Forum artHighlights From the Forum

May 31 through June 6, 1999

Subject: Wreck photo, cont.
Date: 5/31/99
From: Dfarkaly

OK Ric, thanks for your detailed take on one plausible scenario. In my mind I am now fairly certain that you believe the wreck photo is genuinely AE's aircraft. As carefully researched as this project has been, from your end, obviously many years of diligent work, I am mildly surprised at the lack of skepticism regarding this photo. Of course, the photo thrills me, and no doubt most of us here on the forum truly wish that it can be proven genuine. Has this photo never surfaced before? (meaning no previous mention by other researchers). I would like to be as convinced as you have recently appeared to be, it is an awesome piece of evidence. Thanks for your thoughtful replies to my inquiries, I wish I had more to contribute than questions.

From Ric

We all have more questions than answers. In this kind of work, answers are relatively easy. The hardest part is finding the right questions.

I don't want to give the impression that I am not skeptical of the Wreck Photo. In fact, our initial conclusion after examining the image when it first surfaced ten years ago was to reject it. (The dog-eared original folder in my filing cabinet is still labeled "The photo that wasn't...".)

Only much later, after other evidence seemed to describe a sequence of events which might result in just such a scene as depicted in the photo, did I pull out the old file and start looking at it with the help of the more advanced forensic imaging tools and resources now available.

My strong suspicion that the Wreck Photo is a picture of NR16020 circa 1947 is based not on a lack of skepticism but upon the photo's ability to withstand the skepticism to which it has been subjected.


Subject: Who Hired Noonan?
Date: 5/31/99
From: Jerry Hamilton

(this is in response to a series of questions posed the previous week)

A little off the current subject, but who hired Fred? Was it Amelia, George or someone else?

ANSWER - Good question since they already had one navigator, Manning. The most contemporaneous source (Oakland Tribune, March 13, 1937) says Noonan was announced unexpectedly and there was no formal statement by AE or GP. Only Manning was quoted as saying, "Noonan's going along with us as far as Howland."

What was Fred doing at the time, was he unemployed?

ANSWER - He was getting a Mexican divorce, having spent part of early March in El Paso. It appears he had left Pan Am as his last documented flight was to Manila aboard the Philippine Clipper, returning on December 7, 1936.

What were the circumstances of his leaving Pan Am?

ANSWER - we don't know for sure. The Oakland Tribune said he had retired from Pan Am.

And how much time past since he left Pan Am until the fateful journey?

ANSWER - see above last flight, they took off on the first attempt to Hawaii on March 17, the same day his divorce was granted and less than a week after he joined AE.

There is various speculation on the part of different book authors about these same issues. Above is what we have been able to verify through written records, documents, or news accounts. If anyone on this forum has additional facts regarding the above, please send them my way.

Blue skies, jham

Subject: Battery life
Date 6/1/99
From: H.H. Poole

I worked on radios in the mid 40's, including ones from the 30's. These were the days of less sophisticated circuits and vaccumn tube heaters (filaments) requiring separate power.

In those days some portable radios had three batteries: a A-battery for the filament power, a B-battery for the plate supply; and a C-battery as a bias or grid supply. In mobile operations, the B-battery supply would often operate on a vibrator based system, sharing a 6 volt rechargable battery with the filament supply.

However, there were also radios which used dry-cell type batteries only (not able to be recharged). The B and C batteries of this type would take up less space and less bulk in an airplane, and could easily last for many days, after which they must be replaced.

Showing my ignorance, I have little experience with aircraft radio batteries in that time period, but did have experience with mobile radios. Those would, I believe, last several days if limiting actual transmissions, since receiving signals requires much less power.

Ric said radio contacts went on for two days [I agree], "far longer than was possible unless the battery was being recharged periodically" [This may not be correct].

and George also asks "Absolutely sure about this?"

In my experience, batteries worked for at least a week on occasional transmitter use, and a lot longer if it was just in receive mode.

I would not rule out the possibility that the batteries would last for several days of occasional transmissions, and fairly heavy reception.

I don't know the details of the story Ric mentioned "story involving a single engine IFR flight in a snowstorm with a slipping alternator belt and a stuck mic button"

But two key points would be - was AE's transmitter key stuck? [not likely]. And how long had there been a slipping alternator belt before it was noticed. Perhaps many hours before the trouble occurred.

Which brings me to my question:

Nauru radio reported transmissions they thought were from AE at 8:55, 9:01, 9:03 and 9:24 (Howland Time), with a carrier with no airplane vibration (no hum). Can we assume that the estimated arrival was therefore before this time (perhaps near 8:46 when Itasca assumes flight is down)? Or should we assume it is most likely still be airborne a few more hours until the gas runs out. This would result in a few more hours of potential battery life?

This crash time, if it can be established, would distinguish some of these transmissions as to actually have occuring before the crash, thus not draining the batteries. Perhaps they were last frantic calls just before the crash landing.

Ric said "If, in fact, a considerable number of transmissions were made, then the airplane was above water, on its gear and able to operate their starboard engine."

You may be right - perhaps the engine was running. But consider the possibility it might run for days on internal batteries, (without the engine running). Any thoughts on when in time AE made her crash landing?


From Ric

Let's back up a minute. Based on what we know about the fuel load aboard the airplane and the power management tables worked out for Earhart by Lockheed's Kelly Johnson, the airplane should have run out of gas sometime shortly after noontime (local time) on July 2nd. The last call heard by Itasca was at 08:43 a.m. The calls heard by Nauru were in the evening, not the morning. It seems quite safe to say that NR16020 was not in flight when Nauru heard those calls.

It also seems safe to say that the aircraft made a landing of some sort at some time between 08:43 a.m. and shortly after noon - but we do not at this time know whether it was a ditching at sea, a crash, a crash landing, or a safe landing.

We also have no hard data on how many transmissions were possible using her radio and her batteries before it would be necessary to recharge - but we do know that people who presumably had a better handle on that than we do were of the opinion that recharging would be needed if she were making the transmissions attributed to her. Until we have better information than they had, I think we have to assume they knew what they were talking about.


Subject: Lost Squadron
Date: 6/1/99
From: Don Neumann

Just viewed a Public Broadcasting program on our local PBS affiliate, which documented the recovery of a P-38 Lockeed "Lightning", which had been buried under 200 feet of snow & ice on the Greenland ice cap, since the early days of WWII.

The plane recovered was one of six P-38s which were being ferried to Britian via the Greenland/Iceland route, along with several B-17s, all of which became lost in heavy cloud cover over the North Atlantic & when attempting to return to a U.S. base in Greenland, ran out of fuel & made forced landings on the ice cap.

Of particular interest to TIGHAR fans is the fact that the radio operator on one of the B-17s was able to run one of the starboard engines with an undamaged prop, so he was could send S.O.S. signals which were eventually heard by U.S. forces on Greenland, who dropped supplies & dog sleds, in order to permit the crews involved to walk across the Cap to open sea & the Coast Guard cutter that rescued them.

Very fascinating program, unfortunately when the plane was finally removed from the ice cap, the recovery team tried to take it apart, thus causing substantial damage which has resulted in having to rebuild the entire aircraft from "scratch".

When they are finished, they plan to fly the plane back over the same original route to Britain.

Don Neumann

From Ric

Snort! The real problem with the Greenland P-38 recovery was that it was, from the beginning, conducted by people who didn't have a clue about the ethics of historic preservation. The intention was always to salvage the aircraft and rebuild it as an airworthy replica of itself to be flown for the entertainment of airshow crowds. There was never any recognition that they had uncovered a virtual time capsule which could have been preserved as the only surviving example of a 1942 P-38. The story of "Glacier Girl" ( a totally bogus name invented for the replica) is a classic illustration of how aviation historic properties are being butchered in the name of "restoration."

But that's another topic.


Subject: Silence?
Date: 6/1/99
From: R. Johnson

How is it possible that AE was not heard from after 8:43 local time. If TIGHAR is correct in assuming approxiamately 4 hours of fuel remaing after last transmission, and with a signal strength of 5 (according to Itasca) at time of last transmission, then we must consider why she was never heard again. I have not seen this issue addressed in this forum, although I am relatively new to this forum and it may have previously been discussed. I can't buy into the argument that both Itasca and AE were trying to contact each other simultaneously for the next four hours and were merely blocking each others transmissions. This was mentioned by TIGHAR as occuring prior to the last transmission (8:43) on occasion. To be constantly blocked out by sending while other is sending or vice versa for 4 more hours seems a remote possibility. Can anyone offer a convincing argument for the radio silence? Did AE just choose to quit trying the radio? Did Itasca choose to quit listening? Did the radio go out? Did they crash soon after 8:43 and this explains the silence? Could a radio signal just north of Niku be heard by the Itasca at Howland? R. Johnson

From Ric

Obviously, something must have changed after the 08:43 transmission. As you say, up until then Itasca was hearing her just fine. Itasca did not stop listening and while their continued attempts to contact her may have blocked some tranmissions, it's not reasonable to see that as the entire problem. Did Earhart stop transmitting? That is certainly one possibility and there are many who feel strongly that her sudden silence is strong evidence that she hit the water shortly after 08:43.

But let's look at what she said in that final tranmission:


Then a few minutes later the radio operator was surprised by another transmission which he recorded as:

WE ARE RUNNING ON NORTH AND SOUTH LINE. (usually represented in Earhart mythology as "We are running North and South.")

Note that Earhart says that she is going to change her transmitting frequency. She has had no luck on 3105 kcs so she'll switch over to 6210 kcs. Itasca has never heard her on that frequency. Could the change of frequencies be the reason that Itasca stops hearing her? A study of the known characteristics of 6210 shows that if Earhart was between 40 and 120 nm from Itasca it is quite possible that her transmissions could not be heard.

This seems like the most likely explanation for the silence.


Subject: Battery life, radios
Date: 6/2/99
From: Christian Boehnke

I read a bit at the forum and now a question turns up to me.

Following the line: wheels down landing, transmitting on the batteries, recharging the batteries on the generator at the starboard engine, engine above ground to run with the unbent prop as seen on the picture, I have to ask how the engine was started?

It has surely not been running all the time between the landing and the end of transmissions.

If started like a car of today, the starter would have to live on the batteries as well. How long would the engine have to run to recharge the batterie for both purposes.

What about temperature problems, the engine might face? On recharging the batteries, the engine is surely not running at max. RPM. How much cooling effect is produced by the prop, when running at low RPM?

At Greenland they might have been able to ignore this, thanks to the climate but as I understand it differs from Niku...

What is known about the weather at the region at touch down time at all?

Excuse my selection of words and phrases, english is not my mother language.

By the way, PLEASE avoid abbreviations. To understand some of the terms used, is sometimes quite difficult, but if someone throws in some abbr. I running circles...

Watch your habits...

LTM, (that one I understood)

From Ric

I'll try to watch my habits. Your English is far besser als meiner Deutsch.

Starting an engine on Nikumaroro should be no different than starting an engine in any other hot climate. Having flown the aircraft for several weeks in hot climates, Earhart should have been adept at the procedure. Overheating would be a concern and running the engine in the heat of the day would probably be inadvisable.

A fairly low RPM should be sufficient to recharge the battery (something like 800 rpm?). I really don't have a feel for how long you'd need to run the engine and what kind of cooling problem this would present. Maybe someone who has direct experience with R1340s could provide an opinion.


Subject: Charging system
Date: 6/3/99
From: Don Jordan

I read your estimate of engine RPM to charge a battery with a generator. Is your estimate of 800 RPM a guess or from experience?

The reason I ask is because I used to own a 1960 Cessna 210 with a generator, not an alternator. I remember I had a lot of trouble with the charging system, especially if flying at night. Several times while taxing to the terminal after landing, the battery would get very low on power. Taxi lights and all. That engine was always a hard thing to start when hot. More than once I needed a jump start after about 10 blades due to low battery.

What I remember the most is that after engine start, I needed about 1,300 RPM just to get the generator light to go out. Also, even with the cowl flaps full open I had to watch the temperature close if I tried to recharge on the ground. This wasn't a problem after I installed an alternator.

I would think the Electra would need a bit more than 800 RPM to have the generator kick in. I think the temperature would also be a big problem if the engine was run at that RPM for any length of time during the day. But, by that time she probably figured the plane was a write off way. Night time would be better to use the radio and try to recharge.

Of the post loss radio signals attributed to Earhart, how many were received at night (Niku time)?

From Ric

The 800 RPM was a pure guess based upon my limited experience with radials. They tend to develop more horsepower at lower RPM than opposed engines.

Virtually all of the credible post-loss radio signals were received during hours of darkness, Niku time.

Subject: Charging
Date: 6/3/99
From: R.C. Sherman

Have no experience with that particular model & engine. However R-engines immediately above and below AE's idled at 900 to 1,000 rpm. Although most alterrnators (ac) will put out full voltage at idle, most generators (dc) will not.

It usually takes 1200 rpm or a tad more. Not a problem for 15 min. if downwind & for hours with a decent breeze. Ergo your scenario of post (landing) msgs. well within the realm of possibility.

Subject: Captive of Air Classics
Date: 6/3/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Jim Tierney, TIGHAR 0821, was kind enough to fax me a copy of the artcle appearing in the June issue of Air Classics magazine entitled "Captive of the Japanese."

It's a rehash of the "Love to mother" story (see the FAQ section of the TIGHAR website). No new information is offered except the author's interview with a mysterious former-OSS lieutenant who was supposedly the second-in-command of the unit that liberated the Weihsien Assembly Center. The author conveniently declines to reveal the officer's name so there is no way to resolve the discrepancies between his allegations and the recollections of James Moore, another member of the unit who thoroughly debunked the whole story in a 1995 letter. Moore freely provides the names of other members of the unit and insists that all internees were well documented. The camp was liberated on August 17, 1945 (not March 17th as the article says, but that is almost certainly a classic Air Classics misprint). There was no "Betty bomber" in which "the Yank" was supposedly evacuated. Twelve internees who required hospitalization were evacuated by C-47 on August 28th, the date of the "Love to mother" message.

The fanciful tale presented in Air Classics doesn't even hold together within itself. The phantom-lieutenant describes a "nearly comatose" woman who lay motionless on a bed with her face turned to the wall and muttered only cryptic words like "howling" or maybe it was "how-and" (ooooh). This is supposedly the same person who at this same time wrote "Camp liberated. All well. Volumes to tell. Love to mother."

There is a desperate tone to "Captive of the Japanese" with the author shouting at the reader in all caps that "The Earhart/Putnam message was NO MISTAKE." as if the vehemence of his own conviction should suffice to convince where facts and logic fail. With luck, it will be the last gasp of a theory that was born of racism, jingoism, and paranoia, and now only finds voice in the pages of pathetic publications like Air Classics.

Love to mother,

Subject: Battery Life
Date: 6/4/99
From: H.H. Poole

Although my original thought that the period of time AE could transmit was for several days, a more considered estimate now comes up to about 8 hours, or even longer.

This is based on the percentage of time transmitting, compared to either receiving or non-operating, since the time period available for transmitting AE depends upon its use.

I believe the battery power was rated at 85 amp-hours (two Exide 6-FFHM-13-1). With the (Western Electric) transmitter requiring perhaps 50 amps and the receiver perhaps 5, expected life can be calculated.

Assuming transmissions of 6 minutes each hour (pick your own number), and a constant drain of 5 amps by the receiver, each hour would drain a total of (5 + 0.1X50) or 10 amp-hours from the battery.

With those assumptions, the battery life would last 8 or so hours, longer if transmit time utilization was less, and/or if the radio was completely shut off for time periods (no reception).

I am still not clear at what time the Nauru signals were received, but if it was in the evening hours, and were very weak, that could indicate a failing battery, and not require the engine to supply generator power.

Ric - does/will the radio log CD include information about the time of transmission, and the time zone the time is referenced from (i.e. whether it is GMT, GCT, Howland or Nauru)?

Again, I am sure that the existance of radio signals verifies the fact that AE's plane landed on land, not water. The question is at what point in time must we assume that further messages must be hoaxes or misunderstandings? Even if the engine could run, supplying the radio, the lack of gasoline would stop transmissions.

HH Poole

From Ric

The CD shows what time the various messages were received and all messages on the CD include a conversion to GMT.

The existence of radio transmissions is proof of nothing but the fact that transmissions were received. There is no way to be sure who was sending them. The more credible transmissions seem to end with the "281" message shortly after midnight (Niku time) on July 4th.

Subject: Fiji Update?
Date: 6/5/99
From: R. Johnson

I am very interested in the latest on the Fiji bone search. I understand TIGHAR is sending a two man crew there in June in search of AE remains. I must know the status of this trip. When do they leave for Fiji? How long there? When will we know more about their findings? What is happening now? I must admit, I have become totally obsessed with finding AE since discovering TIGHAR's web site. I honestly can't sleep some nights. Please update the trip to Fiji as soon as possible. I need the sleep.

R. Johnson

From Ric

Well, if it's any consolation I'm having some sleepless nights myself trying to complete the funding for this summer's field work. Here's where we stand:

On June 28th our "two man team" made up of Dr. Tom King (Earhart Project archaeologist) and Dr. Karen Burns (Earhart Project forensic anthropologist) will arrive in Fiji to begin a building-by-building search for the bones with the cooperation of the Fiji Museum and the office of the President of Fiji, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

On July 3rd the Niku Recon team will arrive in Fiji and begin loading the expedition ship Nai'a for departure on July 5th. Dr. Burns will sail with the expedition while Dr. King remains in Fiji to continue the bone search. He will be joined on July 10th by Kristin Tague. Barb Norris also plans to travel to Fiji to assist in the bone search. Dr. King will return to the States on July 15th while Kris and possibly Barb will remain in Fiji until the Niku Recon team returns on July 26th. At that time Dr. Burns and I will deal with the results of the search - whatever they may be.

At this time, the Niku Recon team is made up of eleven individuals. We have room for three more (four if two are a couple who can share a double bunk). A prospective Sponsor/Team Member must be able to make a $20,000 contribution to the project (which should be fully tax deductible for U.S. citizens) and must be in good enough physical condition to be away from hospital medical care for three weeks (there will be a physcian aboard the ship). You're responsible for your own transportation to and from Fiji (about $1,000 round trip from L.A.) and any expenses while you're there (which should be minimal). You'll have no additional expenses while you're on the expedition (July 5th-26th). There are, of course, the usual waivers and releases to be signed.

We're presently $50,000 short. We're committed to the expedition and have already paid over $65,000 in nonrefundable charges. If we can find acceptable Sponsor/Team Members for the remaining berths we'll be okay. In any event, as you can see, we need all the help we can get. If you might be interested in becoming a Sponsor/Team Member please call me at (302) 994-4410.

If you can help with a contribution of any size please send it to:

1999 Expedition
2812 Fawkes Drive
Wilmington, DE 19808

Or you can call or fax us with credit card information. Fax number is (302) 994-7945.

Let's get this job done and we can all get some sleep.

Love to mother,

[All right, so this is only to the 5th. Sorry...]

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