Forum artHighlights From the Forum

September 30 through October 6, 2001

(click on the number to go directly to that message)
1 Early Phoenix Theories Alan Caldwell
2 Re: Early Phoenix Theories Dean Alexander
3 Re: Early Phoenix Theories Alan Caldwell
4 Distance From Howland Chris Kennedy
5 Re: Distance From Howland Chris Kennedy, Bob Sherman, Ric Gillespie
6 LOP Again Angus Murray
7 Questions for Loran Veterans Tom King

Message: 1
Subject: Early Phoenix Theories
Date: 10/3/01
From: Alan Caldwell

I have photocopies of the Sydney Morning Herald for July 8, 1937 in which “Admiral Murfin, interviewed in Honolulu, said: ‘The plane is probably down in the Phoenix group...’”

A report on July 7, 1937 says:

“The belief has grown in United States naval circles that Mrs. Putnam probably landed on an atoll. Therefore a carefully co-ordinated search, to last at least a fortnight, is being prepared.” And that the search “... is moving southward of Howland Island toward the Phoenix Islands.”

Paul Mantz expressed the same opinion that AE landed in the Poenix Group.

In the same paper Mr. Putnam is quoted as saying, ".....[he believes]the plane is ashore somewhere in the Phoenix Islands.“

In the same paper dated July 10, 1937 Admiral Byrd is quoted, “...that there was every good reason to believe that Mrs. Putnam would be found, whether on land or floating.”

In none of the items of 1937 did I read anyone specifically suggesting Gardner Island. Maybe they did but not in the papers I read. All of the above came from the Sydney Morning Herald but were repeats of New York reports of the day prior.

Someone posted that TIGHAR’s Phoenix theory was a departure from all the early beliefs. Obviously not.

I would suggest TIGHAR’s web site be read thoroughly for far more complete information.


Message: 2
Subject: Re: Early Phoenix Theories
Date: 10/3/01
From: Dean Alexander

I knew of the particular articles you speak of, but what I was curious about was an actual reference to Gardner Island. So, it seems no one actually mentioned Gardner by name which is what I had thought.

From Ric

That has also been my impression. I will mention, however, that the actual search coordination map used by the 14th Naval District (now at the National Archives office in San Bruno, CA) shows the Pan Am DF bearings on alleged post-loss signals converging near Gardner Island. Given that the atoll is much larger and definitely more inhabitable than McKean (the other Phoenix island near the LOP), it’s not exactly rocket science to see it as the most likely place.

Message: 3
Subject: Re: Early Phoenix Theories
Date: 10/3/01
From: Alan Caldwell

> So, it seems no one actually mentioned Gardner by name which is what I had in mind.

Just to be very clear I don’t want to say no one actually mentioned Gardner. I want to emphasize that someone may have but none of the reports I have seen used the name of a specific island.

Also there was an item in the SMH dated 6 July 1937 of a report from New York with a byline date of July 5th Saying “It is estimated that the origin of calls picked up by Pan-American Airways’ direction-finder at Mokapu point (Hawaii) was south of Howland Island.... The instrument places the plane ... roughly upon a line from Mokapu Point southward, and slightly to the east, of Howland Island.”

For those who have had the impression the Niku theory is new and there has never before been any indication our heroes might have headed to the Phoenix group they need to refresh their minds of all that happened during July of 1937.

Also for those who may stumble across a mention of the Itasca and Swan searching toward the Gilberts please note that search was NOT in response to a theory the Electra had FLOWN westward but rather it may have ditched and had been swept westward by the current.


Message: 4
Subject: Distance From Howland
Date: 10/4/01
From: Chris Kennedy

Does TIGHAR have an estimate as to how close the flight got to Howland?

--Chris Kennedy

From Ric

It’s certainly not something that can be pinned down but not closer than about 80 miles and not more than 200 miles is probably a reasonable guess.

Message: 5
Subject: Re: Distance From Howland
Date: 10/5/01
From: Chris Kennedy, Bob Sherman, Ric Gillespie

Could you explain the reasoning that lies behind both the minimum (not closer than about 80 miles) and maximum (not more than 200)?

--Chris Kennedy

From Bob Sherman

I respectfully disagree with your 80 guess. Why could she not have been just beyond the farthest visual range from anyone on HOW or the Itasca? Skip could point to the possibility of being a great distance away, but the strong signal recvd. by the Itasca could also be because she was as close as one-half mile beyond the farthest sight of those looking for her. She could have been a lot closer than 80 miles.

RC 943

From Ric

Chris asked for an opinion. I gave him my opinion. Nobody knows. Anybody could be right.

My opinion is based upon two beliefs:

  1. I think that the most accurate piece of information Earhart transmitted was “We are on the line 157/337”. I know of no reason why Noonan would not have been able to establish that position within an accuracy of about 10 miles. Therefore I do not think the airplane undershot or overshot the LOP running through Howland to any significant degree.
  2. I think that the strength of the radio signals indicates that the airplane came within a reasonable distance of Howland. A maximum of two hundred miles is a liberal estimate based upon Bob Brandenburg’s analysis in the Eighth Edition. Why a minimum of about 80 miles? The logic goes like this.

Assumption: They were on the LOP that ran through Howland and Baker. Assumption: Failing to see Howland at 19:12 GCT they followed a logical course of action – i.e. they ran northwestward along the LOP as far as they dared then turned around and proceeded southeastward while they still had enough fuel to be sure of reaching land.

Assumption: In carrying out this procedure they did not see Howland or Baker.

Conclusion: They had to have started from a position on the LOP that was significantly southeast of Baker. Eighty miles from Howland puts them about 40 miles southeast of Baker.

Like I said, it’s just an opinion.


Message: 6
Subject: LOP Again
Date: 10/5/01
From: Angus Murray

I can’t understand the importance you put on the LOP in relation to Niku. If AE had had a mechanical failure or run out of fuel whilst still searching for Howland, the LOP would be most relevant. However, once you have decided to look for an alternative landfall there is no critical need to stick with the original LOP. You can either take a new sight for a new LOP altogether and advance it (if flying further east) or alternatively even further advance the LOP you derived from your last sight for a new LOP.

Alternatively you can fly a compass course and only fly an LOP at your intended destination by way of search. Whilst this is risky when starting from an approximate position, it would not be out of the question when flying say to the Gilberts because you have a line of islands at right angles to your course and if you are too far north or south of your intended course it is not quite so important. This, after all, is how they navigated from Lae. It would seem far more sensible to fly to an advanced LOP and then fly down it to the more easterly Phoenix islands where there are closer alternate landfalls. Niku is totally isolated, and if you miss it, (travelling on an LOP you know is at least a good few miles incorrect – because you’ve missed Howland), there is nothing but ocean ahead.


From Ric

As we’ve said once or twice before, TIGHAR’s hypothesis is NOT that Earhart and Noonan gave up looking for Howland and went looking for Gardner instead. Having arrived at where they thought Howland should be, and finding no island in sight, they could only conclude that they were too far north or south. They could afford to explore northwestward along the LOP for a short way, but they had to proceed southeastward while they still had plenty of fuel left because that’s where all the alternate islands were. They always hoped that Howland would appear but by the time they were far enough along to get a significant “cut” on the sun and realize where they were it was too late to double back or strike off for other islands.

Message: 7
Subject: Questions for Loran Station Veterans
Date: 10/6/01
From: Tom King

I have some questions for Forum participants who are veterans of the Coast Guard Loran Station on Nikumaroro. These relate to the Seven Site, which is about a half-hour's walk up the beach on the windward side of the island from the station, in an area that was relatively clear of dense vegetation; you could probably walk between the shore and the lagoon fairly easily.

1. We found lots and lots of .30 caliber shells and a few .22 shells. We’re assuming that both result from recreational shooting by you guys, but is this true? Did you go back in the bush in this area and shoot? If so, what did you shoot at? Birds? Targets? If targets, what kinds? If birds, what did you do with one when you hit it?

2. If you recall being in the area of the Seven Site, whether you remember shooting there or not, can you recall what you did there? Did you ever catch and cook anything? Build anything? Take anything there from the station that you might have discarded or left behind?

3. There are some sheets of corrugated (and maybe non-corrugated) iron on the ground at the Seven Site (now reduced almost entirely to rust). Did anybody from the station put them there, as far as you know? If so, why? Or do you remember seeing such things there?

4. Any other recollections about this site?

Thanks for anything you can recall, and please pass this request on to others who may not be on the Forum.

Tom King

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