Forum artHighlights From the Forum

April 1 through 6, 1999

Subject: Searching Niku
Date: 4/1/99
From: Tom King

Ric says: "I'm quite sure that at one time or another we've walked every inch of shoreline, but that doesn't mean much. In many, if not most, areas there could be a 747 parked 40 feet back in the bush and you wouldn't know it."

Let me elaborate a bit, and give Jon a bit more background. In '89 we foolishly set out to look at the whole bloody island; I anticipated being able to cut transects across the thing about every five to ten meters and look at it intensively. Didn't work; the veggies are just too dense and nasty. But we DID look as closely as we could at the whole place. In some cases this involved organized transect surveys; in other cases it was just getting through the bush as well as we could and looking as carefully as we could, and in some cases all we did was kind of poke around the edges. We did walk the entire perimeter, and boated along the lagoon shore, as well as working our way through the interior wherever we could; I have a rather complicated map showing survey coverage. The area where the wreckage was reported by the folks on Funafuti is, naturally, one of the areas where we didn't look very hard. We walked the beach, sort of peered back into the (VERY thick) Scaevola, and then a couple of team members came at the area from the inland side, looked over the area inland from the heavy bush, and then hacked their way out to the beach. There's lots of opportunity for stuff -- Electras, 747s, a Klingon Bird of Prey -- to be down in the bush, and/or buried in the surge ridge that runs back of the beach in many places (and tends to support dense Scaevola).

As for dirt bikes, the problem isn't getting around the beach; the island isn't so big that it can't be accessed, and walking along the shore is pretty much like walking along the shore anyplace else in the world -- pretty nice. It's the vegetation that's a problem, and that can be handled as long as we're looking at a defined area of reasonable size. What we can't do is look in detail at the whole island -- at least not without Agent Orange or napalm, which wouldn't go over at all well with the natural environment.

Tom King

Subject: Aluminum
Date: 4/1/99
From: Vern Klein

Aluminum is aluminum is aluminum.... But it ain't all the same. I'm speaking of the element aluminum, not an aluminum alloy.

This may be about as far out as looking for Fred Noonan's fingerprints on that sextant box. The box we don't have!

But we do have some peices of aluminum that might still tell us something more. Of course, one of particular interest is artifact 2-2-V-1. Alcoa says the alloy produced in the 1930s is indistinguishable from that produced today although the designation has changed.

I presume they mean that the proportions of aluminum, copper, manganese and magnesium in alloy 2024 is the same as in the 24S produced in 1930s. A chemical (metallurgical) analysis would not distinguish a piece of a mid-1930s aircraft from a piece of some WWII aircraft.

Maybe a closer look would reveal some differences. I've not looked into this critically but it seems that aluminum produced from ore (usually bauxite) from different parts of the world may have different proportions of the several isotopes. Why this should be is apparently not understood. Perhaps the same is true for isotopes of some of the other constituents.

I find indication that prior to about 1938, most aluminum produced by Alcoa was from bauxite from South America. Around 1938, there began a concerted effort to reduce our dependence on foreign sources for our aluminum. There are large deposits of bauxite in a number of areas within the US. Arkansas is a major source of bauxite used by Alcoa begining in the late 1930s.

A mass spectrometer might show differences in the aircraft aluminum available in the mid-1930s and that produced shortly thereafter. This would by no means be definitive but it might be one more of the many "could be" sort of things that cause us to persist in thinking Amelia and Fred may have been on Niku.

It might be interesting to do comparative mass spectrometry on some of the various pieces of aluminum we have, or know to exist, that might have come from Amelia's Electra. Of course, there's artifact 2-2-V-1 and somebody has a wood box with inlaid pieces of aluminum said to be from the airplane that was on Niku when the first settlers arrived... and there's that piece of the Electra recovered from the mishap in Hawaii (the paint color sample). These could, in turn, be compared to more recently produced aluminum.

If we were inclined to engage in this kind of wild-goose chase, we would need someone who could get some mass spectrometer time for free. I don't know that I could do anything with this aspect of it. It's been too long. All the people I once knew are long gone, on way or another.

One further thought relative to the box with inlaid aluminum pieces... If the thickness of these pieces has not been altered (if hammered or sanded, it would show), it would be interesting to know how thick they are. Maybe they're 0.032 inches thick and maybe they were once part of artifact 2-2-V-1.

From Ric

I think we have an adequately large flock of wild geese at the moment so we'll pass on the isotopes in the hope of finding something a bit more conclusive.

The inlaid aluminum from the box is indeed .032 thick, but that's a fairly common thickness for airplane skin and 2-2-V-1 does not have any pieces cut out of it (except the hunks cut out by Alcoa for testing).

Subject: Deep-water Searching for Earhart
Date 4/1/99
From: Various folks

A discussion arose on the Forum in this week concerning the theory proposed by Elgen Long, of San Diego, California, that Earhart ran out of fuel and crashed at sea. The following posts are edited and excerpted for relevance and good manners (which occasionally slipped in the heat of the email).

From Dave Baker:

I would like to meet the Longs and discuss their research. I have always theorized that they went down at sea, the single question is...which direction from Howland? Ric demands proof of this theory before he will abandon the Niku version, and that has been his saving grace in this forum. I told Ric that he is wasting time and money re-exploring Niku, and that I would donate money to an organization that would explore the ocean near of Howland. I also told him that this would cost a lot of money, and weeks..possibly months, of tedious searching. If Ric is willing to put off the next Niku adventure, and donate some of TIGHAR's expertise to help the Longs, that would probably go a long way towards solving the great mystery we all want solved.

From Ric

I'm not often at a loss for words, but this one came close. We've been working on this thing for ten years. We started from where Elgen is now. Do you really think that I have not sat with Elgen and Marie in their home and discussed Earhart theories with them? Have you somehow gotten the impression that Elgen and I haven't freely shared information? That I haven't seen his videos and heard him present his case in person at several events? Elgen is a fine gentlemen and he and Marie have been working on the Earhart case far longer than we have - but his theory is deeply flawed and does not stand up to rational scrutiny. The notion of a deep water search for NR16020 (besides being not justified by the evidence) is logistically ludicrous given the available technology.

LTM, Ric

From Cam Warren

As you should know, the theory of an Earhart splashdown 40-250 miles NW of Howland is a viable one, and although no hard evidence exists (obviously) is the most popular amongst serious researchers. So, don't be too hasty to characterize Elgen's reasoning as "deeply flawed".

And a deep sea search is not logistically - nor technologically - "ludicrous". According to Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Dr. Ballard, who I've heard, has been sniffing around again.

Ludicrous cost-wise perhaps; Scripps quoted $25,000 per search-day six or seven years ago. Don't forget, an engineering group located and recovered a cargo door that blew off a United Airlines plane somewhere between Honolulu and San Francisco some years back. I'll concede it hadn't been under water for sixty years, however, but very cold water (three miles down) is a pretty good preservative - for metal objects AND human remains.

Cam Warren

From Ric

You're suggesting that the prospect of searching the bottom of the Pacific Ocean at a depth of roughly three miles for a swath (how wide?) 210 miles long (40 to 250 miles NNW of Howland) for an object that is (best case scenario) 55 feet wide by 38 feet long is not ludicrous?

The company that found the cargo door you mention is Oceaneering International, the same outfit we hired to do a sonar sweep around Niku in 1991. We talked to them about that find and it wasn't quite the way you describe it. Their search area was quite well constrained by radar returns from the incident. In other words, they knew where to look. The only way a deep-sea search for an object as small as NR16020 would make any sense would be if you could precisely define the search area - and you can't. If Elgen can sell the folks at Scripps on the notion that he can pin down the spot where the airplane supposedly went in the drink, more power to him.

Your prediction about the preservation of human remains on the ocean floor is inaccurate.

LTM, Ric

From Dennis McGee

Cam Warren said: " . . . very cold water (three miles down) is a pretty good preservative - for metal objects AND human remains."

Not really. I've just finished reading Blind Man's Bluff, a book on the U.S. Navy's spying activities using submarines. In the book they talked about the "Glomar Explorer"" effort (financed by the CIA, of course) to raise a 1960-era Soviet sub that sank in the Pacific in about 15,000 feet of water. As we all know, the Glomar Express did finally get a chunk (about 30 feet) of it up and it had the remains of at least three Soviet sailors -- nothing but bones. And they'd been down for only about 10-12 years.

Also, look at the photos from the Titanic wreck site -- there are plenty of shoes and metal but no bodies or even bones.

The deep ocean may be a good place for storing metal but it isn't good for human bodies; there are enough little bugs and parasites down there to eat the remains of any type of life form or life-form products - humans, wood, cloth etc. -- slowly perhaps, but they do disappear. (Shoes survive because the tanning agents in the leather make them unappetizing to the deep sea critters.) Could the airplane survive after 35-plus years, yes. The bodies, no.

LTM, who gets squeamish over this type of talk

Dennis McGee

From Randy Jacobson

I have worked with Bob Ballard when he was at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for well over a decade, and we occasionally discuss searching for Earhart on the ocean floor (which is my professional area of expertise). We both agree that the available technology is not feasible, given the lack of clues of where to search, search rates, ship cost rates, time, and logistics. Estimates range up to $100M. I doubt that anyone could come up with that figure based upon such scanty (non)evidence of a downing at sea.

Subject: Piles of Sand on Niku
Date: 4/2/99
From: Kenton Spading

Recently on the Forum someone speculated about whether or not Amelia or Fred would have written a note (maybe put it in a container) and placed it somewhere on the island for someone to find at a later date. Someone who was about to die might do this in order to leave some sort of record behind. I believe it was then suggested that we should keep our eyes open for this type of thing.

In response to that Tom King wrote: "But there's no use hiding something for someone to find, if you don't leave something to guide future discoverers to its location. So one would expect a cairn [pile of rocks] or something, and there's no evidence of this unless you interpret the Maude/Bevington story of piles of sand or heaps of debris to be such. Which could be, but if so, our searches haven't turned them up. Which all leads, I guess, to a sort of shoulder-shrugging conclusion: "Good idea, but what can we do with it?"

My response to this should in no way be interpreted to imply that I am suggesting a message was left behind. Or for that matter that Amelia or Fred left a marker of some sort behind. However, we did find "piles of sand" during the 1997 Niku trip. The following is a short version of the story.

Maude and Bevington visited Niku on Oct 13-15 1937 (a few months after Amelia disappeared). While walking around, Bevington indicated that he saw signs of "previous habitation" on the island. He later described it as a bivouac site. The Arundel group had been there from 1892-94 (a reasonable source) and, of course, the Norwich survivors were there for a short time in 1929 (less likely source). Amelia and Fred could be another source. A few years ago, Tom King asked Maude (yes, he is still alive) what he thought Bevington meant by the statement. Maude responded something to the effect that he thought it consisted of piles of sand.

While we were working around the Aukaraime South shoe/babies grave/fire pit site on Niku in 1997 I discovered , a short distance away, a pit in the ground with a pile of sand next to it. To say that this had anything to do with Amelia would be pure speculation. It probably was dug by the colonists. All that can be said is the "piles of sand" were found near a bivouac site. However, I agree with Tom K., the pit and piles did not look like a "sign left behind"


Kenton Spading

Subject: How Would the Electra Float?
Date: 4/2/99
From: Dave Bush

If the Electra crashed in the sea (and it had all those ping pong balls) would it have floated? Since the big radials are so heavy, would it have floated in a tail up position? I saw a program where they made a scale model of the Titanic and put it in a water tank and re-inacted the sinking, changing factors to test different theories, ie. water tight doors open, water tight doors closed, etc. Do we know for a certainty how the Electra would have fared in the water?

Of course, that depends on the condition after touchdown. If they made a good water landing with everything intact versus losing a wing or the tail section, etc. Yeah, yeah, I know, they didn't go down in the drink, they landed at Niku. What I'm trying to get at is this: the theorists that say she ditched assume the plane and its various parts would not float. However, my contention is that some or all of the plane would have floated and some "evidence" of a downing would have survived and by now would have washed up on a beach somewhere! Maybe Niku! The Navy never even found an oil slick, so where did the plane go? How fast would a gas/oil slick have dissipated in the Pacific? Or rather, how long should it have been expected to last and how far would it have been visible, etc from the air and sea? I can't believe that nothing has ever been found. Are there any reports of items being found from other similar losses such as airplane crashes and ship sinkings in the ocean that would give us some reference?

Love to mother, and blue skies to all,
Dave Bush

From Ric

Everyone please note: Dave is kidding about the ping pong balls. There were no ping pong balls. We're not going to talk about ping pong balls. Ever, ever again.

How would the Electra float? Not too hard to figure. Those engines weighed a thousand pounds each. Nothing forward of them was watertight. The buoyant objects (empty fuel tanks) were all aft of the engines. How do YOU think she'd float?

How long would she float? We've debated that one up one side and down the other. Bottom line: Maybe only a few minutes, maybe quite a while (how's that for an answer?).

Once she sank, what would logically remain on the surface? That would depend largely on how much she broke up in the ditching. If she remained intact, maybe only some scattered objects and an oil slick. (The airplane left Lae with 80 gallons of oil aboard. Some would be used during the flight but there surely would have been a whole bunch of oil aboard when she went down.) If she broke up on impact there could be fuel tanks, oil tanks, pieces of aluminum skin with kapok insulation, life jackets, empty tomato juice cans, etc. all over the place.

And no. Nobody ever saw anything either on the ocean or washed up on a beach.

How fast does an oil slick dissipate? I guess it would depend largely upon the weather. As I recall, the debris from the loss of the Samoan Clipper was easily found the next day, but that airplane blew up. I expect that we have some forum subscribers who can provide other examples.

LTM, Ric

Subject: Flotation and Oil Slicks
Date: 4/2/99
From: Tom Van Hare

Dave Bush wrote:

> The Navy never even found an oil slick, so where did the plane go?
> How fast would a gas/oil slick have dissipated in the Pacific?

When people talk about the oil slick from an airplane crash, it is usually a combination of oil and gasoline on the surface. The gasoline evaporates much faster than the oil, though it still leaves a residue behind. Sea conditions are critical to the length of time it takes to both evaporate and spread the slick out. The larger the waves, the less time the slick is visible (before it becomes too dispersed to see with the naked eye). {So what were the waves at the time of the loss, again?}

If AE/FN crashed into the ocean, you can be nearly sure that they did it with empty fuel tanks. They would have switched tanks and milked everything dry as they flew back and forth (circling?) to try to find Howland. Put yourself in their position, and you know that you'd only ditch it if you simply didn't have any other other options. This means no gas on board or you'd keep right on searching and calling on the radio.

So, how much of an oil slick would less than 80 gallons of engine oil make? I cannot imagine much, particularly if it was in the oil tank in a plane that sank in 17,000 feet of water and only bled out a little at a time, slower and slower as the frigid cold of the deep turned the oil into sludge.

Of course, if the plane landed on an island beach, there wouldn't have been any oil slick in the water whatsoever.

Thomas Van Hare

From Ric: Sea conditons were just sort of average throughout the period in question.

Subject: Amelia's Radios
Date: 4/3/99
From: Hugh Graham

Ric wrote:

> Earhart, by commercial radio messages sent prior to departing Lae, told the Itasca:
> •  what radio frequencies she would be using,
> •  that they should send only voice messages to her,
> •  what times she would transmit,
> •  what times she would be listening,
> •  that she would use Greenwich Mean Time,
> •  to send signals on 7500Kcs for her to home on,
> •  and specifically asked if that frequency would be OK.

To the best of your knowledge:

  • Did Amelia ever receive any reply or confirmation to the above msgs?
  • Did she ever know she should transmit on 500Kcs to realize maximum benefit from Itasca's Radio Direction Finding capability?
  • Do you think she was promised HF Dir. Finding by someone?, else why the DF setup on Howland? The logic doesn't add up?
  • If the Coast Guard knew she was expecting to DF on 7500Kcs, why didn't they warn her? Or did they warn her?

Thanks in advance. LTM, HAG 2201.

From Ric

Did Amelia ever receive any reply or confirmation to the above msgs?


Did she ever know she should transmit on 500Kcs to realize maximum benefit from Itasca's Radio Direction Finding capability?

I can't say what she knew. I do know that her ability to put out signals on 500 kcs was severely limited by her short transmitting antenna.

Do you think she was promised HF Dir. Finding by someone?, else why the DF setup on Howland? The logic doesn't add up?

I know that Thompson (the captain of the Itasca) later claimed that it was never intended that the Coast Guard would provide bearings to Earhart. They were just supposed to provide transmissions upon which she would take bearings. It is clear, however, that Earhart did not share that opinion. We have found no evidence that Earhart knew anything about the HF/DF on Howland. It seems to have been entirely an idea cooked up by Richard Black of the Dept. of the Interior and Air Corps Lt. Dan Cooper as an experiment to supplement the Itasca's DF capability.

If the Coast Guard knew she was expecting to DF on 7500Kcs, why didn't they warn her? Or did they warn her?

Good question. No - they replied to her message but they didn't say anything about 7500 being a bad frequency for DFing. Of course, they also ignored her request for voice-only messages and use of Greenwhich time for the radio schedule.


Subject: Legends and Facts
Date: 4/4/99
From: Bill Leary

Hermann de Wulf writes:

> The reason why Titanic foundered was because of Murphy's Law.


> That brings us back to Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. They too met Murphy.

I definitely see parallels, and perhaps it's these parallels that draw people to these two mysteries and, in fact, draws a number of us to both.

Ric then said:

> I think Herman is dead on topic. Any great disaster - any great historical event for that matter - quickly
> becomes mythologized. To really understand what happened you have to get beyond the mythology,
> and myths die hard.

I watched a show on Discovery last night about various disasters. Several of them, including the Titanic, I knew either a bit or a lot about. It was amazing to see how much error gets recorded on the tube as fact. The thing to me, though, was since I could see in these cases how much error was introduced it caused me to have some healthy skepticism about the accuracy of the "facts" presented about the other disasters.

When someone expresses opinions about what happened to AE, FN and the plane I like to take into account their track record. If their responses to criticism or questions amounts to "because I said so" I have to doubt that they've really done the homework to back up their opinions. When, for example, they dismiss the recorded fuel capacity, load and usage rates for the Electra in coming to their conclusions I have to wonder what else they've ignored.

One of the most gratifying aspects of TIGHAR research been the handling of the evidence. When it turned out the navigators book case wasn't the confirming find that would have been desired, TIGHAR was public with the facts right away. This is one of the reasons I send in my dues, and one of the reasons I support the search.


From Ric

I posted this, in part, because I think it says something about the type of person who joins and supports TIGHAR. Journalists are often astounded to learn that only about 25 percent of our membership are pilots, but TIGHAR is not about flying. It's about history.

Subject: Aluminum and Isotopes
Date: 4/5/99
From: Vern Klein

Jerry Ellis checked out my idea to try dating some of the aluminum found on Niku by looking at the proportions of the isotopes of aluminum present. There is reason to believe Alcoa's sources of ore may have changed in about 1938.

Another good idea shot down!! There's only ONE isotope of aluminum to be found in nature. I then there IS a conspiracy!! I've quoted part of Jerry's message below. Maybe someone has some thoughts about the possibility that engineering materials properties might enable dating a sample of alloy sheet stock.

From Jerry...

> I looked in my Chemistry and Physics Handbook and to be sure Al has isotopes with masses of 24
> through 30. The catch is that the 27 isotope is 100% abundant meaning that, if these data are correct,
> it is the only isotope found in nature, the rest are man-made. In that case, there wouldn't be any
> difference in Al from different parts of the world. Do you know of evidence to the contrary?

No, I do not have such evidence. There would, in fact, be no difference.

> But isn't there some other difference one could find between the Al of the 30's and that of more
> recent production that would allow such a distinction to be made. I'm thinking of some materials
> science type measurements that engineers do. I don't know much about that area.

Jerry W. Ellis Carbohoydrates,
Professor of Chemistry Polymers, and
Dep't of Chemistry Chemical Education
Eastern Illinois University (and bluegrass)
Charleston, IL 61920  

Subject: Scaevola
Date: 4/5/99
From: Dave Porter

Having read the descriptions on the forum, and checked out the picture on the website, scaevola would seem to be a first class adversary to TIGHAR's efforts on Niku. How does it compare with Normandy hedgerows, circa 1944? (I bet you know where this is headed) It may be that you are entirely satisfied with the brush clearing capabilities of NIKU4. It may also be that logistics or budget won't allow it, or that such a thing doesn't even exist, but what about some sort of vehicle mounted "hedgehog" similar to the ones mounted on allied tanks shortly after D-Day which allowed penetration of the notoriously thick Normandy hedgerows?

I only ask because adding such a thing to NIKU4, while expensive, would surely be cheaper than mounting NIKU5 should 4 (horrors!) fail to find conclusive proof. Also, it seems a bit safer than a bunch of guys attacking the treeline with chainsaws.

A couple other thoughts:

re Norwich City: Bolting a plaque to the remains of the Norwich City should be fairly easy. At my day job, we use a "powder actuated fastening tool" which uses .27 caliber blank cartridges, color coded for charge strength, to, in extreme cases, drive a threaded stud through a steel beam, allowing whatever is necessary to then be simply bolted to the beam. Movie fans will note that the bad guys in the original Die Hard used a similar tool to bolt their rocket launcher to the concrete floor of the skyscraper. Any local building trade supplier should be able to help you get what you need in this regard.

re Kiribati: Is the drought still in progress there? Don't our heroic leaders in D.C. supply things like water desalinization plants to friendly seaside developing nations at fairly low cost? Could a good TIGHAR P.R. opportunity be lurking hereabouts? I'm willing to write my congressman...

re the Forum: As I mentioned to Ric privately, I would've joined TIGHAR on the strength of the magazine article and website alone. The forum is "icing on the cake" to an amateur like me. The members who contribute regularly, as well, I'm sure, as those who don't, are an extraordinary bunch of intelligent, well spoken folk. So, to the Van Hares, Mike E, Dave Bush, Kenton Spading, Tom King, Bill Leary, Craig Fuller, Herman, Pat, Ric, and all the rest of you who've probably already forgotten more about airplanes, radios, history, and archaelogy than I could ever hope to learn, I proudly throw my lot in with yours, and promise to try mightily to keep my questions intelligent and my comments useful.

Dave Porter

From Ric

Unfortunately, our dedication to sound archaeological methodology pretty much precludes our use of hedgehogs, napalm and Agent Orange. Our objective is not simply to remove the pernicious stuff from the face of the Earth; we need to look carefully at what might be hidden in amongst it. That means hand work - chain saws and bush knives. It's physically demanding and dangerous as hell in a place where we have no way of dealing with a massive blood-loss injury. So we're REAL careful.

Norwich City:
Hmmm. We'll have to look into that.

We assume that the drought is still on but it's very hard to get information out of Kiribati. As far as we know they're getting no help from the U.S. and there's very little international awareness that they even have a problem. They have no U.S. embassy and no representation at the U.N. I suspect that it would be hard to get the State Department's attention right now given the other humanitarian catastrophe on the Balkans.


Subject: Clancy/Gallagher Search
Date: 4/5/99
From: Phil Tanner

The passage below is from a local press site covering the English Midlands which includes news supplied by the Malvern Gazette, the weekly paper for that part of Worcestershire. The site is at

Another line of approach might be through the local branch of a family history society. (Hope I won't patronize too many people by pointing out that UK census returns are published only once 100 years has elapsed, so that route can't be used to track a family as recently as the 1940s).

These societies are mostly organized on a county basis, i.e. Malvern would fall under Worcestershire FHS. I am a member of the Herefordshire FHS, one county further south. Links at their site indicate that Worcestershire doesn't have a stand-alone FHS but is covered by the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry ( This in turn has a Worcestershire branch with its own sub-branches. Malvern doesn't have its own but would logically fall under the Worcester sub-branch, for which the BMGHS site gives no email address but a contact point as Miss C.A. Stormont, 18 Osprey Close, Lower Wick, Worcester, WR2 4BX (Tel: 01 905 748 075)

The resting place of the pioneering female aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, remains unknown despite repeated attempts to locate the crash site. The pair were trying to circumnavigate the globe when their plane disappeared as they tried to reach Howland Island, a small island in the middle of the South Pacific on July 2, 1937.

Now it is hoped an answer can be turned up by looking again at some bones found on the nearby Gardner Island by native settlers in 1940. The trail has been traced to Malvern and the relatives of the man who first examined the bones, Gerald Gallagher, Officer in Charge of the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme. He died on Gardner Island in September, 1941, aged 29, and is buried there. His effects, including a photo album and a sextant found with the bones, were returned to his aunt, a Miss Clancy, of Clanmere, Graham Road, Malvern.

The search is the work of Florida-based internet aircraft publication and The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR). editor Thomas Van Hare said Gallagher examined the bones with Earhart's fate in mind. He had them closely examined by a doctor who measured the bones, logged his findings, and then declared that they were of a Polynesian native man, he said. With that, the mystery was considered solved as not being the bones of Amelia Earhart. The sextant box was left unexplained though it remained in the possession of Mr. Gallagher.

Supporters of the theory that the doctor was mistaken in his conclusions are urgently trying to trace members of Mr Gallagher's family for any paperwork they may have. Forensic experts have recently revisited archive material held in Britain and say they cannot discount the possibility they are Earhart's, although too few measurements are available to be conclusive, hence the hunt for any of Gallagher's papers which may have made it to Malvern. Ultimately, it may be that someone in Malvern may have the key to solving the mystery of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan almost 61 years ago, said Mr Van Hare. Some resident in Malvern may have the photo album or even the sextant box in their hands or information that would lead us to Miss Clancy's descendants.

Anyone with information about the Clancy family can ring the Malvern Gazette newsdesk on 01684 892200 or write to us at Broads Bank, Malvern, WR14 2HP.

From Ric

There's your answer Vern. Looks like Tom Van Hare has been helping out.

Subject: Itasca Smoke
Date: 4/5/99
From: Bob Brandenburg

Vern recently raised a question about what kind of fuel was being burned in Itasca's boilers.

Here is a summary of what we know about Itasca and her smoke generation on the fateful morning.

Itasca was 250 feet long, painted white, and was steam-powered by two Babcock and Wilcox boilers that burned fuel oil. More about the properties of that fuel.

According to her deck log, Itasca was "drifting to westward of Howland Island" just a few hundred yards offshore, began "laying down heavy smoke" at 06:14 local when Earhart was estimating that she was 200 miles out, and the smoke was observed to "stretch out for ten miles and not thinning out greatly" There is no log entry indicating cessation of the smoke.

0614 local time was about an hour and a half before Earhart was expected to arrive at Howland.

During the next two hours, Itasca's weather log reports wind direction as East, with speed varying between 7 and 11 knots.

It is worth noting that Itasca's estimate of the length and density of the smoke is not credible. Consider that since the ship was drifting, the ship's view of the smoke was along the axis of the smoke plume, which was drifting downwind. Consequently, it would not have been possible to estimate the length of the plume, or its downstream density.

The boiler fuel oil most commonly used in those days was know as "bunker oil", which essentially was crude oil right out of the ground - - - very heavy with a high soot content, and hard to burn- - - required extensive preheating just to get it to atomize properly in the boiler feed nozzles. It was somewhat like burning liquid tar. The smoke therefore was "heavy" and tended to sink rapidly to the surface. During and and after WW2, the Navy switched to Navy Special Fuel Oil (NSFO) which was processed so that it was easier to preheat and burned more efficiently, producing a somewhat lighter smoke. It is unlikely that Itasca was burning NSFO.

But having laid down many NSFO smoke screens in my day, including a fair number in combat with North Vietnamese coastal batteries, I can tell you that that even NSFO smoke screens are not very durable. In anything more than a light breeze, say 5 knots or so, the smoke is pushed rapidly down onto the surface where it flattens and thins out within three to five miles. This results in rapid vertical thinning of the smoke, thus drastically reducing its visual contrast with respect to the sea surface.

So, within about five miles from the Itasca, the smoke plume would have been virtually invisible from the air. Smoke is really only useful as a visual detection aid when the wind speed is less than about 5 knots, when there is a significant vertical plume, which is readily visible in contrast to the sky luminence.

AE's problem was further complicated by the fact that at the reported wind speed, there would have been white capping, a condition in which the wind-driven waves break like surf on a beach. The fact that Itasca was painted white and was relatively small would make her tend to blend in with the whitecaps, and make her nearly invisible from the air beyond a few miles.

If Itasca had been steaming at 10 knots or so, her Kelvin wake (the vee-shaped wave pattern caused by the ship's movement throught the water) would have been quite visible from the air, looking like an arrow pointing right to the ship. But the drifting white Itasca would have been nearly invisible unless AE was within a very few miles.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that Itasca made dense black smoke for an hour and a half, which would have been necesssary for AE to have a chance to reach and see the smoke plume.

In a steam powered ship such as Itasca, under normal steaming procedures, the boiler watch crew would take particular care to ensure that the fuel-air mixture being sprayed into the boiler fire box was as close as possible to ideal, so that combustion would be nearly complete, thus minimizing soot buildup on the tubes within which water was boiled into steam within the boiler firebox. The combustion exhaust observed at the smoke stack under ideal conditions was described as a "light brown haze", and was not visible from more than a mile or so. In order to minimize soot buildup on the boiler tubes, the ship would "blow tubes" once each four-hour watch. This was accomplished by activating a valve system which literally sprayed live steam onto the boiler tubes in the firebox, thereby dislodging loose soot from the tubes. The dislodged soot was carried up and out the ship's smokestack by the exhaust gas plume.

But there always was an accumulating residue that could not be removed by blowing tubes, and eventually, about every 600 steaming hours or so, it was necessary to shut down each boiler and (after it had cooled!!!) send sailors into the fire box to remove the residual soot by hand, with wire brushes, etc.

Since Itasca had only two boilers, the Captain would NEVER have taken a boiler off line for tube maintenance while at sea, even though one boiler would suffice for the ship's needs while on station, because if the on-line steaming boiler were to sustain a major casualty requiring it to be taken off line, the ship would be dead in the water with no power. So, cleaning fire box tubes (known as cleaning firesides) was done in port, not at sea.

A smoke screen was created by reducing the amount of air in the fuel-air mixture being pumped into the boiler fire box. This made a lovely black smoke, but rapidly increased the rate of deposition of soot on the boiler tubes, thus hastening the time when it was necessary to shut down the boiler for hand cleaning.

And making heavy black smoke for a protracted period - - - more than 30 minutes or so - - - was inviting trouble in the form of a tube rupture (caused by uneven heating of the tube surface due to rapid and uneven soot accumulation) which resulted in water and steam spewing into the fire box, dousing the fire and, worse, causing the firebrick lining the inside of the fire box to crack from chill shock and crumble into a pile of rubble in the middle of the firebox. Such an event would require major and expensive shipyard repairs, and avoidance of such a failure was uppermost in the mind of any ship Captain.

To have laid black smoke until AE's scheduled arrival at Howland would have been courting disaster, ans there is nothing on the record to indicate that Itasca was under orders to incur such a risk.

So there you have it. Itasca almost certainly was not making black smoke when AE needed it, but even if the smoke was being laid right up to AE's estimated time of arrival, AE wouldn't have seen it until she was just a few miles away.

Bob Brandenburg

Subject: Aluminum Isotopes
Date: 4/6/99
From: Randy Jacobson

It is not the isotopes of Al that can be measured, but the impurities always found with Al in its manufacturer. You could probably determine different batches of Al used during the same year. Then the issue becomes what is original to compare the Niku samples to. I contacted some geologists who do ion mass spectrometry, and they said it would be easy to calculate parts per trillion or less for any sample of aluminum, but it does cost money. This was well before the time that TIGHAR took their pieces to Alcoa for overall analysis. It still might be worth doing, if someone can come up with the bucks (approx. 50-100k for thorough analysis of a variety of samples).

From Ric

Lockheed did not build each Model 10 from a discreet batch of aluminum. The best you could come up with would be something like, "This aluminum found on Niku seems to be from the same batch of aluminum that was used to build Earhart's plane. Of course, we don't know how many other planes of what types may have been built from that same batch or whether aluminum from that batch hung around for years and may have been later used for wartime repairs, etc."

I can think of better ways to spend $100,000.

Subject: Itasca Smoke
Date: 4/6/99
From: Tom Van Hare

Bob Brandenburg wrote:

> The fact that Itasca was painted white and was relatively
> small would make her tend to blend in with the whitecaps, and
> make her nearly invisible from the air beyond a few miles.

As a former search and rescue pilot (just about 750 hours of low altitude actual SAR time in the logbook), I can tell you that a 250 foot vessel would so far supersede whitecaps that they would not matter much in terms of visibility. If the ocean is dead calm (I recall seeing it that way twice), then visibility for a ship this size is something like 8 or 10 miles, but in the usual waves, with or without whitecaps, visibility is still four miles or greater.

The USCG ships we worked with were almost all 110 footers (such as the USCGC Padre), and painted white with an orange stripe. From four miles away, they were quite easy to make out in most wave conditions, but you would not generally discern the orange stripe until about one or two miles out. The ocean appears quite dark greenish blackish in deep water and the white of the vessel is the best contrasting color for maximum visibility. Conversely, the whitecaps are not generally individually visible beyond three miles or so.

As another piece of interesting information, if the vessel is underway (plowing through waves, etc.), it will create a wake that is ofttimes more visible than the ship itself from greater distances. The implication here is that since Itasca wished to be seen, they really should have been underway, cutting tracks off the shore of the island, as opposed to right next to it and drifting.

Instead, they were drifting fairly close in.

Thomas Van Hare

Subject: Kiribati Drought
Date: 4/6/99
From: Tom Van hare

Dave Porter wrote:

> re Kiribati: Is the drought still in progress there? Don't
> our heroic leaders in D.C. supply things like water desalinization
> plants to friendly seaside developing nations at fairly low cost?

First I'd like to amplify what Ric said about the lack of international interest -- and I will go into greater detail for those who have the time to read another one of my lengthy missives (see what follows this next paragraph).

More importantly, you should understand that purification is much easier than desalination. There are numerous low-cost purification machines available that are about the size of a pick-up truck bed, but desalination (particularly on a grand scale to address drought conditions) would be a major installation -- think millions upon millions of dollars and a huge construction project and a one to two year timeframe.

And, to return to the first point, there are few authorities at State or Defense to do this sort of thing. I'll run down the authorities and actors involved:

Under AID/W policy, this small country is not a target for major development assistance programming. Other places like Ethiopia, Bangladesh, etc., have a much higher priority, and much of the funding that is there is actually programmed for political purposes, hence the large share going to Egypt, etc., despite lesser need there than in much of east and west Africa and central Asia.

Defense humanitarian assistance is limited to work in Excess Property and H/CA, which must be approved through State/Pol-Mil on an individual basis. H/CA activities typically involve training programs (doctors doing jungle operations in Honduras, engineers building a road in El Salvador, etc.). Excess Property distribution which is handled and distributed locally with management through the USAID in-country or, barring that, a State officer. Property shipments are typically MREs, military clothing, and other non-lethal supplies that have been declared excess through age or the drawdown that has been going on for the past nearly decade.

Conversely, OFDA (Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance) has the authority but is far more interested in larger scale catastrophes, such as those generated by the ongoing problems in Kosovo and massive natural disasters like the impact of the hurricane in Honduras and Nicaragua this last summer. A drought in Kiribati is an ongoing issue of water management rather than emergency assistance.

Kiribati is far off the agenda of the Federal agencies involved. There is neither the authority, nor the general public interest, nor the budget, nor the politico-military importance in undertaking these sorts of programs in such a small country in the middle of the Pacific. As it is, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief budgets have seen an even greater cut than the military since the "peace dividend" was first the focus of budget cutting across the Congress.

> The members who contribute regularly, as well, I'm sure, as
> those who don't, are an extraordinary bunch of intelligent,
> well spoken folk. So, to the Van Hares, Mike E, Dave Bush,
> Kenton Spading, Tom King, Bill Leary, Craig Fuller, Herman,
> Pat, Ric....

Dave, thank you for your kind words. The only problem I see here is the old line about not wanting to be in any club that would have the likes of me as a member....

Thanks again,

Thomas Van Hare

Subject: Clancy/Gallagher Search
Date: 4/6/99
From: Vern Klein

Since we now have several people trying to track down the Clancys (and the Gallaghers), I think we need each to be aware of what the others are doing, and what has been learned by any of them.

Tom Van Hare appears to have been instrumental in getting the Malvern Gazette to run a couple of articles about the search for Clancy family members who may have some knowledge Gerald Gallaghers personal effects that were returned to a Miss. Clancy residing at "Clanmere" on Graham Road in Malvern at the end of WWII. This may get us in contact with someone who knows something of the Clancy family, if there are/were Clancys in the Malvern vicinity. The Miss. Clancy of Clanmere may prove to be a dead end. (Not to start the "dead" thing again!!)

Simon Wiseman, of Malvern, has visited Graham Road and located "Clanmere." The building now houses several offices of one kind and another. The structure has certainly seen better days. Simon believes the building was probably a lodging house during WWII. If this is correct, and Miss. Clancy simply had lodging there, that may be about all there is in the way of a Malvern connection to the Clancy family. I think this is very possibly the case although it does not jibe with the idea that Miss. Clancy's Malvern address was more permanent than Gallagher's mother's London address.

During WWII, the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE) was relocated to Malvern. Some will remember that Malvern is the birthplace of radar. The basic development was carried out on the playing fields of Malvern College. It is very possible that Miss. Clancy was employed at RSRE and roomed at Clanmere. This may be the extent of any Clancy-Malvern connection. Incidently, RSRE has now become the Defense Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). I wonder if there would be employee records from WWII time?

Simon Ellwood (yes, two Simons), working from Leeds and from Cambridge, has identified three Clancy women in addition to Gerald Gallagher's mother, Edith Annie Clancy Gallagher. At the moment I can not cite the sources of this information, but it appears that Edith Clancy had two sisters, Elizabeth Rachel Clancy and Mary A. Clancy. There is also a Lousia Clancy who was a witness at the marriage of Edith Clancy and Gerald Gallagher. It seems that Lousia Clancy was not a sister of Edith Clancy, nor was she Edith's mother. The relationship is unknown at this time.

Any one of these three Clancy women could have been the Miss. Clancy of Malvern.

Simom Ellwood, having little time to devote to the search, and feeling that he lacked expertise in genealogical research, engaged the services of a professional researcher. I presume that it is she who turned up the names of the Clancy women and the relationships, known and unknown. No doubt she will provide information relative to the sources she found.

I've told Simon that I feel the cost of the services of the genealogical researcher amounts to a contribution to TIGHAR. However, I doubt that he will be able to take it as a tax deduction!

It will be most interesting to know where the marriage of Edith and Gerald Gallagher took place. That might provide some idea of where the Clancys, and the Gallaghers, came from.

John Thompson, curator of the Earhart Centre in Derry, Ireland says the name Gallagher is unique to that particular part of Ireland. It was "Gallagher's Field" where Amelia Earhart landed on May 21, 1932, having just become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. That's quite a long way from where Gerald Gallagher, jr. was born in Romford. Essex, England. I think that's sort of the "East End" of London where the shipyards were and are. Not generally a high-class neighborhood.

The article in the Malvern Gazette mentions a photo album and a sextant being among Gallagher's effects that were returned to Miss. Clancy. I think that, if there was a sextant, it was Gallagher's own sextant, not the sextant box (sans sextant) that was found on Niku in 1940. The article also says the sextant box "remained in the possession of Mr. Gallagher." Gallagher sent the box to Fiji along with all the other things found on Niku.

To the best of my knowledge, that pretty well summarizes what we know about the Clancys -- and the Gallaghers -- at this point. Perhaps the articles in the Malvern Gazette will bring forth someone who can help to get us on the trail of whatever may still exist that might help us pin down the location on Niku where the bones, box, bottle, and the campfire remains were found in 1940.

From Ric

Tom mentioned to me that "Clanmere" was an "old persons' home". That's quite different from a "lodging house." Which is it? The Miss Clancy who lived there was definitely Edith's sister.

Gerald's sextant was not sent home. As I recall, it was sold or given to the master of the Viti. At any rate, it had nothing to do with the sextant box found on the island.

Whether or not Gerald was born in a high class neighborhood, he was rather a high class guy who got a high class education at very expensive schools, learned to fly, navigate, and had friends who fox hunted.


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