Highlights From the Forum
July 6 through 12, 1999
we've thought a lot about the treasure that would be a journal or
> > Pat
As I remember, there was mention of a mound of oyster shells that had cemented themselves together. Could this be a cairn, left there as a marker to future visitors to the island? Has anyone thought to look under them or around them to determine this? Could they perhaps be a tombstone of sorts?
Blue Skies & LTM,
It wasn't a pile.... more like a loosely affiliated scattering. Tom King---who ought to know, being a real archeologist and all--- thought it looked like a place where someone had lunch.
Bula from Fiji!
We've had trouble getting access to e-mail, and I don't think my last report made it to TIGHAR Central, so here's a current situation report:
Nikumaroro Team: Nai'a sailed yesterday, July 5 in Fiji, with all present and accounted for. Godspeed to ship and crew.
Fiji Team: Karen Burns has left with Nai'a and Barbara Norris has arrived. Thus far we have:
We've been able to make this level of progress because of tremendous support by the Fiji Museum, which has opened many doors for us, made arrangements, and guided us through the government protocol system. Through the Museum we've also obtained the services of four volunteers who are assisting in the search.
In the immediate future, we have several more buildings to search, a number of people to interview, and a number of archives to check. Though results have thus far been negative, hope springs eternal.
In a somewhat peripheral development, Kar Burns has helped the Suva Police identify a skeleton found in the forest not far from here, in an environment not unlike Nikumaroro's. Interestingly, it appears likely that the individual represented died only about 4 months ago, and was completely reduced to a skeleton, substantially scattered and somewhat chewed, probably by dogs and/or pigs.
We hear that some of you have picked up the rather overblown news story (based on a leaked document) about the Government refusing us access to Government House, the old HQ of the Western Pacific High Commission. In fact, while the Government is naturally sensitive about people from another country searching its buildings, we had a very good meeting this morning (7/7) with the President's Official Secretary, and are quite hopeful that someone (perhaps not we) will look through the buildings with an eye to finding bones and boxes.
We also had a good interview this morning on the Australian Broadcasting Company's National Breakfast Show, and a good talk with Reuters yesterday. We're getting lots of press, which is bringing more information, ideas, and possibilities to light.
So the bottom line here is - no bones or boxes in hand yet, but progress is being made, and we're cautiously optimistic.
Love to Mother (who says to clean your attic; you never know what you'll find)
Barb Norris, Tom King
Regarding the extensive searches we've been undertaking at the National Archives, we have nearly wrapped up the process. The depth of our search has been considerably farther than others have gone in this regard, but even so, we have not turned up any useful data.
We do have a wonderful hydrographic chart, which shows water depths in and outside the lagoon. This has its uses, of course, but sadly, the detail on the shore is left blank. The shore site survey maps are not in the system.
I should reiterate that the entire island (Nikumaroro) was extensively surveyed and imaged as part of the pre-construction phase for the LORAN station during the 1940s. This was one of our key items to search for and examine, however, it is now clear that the data is not in the National Archives system. While this is a bit unusual, it is not completely unexpected. Before the conspiracy crowd claims another USCG or USN cover-up, please keep in mind that only 2 percent of all documents are ever saved and made part of the system. Too bad. If the plane was there, there would have been photographs in the survey file. Apparently, it was not deemed worthwhile to be saved by the system.
Of note, if we had found even a single survey document from that trip, we would have had the names of those who were involved, which would have opened up a new avenue of examination. Still working on that from another angle, but it is a fairly remote possibility that we will uncover their names since the rest of the files were destroyed / not saved. This too appears to be a dead end unless someone somewhere remembers the survey itself or knew the team.
The only remaining area of search, which remains pertinent whether or not the team finds bits of the plane on Nikumaroro this trip, is our search through BuAir records for the loan letter of a sextant to Fred Noonan. This involves examining every letter in the file and will take some time. We already completed the effort with the BuNav records, which revealed that USN aviation sextants do have a four number identification system (not unlike the numbers reported by Gallagher), but nothing more. There may yet be a "smoking gun" in there in the BuAir records -- a letter which records the loan of a sextant by those numbers to Noonan.
We'll let you know.
Thomas Van Hare
Here are some more data from the Archives run we just completed, this being from two separate ships, the Bushnell and the Balsam.
The logs of the "Survey Vessel" USS Bushnell were made during 1939. These are a few outtakes as well as a couple of notes. It is of interest that the Bushnell made repeated landings of supplies, men, and equipment, through November 1939 and December 1939 on Gardner Island.
To give a flavor of the logs, some of the pertinent portions read as follows:
Saturday, 4 November 1939
12 to 16 [ed. note: time of day]
16 to 20
Sunday, 5 November 1939
4 to 8
8 to 12
12 to 16
16 to 20
...and the logs continue in this way for quite some pages.
If anyone sees anything of interest in this, please let me know. I could type even more entries for those interested. I would think that there should be some focus on the entry on 28th of November 1939, where:
"1401 Discontinued running sounding lines, stood in toward lagoon entrace and stopped. Lying to. 1410 Commenced lowering boat and loading equipment for shore party. 1512 Lagoon survey party, with Lt. (jg) J. H. Fortune, U.S. Navy, in charge, left ship with equipment, provisions, and water for 23 men for 7 days." -- on Gardner Island.
We now have complete crew lists for the ship as part of the log.
Now jump ahead to 1944:
Here is the entry in the logs for the USCGC Balsam, which took on men for transportation to Gardner Island on 23 July 1944 and dropped them there on the 24th:
The following men reported aboard for transportation to Gardner Island: Lt. (jg) J. H. McGuire, USCGR; Ensign Charles Sopko, USCG; TURNER, Louis R.(522-544)C.M.1c; BIDZILLA, Peter(546-481)MoMM1c; BRASSER, Benedict J.(247-2280)C.M.1c; BREECH, William E.(665-742)S.C.1c; BURFORD, Glen L.(571-878)Sea.1c; DINKO, George(670-030)Sea.1c; EBEL, Albert V.(503-150)MoMM2c; FOREMAN, Kenneth E.(532-442)B.M.1c; JAMES, Jimmie F.(7009-396)F.1c; JAMES, Robert T.(598-184)MoMM3c; JOHNSON, Virgil L.(590-905)MoMM2c; LOWE, Donald P.(580-952)PhM3c; STASNEY, Gordon C.(535-736)C.M.2c; WAYCASY, Harry(527-710)MoMM3c; ZUKOWSKI, Raymond L.(666-903)Sea.1c:Ref- HQ/L 8 January, 1944 (POA)(CG-71-72-73-531)(Confidential). Also two (2) passengers for the British Government. Authority of Command Unit 203.
And that is about all she wrote. Much of this is probably rehash for the TIGHAR group, but is is interesting to note that there are no conclusions or mind-shattering discoveries in these logs -- does anyone see any significance that I am missing with regard to the November and December 1939 activities of the Bushnell hydrographic survey ship? Should we go back in and see if any of images or records remain (not likely) of the Bushnell's shore party activities? Also of note is that, if I am not mistaken, the shore party on the 28th of November would have put ashore not far from where Ric and the party are going to be shortly....
Thomas Van Hare
Tom Van Hare:
Are you talking about the 1939/40 Bushnell Surveys? I have made negatives of the original boat sheets from the National Archives Map collections. The field notes associated with those surveys are lost in the National Archives: I uncovered the documents transmitting them to the Archives, and the boxes that should contain them stop immediately prior to the Gardner Island survey. Sigh. I was looking at the Suitland Annex, prior to their movement to NARA II. Good luck, I know I didn't have any!
Somewhere in the dark recesses of my memory is the notion that AE & FN were carrying some number of special round the world airmail covers to be specially marked and posted by the Postal Service or some other entity. My recollection is that these postal covers were to be sold after the flight to help pay for the costs.
What is the real story behind this memory, can anyone help me out?
Seems to me that if the Electra came to rest on Niku, and if the locals scavenged aluminum from it, they would also have come up with these postal covers, if in fact they were still being carried in the plane. Have any of the former residents been queried as to having or seeing such an item? Granted, paper doesn't last too long out there, but if one surfaced and could be verified as authentic, we would have a smoking gun to work with.
Andrew McKenna 1045C
Well, the postal covers did exist, and were aboard the plane. That's all we can say about them at this time. They were supposedly wrapped well.... I guess it's *conceivable* they would exist, at least in the sense of being identifiable in a forensic lab. We've never heard of any stories concerning paper, and frankly, I wouldn't think the Gilbertese settlers would have much use for or concern with paper.
> Are you talking
about the 1939/40 Bushnell Surveys? I have made
That confirms our findings as well. We have charts, but all documents are apparently lost. We've covered extensive ground across the NARA system and can't find them either.
Thomas Van Hare
Maybe it's a good sign that today we talked with someone who had seen the sextant box. Foua Tofinga was an officer of the Western Pacific High Commission -- knew Gallagher, Sir Harry Luke, et al, has been on Niku, and was involved in closing down the WPHC and shipping away its files. We were talking of Sir Harry's deputy, Vaskess, and he said "Oh, I've seen that box. Mr. Vaskess kept it on his desk, on top of his papers. A red-brown box, rather shiny, maybe from being dusted a lot." He doesn't know what happened to it, but Vaskess died here, and Mr. Tofinga has identified his last residence, which is only about a block from where we're staying. He didn't know about the bones box. He gave us a great deal of useful information, though, and we'll doubtless be talking with him again. Tomorrow we plan to interview Sir Leonard Usher, who was apparently here during the War and was the Queen's representative during the negotiations leading to Fiji's independence. Progress is being made.
LTM (who would like
to have that box)
(in response to a query concerning the film of the Lae take-off)
I haven't watched the take-off film in some time, but if the man is not wearing a tie, it's most likely Eric Chater, Manager of Guinea Airways. If striped tie (and the man's bald), that would be F.C. Jacobs of New Guinea Gold Fields; if patterned tie, it's L. I. Joubert, manager of Bulolo Gold Dredging Ltd.
word from our contacts in England who are trying to track
Ruby Margetts was traced as a staff member of Malvern Girls' College, a music teacher, but it seems to have been a dead end - she was 20-odd years older than Gallagher and I don't think anyone established a link. I wrote to the chairman of the local hunt who replied that he had forwarded my letter to a leading local hunting figure with a huge knowledge of hunting families, but I heard no more. I spoke and exchanged a few emails with Deirdre Clancy, whose adoptive mother ran the nursing home in Malvern to which Gallagher's effects were sent, and her husband, but have had no contact after an initial flurry. She knew of Gallagher, which was interesting enough in itself, I suppose, but didn't seem to have anything germane to the Earhart search and didn't know anything about Ruby. My effort to track down members of another offshoot of the family hasn't borne any fruit yet, but to date this consists only of a letter to the one person listed under the right surname in the right town. Again, no reply.
ltm Phil Tanner 2276
I've been subscribing to this forum for six months. I have read every article on the web site and feel relatively informed on this subject. However, I can not find the origins of the wreck photo. I'm sure I must have overlooked it. How did it become published. Who recieved it originally. Who is thought to have taken it. How did TIGHAR find it, etc...? Thanks for any information you can give me or direct me to.
Well, that's quite an oversight on our part. Sorry. In brief: the wreck photo surfaced some ten years ago when a person (unknown, said to be a "British seaman") got in touch with an Earhart author, Geo. Carrington, saying he had a picture of a wrecked airplane that looked a lot like the pic of Earhart's aircraft on the cover of Carrington's book. Carrington got the photo and shopped it around here and there, trying to get it identified. We got a copy... through means that I probably shouldn't post on the Forum.
The story that Carrington had to go with the pic, about the person who gave it to him and what that man said, does not track with reality in any way shape or form---so someone was kidding somebody. Randy probably remembers the details, but it has to do with a ship that wasn't where he said it was, and a crew member who isn't on that ship's roster, and so on.
I know this is brief, maybe someone else will fill in.
Have viewed wooden box with bones, but they look like the wrong bones Masonic Lodge here has cranium and crossed femora mounted in wooden box used in rituals. Said to be very old, lodge goes back 120 years. Cranium has both malars intact, no teeth, much absorption of bone tissue on maxilla. Looks like an old individual; couldn't see sutures bec. mounted in box. Femora are somewhat eroded. If you want to look at this, I'm sure we can arrange it, but it doesn't look to me like any kind of match.
On other matters: a thought: Have you corrected for changes in declination in plotting course from European House?
Kris has arrived safely, we're progressing, but no bones in hand.
Tom, Barb, Kris
|Back to Highlights Archive list.|