Highlights From the Forum
September 16 through 22, 2001
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|1||Report From the Expedition, Day 17||Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher|
|2||Recent Habitation||Patrick Gaston|
|3||Report From the Expedition, Day 18||Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher|
|4||Report From the Expedition, Day 19||Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher|
|5||Maine and Nikumaroro||Rollin Reineck|
|6||Re: Lambrecht Search||Ron Bright|
|7||Report From the Expedition, Day 20||Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher|
|8||Re: Lambrecht Search||Ron Bright|
|9||Re: Lambrecht Search||Kenton Spading|
|10||Reports for the next two or three days||Pat Thrasher|
|11||Report From the Exepdition, Final||Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher|
The home stretch. Everyone is really tired, but holding up all right. The only real injury has been to one of the crew, who cut his hand fishing. Jim stitched it up and it's healing fine.
It was another long hot day at the Seven site. They are finding more animal and bird bone deposits, and more small camp/cooking fires, but not very many human artifacts. In a way this is encouraging. The bits of fashioned glass and so on that were found earlier are not simply parts of bigger things that ended up there somehow, because the rest of the bigger things haven't been found. The inference can therefore be drawn that these are utilitarian objects, beachcombed and perhaps made into tools by a castaway, rather than simply being the casual detritus of storms.
Another batch of the roofing material was found grown in among/rooted into a tree root system. More was found about three meters away. Because it had been in the sun it was almost dust, but the outline and the remnants were visible.
The Waders (formerly the Divers) covered the areas mentioned in yesterday's report with no meaningful results --- no airplane-esque stuff.
Today they will dedicate the Norwich City plaque around 10 a.m. -- that's in sector WB09. Then they will go to take a close look at the Arundel structures in WE11 to see if any of the construction type materials found at the Seven site can be matched to items there.
Additionally, they will be filling in the hole left by the excavation of Grave 3, which turned out not to be a grave.
Tonight, John, Andrew and Kar will stay overnight at the Seven site to do U.V. screening. Jim has rigged some very nice hammocks, which should make things much more comfortable... or at least a little less creepy-crawly.
Tomorrow, everything will come off the Seven site and the process of withdrawal will commence. The last day will be spent in the village in an effort to match any artifacts from the Seven site that might provide clues as to layers.
by Ric Gillespie
Lambrecht's remark about "signs of recent habitation" has always been troubling, but perhaps his report provides a clue. In the section on Canton, after noting the shacks and "constructions" left over from the [June 1937] eclipse expedition, he writes that "no signs of contemporary habitation were visible." This suggests that Lambrecht may have been making a distinction between "contemporary" and "recent" habitation, as in "currently inhabited" vs. "inhabited at some time in the not-too-distant past." I admit that's reading a lot into two words, but it's no worse than TIGHAR's interpretation of "low on fuel" as "low on fuel, not counting my four-hour reserve."
More likely, in my view, is that the "signs" on Gardner were incompatible with a rude castaway campsite -- probably some sort of "constructions," like shacks or huts left over from the Arundel days. I believe that in one of his later interviews, Lambrecht spoke of "crumbling walls." Unless you're a dedicated Lambrecht-basher, it's hard to accept that the senior aviator in charge of the Earhart search party would disregard any evidence that suggested, even remotely, Earhart's presence on Gardner. He certainly was not averse to landing in order to check things out, as he proved that same day on Hull. And if he ever had second thoughts about those "signs," it's hard to see him writing about them a week later. Talk about putting your head in the noose!
For Kurt Thompson and Charlie Sivert: Of course it's possible that Earhart was in dire straits, or dead, by July 9, which would explain the lack of an "answering wave." But there remains the problem of the Electra. Which leads into a discussion of how likely it is that the airplane was swept off the reef flat so completely, in the space of one week or less, that nothing remained for Lambrecht & Co. to see. Which I ain't touching with a ten-foot pole because it's been hashed and rehashed till there's no hash left.
Still, it's a shame Lambrecht wasn't more specific about what he saw on Gardner. I wonder if there is a more formal "official report," and if it will ever be found.
Slowly the expedition is winding down. Last minute tasks and housekeeping are jostling elbows with final excavation work.
Yesterday the gang spent a lot of time out on the reef flat at a very low tide, taking advantage of the opportunity to examine the sad remains of Norwich City. Lots of photographs were taken, and the plaque looks great. A brief on-shore ceremony was held in memory of those who died there, and a verse of the Navy Hymn was sung. A tape of an appropriate reading and prayer by a Muslim cleric was played in honor of the six Arab firemen who perished in the wreck.
The entire team turned to to fill the (as it turned out) non-grave site excavation. Backbreaking, and unbelievably hot, people just took turns with shovels and gritted their way through it. Picking up and putting away is the most difficult part of the expedition, but putting away a "dead" unit is the worst of all. Ric commented that the scene resembled some of the chain gang scenes in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" and immediately sparked a song-fest, which made the time go much faster.
The next order of business was a walking tour of the "European house site." A lot of debate has been generated by this excursion, with widely varying opinions as to dating the structures. One thing is clear: this was a heavily used site and there are a lot of layers to understand before being sure of dating anything there. One nail was recovered from a board. Gary Quigg is a museum professional working with a living history museum, and he thought he recognized the nail as 19th century. This should be readily identifiable stateside. Samples of copper screening and corrugated metal were also collected to compare to artifacts found at the Seven site.
Last night Kar, John, Andrew, and Mark stayed ashore to do ultraviolet screening at the Seven site. Their activities will be reported on tomorrow, since no one has seen them yet.
Today, everyone but Van and Walt will be finishing up at the Seven site, digging one or two more units and making sure everything is picked up and put away. Van and Walt will be securing dive gear and packing aquatic things for shipment. Ric will be trying to trace the 1938 trail from the site to the clam beds with the help of the photographs. All supplies and equipment must be out of the site by the end of the day today, as the Naiad leaves the lagoon on the high tide.
Tonight is the traditional banquet and sing-sing thrown by the crew for the team aboard Nai'a. The buffet is wonderful and the music is great, and a good time is had by all at these events. Spirits are still good; the grave-filling-in songfest lasted into the evening last night, and the cook marched out when they quieted down and said, "No music, no supper!" so they had to start up again.
Tomorrow, everyone will be looking around the village for any items which might be matched to things at the Seven site in order to try and establish dates/times for artifacts.
by Ric Gillespie
Yesterday the team wrapped up work at the Seven site, almost literally – tarps were put out and weighted down over the excavated units to discourage scaevola growth and protect the site, as much as is practical, from the worst effects of weather. That site is now shut down.
John took a small team down to the Loran station and found the site of the "headquarters" quonset hut, where they looked for green roofing material and didn't find any. We still don't know where that stuff came from.
Andrew, Kar and Ric tried to trace the trail from the Seven site to the clam beds. It was an interesting experience; going out was rough, lots of scaevola chopping and they came out 40 meters off goal. But going back, they struck a finger of higher ground where the buka forest was still intact, and found it led directly into the Seven site. A trail there made all kinds of sense.
Last night, the crew threw a party for the team. It was, by all accounts, an incredible experience. To begin with, there was an impromptu sea mammals show – the resident dolphin pod (who seem to find our activities fascinating) decided to put on an aquabatic display that would rival that of any of the aquatic theme parks. The entire crew and team hung over the rails, cheering and applauding, and the dolphins showed off for fifteen minutes.
When the group retired to the salon, a ceremony was held honoring those who died in last week's attacks. After a minute of silence, an American flag and a Fijian flag, folded into triangles, were held high as first the U.S. national anthem and then the Fijian national anthem were sung. Simple, but very moving, Ric describes the singing as "inspired."
Fritz then addressed the group in highly complimentary terms, speaking of how easy they had been to work and live with for the trip, and hoping to work with the team again. A crew spokesman echoed these sentiments on behalf of the staff. Then the crew chaplain said a grace for a safe passage home and an end to terror.
A huge spread of traditional Fijian foods was laid on and everyone ate a lot and drank kava and sang and played their instruments and a wonderful time was had by all.
Today the team will be working in the village in an attempt to match any of the building materials found at the Seven site to things that were used during the colonial period. Points of particular interest will be the radio shack and rest house at WI15, the cistern at WH16, and the new village at WH20. They leave tonight with last light.
by Ric Gillespie
TIGHAR made 21 trips to the northeastern part of the U.S looking for the White Bird using the same type of reasoning that what is need is more time and money. If my math is right he has 15 more trips to Niku to find 16020. Good luck.
Well, the analogy is poor but the question is not irrelevant. After exhausting the possibilities of anecdote in Maine, we finally wised up and figured out that old woodsmen's tales are *NOT EVIDENCE.* Any more than old Polynesians' tales are.
We are reasonably convince that l'Oiseau Blanc ended up in Newfoundland; whether the remnants are findable, no matter how much money and time one poured into the search, is a different question entirely... just as it is on Nikumaroro with Earhart.
In view of the recent revival of the controversial Lambrecht search, the following may not have been seen by some of the researchers. It seems therefore appropriate to have Lambrecht himself have the final word on his search over Gardner. Longtime researcher Fred Goerner was quite interested in the Lambrecht search and in the 60 and 70s he conducted numerous interviews (taped) with Lambrecht and the two other pilots that made the flyover on 9 July 37 (Short and Fox). In a private letter of April 1993 to J. Gordon Vaeth, also an Earhart researcher, Goerner quoted John Lambrecht:
Whether he and the other five could have missed seeing some sign of Earhart or of the Electra can be debated forever. In my opinion we shall have to find some conclusive evidence that AE ended up at Niku to show his search was perfunctory, and/or evidence that AE, FN , the Electra and or any kind of SOS signal (kites,raft,etc) were not visible on 9 July mid-morning, seven days after she went down.
Ron, do you understand the difference between what Lambrecht wrote *at the time of the search* and a thirty year old memory, overlaid by whatever thoughts and conclusions had been seeded in his mind in the meantime? Lambrecht wrote, *at the time*, that he saw clear signs of recent habitation. The end.
No real report on the last day at the island, because as soon as they left they ran into heavy seas and driving rain squalls. Ric called from the foredeck, drenched, hanging onto equipment to keep from being tossed around, and we kept losing the connection because the phone was getting wet.
So we decided that discretion was the better part, and he'll call again tonight and see if we can get the last bit of news.
by Ric Gillespie
"Clear signs of habitation" does not make evidence of Earhart as it is certainly clear in Lambrecht's original report that what he saw was not connected to Earhart. Believe me, if he thought it was signs of Earhart as compared to the other "signs" he saw on the other Islands, Lambrecht would have returned. No way Earhart just left ambigous signs of "recent habitation." Where were her kites, flares, SOS msgs,.I just can't buy she and Fred were incapacitated and unable to respond or set up a clear SOS signal within a few days. Her top prioriity seven days later was to be seen. Time does not always diminish the accuracy of a memory. I'll bet you know exactly what you were doing when JFK got shot.
OK, I'll try again.
LTM, who likes the artistic analogy
Once again the Forum has revisited the issue of what did Lambrecht's crew observe at Gardner Is.? I have posted some of the following information in the past but it seems the Forum needs to review the whole picture again. I offer the following information to help ponder the basic Lambrecht question: Why was no land search conducted if "signs of recent habitation" were reported?
To answer the Lambrecht question we first need to ask ourselves: could there have been anything on the island that may have looked like "recent signs of habitation". One answer is.....yes, Earhart and Noonan could have been there. But there are also many other logical possibilities. Let's take a closer look.
Reports of various people seeing signs of previous habitation on Gardner/Nikumaroro Island are discussed below. Lets examine what other visitors saw and what they reported both contemporaneously and during later interviews or correspondence. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of visitors to the island nor is it meant to exclude what Lambrecht saw as being Earhart related. It is meant to provide the interested reader with a full menu of items from which to draw conclusions about what Lambrecht may have observed on Gardner/Niku and thus speculate as to why a land search was not conducted.
1. 1891, John T. Arundel's Project
2. 1892, His Majesty's Ship (HMS) Curacoa
3. November 1929, Norwich City Wreck
4. His Majesty's Ship (HMS) Leith, February 15, 1937
5. Colorado Search Planes, July 9, 1937
6. Eric Bevington and Harry Maude, October 1937
Wrap Up Thoughts:
"RECENT" visitors to the island prior to Lambrecht's flyover include: 1) the Norwich City crew (8 yrs. before) and 2) the HMS Leith (5 months before). Earhart notwithstanding, it is not surprising to me that he observed signs of recent habitation.
Love To Mother
I just heard from Ric. He was standing on the foredeck in the driving rain with his arm wrapped around a post to keep from being flung overboard when the ship lurched in the seas which were high.
I will post a report on the web tomorrow morning, and then there probably won't be one until Saturday because the phone was getting wet and we were losing the connection and anyway it would be majorly not cool to lose the expedition director overboard.
....for those in peril on the sea, indeed.
After three and a half days at sea, Nai'a turned the corner into the harbor at Pago Pago about 1 p.m. local time on Friday and was finally still for the first time since leaving Nikumaroro. While the passage did not rival that of 1997, when forty foot seas were the order of the day, it was very rough indeed, and everyone was heartily glad to go ashore. Watching water tower above one's head is not really so much fun.
The last day on the island was spent in the village, by both necessity and plan. Both boats were out of the lagoon, which meant no intra-island transportation; and the team needed to look at the village carefully to try to match artifacts and materials found at the Seven site.
Remember that the Seven site is multi-layered. There is possibly some prehistoric activity; certainly castaway activity; certainly Gilbertese/Gallagher activity; certainly Coast Guard activity... and so on. In order to understand the layers and units correctly, it's important to know, if possible, what came from where and even how.
Things found in the village that appear to match artifacts or items found at the Seven site are:
Fine mesh copper screening.
Green roofing material.
Corrugated metal sheeting.
After working in and around the village for several hours, the team sat down to eat some lunch near Gallagher's grave, where there were still some palm fronds scattered about from the memorial service. One by one they laid down, "just for a moment," and about an hour later decided that the expedition was over. Everyone packed up, called the ship's boat, and went aboard, the adrenalin rush thoroughly spent.
On Saturday, the FedEx folks came over with a truck and loaded up everything to go to their warehouse. Today the team was going to spend the day packing everything – EVERYTHING – for shipment home, leaving everyone, if possibly, with only one or two smallish carry-ons with which to tackle the airlines. The flight out is at 2340 local time tonight, heading for Honolulu. If all goes well, everyone will be home either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on their individual travel arrangements.
by Ric Gillespie
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