Forum artHighlights From the Forum

November 10 through 17, 1998


Subject: Wreck Photo
Date: 11.10.98
From: Gary Moline

Just got my TIGHAR TRACKS magazine (excellent by the way!!) and after reading the article about the wreck photo, I can’t help but feel that this is some type of seaplane.

The article says that the forward, right side of the nose shows that the skin has been pushed inward due to impact damage. I think that it was manufactured that way at the factory. It looks like the natural flare of the hull of a seaplane. Plus, there is no sign of the L-10’s nose landing lights.

How about a Grumman Widgeon? I see a wrecked seaplane, however I don’t see a man in a gorilla costume. I know that Ric and Pat are some pretty sharp folks and I know that they have posted this pictured on some other web sites in order to possibly find out more about it. Right?

Gary Moline

Orlando


More from Gary Moline, about 20 minutes later...

I made the classic mistake of suggesting something BEFORE doing a little research first!! The Wreck Photo aircraft cannot be a Grumman Widgeon as they had Ranger six cylinder in-line engines!

However, I still feel that we are looking at a seaplane. Better leave now before I say something else dumb! Not that I would be the first!

LTM

Gary Moline

Orlando


From Ric (polite silence)


Subject: Wreck Photo
Date: 11.11.98
From: Gary Moline

Ric,

Got an e-mail from another forum member (Daryll Bolinger) and he brought up a good point. He believes that the aircraft is also a seaplane based on the idea that the photo arrears to be that of a high-wing aircraft, like a seaplane. In order for it to be a low wing aircraft like an L-10, this particular aircraft looks like it would have had to have had its entire wing and center section removed from the fuselage and then placed on top of the fuselage. If the cockpit section merely broke off and fell on the ground in front of the wings, then there would be evidence of the remainder of the cabin on top of and behind the wing and center section.

For us new folks, where did this photo come from? How long have you all been working on it?

Keep up the good effort. Be advised that in your absence, Pat did a great job!

Gary Moline

Orlando


From Ric

Maybe you and Daryll could form the Seaplane Club (similar to the No Land Club). Others have expressed a like opinion. Opinions are good. Without differing opinons there would be no horse races.

I have two suggestions:

  1. Bring up the TIGHAR website at tighar.org and go to the most recent Earhart Project Research Bulletin. there you’ll find links to two TIGHAR Tracks articles which will give you the background on the Wreck Photo.
  2. Let me know just exactly what seaplane you think this is. Remember, it has be of stressed aluminum construction and have at least two radial engines with two-bladed, variable pitch but not full-feathering props. (Hint: we’ve already eliminated the Grumman Goose).

If you can find a candidate we can then talk about internal wing structure, windshield centerpost shape, and other interesting details.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Wreck Photo
Date: 11.11.98
From: Gary Moline

A suggestion as to what type of aircraft it might be is the tough part!! My fairly extensive personal library doesn’t have every seaplane from that era so I don’t have a suggestion. I saw a TV show that mentioned the Boeing 247 transport last night, but my research shows that it had three-bladed props.

I don’t know! I even dug up some photos that I took of a wrecked Goose in the Bahamas to try and compare with the wreck photo, but couldn’t see enough to warrant any further research. If you say it’s not a Goose, then that’s good enough for me.

How do you explain the wing of a low wing acft being fairly symmetrically placed on top of the fuselage? And in one piece? It seems to me that if the wing were ripped off of the fuselage by the surf that it would have been in terrible shape by the time that it got placed back on top of the fuselage?!

Am I just the devil’s advocate? We all must keep an open mind! After all, I want what you and every one else on this forum wants, the truthful solution to this aviation mystery! Thanks for the info on where to learn about the history of the wreck photo.

Gary Moline

Orlando


From Ric

When I see a wreck, I look at its condition and try to envision the events that left it looking the way it does – like running a videotape in reverse. To do that, I first have to have a really good handle on the structural make-up of that particular aircraft so that I can try to correctly account for the forces it would take to create the kind of damage that is present.

Let me play my imaginary Wreck Photo tape for you (forward):

Scene 1 – Earhart’s Electra is parked on the reef-flat at Nikumaroro, perfectly intact except for maybe a blown tire or two. The sea is calm and, at high tide, the water comes up to its belly at about the trailing edge of the wing.

Scene 2 – The sea has kicked up and big rollers are sweeping across the reef-flat. The airplane is quite buoyant with all those empty fuel tanks and the waves lift it up and carry it shoreward until it reaches an area about fifty feet from shore where there is some very rough coral and there is something of a trench in front of the actual beach (that’s what it’s really like). When the airplane reaches this area it slams to a stop, wedged in the coral, nose pointing roughly shoreward.

Scene 3 – KerWham! A big wave hits the now immobilized airplane and rips off the empennage, leaving the interior of the cabin exposed to the next assault.

Scene 4 – KaPOW! Another comber (the irresistable force) engulfs the fuselage (the immovable object) and literally blows the cabin apart right up to and including the roof over the cockpit. The same wave has a similar effect on the engine cowlings, leaving only the firmly attached ring cowls in place. The force of the impact also rips off the outer wing panels and spins the airplane around so that what's left (the immensely strong center-section, the engines, and the nose section) is facing seaward but still hung up in the coral.

Scene 5 – Wham! The third wave drives the wreck shoreward. The starboard engine snags on a coral outcrop and is ripped from its mountings (to later be found by Bruce Yoho in thigh-deep water about fifty feet from shore). The rest of the wreck is deposited in the shoreline vegetation where it is later photographed. The nose section, still attached to the center-section by the belly skins, has fallen down because there is no cabin structure left to support it.

Pure speculation. Absolute fantasy. The product of an over-active imagination (and an intimate familiarity with the Wreck Photo, NR16020, and Nikumaroro).

LTM
Ric


Subject: Wreck Explanation
Date: 11.13.98
From: Gary Moline

Thanks for the explanation on how the L-10 possibly went from flying machine to “The Wreck Photo.” We’d be very interested to hear your description of what happened to the airplane between the time of the photo and today.I would guess that one of five things happened, if, in fact that is the L-10 that we all desire.

  1. It was washed back out to sea (huge storm).
  2. It deteriorated and was swallowed by the sand, underbrush, jungle etc.
  3. It was removed by someone.
  4. Any combination of the above.
  5. Any combination of the above, but (now take a deep breath and try to relax Ric) not on Niku.

Just wondering what your thoughts were on the post photo time frame were.

PS Go ahead, I'm ready for my whipping!

Gary Moline
Orlando


From Ric

Well, let me get out the cat o' nine tails here. Let’s see:

1. It was washed back out to sea (huge storm).

I suppose that it’s possible but generally speaking things just get pushed further inland.

2. It deteriorated and was swallowed by the sand, underbrush, jungle etc.

In my opinion, that’s the most likely answer.

3. It was removed by someone.

Almost inconceivable. It would take a mammoth engineering effort that would be impossible to keep secret.

4. Any combination of the above.

You mean like maybe someone finding one of the engines out on the reef and slinging it away with a helicopter?

5. Any combination of the above, but (now take a deep breath and try to relax Ric) not on Niku.

Sure. That’s the “null hypothesis” that makes Niku look so good. In order for that to be the case it would mean that all of the evidence we have amassed to suggest that Niku is the right place is actually random, unrelated information that could be gathered from a close look at any Pacific island.

LTM,
Ric


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