Highlights From the Forum
June 6 through 12, 1999
Palmer Bevis report of McMenany & monitor radio signal receptions in Los Angeles 2-7JUL37.
In February of 1940, Palmer Bevis, hired previously by the "Amelia Earhart Foundation " of Oakland, sent a detailed report to Eleanor Roosevelt to inspire a new expedition to find AE. I quote from a copy of Bevis' report copied from the Roosevelt Library:
That report includes an account of Walter McMenamy who was one of AE's previous radio experts that was noted for being able to " pick up AE's signals when others could not". The story goes that after Lockheed learned that AE was overdue, they called McMenamy and asked him to listen. In the company of another radio amateur, Karl Pierson, some signals were picked up that they "positively identified as being from the Earhart plane".
Shortly after 11pm 2 July 37 (LA time, GGT-8= 07CGT 3JUL37, Howland +3:30 = 19:30 2JUL37, trip-hour 31), a weak signal was received on 6210kc, not understood. On another radio receiver set tuned to 3105kc in the same room, they heard two distinctly separate signals they say were from the Itasca and from the plane; apparently not hearing each other. [Itasca ship's log indicates searching near Howland at that time. I do not have Itasca radio log information for that time.]
Early the morning of 3JUL37 (LA time) McMenamy & Pierson heard a distress signal on one of those frequencies, that McMenamy positively identified as being "...from the plane, poorly sent". All three radio operators now present in the room "state that this first SOS signal was repeated over and over again for about five minutes". Further distress calls and garbled attempts to give position were received until about 9am (06:30 Howland time). Some signals were sufficiently loud to be heard on the loudspeaker.
On 3July the British cruiser HMS Achilles in the Pacific had reported that "at 11:30am we heard an unknown station on 3105kc make a report as follows: "Please give us a few dashes if you get us'. The station then repeated KHAQQ twice, then disappeared."
Later, the Government San Francisco monitoring (receiving) station made several receptions with their antenna that was beamed to the pacific. The more credible (my opinion) were:
4JUL37 shortly before midnight (about Howland 9pm) Itasca was heard calling the plane, asking for an answer. Shortly after a carrier was heard on the Earhart frequency and this was reported 15 to 20 minutes past each hour until 9:05 the next morning 5JUL37 (Howland 5:35am). That same morning, McMenamy et al telephoned (to the monitor station?) to say that they picked up more Earhart signals - the "first in two days". They reported hearing the Itasca call Earhart, and also definite answering signals from the plane, the last of which ended "in a decided sputtering".
At 6:17 the same morning (Howland 02:47 5JUL37) the monitor heard Itasca call KHAQQ, and a man's voice answered on the Earhart frequency. Only one word, "one", was distinguishable. The "Press Wireless" also reported hearing signals which they could not identify on the Earhart frequency.
Howland Island (Itasca?) reported that same morning at 10:43 (5JUL37, but who's location?) hearing "KHAQQ" quoting a bearing of 281 degrees - with no reference & hence of no use. Pan American Airways also the same morning heard apparently the same signal on which they found a bearing of 155 degrees from Wake Island.
The next morning - 6 JUL37 - a Los Angeles operator, Louis Messier, reported he heard a weak code signal at 3:30 am (Howland midnight). It was sent very slowly and Messier logged it as: "17 na u 61 4 southwes 1 23 sou owl 23 ja so not nx call equen 170 sou sec will sou nant now sou". (In my opinion, radio Hams might recognize some useful meanings from this poorly sent and received message.)
The next morning (7JUL37) McMenamy and Pierson heard their last sounds from the Earhart frequency, a rippling carrier at 1:22am (Howland 9:52pm). This same effect was heard by Honolulu amateur stations from 9:17pm to 10:37pm (Howland 8:47pm to 10:07pm) the same day.
Ang. Campanella 6JUN99.
Very interesting. I wasn't aware of the Bevis Report and I'd love to have a copy of the complete report for our files.
This information illustrates the difficulties in assessing the post-loss messages. Walt McMenamy is a problem. He represented himself as "one of AE's previous radio experts" but we've never been able to find any independent documentation to back that up. He and Pierson got lots of media attention at the time of the dissapearance but McMenamy later made all kinds of wild claims about the Navy and secret missions. I have a 1955 audio tape of an interview with him that should be called the Butthead Report.
I suspect that we could have a lot fun with the fragmented message reported by Messier, but in the end it would all be guessing. I think that the best we can say about the post-loss messages is that some of them may have been genuine but there is no way to tell for sure - yet.
I haven't had so many headaches since I was trying to learn how to analyze simple electrical circuits using ohms law.
Knowing that hundreds of people have covered all this before, makes me hesitant to point this out.
From the TIGHAR website (Log Jam):
>The previous evening
the ship received word that Earhart had departed
I am looking at a flat " World Map " with meridians that have a little clock at the bottom, every 15 deg.s is one hour difference.
Starting at 0 deg. meridian ( 0000 Greenwich time, GCT/GMT ? ) I move westward 11 hours to 165 deg. W. long. Howland island is just short of the 180 deg. meridian, between 165 deg, W. Long. and 180 deg.s. I can understand 11:30 a.m.
From Howland I keep moving westward. I pass the 180 deg. meridian, the 165 deg. E. Long. meridian and the 150 deg. E. Long. meridian, each one of these is 1 hr difference, before reaching Lae N.G.
I seems to me that there is a TWO ( 2 ) hour difference between Lae and Howland island.
And you are correct -- for 1999. But in 1937 the Navy and the Coast Guard were using half-hour time zones in the Central Pacific.
>1. The first information
came from a radio intercept by the Itasca from
I presume that NRUI the Itasca radio call sign.
I read this as an "intercept" by the Itasca of West Coast radio traffic not primarily directed to the Itasca. In that case,we need a more primary reference: The San Francisco CG monitor radio log for instance. The problem with the Sydney message, relayed and unfortunately paraphrased "6:31, 6:43 and 6:54 today.." omitted the am/pm distinction. But they did use the pm distinction in referencing events the afternoon and evening before. I took the absence of pm to infer "am". Granted, the Itasca log quotes GMT values. Was that yet another paraphrasing action, or was it literal? Only Sydney, Nauru and San Francisco radio logs (not commercial news releases) can add better facts.
(BTW, for the record, in your past TIGHAR Tracks you refer to an earlier Itasca log entry "... NRUI2 DE NRUI1 P AR 0800-0803...". Was that the Itasca calling Cipriani on Howland island who was using an HF-RDF set trying unsuccessfully to get directional bearings on AE still en route?)
(Also, my referencing an AE final flight westward was based on my confusion of your favored Nikumaroro (Gardner) Island with Nikunau Island that I thought your meant - and in the Gilberts, previously overflown by AE).
You say that the Itasca log quotes GMT values. Where does it do that? The radio logs all use local time as does the deck log.
As I recall, NRUI1 was Ciprianni but I'm not sure who NRUI2 was. Randy (Jacobson), do you know?
If AE and FN were on course the only island of the Gilberts they should have flown over was Tabetuia and, indeed, in 1940 people on that island told the captain of an American yacht seeking information about Earhart that they had heard a plane pass high overhead that night.
As witness testimony goes it's pretty shaky, but that's what was reported.
>You say that the
Itasca log quotes GMT values. Where does it do that? The
The source is from Thompson's radio transcripts, and it was intercepted and not expressly meant for them. The GMT time stamp, if accurate, matches all other information (the cable and references to it). If it was AM, then it wouldn't match. Nauru had two time zones, if I remember correctly, neither of which were +or-12. One was 11 (civil), the other was 11.5 for official business. NRUI2 was Howland Island. I don't believe NRUI1 is accurate; I'd have to check the originals and I am on travel for a couple of weeks.
I checked the original logs. You're correct. NRUI2 is Howland (Ciprianni). There is no NRUI1.
>You say that the
Itasca log quotes GMT values. Where does it do that? The
I give you part of Randy's message provided previously:
>Time zones are
such a headache. Let me confuse the forum some more with
Whose deed was it to install the GMT qualifier in this message statement?
I notice some apparent errors in that paragraph:
>As I recall, NRUI1
was Ciprianni but I'm not sure who NRUI2 was. Randy
My understanding of sub-station#1 and sub-station#2 is that the main station is implicitly #1 and hence not usually stated. But if a sub-station is created, it is designated #2 while the main station assumes the suffix of #1.
Hence I believe that Itasca was NRUI1 while Cipriani as a shore detachment from the Itasca was designated NRUI2. I think that this process is the knee-jerk reaction of communications personnel.
In that case, the 8:03 entry was a run-together entry, as you already noted had become a convention on that very busy morning in the Itasca radio room.
I think I see where the problem is. You and Randy both seem to be using the message as it appears in Cdr. Warner Thompson's (captain of the Itasca) report entitled "Radio Transcripts Earhart Flight" dated 19 July 1937 as a source for the messages. (The GMT notation is Thompson's.) The message as it appears in Thompson's report is actually a paraphasing of the original telegram sent to the Secretary of State. You're struggling to explain ambiguities that don't exist in the original message.
The original telegram (on file at the National Archives) reads:
NRUI was Itasca's call sign. NRUI2 was Ciprianni's sub-station on Howland. There was no NRUI1.
Love to mother,
Update on Gerald's sojourn in Co. Kilkenny: As you know the County Library there referred me to the Kilkenny Archaeological Society. Just received 2 letters from Mr. John Kirwan there who advises Mr. G. Butler was the father of the late Hubert Butler and also of Gilbert Butler who is still alive. Inquiry of the latter recalls only that G. subsequently got a job in the 'Far East'. Gilbert B. "began taking farm pupils in 1935" and G. was referred to him thru Mrs. Solly-Flood (who died just short of 100 years of age in 1988). She was a "noted gardener" & may have known the G's thru a gardening association. Mr Kirwan has contacted Mrs. S-F's grandson who replied he has no knowledge of the G. family, but has contacted a Mr. Sean Ryan who "farms at Bonnybrook and is interested in the past. He's worth a go."
I'm sending you photocopies of the correspondence. Don't hold your breath until we find a Gallagher/Clancy with Gerald's papers & photos via this approach --but it's fun trying! Looks to me like Deirdre C. is a more likely avenue. Stay tuned.
All the best, and
That's progress. It just seems so odd that Gerald would leave medical school to become a "farm pupil." There is more to this story.
I have been reading the forum since its inception, but this my first posting.
Considering the total surface area of Nikumaroro, there is a lot, but finite amount of ground to cover. However, there are certain areas of the island that dont need to be searched because they were either inhabited at the time of AE's disappearance (and consequently an L10 crashing through the jungle would have been noticed), or have subsequently been inhabited ( and then demolished) like the old Loran station.
What might help in deducing all places that should be searched, is to eliminate all those that need not. It would also help those who cannot physically participate in the search become more invloved.
I can visualize a map of the island broken down into numbered grids, each of (physically) manageable area. Some could be eliminated, others requiring research to discover what activity if any has ever been conducted in that area.
Laxton's 1951 article goes into some detail regarding the location of various coconut groves, houses, etc. Those who worked at the Loran station can tell us how far they inhabited the island. Your previous expeditions have searched specific areas.
Perhaps this is a task that is worthy of specific effort by us forum readers. Do you know of a detailed map that is already available, onto which I could superimpose a grid??
In 1975 I was part of a small group of people searching for a historic aircraft missing in a desert in the Australian outback for 50 years. After 3 expeditions we finally found it, and despite all the anecdotal accounts of people who "knew" where the wreckage was, it was actually miles away.
We found it by carefully researching all the "old" accounts, diaries, documents and records, and virtually ignoring all the modern day cowboys who knew where the wreckage was (and boasted they had coffee next to it once a week), and performing a detailed grid search using a Bell 47 (low and slow). We found the wreckage during our last hour of Avgas.
We've actually done something quite similar to what you suggest, but we've found that there are some pitfalls in that method. Most important is to not make assumptions about what someone else "would have", "should have" or "must have" done, seen or heard.
No part of Nikumaroro was inhabited at the time of the Earhart disappearance so the airplane could have ended up anywhere on the island and go unnoticed at the time because there was no one there to notice it.
We can eliminate the village area as the wreck site, not because we assume that someone "would have" commented on an airplane wreck being in the middle of the bloody village, but because WE have tromped all through that area and there ain't no airplane wreck there (some pieces of airplane yes, but wreck no). We have similarly eliminated other portions of the island because we have examined the ground ourselves. The former site of the Loran station is now an impossibly dense tangle of vegetation. We haven't searched for the wreck there because we have photography and official records which show that the whole place was bulldozed flat in 1944. Seems pretty safe to conclude that the wreck isn't there now.
We had previously considered the western end of the island (Nutiran district) to be highly unlikely because it was the site of a detailed survey by New Zealanders in 1939, but now anecdotal accounts suggest that we should look there - so we will.
Okay, I am admitting defeat. For a year now I've been trying to get an 8th Edition of "The Earhart Project - An Historical Investigation" written and it has become apparent that I just can't do it alone. For the first few years of the project I was able to periodically update this internal TIGHAR report on the progress of our investigation, in part, because progress was pretty slow. However, the last six years (the 7th Edition came out in May 1993) have seen such a cascade of new information that I've been forced to choose between following up leads and mounting new expeditions or stopping to write up results. I've chosen to keep moving forward and I dont regret it, but we really do need to get what we've learned written up and published. (For one thing, we've pre-sold about 40 copies of the 8th Edition at $49.95.)
Having realized I can't do this by myself, it has been brought to my attention that I don't need to (duh!). As is illustrated daily on this forum, we have TIGHAR members who know as much, and often more, than I do about various aspects of this investigation. These learned individuals also know how to both read and write. So - rather than have a Project Book written entirely by one generalist (who can't find the time to do it anyway), why not assign sections to volunteer TIGHAR members with expertise in those particular areas? The primary task here then becomes editing, proofreading and layout. I think we'd end up with a better book that would truly be a product of the TIGHAR organization - and, most important, we'd actually end up with a book.
At the end of this message is an outline of the 8th edition.
It will be a bound, soft-cover publication with a color cover and numerous black and white photos, maps and graphics.
Here is an outline of the book.
As you can see, it's a huge amount of subject matter. Let me know if you'd like to help.
Love to mother,
From Dr. Tom King
I thought it might be of interest to the Forum for me to say a little something about plans for this summer's Bones Search in Fiji.
The last record we have of the bones indicates they were being held by the Central Medical School for the Government. The Medical School has moved twice since '41, and the colonial government has of course been dismantled. Since the bones do not seem to have been sent back to England with the Government's files, the thought is that they may have remained in Fiji and be languishing on a shelf somewhere. Since they were being held for Government, in their kanawa wood box, they may have simply been set aside and left behind in one of the Medical School's moves, or given back to Government and stashed somewhere, then forgotten. Suva contains quite a number of large, old colonial government buildings, and if they're anything like government buildings elsewhere they could well have more or less forgotten storage rooms.
Fiji Museum archeologist Tarisi Sorovi has been contacting people involved in the Medical School's moves, interviewing them about how the moves took place, what was moved, and so forth. Though we're still finalizing plans, our probable first priority (pending approval; we're assured of general government support but will have to get permission to search specific spaces), will be to search old Med School facilities. If this doesn't reveal anything, we'll move on to government buildings. The plan is to identify spaces that contain old stored stuff and search them systematically for (a) the kanawa wood box with the bones, and (b) the sextant box (which was last heard of being held by Government in Fiji). Search techniques will be pretty much like what you'd do if you were searching your attic for something; we'll systematically inspect each shelf, box, bin, floor, cubbyhole -- it's hard to be sure until we see what we're up against. Paper, photographic, and videotape records will be maintained of the search. We'll also try to run down information on Dr. Hoodless and the disposition of his effects, interview people who might know anything about the bones or box, and if there's time, do some general archival research. And, of course, be open to the sorts of serendipitous discoveries that have been typical of this project to date. And envy the Niku team, out there in the sun and sand and vegetables.
Tom is scheduled to arrive in Fiji with Dr. Karen Burns #2071, our forensic anthropologist, on June 28th. Kar will leave on July 5th with the Niku expedition and Barb Norris #2175 will arrive the same day to help Tom continue the search. Kris Tague #0905CE will join them on July 10th. Tom returns to the States on July 15th and returns on the 17th. Kris stays on until the Niku expedition arrives back in Fiji on the 26th and we all fly home on the 27th.
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