Forum artHighlights From the Forum

October 1 through 10, 1998

Subject: Bone Discovery
Date: 10/1/98
From: Ric Gillespie

I’ve been doing some thinking (always dangerous). The following treatise will only make sense if you’re up to speed on the bones that were found on Nikumaroro in 1940. If you’re not (and if you’d like to be) I’d recommend that you read “The Tarawa File.” You might also read “Paradise Lost – A Brief History of Nikumaroro” which can be found in the same place.

Our first indication that bones had once been found on Niku came back in 1989 when we became aware of a 1960 newspaper article which related a tale told by a Coast Guard veteran by the name of Floyd Kilts. It was pure anecdote, describing alleged events from 1938, related to Kilts in 1946 when he participated in the dismantling of the Loran station on Gardner, and told to a San Diego newspaper reporter in 1960. Pretty shaky. Parts of Kilts’ story seemed to track well with the island’s known history. Other parts were clearly not true, and much of it just seemed fantastical.

Ten years of research have produced far more documented information than we ever would have dreamed possible and we can now look at the Kilts Story and make a reasonable attempt to understand how it relates to actual events.

Also, for some time I’ve had a suspicion that a careful reconstruction of known events on Niku during the time period when the skull could have first been found might yield some clues about when it actually WAS found.

Gallagher doesn’t seem quite sure when it was found. In his September 23rd telegram he says the skull was found “some months ago” but it is still buried at that time. In his December 27th letter he says that the skull “has been buried in damp ground for nearly a year.” But it’s not at all clear when the skull was dug up.

I now suspect that the skull was found much earlier – in January of 1939.

I’ve assembled a detailed timeline of the events we know about from the arrival of the NZ survey party on November 30, 1938 until Gallagher’s first telegram referencing the bottle and skull on September 23, 1940.

A few of things really strike me.

  • During that entire time there are very few working men on the island – ten at first and then four more – that’s it. The rest are women and children.
  • There’s no radio until Gallagher gets there.
  • There are at least two births on the island during that time, but no deaths.

It’s also interesting to note that for one week in early 1939 there are 23 people on Niku – the number which Kilts says are on the island at the time the bones are found. Other key elements of the Kilts story are satisfied during this brief period: “latter part of 1938” (well, Jan. of 1939)

  • “native island doctor” (Tutu)
  • “no native women on the island” (at least up until then)
  • “New Zealand officials” (doing the survey)

These elements of the Kilts story come together only during this time known in the island’s folklore as The Great Search For Water – the first time when there is a real exploration of the island by the Gilbertese.

Here is the Floyd Kilts story as it appeared in the San Diego Tribune on July 21, 1960:

A native tried to tell me about it, but I couldn’t understand all of it so I got an interpreter. It seems that in the latter part of 1938 there were 23 island people, all men, and an Irish magistrate planting coconut trees on Gardner for the government of New Zealand. They were about through and the native was walking along one end of the island. There in the brush about five feet from the shoreline he saw a skeleton.

What attracted him to it was the shoes. Women’s shoes, American kind. No native wears shoes. Couldn’t if they wanted to – feet too spread out and flat. The shoes were size nine narrow. Beside the skeleton was a cognac bottle with fresh water in it for drinking.

The island doctor said the skeleton was that of a woman. And there were no native women on the island then. Farther down the beach he found a man’s skull but nothing else.

The magistrate was a young Irishman who got excited when he saw the bones. He thought of Amelia Earhart right away. He put the bones in a gunnysack and with the native doctor, and three other natives in a 22-foot, four-oared boat started for Suva, Fiji, 887 nautical miles away.

The magistrate was anxious to get the news to the world. But on the way the Irishman came down with pneumonia. When only 24 hours out of Suva he died. The natives are superstitious as the devil and the next night after the young fellow died they threw the gunnysack full of bones overboard, scared of the spirits. And that was that.

This same account was related by the doctor to New Zealand officials.

Here is the Floyd Kilts story broken down phrase by phrase.

“A native tried to tell me about it, but I couldn't understand all of it so I got an interpreter."
  In 1946 there must be an islander who knows some, but not enough, English and was present on the island at the time of the incident. There must also be an islander who has sufficient English to act as an interpreter.
“It seems that in the latter part of 1938 there were 23 island people, all men,”
  There was no time in the latter part of 1938 when there were 23 island people on Gardner, regardless of gender. There was, however, a period of one week from January 4-11, 1939 when there seem to have been exactly 23 “island people” present. It’s likely that at least one of them (Mautake’s wife) was a woman but up until that time the population had been “all men.”
“and an Irish magistrate planting coconut trees on Gardner for the government of New Zealand.”
  Several elements get pretty confused here but they’re all true:
  • the magistrate didn’t arrive until later but his nickname was “Irish”
  • the point was indeed to plant coconut trees
  • New Zealand officials were present
“They were about through …”
  This probably refers to the events of 1940 when the clearing and planting of the main plantation was “about through.”
“and the native was walking along one end of the island.”
  This is the same problem we have with Gallagher’s description of the bone site. What end of what island? How far did they really range during TGSW? The Gilbertese who were with Bevington in 1937 judged the country beyond Bauareke to be “poor.”
“There in the brush about five feet from the shoreline he saw a skeleton.”
  Again, this appears to describe the events of October of 1940 when Gallagher orders the search for bones based upon the story of the skull.
“What attracted him to it was the shoes. Women’s shoes,”
  We’re still in 1940. Gallagher corroborates the discovery of women’s shoes.
“American kind.”
  Not “American,” but “American kind.” As opposed to what? British kind? It seems likely that this description comes about through Kilts’ inquiry as to what kind of shoes they were and the informant’s reference to shoes Kilts was wearing. That would match well with Gallagher’s description of a “stoutish walking shoe.”
“No native wears shoes. Couldn’t if they wanted to – feet too spread out and flat. The shoes were size nine narrow.”
  This is really an incredible piece of detail. If Kilts isn’t just flat making this up, where does it come from if it’s not an essential part of the folklore? If we can’t find a reference to AE’s shoe size you can bet that Kilts couldn’t either. Does a Gilbertese in 1946 who doesn’t wear shoes know enough about the way American shoes are sized to provide this embellishment? Gallagher said that he found part of the sole. That’s where the size would be printed. He didn’t mention that the size was legible, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t. This smells to me like real information.
“Beside the skeleton was a cognac bottle with fresh water in it for drinking.”
  We’re back to ca 1938 again. We know that the bottle was found with the skull, not the skeleton. Kilts is correct, however, that it was a cognac bottle – Benedictine to be exact. Gallagher says the bottle was empty, and by the time he saw the bottle it probably was. Kilts’ informant is describing the bottle at the time of discovery and may have better information than Gallagher. This is an important detail in determining cause of death. You don’t die of thirst if you have a bottle of water.
“The island doctor said the skeleton was that of a woman.”
  Things are all confused again. Is this 1939 when Native Medical Practioner Tutu may have offered an opinion about gender based entirely upon the skull? Or is this 1940 when Gallagher, not an island doctor, thinks the skeleton is that of a woman? Or is this 1941 when Dr. MacPherson may have expressed some opinion contrary to Dr. Hoodless?
“And there were no native women on the island then. ”
  This seems like an unnecessary comment. He has already said that the 23 island people were all men. He just got through saying that these are women’s shoes and natives don’t wear shoes. It' apparently very important to the story that there is no other explanation for a woman being there.
“Farther down the beach he found a man’s skull but nothing else.”
  Now we’re back in 1939 again. Yes, the skull was found independently of the other bones but how, I wonder, does the idea get started that the skull and the skeleton are two different people? How much “farther down the beach” was the skull found from where the skeleton was later discovered? Apparently far enough to create the impression of two different people. If it was all one person, what moved the skull? Coconut crab seems the likeliest answer.
“The magistrate was a young Irishman who got excited when he saw the bones. He thought of Amelia Earhart right away.”
  Yes, that’s right.
“He put the bones in a gunnysack”
  I suspect he did. The bones were found prior to Gallagher’s initial September 23rd telegram. On October 17 they were “in locked chest in office pending construction of coffin.” How else would you carry them from the site to the office?
“and with the native doctor, and three other natives in a 22-foot, four-oared boat started for Suva, Fiji, 887 nautical miles away.”
  As we’ve said before, there was such a boat and Gallagher and the bones did go to Fiji (although not together).
“The magistrate was anxious to get the news to the world. But on the way the Irishman came down with pneumonia. When only 24 hours out of Suva he died.”
  By the time Gallagher left for Fiji, both Dr. Isaac and Dr. Hoodless had shot down the idea that he had found Amelia Earhart. But what did Gallagher think? Was his visit to Fiji in any way connected with the bones? Change pneumonia to peritonitis and change 24 hours out of Suva to 24 hours after his return to Niku and the story is correct.
“The natives are superstitious as the devil and the next night after the young fellow died they threw the gunnysack full of bones overboard, scared of the spirits. And that was that.”
  How does Kilts know that the Gilbertese are worried about the “spirits” associated with the bones unless they tell him? And the story of the bones being thrown overboard doesn’t hang together: Gallagher dies in the open boat 24 ours out of Suva. The bones are not thrown overboard until “the next night.” Why would they wait? We know that Gallagher died at night. By “the next night” they should be in Suva. This is actually the only part of the Kilts story that doesn’t track well with known events.
“This same account was related by the doctor to New Zealand officials.”
  Kilts was clearly under the impression that the island was under New Zealand administration. This opens the possibility that he was told only that the doctor related the account to “officials” and Kilts assumed that he meant New Zealand officials. However, we certainly have come across no reference to a report by a “native doctor” to any official and it’s hard to image what would occasion such a report, given that Gallagher was in communication with the WPHC thoughout the whole affair.

A better possibility (I think) is that it happened exactly as Kilts says. The skull is found in January 1939 and is reported by Tutu (naturally) to the New Zealand officials who are on the island at the time.


Subject: Sextant Boxes Again
Date: 10/2/98
From: Vern Klein

... Searching for ideas

Aside from the Canton Engine and the airplane itself, the sextant box found by Gallagher with that tantalizing number stencilled on it could establish an awfully solid tie between Fred Noonan and Gardner Island. I think it will be difficult to make as solid a tie to Amelia Earhart on the basis of the shoe parts, either those found by Gallagher or by TIGHAR.

Assuming the sextant box was Noonan’s, it may be that the numbers on it (3500 and 1542) are a connection to some ship, but I believe it more likely that they are a connection to Pan American Airlines. Are there any more avenues to explore in an attempt to discover whether Pam Am marked equipment with such numbers?

TIGHAR has searched for sextants and boxes bearing numbers and found only one. That one does have a similar kind of number (3547), hand written – and once belonged to Fred Noonan. I presume that search would have taken note of any bubble sextants that may have turned up as well as marine type sextants.

There may be other things that would have been marked with numbers related to some kind of inventory system. Some such things may still exist somewhere, perhaps in some kind of collections.

Maybe some people who were associated with Pan Am during the late 30s and early 40s are still around and might remember stuff being identified by such numbers.

Does anyone have any thought about what to look for, or where to look, or who might be around who might remember something???

Subject: Re: Sextant Boxes, Again
Date: 10/4/98
From: Bob Williams 0902

When I first saw a picture of the Pensacola Sextant Box, I did a double back flip! It was spooky! The box was identical to the standard instrument box that Pan Am made, and used until the day they went out of business, for keeping all delicate instruments. On the older boxes, this included the same type of hardware on the box and the dove tail corners. The serial number of the instrument inside was also either written on the top of the box in black ink?, or stenciled on with black paint. It confirmed, in my mind, that the Pan Am pilot who had donated the sextant and box to the museum was telling the truth when he said that he got it on loan from Noonan when he took a navigation course from him. I don't think it was Noonan's personal property but was owned by Pan Am. I doubt that Noonan would have loaned anyone his personal sextant. Especially a pilot! Could it be the sextant and box found on Nikumaroro had been loaned to Noonan by Pan Am for his trip with Earhart, or could it be Noonan had “borrowed” it from Pan Am when he had been instructing navigation?

Subject: How Many Bodies?
Date: 10/4/98, 9:30 pm
From: Tom King 0391CE

>We know that island folklore consistently holds that two sets of bones – one male, one female – were found on the island.

It’s pure speculation, but I wonder if the “male and female skeletons” story arises from the attribution of two different sexes to the same set of bones at two different times. The bones are thought by Gallagher to be maybe female, then Isaac and Hoodless decide they’re male, and the way the word of this gets garbled in transmission to the colonists is that there are two bodies, one male, one female. Again, pure speculation, but I don’t think we need to assume the discovery of two skeletons based on the two-body stories.

Love to Mother
Tom King

From Ric

But then there’s Bauro Tikana, who says that he was Gallagher’s clerk and interpreter in 1940.

Bauro says (in a fax to me dated August 12, 1991):

“When we first arrived (in 1940) I saw the shipwreck and asked Mr. Gallagher about it. He told me that it was the Norwich City. Later when the laborers were cleaning (clearing the bush) they told me they found bones near the ship. I do not know if Mr. Gallagher knew about the bones as I didn’t tell him about it. The laborers also told me they found bones on the other end of the atoll when they were cleaning the land in that area. I don’t believe Mr. Gallagher knew of these as he was the only white man there and most of the laborers didn’t speak English and were afright [sic] to talk to him and Mr. Gallagher didn’t speak Gilbertese. I did all the interpreting for Mr. Gallagher and pass on all his instructions to the laborers.”

Okay, so Bauro’s info is a bit shaky. But if bones were found near the shipwreck, the question is whose bones were they? And how near is near? The Norwich City survivors buried the three bodies that washed up while they were there. It’s possible that later storms uncovered one of those graves or that one of the other eight men lost in the disaster washed up unnoticed.

However, especially because the reports of airplane wreckage seen on the reef and shoreline describe the same general part of the island as the shipwreck, the possibility remains that the “other” set of bones was the other crew member of the Electra.

It’s worth noting that the New Zealand survey party did not report finding any bones in that area (or anywhere else) in late ’38/early ’39. Bauro says that the bones on Nutiran (near the shipwreck) were found “later” (after his arrival with Gallagher in 1940).

Subject: Forensic Anthropology
Date: 10/7/98, 2:40 pm
From: Ric Gillespie

I’d like to explain just how we're going about this bone measurement business because it’s pretty interesting.

As everyone knows by now, a partial skeleton found on Gardner Island in 1940 was suspected at the time as being Amelia Earhart. British authorities held the matter “strictly secret” pending further investigation. A British doctor in Tarawa looked at the bones and declared them to be those of an elderly Polynesian male. A few months later, in April 1941, the principal of the medical school in Suva, Fiji recorded the measurements of several of the bones and wrote a report which expressed the opinion that the individual was a middle-aged, stocky, muscular male about 5 ft 5 inches in height. We don’t know what then became of the bones.

However, we do have the measurements taken by the doctor in Fiji. By evaluating those measurements with present-day forensic anthropological information and technology we should be able to assess the probable validity of the opinions expressed in 1941. Leading this investigation is Karin R. Burns, Ph.D.,(TIGHAR #2071) a noted forensic anthropologist now teaching at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Dr. Burns is much in demand by forensic anthropological projects worldwide. (Last month she was in Poland verifying the remains of a relative of American Revolutionary War hero Kazimir Pulaski.)

Independently evaluating the bone measurements taken in 1941 is Richard L. Jantz, Ph.D., of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Dr. Jantz is the co-author of FORDISC, the first interactive computer program for the classification of unknown adult crania according to race and sex using any combination of standard cranial measurements. He is not a TIGHAR member (yet).

As explained by Dr. Jantz:

The impetus to develop FORDISC resulted from increasingly frequent requests from colleagues to calculate “made-to-order” discriminant functions using data from the Forensic Data Bank at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The Forensic Data Bank contains samples of 20th century American populations, the most appropriate samples against which to compare measurements of unidentified crania. Custom discriminant functions are especially necessary when a specimen is fragmentary and measurements required by published functions are impossible to obtain.

Features of FORDISC 2.0 include comparisons to Howell’s craniometric data base samples, postcranial and mandibular discriminant functions for race and sex, stature estimation, more extensive on-line help, and a pictorial on-screen measurement guide for craniometrics.

In addition, the forensics/anthropology/osteology department at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN has agreed to look at the Hoodless data.

We should have the results of these analyses for posting to the forum very soon.

Subject: More on Dem Bones
Date: 10/7/98, 3 pm
From: Dennis McGee 0149E

If I remember correctly, you said 11 men died in the Norwich City wreck and that the 24 survivors buried three (?) bodies that later washed ashore. Is there any indication where those three bodies washed up? Long theory, short: If the ship is on the NW side of the reef and IF the 3 (?) bodies washed up on the NW side of the reef, then the remaining bodies – if they ever were washed ashore – would most likely have also arrived on the NW side of the reef. Therefore “dem bones” – which I think you said were found on the eastern side of the reef – were in all likelihood NOT any of the NC crew. So that fact would at least rule out dem bones being the surviving parts of the dearly departed. Is this correct?

Like a lot of forum subscribers, I’m confused about exactly where all of the bones were found. I know you promised a clarification in a later TIGHAR Tracks, but dad-gummit, I can’t wait. Can you give us a sneak preview of a map and some “X’s” created from that decrepit boat anchor of a PC system you refuse to part with?

LTM Dennis McGee 0149

From Ric

There’s no way to put up a map on the forum and, to tell you the truth, I’m a little hesitant to slap up a map on the internet showing the whole world exactly where we think things are on the island. (TIGHAR members are entitled to a few privileges and you never know when Ed Dames is going to have another vision.)

But let me see if I can clear up the confusion.

  1. We have documented evidence of the the discovery of only one set of bones on Nikumaroro. These were a skull found by laborers sometime in 1939 and a partial skeleton found by Colonial Service Officer Gerald Gallagher in 1940.
  2. We are not certain where these bones were found but it was clearly somewhere near the lagoon shore along the southern side of the island. Our favorite hypothesis (this week) has them found on a small peninsula just west of the southern lagoon passage (Bauareke Passage).
  3. There are rumors of other bones found onshore somewhere in the vicinity of the wreck of the Norwich City.
  4. It seems safe to assume that the bones found by Gallagher are not a body washed up from the Norwich City, the Titanic, or the Pequod because the skeleton was part of a scene which included a campfire, dead birds and a dead turtle. Dead people don’t camp.
  5. It’s not at all clear whether the rumored remains near the wreck were scattered bones, an intact skeleton, an exposed interment, or what.

As for how and where things would wash ashore, that’s very hard to say with any degree of certainty. The currents around an atoll like Niku are very complex and change with the tides and the weather.

Subject: Other possible visitors to Niku
Date: 10/7/98, 3:15 pm
From: Forest Blair 2149


In the past 30-40 years there have been many adventurers and fishermen sailing the South Pacific. During just my year-plus at Canton in 1970-71, we ran across at least three such encounters: 1) an oriental ( Japanese I think) fishing boat needing supplies; 2) a father and son in a trimaran returning from Samoa to Honolulu needing a rest stop and some terra firma; 3) a Russian “research” – make that spy – ship ( the size of a modern passenger liner) that one morning appeared close off our westerly shore.

A chap named Jimmy Cornell in his book Ocean Cruising Survey published by Sheridan House in 1986, moreover, lists over 150 seagoing sail boats that have prowled the South Pacific in our time. Cornell, in fact, interviewed their owners for the writing of his book.

Bottom line: Perhaps Gardner (Niku) was not so untouched by outsiders as we like to think. With its lagoon, it’s easy to think that some of these adventurers and fisherman may have anchored over night just to stretch their legs. The Russians may even have sipped some vodka around a campfire. The Russian ship and more than half of the sailboats had women on board. Who knows how old a pair of shoes might have been that a lady would take on an extended cruise to walk around on boat landings and coral rubble? I have a pair of dress shoes, 19 years old, that I still wear. Please, no comments about style or frugality!

Don’t wish to sound negative on present thinking any more than not being convinced the Canton engine was found on Niku, but believe we must review all possibilities on sources of our artifacts.

Forest #2149

From Ric

No argument there. In the absence of surveillance cameras, we really can’t say with certainty who may have visited the island.

We can, however, put some requirements on the person whose bones were found by Gallagher.

  1. They died marooned on the island long enough before (at the earliest) December1938 so that only a badly weathered partial skeleton remained.
  2. They had with them shoes which looked to Gallagher to be women’s shoes of contemporary manufacture.
  3. Whatever means of conveyance brought them to Gardner Island was not in evidence in 1938, or in October 1937 when Maude and Bevington first visited the island, or for that matter, July 9, 1937 when the Colorado’s search planes saw only “signs of recent habitation.”*
  4. Their loss escaped the notice of the press, unless the individual happened to be one of the two people known to have disappeared in the region in 1937.

Of course, you can also be put ashore like Ben Gunn and left to survive with nothing but your sextant box and your Benedictine bottle. The few yachties I’ve known have not been people I’d want to spend a lot time with, but I’m not sure they’re THAT bad.

*This is an interesting point that we haven’t discussed in detail. How does someone get marooned on an island? If your ship goes aground, as did the Norwich City, it tends to remain a landmark for many years. If your ship sinks at sea and you escape in a lifeboat, then the lifeboat stays around. (In 1938 the New Zealand survey party found one of the lifeboats from the wreck of the Norwich City still sitting in the bushes where it had washed up nine years before.) If you abandon ship and swim for it do you do that with a sexant box under your arm and a Benedictine bottle in your hand? These would seem to be items salvaged Robinson Crusoe style from a vessel which, although accessible for a time, is fragile enough to have been quickly obliterated or at least reduced to easily obscured wreckage.

Subject: Noonan Project Clue?
Date: 10/9/98
From: Vern Klein

Thanks for the input on Pan Am instrument boxes! It sure makes the box Gallagher found seem like it came from Pan Am... and was probably in the possession of Fred Noonan on the Earhart flight.

Re: The Pensacola Sextant... I think you’re right. Fred would not have loaned his own sextant! It was a very good sextant but it belonged to Pan Am. It was all sort of an “in house” thing.

Since it appears there are no existing records that might definitely connect the Niku sextant box to Fred, I’m inclined to try anything I can to possibly stir a memory of anything at all that might help in that direction. And something that I’m just plain curious about.

It’s my understanding that sextants typically come with boxes. These boxes are often made of mahogany and I’m sure there would be some internal structures to hold the particular sextant in place. I would expect some facilities to hold any accessories... such as inverting eyepieces?

I would expect that Pan Am would have retained the box the sextant came in. They would not have made their own box in this case, would they? If so, I guess they would have put in supporting structures to hold whatever instrument the box was built for.

Gallagher immediately recognized the box found on Niku to be a sextant box, not a general purpose instrument box of some kind. My guess is that it had internal fittings obviously designed to hold a sextant... and that “piece of an inverting eyepiece” that the finder threw away.

I don’t know what I’m hoping for, just sort of rambling on about sextant boxes. Are you by any chance aware of any kind of gatherings of Old Pan Am people? The kind of thing that would provide opportunity to pick a few brains? Maybe someone knows another place to look for old Pan Am records. Maybe someone would remember seeing a memo about Fred Noonan losing still another sextant!

All the best,

From Ric

While we’re rambling – Your comments got me thinking about the Pensacola sextant and I went back and reviewed the paperwork that came with it. I think I may have come upon a clue to Noonan’s occupational status at the time of his disappearance.

W. A. Cluthe, the former Pan Am pilot who gave the sextant to the museum, states specifically in the affidavit which accompanies the artifact:

“This instrument was borrowed by the undersigned who at the time was studying navigation under Mr. Noonan in preparing for service in the Pacific Division of Pan American Airways, for use in practical navigation.”

Clearly, Cluthe had the sextant in his possession when Noonan disappeared. If the sextant was actually Pan Am property, why didn’t Cluthe return it when the instructor left the company sometime after his last clipper flight (Dec. 7, 1936) and his signing on with the Earhart World Flight (first announced on March 13, 1937)? The conclusion seems inescapable that the sextant did not belong to Pan American but to Noonan personally (just as Cluthe says) and that Cluthe was still “studying navigation under Mr. Noonan IN PREPARING for service in the Pacific Division of Pan American Airways” at a time when we know that Noonan was no longer with the company.

It looks to me like Noonan was teaching navigation to Pan Am employees, or maybe even prospective Pan am employees and supplying his own training aids. There have been allegations that Noonan intended to open a navigation school after the Earhart flight. Was he, perhaps, already teaching navigation under contract to Pan Am?

Mrs. Lillian Crosson recently told me of her impression that Fred Noonan, a friend of her husband (Joe Crosson, chief of PAA’s Alaska Division), was merely on a leave of absence from Pan Am at the time of his disappearance. Whether or not that was the case, it is certainly true that the wife of a senior Pan Am excecutive was not aware of any acrimony between Noonan and the company.

Launching a navigation school with a nice little contract from his former employer seems like a very logical thing for newly divorced and re-married Fred to be doing in the early months of 1937. A chance to hit the headlines again by flying with Amelia Earhart would be just the ticket.

Having his own stock of sextants to loan out to students wouldn’t explain why the Pensacola sextant box looks like a Pan Am box, but it might account for the similarity in the numbers written on the outside of the Pensacola sextant box and the Gardner Island sextant box.

It strikes me that we may be able to test this hypothesis. If Fred opened a new business in California (he and Marie Bea were supposedly going to settle in the Burbank/Hollywood area) he may have needed to get a business license. A record of such a license may still exist. What do you think Noonan Project researchers?

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