Highlights From the Forum
December 2 through 15, 1998
Ric wrote in response to Tom K wondering why stuff was not found with the bones etc.
We know of one other artifact that was picked up -- the "inverting eyepiece" for the sextant. It was allegedly lost by the native who found it. I have a gut feeling that a "cool" item like that was not lost. So yes, natives were grabbing stuff. Gallagher apparently expresses some mild alarm when he hears the bottle has left the island. He tells his native telegraph operator to send a message asking for the recovery of the bottle. It is possible that the native telegrapher spreads the word and the other natives decide to shut up about their precious finds. They think
1) I found some cool stuff that I do not want to give up and
2) I do not want to get into trouble. Obviously we were not supposed to be taking stuff or for that matter burying bones.
I speculate that other artifacts were found and not reported. Could stuff still be laying around? yes, the scatter area/footprint, however, could cover a lot of ground, Ric and I speculated during the England trip that a giant crab could drag a bone at least 50 yards from where he found it without too much trouble (back to his hideout), that leaves a search area 100 yards in diameter or roughly 2 football fields, and, apparently stuff was scattered around, the natives found the skull but not the bones or the sextant box, surely they would have grabbed the box had they seen it (you grab stuff on a resource poor island, no shopping malls), a wider search was needed to find other stuff, the lack of belt buckles, rings, watches etc. is worrisome, however, that is the exact stuff (shiny) that is dragged underground by crabs and rats, I saw a forensics guy on the Discovery channel checking out a site where a skeleton was found, after doing a ground level search he started digging holes and climbing trees. You climb trees to find the person&s hair in birds nests. The birds will grab every bit of it. After clearing the ground he started excavating all the rodent holes. After doing this he found jewelry, a jaw bone (with shiny fillings) and many other smaller bones. All down in a rodents nest.
As far as the missing skeleton goes, Mr. Bauro says two skeletons were found. One up by the Norwich City and one on the eastern end of the island. Yes, Bauro's story is anecdotal, but so far the anecdotes have held up to scrutiny. The Kilts story also says that the remains of two people were found. Two independent anecdotes mention that two sets of remains were found. It is possible that a skeleton was found in 1938-39 and then later (in 1940) the Gallagher related bones/skull are found (a liberal interpretation of Kilt's story even suggests this). This is the story that emerges if you put the Bauro and Kilts stories together.
Love to Mother
Of all the things that have turned up on Nikumaroro, the sextant box found in 1940 is one of the most likely to definitely place Fred Noonan on the island. That box is unique in that it bears stencilled identifying numbers. I persist in the belief that those numbers were put on that box by PAA. There are probably other things around that were once the property of PAA and with similar numbers. We just haven't come across them.
The question of whether or not PAA would have had a lot of old marine sextants has been discussed here at some length. I believe it is very possible that they DID have quite a few marine sextants as well as bubble sextants and that both were typically carried on flights during the mid 1930s. This belief is supported by at least two documents written by Fred Noonan himself. In a document titled, "Making the Landfall," dated, October 3, 1935 (note 1), Fred wrote, in part:
"Due to the spacious chart room aboard the 'Clipper' the navigation equipment need not be so severely limited as in smaller planes, hence the list of navigational instruments reads like that of a surface craft. It shows two bubble octants, a MARINER'S SEXTANT, aircraft chronometer... etc., etc."
Clearly a mariner's sextant was standard equipment on the "Clippers" on Pacific flights in 1935. In a letter to P. V. H. Weems (Note 2), discussing an early PAA "Clipper" flight to Hawaii, Fred wrote, in part:
"Due to the spacious chart room and large chart table aboard the Clipper, the navigation equipment need not be so severely limited as in smaller planes, hence the choice of equipment may be governed entirely by the individual's personal preference or the Company's desires in the matter. To date the Company has not decided upon any standard equipment, and therefore I chose the equipment used on the subject flight."
"... several factors influenced the selection. Preeminent among them was the fact that most of the instruments had been used extensively by the writer and had proven satisfactory. ... and I suspect that plain prejudice, which actuates so many of us, carried some weight."
One of the instruments that Fred had used extensively was the marine sextant. And this was true of the PAA navigators, in general. They had been seafaring navigators and they knew and trusted the marine sextant. The bubble octants were new to them and difficult to use.
"Two sextants were carried -- a Pioneer bubble octant and a MARINER'S SEXTANT. The former was used for all sights; the latter carried as a 'preventer.'"
Again, whatever is implied by the term "preventer," the mariner's sextant was clearly standard equipment on the Pacific "Clipper" flights.
I'm told that, as used here, "preventer" is a nautical term originating in french. Prae = pre and venire (verb) = to come. Praevenire = precede, anticipate. Dictionaries say things like, "One that forestalls or anticipates another." And, "To satisfy in advance... To be in readiness. I suspect some of those former marine navigators may have used the sextant for a preliminary sight then, knowing about what the angle should be, used the bubble octant for a final sight. And, of course, the sextant could be regarded as a backup in the event of real problems with the octants.
Note 1. "Making the Landfall -- Trans Pacific Air Navigation," October 3, 1935, by F. J. Noonan, Navigator, "Pan American Clipper." This is from the "Research Library," Pan American Airways, and appears to be a draft copy. There is a marginal note to omit one paragraph in the early part of the paper.
Note 2. Letter from Fred Noonan published in "Air Navigation," 2nd edition, 1938, by P. V. H. Weems, McGraw-Hill. The date of the letter is not stated. It was probably about 1935. Much of the wording is identical to that in "Making the Landfall" It didn't appear in any printing of the 1st ed. of "Air Navigation."
*** I believe a concerted effort to connect the numbers on those two sextant boxes to PAA is justified... If we can figure out how to go about it! Any ideas? Comments? Anyone?
The only question I would raise is the notion that PAA had a whole bunch of old nautical navigators running around. From what I've seen (and Randy, your impressions would be welcome here), Fred was about it. Only the Clipper flights carried dedicated navigators and Fred was the guy on original survey crew in 1935. Sounds to me like Trippe knew he'd need navigators for the new Pacific Division. He hired Noonan to develop the techniques and teach them to new hires. The bit about carrying a nautical sextant was, I think, more likely a personal prefernece of Fred's which may have been copied by his proteges. There is a curious line in a TIME magazine article which came out following the failed search. In it, Noonan is described as being dismayed when he first signed on for the first attempt by Manning's reliance upon an old fashioned nautical sextant. Fred made arrangements to borrow a modern bubble octant from the Navy.
> Could it be the Box numbers are Navy inventory numbers? Would
What's the number on the box you are trying to look up? Also, please provide other information. This is something that we may be able to do on your behalf, though I'll have to check with the researchers -- if we can't we'll be able to find where the records are, how to access them, etc. More commonly, we get requests on serial numbers of military wristwatches, for which records were kept as well. Just give the word and we'll look into it.
Another note, if may turn out that the box is registered to a Navy officer who is MIA, and its discovery will be very important news for someone's family out there. Either way, we need to follow up on this. If you hadn't realized it, one of the roles we play at Historic Wings is as a clearing house of wartime-related information for veterans, veterans' families, and friends -- we've put together many old friends, provided information to families who lost loved ones, and much more through our research arm and in the forums.
By the way, we are still interested in doing an AE feature story (very positive toward TIGHAR, of course). Please drop me a note letting us know how we move forward from here....
Thomas Van Hare
I'm happy to help with a story. No need to make it positive toward TIGHAR. Just report the facts.
Let me know what questions you have. The numbers reported to have been on the sextant box were 3500 (stencilled) and 1542 (apparently not stencilled). No mention of a plaque. The corners of the wooden box were dovetailed. That's really all we know. Our initial investigations revealed no similarity to U.S. Navy numbers but we're happy for any help we can get.
Love to mother, Ric
Just to open another can of worms (or crabs), Tom King recently got this input from a fellow archaeologist on Saipan:
"Thinking back on WWII remains that we have found, there was one instance where we found a well preserved skeleton that must originally have been laid out on the ground surface (in an area where there should have been many coconut crabs). It was essentially intact, suggesting that crabs do not scatter bones".
Which prompts me to wonder if we should ask ourselves: Who says that Gallagher's supposition that the bones were scattered by coconut crabs was correct? Was he an expert on the depredations of Birgus latro (the coconut or robber crab) any more than we are? In 1989 we saw an intact but very dead cat in the island's co-op store. Why didn't the crabs scatter its remains? Do we have any evidence at all that coconut crabs scatter remains? And if they don't (spooky music) how did the remains of the castaway get scattered?
>Which brings us back to our old friend William of Occam (1285-1329) who said,
John Marks comments:
With all due respect, although Ric translates the statement that Medieval Scholastics called “the Razor” correctly, his repeating of the common paraphrase of it is both ahistorical and unjustified. The faulty paraphrase unfortunately is much better known that the context is, which has lead to all kinds of errors that Ockham would have found baffling.
The context was Scholastic theology, the attempt to reconcile Scriptural revelation with rational knowledge such as Aristotle's discoveries. What Ockham proposed was a methodology, not an all-purpose reality test. This is really important, guys! Ockham proposed a methodology that posited a rational agenda for investigation, not a substitute for it.
The misunderstood core of the Razor is that what Ockham really propsed was: if there is a universe of possible causes or explanations, as a matter of efficient methodology, it made sense to investigate by other means the most simple first, NOT because it was more likely to be true, but because it would be easier to disprove!
Let me repeat that. Ockham NEVER posited that a simple explanation was more likely to be correct. He posited that it would be easier to analyze. Really.
AND, when you realize that the kinds of things that were actively under discussion, such as the nature of the Real Presence in the consecrated Eucharist, were usually otherworldly in the extreme, the paraphrase of the Razor is doubly a canard.
Because the context is so far off, I will not make any effort to try to apply the real core of Ockham’s Razor to the situation at hand, that is, where Earhart ended up, because I sincerely believe that it is not an appropriate methodological tool.
And when I joined this list I assumed I would have nothing to contribute. Anyone want to learn about John Duns Scotus’ articulation of the notion of prevenient grace, write me privately!
– John Marks
Boy! Do I stand corrected! Wonderful stuff. Is this a great forum or what?
One interesting tidbit of information which has emerged out of the files we found in England is that in August of 1941, the High Commissioner of the British Western Pacific High Commission (Sir Harry Luke), personally showed the sextant box found on Gardner Island to a "Mr. Gatty" who supposedly had "expert knowledge in such matters" and felt that the type of sextant the box once held was not the type that would be used in "modern trans-Pacific aviation."
I have a sneaking suspicion that "Mr. Gatty" is Harold Gatty who flew around the world with Wiley Post in 1931. If memory serves, I think that Gatty later worked for Pan American. If this is the same Mr. Gatty, it raises the question of how much Sir Harry told him about the box's origin. This is the only instance we know about when the discoveries on Gardner Island may have been revealed to somone who might have had enough knowledge to connect the dots. But was Harold Gatty in Suva, Fiji in August of 1941 and, if so, why? It's research time gang.
Love to mother,
Ric- regarding the bones being shown to Mr. Gatty---
Harold Gatty- the Tasmanian Navigator of -8 Days Post/Gatty fame- was affiliated with Pan Am. Juan Trippe used his services to fact find and negotiate certain agreements with the Australian/ New Zealand authorities on passage and landing rights...He did spend some time in the "Islands" on various tours.... Bender and Altschuls-'The Chosen Instrument-Juan Trippe and Pan Am'--references to a three month trip by a yacht named Kinkajou around Jarvis. Baker and Howland and others surveying for guano,etc. It made regular reports back to Pan Am filing coded messages to PanAM Honolulu... This was in late 1936. Harold Gatty was a member of the crew. He might be the same Gatty that the Commissioner refers to. They may have met in the course of these trips,etc. I don&t have a Gatty biography to check. Hope this helps a little.
Jim Tierney- observer and recorder of the arcane and trivial....
So Harold Gatty is associated with Trippe as early as '36. It's the sextant box, not the bones, that is shown to Mr. Gatty. Checking Sir Harry Luke's service record, he was in New Caledonia and the New Hebrides from July 5 to July 22, 1941, then he's back in Suva until 27 August when he goes off to Tonga and returns on the 31st. Given the distances and times involved, he must have had an airplane (a Catalina maybe?) at his disposal. We know from the entries in the file that the meeting with Mr. Gatty had to have occurred between June 7, 1941 and August 8, 1941 so it's possible that Sir Harry met up with Gatty during his trip to New Caledonia/New Hebrides but it seems more likley that Gatty was in Suva for some reason.
Daniel Hamer, Master of the NC was my Great Uncle and among the survivors. As a family historian, (albeit amateur), I consider myself well placed to accurately relate family recollections of events. In practising a serious approach to my research, I have studied official documents and anecdotal evidence from other sources. Whilst accepting that 'anything is possible', consideration of all the available evidence leads me to express some personal views regarding the theory that an unaccounted-for member of the NC crew may have reached Niku, alive, and not been among the recorded survivors.
These men spent 3 days on Niku in dire need of sustinence and shelter. Survival was paramount. They spent their time in search of food and water. They achieved some shelter, using available resources, and waited........and hoped....... This was no passive process. Fresh water was in extremely short supply - by the 4th day they had none. They would surely not have restricted their search to their immediate surroundings. In a total of 5 days, it seems likely that they would have explored a large part of that island. Their other immediate concern - what of rescue? They did not know for sure how long it would be before help came, and if or when it did, whether they would ever get off alive. They believed that radio messages sent from the NC had got through but the static was bad and details of any rescue plan were unclear. The environment was hostile. They scoured the horizon for passing ships. It seems logical that they would have done this in all directions, from parts of the island other than the site of the wreck.
They buried their fellow crew members on the beach. They were living the experience of having done so. The NC stuck on the reef was the only ship that they could be sure of seeing. Their thoughts were of their situation and the fact that 8 were still missing. One might suggest that the survivors were highly motivated to actively search for their shipmates. Had they been found, dead or alive, their fate would surely have been recorded.
What of the 2 rescue ships? They were searching the coast with the purpose of finding the crew and executing the rescue. The wreck was the only reason that they were in the area. They record seeing only the 24 survivors. They would surely have undertaken a thorough search in an effort to learn the fate of the missing.
Following completion of a difficult rescue on the 5th day, is it really conceivable that any of the missing 8 reached the shore, alive? (.... a genuine question....) Given the available evidence, my personal conclusion is that if bones found on Niku belonged to those of the NC crew, they were either remains washed ashore or belonged to those fortunate enough to have been given a decent burial.
Love To Mother,
Regarding Mr. Harold Gatty. A quick net search using Yahoo and the key words "Harold Gatty" produced 31 hits, one of which is under the title of "Air Pacific." I quote,
Questions: Was the Harold Gatty who flew with Wiley Post an Australian? What was the span of Sir Harry's service in the Pacific? Could Sir Harry have met Mr. Gatty in 1941 and assisted him after WW II? Was there a close relationship between Sir Harry and Mr. Gatty prior to or during 1941? Was Sir Harry's headquarters in Suva? Would the term, as used by Mr. Gatty, "modern trans-Pacific aviation" refer to the most recent device on the market? Would Mr. Gatty declare a sextant or sextant box manufactured prior to 1937 as, "obsolete?" Is he still alive and if not, can we contact his survivors for info? Might someone with lots of juice from TIGHAR contact Air Pacific management in Suva for assistance? If we could find the sextant box in question, the other articfacts found on Niku in 1940 might be also found. Other artifacts might still be inside the box...??? Long shot, but who knows! That sextant box could still be in the Pacific being used to support ash trays in some breaucrat's office or may be in the possession of Mr. Gatty's survivors.
The Air Pacific web site can be located at: http://www.bulafiji.com/airlines/airpac.htm. Click on "The Air Pacific Story" and go to: http://www.bulafiji.com/airlines/airpac/apstory.htm. Me thinks we might needs ta get busy again.
LTM, Roger Kelley, # 2112
Sure sounds like a "Fiji connection" to me. Good questions Roger. I'm on the road right now but I can get answers to some of them later today. More later. Film at 11.
|Back to Highlights Archive list.|