Forum artHighlights From the Forum

January 30 through February 9, 1999


Subject: Radio Log
Date: 2/1/99
From: Mike Everette

In response to Ric's questions of 1-29-99 re interpretation of Itasca's log entries:

At 0614 local time:

WANTS BEARING ON 3105 KCS // ON HOUR // WILL WHISTLE IN MIC ABOUT 200 MILES OUT // APPX // WHISTLING // NW

She is obviously asking Howland or Itasca to take a bearing on HER signal, on 3105. She is whistling into the microphone in order to give the radio operator at the DF receiver on Howland a signal which is easily recognizable, should he have to tune around to find her.

At 0645 she obviously asks for another bearing on her signal, from Howland or Itasca. This again appears to be on 3105 KHz.

At 0758 local time:

KHAQQ CLNG ITASCA WE ARE (LISTENING) BUT CANNOT HEAR U GA ON 7500 WID A LONG COUNT EITHER NW OR ON THE SKD TIME ON HALF HOUR

Hmmmm.... this presents the crucial question. "Cannot hear you..." AE asks Itasca to transmit on 7500 KHz, with a long count.

Can she not hear them on 3105? (Probably. At least this is one way to account for the request... maybe the skip distance has gotten long, so that she is now in a "dead zone" for 3105 between her and Itasca. (And yes, it is possible that in such a situation she could not hear them, but they could indeed hear her.) But, why ask for them to transmit on a frequency she cannot reply on? I don't know.)

Why the "long count"?

One answer: she needs them to transmit something she can easily recognize, so she can tune her communication receiver to that frequency and be sure she has their signal. This seems the simplest, most easily explainable answer based upon what we think we know for sure.

Why 7500?

I can't answer that. Seems to me that if she was going to ask for a different frequency, she might have asked for 6210 because she could talk and hear on the same one....

Was she asking them for a signal upon which she could take a bearing?

Good question. If we take the context of the 0800 message:

KHAQQ CLNG ITASCA WE RECD UR SIGS BUT UNABLE TO GET A MINIMUM PSE TAKE BEARING ON US AND ANS 3105 WIL VOICE / NRUI DE KHAQQ LNG DASHES

and ASSUME (careful!) that this means AE received Itasca's signals ON 7500, and was "unable to get a minimum", it sure seems like that may have been it. HOWEVER:

Was Itasca ALSO transmitting ANYTHING on a frequency between 200 and 1500 KHz, in this time period? Did they have any kind of beacon operating? Did they have an operator working a low frequency transmitter to provide some kind of homing signal? Does anything in Itasca's logs point to this?

If so, then the answer must be that she couldn't hear the "beacon."

If not, well... I do not know the answer. I know what many may say it sounds like, looks like, smells like, tastes like, and feels like... That she may have been trying to take a bearing, aboard the aircraft, on a 7500-KHz signal.... but, in truth, that may not be what it IS.

At this point I am not prepared to say that this is what it is. Again, given the state of the art in 1937, I just do not think she had any such equipment... but we may find out something more which will add better light on this.

Mike E.


Subject: Chronometers
Date: 2/4/99
From: Vern Klein

Thus far no information regarding Fred's chronometer(s) has been forthcoming. The only thing I've come across is contained in Fred's letter to Weems. In case you have not noted that, he writes, relative to Pan Am flights...

Time pieces carried were a Longines Civil Time chronometer and a Longines second-setting watch. The latter was set to correct G.C.T. at all times by checking with the chronometer. This watch was of the arm type, but the strap was removed, and the watch clips of the octant were adjusted to accomodate the beckets on each side of the watch. I prefer such arrangement to carrying the watch on the arm.

About all this tells us is that Fred seemed to favor Longines timepieces. He had indicated earlier in the letter that the choices were his own and largely based on the fact that he had used them extensively and found them satisfactory.

I also recall reading somewhere, probably one of the many Earhart books, hence not necessarily correct, that Fred carried his chronometer in his pocket at all times. That suggests something like a pocket-watch in size, but of quality and accuracy to qualify as a chronometer.

Having written all that, it seems we know nothing about what chronometer(s) may have been carried on the 'round-the-world attempt, either on the aircraft or on Fred's person.


From Ric

For what it's worth, we have a good anecdote on this subject. Way back in 1988 we interviewed Francis "Fuzz" Furman who was the Martin Aircraft factory rep in Bandoeng, Java when AE and Fred spent a few days there in late June (the Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force had a bunch of Martin B-10s). Fuzz spent quite a bit of time with Noonan both on and off duty. One thing that stuck in his memory was that Fred always carried his chronometer in his pocket and was obsessive about checking its accuracy at any opportunity. (Fuzz also said that he and Fred went out at night and that Fred never touched a drink, even though Fuzz was drinking.)

When the Electra's navigation station was set up by Paul Mantz and Harry Manning prior to the first world flight attempt, three chronometers were supposedly shock-mounted in the navigator's table in the cabin. All that stuff was torn out during the repairs which followed the Luke Field crash and it appears unlikely that Noonan had it reinstalled.

Love to mother,
Ric


Subject: Two Cents Worth
Date: 2/8/99
From: Rick Seapin

I've been a member of TIGHAR for two weeks now, and I thought it was about time I gave you my two cents worth. First, let me say how impressed I am with you individuals for the knowledge you have acquired, and the class in which you present it.

I have studied the disappearance of Amelia for over thirty-years, not as an active historian, but more as a minor hobby. However, as the years past, my thirst for answers became a little more demanding.

I first thought Fred was the primary culprit of the ill-fated adventure, he having made some grave navigational error. We now know leaving the low frequency radio behind in Florida, a faulty chronometer, and a malfunctioning radio frequency finder, added to their problems, and was a fault they would share equally. However, when the duo reached the coast of Africa, why did Amelia disregard Fred's advice? She flew in the opposite direction in which Fred instructed her to fly, and in doing so, landed in the wrong place. Did she do the same thing when they reached the sun line (line of position) at Howland Island?

I believe Brennan was right, they were left of Howland Island when they flew left along the 157-337 line of position. I think it is evident that someone in the Electra made a mistake. Who?

With fuel running low and approaching Nikumaroro Island, Amelia had to make a decision on where to land the aircraft. Being an experienced Aviatrix, she chose a water landing. However, Nikumaroro is an atoll, it's lagoon filled with coral heads and patch reefs. The atoll is surrounded by coral reefs 100 to 300 meters wide. She would have to have made a controlled crash outside of the coral line. Razor sharp coral would tear an aircraft to shreds.

Scenario # 1. They died on impact, the Electra may or may have not broken in pieces, and now rest in approximately forty-feet of water. It's debris washing up on shore during heavy storms.

Scenario #2. They tried to make it to shore over the razor sharp coral and white-tipped reef shark infested waters, dying in the attempt.

Scenario #3. They made it to shore only to die of thirst and hunger. Nikumaroro has no fresh water and only five types of Rept/Amphibians. They had two weeks of food and water in the Electra, but what good does that do when the craft is underwater and their on land? Finally, Nikumaroro is considered a Sea level rise risk 9 island. That means the island tends to be underwater at times. The average height of islands in the Phoenix group is six feet. Not much protection during fierce storms.

I strongly believe that any future searches of Nikumaroro should be concentrated below the water surrounding the island, not the island itself.

Well, why do I feel like a rubbed myself with fresh hamburger meat and walked into a lions den? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. LTM


From Ric

Welcome. Those of us stalking about here in the Coliseum always like to see fresh meat walk into the arena. (Don't worry about the blood. That's why the footing in here is sand.)

Let me correct the first of your many misimpressions. You have not been a member of TIGHAR for two weeks. You have been a subscriber to the Earhart Forum for two weeks. There's a difference. If you'd like to become a TIGHAR member you'll find a printable membership form on the TIGHAR website (www.tighar.org).

Moving right along:

  • no low frequency radio was left behind in Florida
  • there was no faulty chronometer
  • no malfunctioning "radio frequency finder"
  • the whole bit about Amelia disregarding Fred's advice upon reaching the coast of Africa comes from the heavily edited "Last Flight" and is not supported by more contemporaneous documentation.
  • your speculation that she "chose a water landing" is unsupported by any evidence.
  • your various scenarios are based upon mostly bad information. For example: nobody knows how much food and water were aboard the Electra, Nikumaroro is never underwater, and the sharks on the reef are black-tips (and if you think that's a minor point, YOU stand in the water with white-tips and I'LL stand in the water with black-tips).

That said, you can hardly be blamed for having misconceptions. For thirty years you've been reading books that are full of of misinformation. No one can draw valid conclusions from invalid data.

Love to mother,
Ric


Subject: Whistling
Date: 2/9/99
From: Andrew McKenna

Given these two radio log entries:

At 0614 local time:

WANTS BEARING ON 3105 KCS // ON HOUR // WILL WHISTLE IN MIC ABOUT 200 MILES OUT // APPX // WHISTLING // NW

and

At 0758 local time:

KHAQQ CLNG ITASCA WE ARE (LISTENING) BUT CANNOT HEAR U GA ON 7500 WID A LONG COUNT EITHER NW OR ON THE SKD TIME ON HALF HOUR

Have you considered that "CIRCLING" -aka - "LISTENING" might actually be "Whistling".

What this sounds like to me is that AE was trying to transmit the Whistle on 3105 so that the Coast Guard could take a bearing on her, and expecting a verbal response on 7500. Does that make any sense with the rest of the logs?

Andrew McKenna 1045C


From Ric

Itasca did not have voice capability on 7500. Earhart was told that in a message she received before she left Lae, although her request for a "long count" indicates that she did not grasp that fact.

My opinion that the mystery word was "listening" is based primarily on the construction of the rest of the sentence. What she said was,

"We are ???? but can not hear you."

Our task here is to find what appears to be a missing present progressive participle in the active voice which might be mistaken for the initally logged word "drifting." It seems reasonable to presume that the mystery word has, or sounds like it has, two syllables, the first of which has a short "i" sound and the second of which has an "ing" sound. Candidates which come to mind are circling, whistling, list'ning, drinking, and a number of others which, although more entertaining, seem less likely. Our best clue is the use of the coordinate conjunction clause "but cannot" which indicates that the mystery word describes an action which is not producing the desired result "to hear." In other contexts this is like saying,

"We are running but cannot catch you."

"We are sniffing but cannot smell you."

In other words, the mystery word should describe an action that, if successful, would let them hear. In Earhart's situation, the only word I can think of other than "list'ning" which fits this qualification might be "tuning", but that doesn't have the short "i" sound. To suggest that the mystery word is drifting, circling or whistling is a bit like saying,

"We are sniffing but cannot catch you." or

"We are running but cannot smell you."

You can say it, and it's a perfectly valid English sentence, but it just doesn't make much sense.

I now await the onslaught of the forum's English majors.

Love to mother,
Ric


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