed up to the forepeak. From there we could see several places where the name was painted on equipment. For the next few months we threatened to climb back up and work our way to the bridge, which was in good shape. But like most things, this got lost in the scope-watching and similar exciting things we were doing. Don't know if this is any use to you or Lawrence, but there it is.

Dick Evans

From Ric

Thanks Dick. This is really very interesting.

You're correct, of course, about the hole on the port side and it would make sense that there would be features aboard that bore the ship's name. Whatever you saw as the bridge, however, must have been something else. Photos of the ship prior to the accident show a white-painted superstructure just forward of the funnel and a smaller structure further aft that are missing in Bevington's 1937 photos of the wreck. These seem to have been of wooden construction and were consumed in the fire that engulfed the vessel at the time of its stranding.

Message: 4
Subject: Sir Harry Luke
Date: 5/10/01
From: Phil Tanner

Last week I went up to Oxford, as they say, to study a file of correspondence in the Rhodes House Library between Sir Harry Luke, head of the Western Pacific High Commission in Suva and thus the key official in the "bones saga", and Sir Harry Batterbee, high commissioner in Wellington. The file covers the period from 1939 to 1942, when Luke left Fiji, with copies or originals of letters in both directions.

I'm afraid it shed no light whatsoever on the affair of the bones or anything else to do with Gardner Island or Gerald Gallagher, but it was fascinating nonetheless, and the names of a couple of officials who crop up on the Forum from time to time do appear.

A good deal of it is what one might term social correspondence --- arrangements for visitors in either direction, letters of introduction, thanks for hospitality and so on. There is speculation about the course the war is taking, and it's quite moving to read of these quite senior figures' fears for members of their own families who were far away at that time in correspondence which one imagines they would never dream would be picked over by a member of the public 60 years on.

There is one very revealing and pungent remark by Batterbee about a perceived American desire to exploit British weakness in its colonies for the benefit of its own air services, which might help explain why Luke would have been particularly wary about raising an aviation-related issue with American diplomats.

6 August 1940/Batterbee to Luke. Expresses concern at the state of the New Zealand economy and the international situation. Asks about the possible exchange of reports by Harry Maude and P.D Macdonald of the WPHC and one made by someone called Gibson for the New Zealand authorities.

Batterbee writes: "I must say I think the Americans are a most unconscionable set of blackmailers when it is a matter of air services: they are now engaged in demanding from us all sorts of air facilities in the West Indies which at the present moment they judge, and no doubt rightly, that we shall not be able to resist." He is "most anxious" to hear of a report by a Burgess and a Gatty (presumably Harold) and hopes they have found a suitable base for PanAmerican in Fiji.

In reply, Luke writes that if the Gibson report Batterbee referred to is that of the New Zealand Pacific aviation survey expedition of 38-39, "we have it". He sends a letter of introduction shortly afterwards for P.D. Macdonald of the WPHC "copies of whose excellent report on the Ellice and Tokelau Islands (US claims) have gone to you in another letter." Further light on diplomatic tensions between the Brits and the Americans. Er, us and you.

19 Sep 40: Luke to Batterbee, attaching a report of Luke's visit tothe New Hebrides and New Caledonia aboard the Viti, a "fine sturdy ship" which arrived in Suva from Hong Kong on 14th August. The party included Dr Macpherson, "Acting Central Medical Authority". Left on 22/8, Vila on 25/8, New Caledonia 30/8.

Luke seems not to have been in the best of health, with gout and arthritis requiring spa treatment in Rotorua, and in his last letter refers quite movingly to the Colonial Office quite understandably wanting a younger man in the post, and hoping he has been able to do something to promote the interests of a "Cinderella" region.

"I have tried since I have been here --- and the High Com. staff feel, I am glad to think, not wholly in vain --- to give them that personal attention they deserve and need, but I have had four increasingly trying years and I think the S/S [secretary of state --- in a British context, any minister, in this instance it must be the Colonial Secretary] is quite right to send for a younger and fresher man". Luke also reveals that he recently learned that all the property he had left in store in Malta, including his library, had been destroyed in a raid.

There are so many references from both men to Lady Batterbee's health that one half expects it to be some sort of coded correspondence, until you realize that they had encryption available anyway.

I also saw Eric Bevington's original photo album, which includes a photo taken on Gardner supposedly showing a coconut crab carrying a beer bottle (the caption said so but I couldn't make out the detail).

LTM Phil Tanner 2276

From Ric

Thanks Phil. This was a base that needed to be covered and, although there were no great revelations, the correspondence does provide valuable context that helps us understand the climate in which the bones incident happened.

Message: 5
Subject: Re: What's In a Name?
Date: 5/10/01
From: Chris Kennedy

Mr. Evans' account of accessing the upper decks of the Norwich City in 1944 by entering the vessel through the tear in the port side and then climbing up, raises all sorts of other interesting questions and possibilites, as well. But, first, one question I do have for him is what, exactly, he means by "climbing up"---could you still walk up ladders and gangplanks, or did you have to crawl up over a pile of collapsed wreckage? If it was relatively straightforward and easy to climb up, the upper decks would provide a ready shelter in what remained of the superstructure. Most importantly, however, the Norwich City has proven throughout her career at Gardner to be a magnet of attention for approaching ships from the sea (the type of rescue Ric has said Earhart would be expecting) and, coincidentally, the Lambrecht flyover of both vessel and island. A person on the forepeak would've been much more likely to have been spotted than one stuck back in the wilds of Nutiran.

Something else to ponder is the fact that the upper decks of a steamer of this size sitting atop a reef provide an elevated platform to view the surrounding areas, both land and sea (rescue). Yet, it also means that wreckage scattered low on the reef (Emily's story of airplane wreckage), would much more easily be seen by people such as the New Zealanders and Mr. Evans. I wonder if Mr. Evans can recall the types of wreckage he saw lying around the Norwich City? We know there was scattered vessel wreckage, but what, if anything, does he remember seeing to the north?

--Chris Kennedy

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