Highlights From the Forum
July 26 through August 1, 1999
TIGHAR's best estimate of arrival at Niku would be shortly before noon, Itasca time.
By the way, continuing shooting the sun for sunlines after sunrise offers little extra information. It takes about 2 hours for the sun to deviate from its azimuth from north, and one has to measure the height of the limb of the sun above the horizon to get the position above the horizon. Doing so allows one in Earhart's case to get another estimate of longitude (really 157/337 line), but the actual azimuthal line is calculated, not observed. You need another sighting at a good angle from the sun to get a good fix. Now, the moon was out, but shots on the moon are difficult to calculate, as there are a number of calculations and adjustments to make. It probably would have been better for Noonan to help Amelia look out the window for something interesting that might be out there, rather than poring over algebraic equations.
>....the only other
landfall, within the range of
I believe that the direction to the rising sun was off to the northeast (067 degrees), perpendicular to the 157-337 LOP through Howland.
It's entirely possible that Noonan also had plotted an LOP through some alternate in the Phoenix Group. I have read recently that his observations could be made from the front of the aircraft as well as the right rear window. If true, then he could sight the sun off to the left during the flight along the LOP. Until a little before noon the moon would have been visible, unless obscured by haze or cloud.
It is that combination of nearly perpendicular LOPs from the Sun and the Moon that perhaps gave Noonan the confidence to prolong his search for Howland.
> It's entirely
possible that Noonan also had plotted an LOP through some
As long as I'm dominating the airwaves, I can't resist a comment on the above possibility. It's certainly possible. Trouble is, we don't have the resources to search all the Phoenix Islands, so we've concentrated on the two that are closest to Noonan's last reported LOP -- McKean and Nikumaroro. We scratched McKean after a recon in '89, and we've had our hands full doing justice to Nikumaroro ever since.
LTM (who'd LOVE
to visit the other Phoenices)
Doesn't the sun rise due east at the equator (i.e. bearing 90 true)? And I'm sure the Electra had windows on both sides; look at the photos. Further, logical as it may seem, I haven't seen any proof Fred was sitting up front, bar a couple of notes AE made early in the flight. He certainly wasn't allowed to use the radio if he was in the co-pilot's seat.
Sun lines are Randy's department.
The photographs and film available show Noonan getting into and out of the aircraft in front, obviously sitting in the right seat.
Yes, there were windows on both sides of the aircraft.
I dunno about the radios.... far as I know Earhart did the radios. But that's not very far. I would personally back off from using a word like "allowed."
shooting the sun for sunlines after sunrise offers
Shooting the sun at any time, and comparing that height with the height it would be if sighted at from Howland, would tell the navigator how far he was from the LOP running across Howland.
>the moon was out,
but shots on the moon are difficult to
Yes--an adjustment for parallax. It would be negligible early in the morning when the moon was high, and become more considerable as the morning went on. (But the day of the flight was one of the few each month that the sun and moon lines are nearly perpendicular, and the moon is available in the morning. Moon sights would fix the position along the 157-337 LOP).
> It probably would
have been better for Noonan to help Amelia look out the
Computing (before the day of the flight) the height of the sun and moon for frequent intervals simplifies the navigator's task in flight. But if the plane was still aloft hours after ETA, or if a computation error was suspected it is possible that Noonan was having to compute again from scratch.
To do this accurately, one must measure precisely the second the upper limb of the sun appears above the horizon, or when the lower limb appears, and make the appropriate adjustments. You just can't look out a window, seeing twilight, and say, yup, its dawn. Each second of time error is .25 nautical miles!
>From Randy Jacobson
My point here is that Fred, in the co-pilot position, and for the sunrise LoP, had no need for side windows, etc. They were flying almost directly into the sunrise. Sunrise being a bit to the north that time of year which is exactly what established the 157/337 LoP. True, the time had to be accurate, but it was no problem to make the observation through the "front window." If he used a sextant at all, it was simply for the solar filters and the telescopic view.
Incidently, I *think* there is one other thing that suggests Fred was riding in the right-hand seat. Somewhere I believe Amelia is quoted as having said, in effect, "The receiver is under Fred's seat." If that's a valid quotation, we're pretty sure the receiver was under the right-hand seat.
No, the sun doesn't always rise due east at the equator, except for two days of the year: the spring and fall equinox! At the summer and winter solstices, the sun rises 23 degrees Northerly of East and Southerly of East if you are directly at the equator. Yes, the sunrise was nearly in Earhart's eyes during sunrise that particular morning.
At the Equator the sun rises due east only around the date of the equinoxes. The time of her flight was only about 10 days after the summer solstice when the sun's subpoint is (about 23.5 degrees) north of the Equator. On the morning of the flight the sun was still a little more than 23 degrees North. Near the Equator the direction toward the early morning sun was about 067 degrees, or ENE. Perpendicular to that was the 157/337 line of position.
TIGHAR (Ric) holds the belief that Noonan rode in the co-pilot's seat, based on three "clues". These are:
1) It would be the logical thing to do (and I agree).
2) Earhart indicates in her notes for LAST FLIGHT that she chatted with Fred about this and that, at certain times. (These notes, I understand, are in the Purdue Library).
3) Early (in the flight) photos/motion picture film shows Noonan in, or climbing in/out of the cockpit.
But - a good detective would reject that "evidence" as proving Noonan was up front on the Lae/ Howland leg. At least one piece of counter- evidence; Fred was NEVER on the radio, strangely enough.
But then, there's the evidence of the film shot *in* Lae, the morning of the takeoff, which shows Noonan getting into the airplane first to settle into the right seat. The absence of radio transmissions by Noonan is not evidence that he was not in the cockpit. It's just evidence that he didn't use the radio.
Further, all is navigation paper work/gear were undoubtedly aft, and it's a good bet AE wanted him back there doing his job. SHE, after all, was the PILOT, he was a hired hand. There is (presently) uncorroborated evidence he griped a bit about the "bitch up front" to at least one individual at Lae. If so, that tell's us a lot. I'm still checking.
Well, we don't know where his paper work and gear were. His job could be done well from the right seat. And I don't know what the "evidence" is that he griped about her (or she about him, for that matter)---all we have in writing is a very nice compliment to her in a private letter he wrote during the trip.
Editorializing about pilots and hired hands gets us no farther along. The film does---and the film clearly shows him getting into the cockpit prior to the takeoff that day.
Following is a brief (sic) summary report for the Forum on what had been done in Fiji as of the time of my departure on July 15, with a few notes on later development.
I should say at the outset that the Fiji Museum was perfectly wonderful in its support of the project; we couldn't have gotten a tenth of what we got done done if it hadn't been for the Museum's making of arrangements, establishment of contacts, advice, space, volunteers, use of phone and fax and copier, introductions, etc. etc. TIGHAR owes the Museum a big debt of gratitude.
Now -- day by day:
6/28: Kar and I arrived in Nadi, drove to Suva; only 3-4 near-death experiences in 150 km on the wrong side of the road. Checked into apartment, walked around town, noting how many (LOTS) of old government buildings there are. Noted news account re. finding of skeleton in the bush in nearby Navua; Kar thought she should volunteer to help identify.
6/29: Met with Museum Director Kate Vusoniwailala, Archaeology Director Tarisi Vundadilo, and other Museum staff. Went with Tarisi to meet Mr. Metuisela Moa, Fiji Intelligence Service. He was very interested, cooperative, opened the FIS building (formerly the WHPC BOQ) for search at our convenience (kind of like the CIA opening Langley to searchers from Fiji). Noted that the President, His Excellency Ratu Mara, had been a student of Dr. Hoodless' in the '40s, would likely be very interested. Asked him about Mr. Tofiga, whose name had been given us by Peter MacQuarrie. He (and Tarisi) knew him, agreed to get in touch with him. Kar began examination of all unprovenienced human bones in the Museum's archaeology collection (We thought at the time that this was the ONLY place in the Museum's collection where bones were to be had). No matches noted with Hoodless measurements. Planned search on 6/30 of old Central Medical School, now the Dental Clinic at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.
6/30: Started the day with interviews with local media. Met with Dr. Salesi Savau, retired from the Fiji Medical School (FSM, formerly Central Med. School). In '53-4, as a student assistant, he helped pack up the CMS/FSM for its move to Tamavua. He described the move, said he thought the bones, if they'd been around at the time, would have been absorbed into the Anatomy collection. Said there were "never enough bones" for the students. Said search of dental clinic will be fruitless because it's been completely renovated; Hoodless' office is now an X-ray lab, etc. Acknowledged that there's an attic, however. Said there are "Non-Expendable Resource Records" maintained by the FSM that should be checked. Gave us a sequence of CMS/FSM principals after Hoodless. Kar completed examination of Archaeology Dept. collection -- no matches. We both went to the Dental Clinic and searched the attic throughly. Lots of junk, including some wooden boxes, but all empty and none matching a plausible description of the box we're looking for. No bones but those of a dead bird. Tarisi and Kar made contact with the police, arranged to examine the body found at Navua (good local relations, good contacts, and will give us an idea of how bones move around in an environment not entirely unlike that of Niku).
7/1: In the a.m., we held a well-attended press conference at the Museum. Four volunteers reported to assist: Faiz Ali, Vuniwai Tupou, Elaitia Vakarau, and Steven Brown. Vasemaca Tuisawiau, reporter for Islands Business International, asked after the Press Conference if I'd heard about the box of bones found in the Suva Masonic Lodge when it was renovated in '91 to provide lease space for Fiji TV 1. Tarisi began to search out a representative of the Masons. Arranged for search of Hoodless Residence, now the office of Vasiti, the Med School student housekeeper, tomorrow. Kar started examining all bones in FSM Anatomy Dept. collection. She, Tarisi, and I, with volunteers, met with Dr. Avinash at Anatomy Dept., Dr. Cayari, Hospital Pathologist, examined bones found by police. Big, tall, probable European male, gold molars, completely skeletonized.
7/2: With volunteers, searched Hoodless residence (attic and under-floor). Nothing but a not-very-old child's umbrella. Kar completed examining the Anatomy Dept. collection -- one humerus consistent with Hoodless' measurements, but from a known articulated skeleton; one skull with consistent orbital measurements but overall FORDISC says it's not European. Consulted with Satya Deo, Laboratory Manager, about history of Anatomy Dept. collection and records thereof. He and his chief at the time, Dr. Krishnan, saved the collection from destruction during a change of teaching philosophy some ten years ago. Received offer from Greg Kennedy of Otis Elevator to examine plans and specs for Colonial War Memorial Museum and explore little-used storage areas known to him. In late p.m., we visited the site where the bones had been found at Navua -- stiff stroll through three miles of swamp and clay ridges. Turns out the guy was almost certainly a suicide from California, disappeared from a local motel, leaving a suicide note, back in April. Interesting that complete skeletonization, some scattering and chewing (pigs and dogs) happened in so short a time. No coconut crabs in the area, however.
7/3: Drove to Lautoka and greeted the Niku Team.
7/4: Aboard Nai'a, consultation with Ric, shakedown trip into interior of western Vitu Levi.
7/5: Collected Barb Norris at airport, final discussions with Ric, bid a fond adeu and headed back to Suva. Only one near-death experience. We went to Museum, found there was a letter from Joseph Browne, Official Secretary to H.E. President Ratu Mara, denying permission to search Government House. Called Kennedy; plans and specs not yet available. Took call from Fiji Daily Post, which already knew of the Browne letter, asked me about it. I replied as diplomatically as possible.
7/6: Daily Post ran an article about denial of permission. Considerable concern over breach of security (interagency letters are supposed to be confidential). Composed a lengthy explanatory letter to Mr. Browne, asked for opportunity to meet. Telephone interviews with Radio Australia, Reuters, Fiji Times. Made contact with Arthur Smith of the Masons; he assured me the only bones in their building are used in ritual and have been around forever, but will let us look. Printed and sent Kar's report on the Navua bones to the police. Made plans with Tarisi for her absence starting tomorrow on conference in Sydney. Barb and the volunteers searched the overhead of the gazebo and clock tower in Thurston Park, the only public buildings in the park (where the Museum now stands) in the 1940s. Nothing there.
7/7: Pretty much a day of waiting. Met with Mr. Browne, delivered letter and package of background material. He said he understood about the Post report, would take the matter up with the President. Radio interview with Radio Australia Breakfast Show. Interview with BBC Scotland. Interview with Fiji Times. Moira Fulmer, Michigan college instructor visiting the Museum, one-time resident, suggested to Barb that we contact Sir Leonard Usher, the Queen's rep. during independence negotiations, now retired in Suva. Received call from Foua Tofinga in response to Tarisi's letter, arranged to meet at Museum on 7/9.
7/8: Research in Museum library; Barb concentrating on Hoodless, Tom on Sir Harry Luke publications. Met with Mr. Prasad, head of Maintenance in Public Works Department. He doesn't know of any boxes of bones but will instruct maintenance personnel to keep a lookout. He recommended searching Borron House and FSM buildings at Tamavua. At lunch, volunteer Steven Brown reported that there are WWII tunnels under Tamavua where he played as a kid; lots of stuff in them. With volunteers, we searched the FIS buildings (attic and under-floor). Nothing. Barb and volunteers searched the Hoodless garage; nothing but old tires (tyres, that is) and collapsed cardboard boxes.
7/9: Met with Foua Tofiga. Much useful data. Knew Gallagher, Sir Harry, Vaskess, the whole cast of characters. Helped Gallagher load Viti for the trip on which he died. Visited Niku with Sir Harry on next trip, during which Pearl Harbor was bombed. Wants to go back (we should take him!). Saw sextant box on Vaskess' desk. Identified and described WPHC buildings (now Public Service Commission buildings). Barb took extensive notes. Made appointments with Sir Leonard and with Arthur Smith for Saturday. Reviewed all available issues of The Native Medical Practitioner, journal of the CMS. Found when Tutu was a student, otherwise nothing. Got useful paper on the peregrinations of the Museum collections from Registrar Sagale Baudromo.
7/10: In the a.m., we interviewed Sir Leonard Usher. He's lived in Fiji since 1930, now 93. Knew all the principals. Vaskess used to live across the street, house has been demolished. Good information on Suva during WWII. Recommended contacting Ian Thomson, Sir Harry's Aide-de-Camp (Subsequently learned that Sir Ian has passed on, but his son is a writer and publisher in New Zealand, has published a book with his late father on Fiji during the 40s and 50s). In the p.m., with Arthur Smith, we visited the Masonic Lodge and examined bones in box. Cranium and crossed femurs mounted in wooden box, shown to initiates during ritual. Cranium has both malars intact, therefore doesn't fit Hoodless description. Also has lost all teeth, considerable attrition, probably a pretty old person. Said to have been with the Lodge since its founding or thereabouts, 120 years ago.
7/11: Sunday in Suva and the streets are rolled up. We went to church at St. Andrews, old missionary church across the street. Learned that a sizeable I Kiribati community worships there, but was at U. of So. Pacific celebrating Kiribati Independence Day. Relaxed.
7/12: To Nadi, picked up Kris, returned to Suva. No near-death experiences. Mr. Browne has advised Museum he'll let us inspect cellar and bomb shelter at Government House. Waited for meeting, but it didn't happen. Arranged with Greg Kennedy to view plans and begin search of hospital tomorrow, and with FSM to visit tunnels and buildings at Tamavua.
7/13: Conflicts of schedule with Kennedy, Tamavua. Split up, Tom to hospital, Barb, Kris, and volunteers to Tamavua. Turned out there are no plans and specs for older parts of hospital complex, and couldn't do anything without permission from Medical Director Mary Schram, which was not forthcoming. However, while denying me permission she got on the phone to Dr. Jona Senilagakali of the Fiji Military Forces, former early FSM student. Both recollected a small building across from Hoodless residence, now demolished to make way for FSM HQ (called Hoodless House), where FSM Museum collection was "repotted" in the 1950s. Subsequently ran into current curator of FSM Museum, who said the only bones there are recent, of known origin. Meanwhile Barb, Kris, and the volunteers slipped and slid their way through the Tunnels of Tamavua to no avail; they've been used for firefighting practice, and are rather a mess. Extensive, but nothing of interest (except rats). Discussed the project with Dr. Litudama and Tamavua faculty and maintenance staff. Main building there is a typical U.S. WWII headquarters building, no basement, no attic, solid concrete walls and floors. Noting that we're reaching a point of diminishing returns with searching, conceived the idea of offering a reward.
7/13: Various meetings in preparation for my departure. We visited the National Archives, met with Archivist; Kris will have full access and got immediately to work. Introduced her to Prasad, discussed reward, which he thinks is a good idea. Further discussions with Foua Tofiga, follow-up questions. He'll arrange a meeting with Emily, daughter of Niku village carpenter. Summoned to Joseph Browne's office and let into bomb shelter and cellar, with volunteers. Lots of junk in both, but no bones, no boxes. Enough deposition in bomb shelter that one MIGHT find something buried if one excavated, but it doesn't look very promising. Both Steven and Mr. Tofiga say there are more, and more extensive, tunnels, and indeed we've seen some blocked-up entrances, but one can't get into them without breaking down cement walls.
7/15: At Mr. Tofiga's house, we with him and his wife, met with Emily and her daughter. She not only described the Kanawa Wood Box, but volunteered that the bones had come from near the airplane wreck on the reef at Nutiran. Extensive notes by Barb and Kris, to be transcribed. Caught the bus to Nadi at 1600, flew out at 2330.
Since I returned to the U.S., Barb and Kris -- and after last Saturday, Kris alone -- have continued the search. The most interesting thing (to me) that's come up is the result of Mr. Tofiga's suggestion that the Museum collection be searched. Serendipity at work again; if I'd been there I would have said "We've searched the Museum collection" and let it go at that. If Tarisi had been there she probably would have said the same, assuming that the only bones were in the Archaeology Dept. collection, which we HAD searched. But neither of us was there, so Kris and Barb went to Kate, the Director, who sent them to the old ethnographic collection, where there turned out to be more unprovenienced bones. Kar will examine them next week. According to the ms. I got from Registrar Sagale Buadromo, the collection was mostly stored in tunnels during WWII, and emerged "badly affected by mould and damp." Much was apparently lost. It's not at all inconceivable that the box of bones went into the tunnels with the Museum collection, so....
LTM (who DOES love
One more long-winded attempt to set the scene on July 2, 1937....
Aren't we going rather far astray here? The Itasca's Deck Log for July 2nd, at about 5 AM local time recorded: "Clear skies with detached clouds." In one of the earliest tranmissions from the Electra, Amelia was understood to say something about "partly cloudy." That suggests that conditions were about the same to the west of Howland -- along their route, that is.
There are no entries in the Deck Log to indicate that conditions changed significantly over the next few hours.
The Electra had passed over the Gilberts on course and on schedule. Sunrise at Howland was at about 6:15 AM, local time. At a somewhat later time and a few hundred miles to the west, Fred was in the co-pilot's position watching for the sun. That's the only place from which he would be able to observe the sunrise almost directly ahead. With one eye on the horizon and the other on his chronometer, he was waiting for the edge of the sun to peek above the horizon.
Fred already knew that the Sunrise Line of Position would be 157/337 deg. He knew that even before the flight. It's just an astronomical fact for that date -- the direction of the boundry between night and day on the surface of the earth. The boundry slants a bit running from slightly northwest to slightly southeast. That's stuff we learned in grade school in Geography class. We learned about the inclination of the earth's axis of rotation and why it tends to be hot in summer and cold in winter, in the northern hemisphere. Lines of Position were not mentioned but the basis for all celestial navigation was there.
The exact time the sun peeked above the horizon would tell them that the day/night boundry was right where they were at that moment. The tables would tell them where that was on the surface of the earth and consequently where they were in the east/west direction.
Depending on the accuracy of the time determination, they knew how far east of Howland they were. When they would arrive in the Howland vicinity had to be estimated on the basis of assumed ground speed. This is influnced by wind about which they had no information. Of course, that also influences course. Finding Howland was no lead-pipe cinch!
Fred knew it was not going to be easy. Everyone knew it was not going to be easy. I think there is little doubt that Fred had given this a lot of thought long before they left Lae. He knew full well that, if they were near Howland but could not sight it, there was only one way to go. He knew what bearing to fly to get into the Phoenix island group. If they flew a heading of about 157 degrees from somewhere near Howland, it would take them to the Phoenix Islands. Actually, the Sunrise LoP had nothing to do with that. 157 degrees, more or less, is just the direction to the Phoenix Islands from Howland Island. Any other direction would take them over more open water than they had fuel enough to cross.
LTM (Who loves to play Devil's Advocate.)
The clock says it's morning, my body says it's dinner time, and there is still considerable debate about what day this is, but at least I'm home - as are all but two of the team. Kris Tague and Kar Burns are still in Fiji handling some final details, and (as usual) various of pieces of expedition baggage are still in transit somewhere. I can, however, give everyone a preliminary overview of the results of this summer's field work.
As always, there's good news and bad news. First the bad news.
1. Barring any last minute revelations, no bones were located in Fiji that were consistent with the bones known to have been sent there in 1941. Of course, something could still turn up, but the Fiji Bone Search did not find the bones it was looking for. Disappointing, but hardly surprising. We knew it was a long shot, but it had to be done.
2. Operations on Nikumaroro did not result in the discovery of any aircraft debris suspected of being from the Earhart aircraft. In fact, the only piece of aircraft material found was a strip of (est.) .025 aluminum sheet roughly 1 3/4 inches wide by 5 inches long. It has been trimmed along a line of tightly-spaced rivet holes on one long edge and has zinc-chromate on one side and the remnants of white paint on the other. (The Electra had no zinc-chromated components.) It was found in the remains of a structure found on the shore of Nutiran and thought to be the "European-style house" referred to by Tapania Taiki of Funafuti in 1997.
Now for the good news.
3. In Fiji, valuable contacts and cooperative associations were made which have already resulted in a far better understanding of the historical context in which the Earhart disappearance occurred. New leads were also developed which may eventually lead us to the sextant box and perhaps even the bones.
4. On Niku, an intensive and highly informative reconnaissance was carried out in the areas targeted for future search operations. As a result of the information obtained on the ground (and through the new anecdotal sources described below) the nature and focus of future search operations will be significantly different than previously anticipated.
5. New, totally unexpected, and highy credible anecdotal reports from two independent primary sources indicate that the early settlers on Nikumaroro in 1939/1940 were well aware of an airplane wreck on the island's reef. The location and the nature of the described wreckage dovetail well with other anecdotal accounts from later time periods. When combined with the historical documents and the artifacts found by TIGHAR on previous expeditions, this new information presents a far more complete picture of what appears to have happened, explains why we've had such difficulty finding the proverbial "smoking gun", and will significantly influence our plans for what comes next.
I realize that everybody is dying for details and I'll soon be able elaborate on the admittedly very general statements above. Please bear with me. Some of the delayed baggage mentioned above contains notes and videotape of some crucial interviews. I want to be sure that I represent the results of our work accurately and without "spin."
It's great to be home.
I've now reviewed the Forum digests for the time I was away and I'd like to publicly thank Pat for doing such a great job in moderating the postings. Indeed, at times she showed a great deal of moderation in moderating the immoderate. Many Forum Regulars carried the flag admirably and Tom King and Kris Tague did a great job reporting from Fiji.
I would like to take a moment to comment on a few issues that came up.
* Mel Gibson is too short to play me in a movie. Of course, that didn't keep him from playing Will Wallace in "Braveheart" (who was reputed to be well over six feet tall) but I'd still prefer Liam Neeson (as Pat suspected) since neither Wally Cox nor Don Knotts is available.
* I can't believe that people are still worrying about whether Earhart's engines were changed as Goerner claimed. It's like debating whether Cinderella's coach was really a pumpkin or a cantaloupe.
* The discussions about breaking Japanese codes, while interesting, are way off topic. I've seen no evidence whatsoever that the Japanese played any significant role in the Earhart story - period.
* The Iridium satellite phone is incredibly compact and easy to use. If the company ultimately fails it will be because of the ineptitude of its management and marketing, not any fault in the technology. The thing looks like a largish cell phone with a small extendable antenna. You simply power up, enter a PIN number, wait about 10 seconds or less while it acquires a satellite, then punch in the phone number. Bingo - you can ring the kitchen phone while standing on the Nutiran beach. Absolutely mind-blowing. There is a delay, but it's negligible and not a distraction. The only time we had any difficulty was when we tried to use it from the deck of the violently rolling ship on the way out. We thought that the motion of the ship might be making it hard for the phone to keep a lock on the satellite, but we later learned that it was most likely just a matter of the phone figuring out where in the world it was. The last time it had been used was in Los Angeles.
* It surprised me that there was still so much misinformation going around about the windows on the Electra. There were two identical cabin windows, one each side just forward of the cabin door. These were standard Model 10 windows (Lockheed Part Number 40552). The cabin door which also had a window which was unique to Earhart's airplane. There had been a third, larger window installed aft on the starboard side prior to the first world flight attempt but this was skinned over sometime prior to the departure from Miami. Failure to accurately date various photos of the airplane has led to the common myth that this window was a removable hatch. Tet said that the window apertures on the right side of the airplane were covered over because of the need to install pipes for the fuel tanks. That is true except that the aftmost standard window was retained (as described above). On the left side of the airplane, refueling ports for the fuselage tanks were located where windows were usually installed.
* On what might be called the north point of Nikumaroro, at the northern end of Nutiran, four concrete pads survive on the coral rubble at the top of the storm berm. These, I strongly suspect, are the mounting base for one of the 80 foot towers erected during the 1939 Bushnell survey. We have photos of them.
* I would be interested to know how Bob Brandenburg knows what the weather conditions were at sunrise as observed from the Electra. We have the observed sky conditions at Howland via the Itasca deck log, but at sunrise the Electra should have been a couple hundred miles or so to the west. How do we know what it was like there?
* Phil Tanner is a perceptive man. If reports of aircraft wreckage on the reef at Nikumaroro anytime prior to December 7, 1941 are credible, then we know what happened to the Earhart/Noonan flight. It's as simple as that. Forget all of the other evidence amassed by The Earhart Project in ten years of research. If there was an airplane wrecked at Niku prior to WWII, it was NR16020. There are no other options. The question, therefore, becomes the credibilty of the anecdotal reports that there was such a wreck.
Love to mother,
> He knew what bearing
to fly to get into the Phoenix island group. If they flew a
Good post, Vern! Actually, on one of the old Nat'l Geographic Maps in the Earhart collection at Purdue has the island of Canterbury underlined. If FN wanted to go towards the Phoenix (or is it Pheonix?) Islands, he would lay in a course for the middle of the group from Howland, and take that line (about 154 degrees), not 157 degrees. It would give him the best chance of at least sighting one island if he was off on the E/W position around Howland. Lots of ifs and speculation, but at least it makes sense.
Canterbury Island? The map in question actually has both Canton and Enderbury islands underlined in pencil. Those happen to be the islands of the Phoenix Group for which the U.S. was claiming ownership. There are also pencil marks to the north and south of Howland which roughly correspond to the aircraft's anticipated max fuel range. We don't know when the marks on the map date from (1st attempt, 2nd attempt or post-loss).
Regarding the Bushnell Survey:
What was its purpose? Who ordered it?
Have the reports from this survey been located? If not, where might they be, if they exist today?
Was this possibly in connection with some sort of radio nav-aid? (At this stage it would not, I believe, be LORAN... this system did not come into being until a little later, proposed in 1941 and entering the test phase in July 1942... but it was developed from the principles behind the British GEE system, which operated at a much higher frequency, around 200 MHz if I recall correctly).
Could this nav-aid been something for use by Pan American Airways? Could our PAA historians tell us if the airline was contemplating route expansion into British or Dutch territory? (My impression, which may be faulty, is that PAA was primarily concerned with China and the Phillippines, plus the US possessions in the Pacific).
Why was the US Navy or USCG conducting a survey of a British island, at this stage?
Now for the big question...
If the Bushnell survey was so extensive as to require the clearing of land to erect these four big towers... then this must have required a LOT of people. (Ever tried putting up an 80 foot tower, on a prepared site? ... let alone, in tropical jungle and heat?)
Surely somebody saw -- or even plotted? -- the wreckage of the aircraft if it was on the reef. It must have been a lot more intact than when the later colonists saw it. Wonder if it was reported? Wonder if anyone went out there to investigate it? Surely someone must have. Yes, I know, this is not always a correct assumption to make... a freighter hulk is one thing; but, an airplane? When there were none for hundreds of miles? I think somebody might have gone for a look-see.
The survey of Gardner was part of a massive mapping of many of the islands of the Central Pacific. It was done by the U.S. Navy and was probably part of general strategic planning as the political situation in the Pacific deteriorated. The British were not especially pleased but went along with the survey of the Phoenix Group.
We're not sure how many men were involved but the survey seems to have been accomplished between November 28 and December 5, 1939 - that's only a week. The work of the on-the-ground team from Bushnell was augmented by an aerial photo-mosaic taken the previous April 30th by a floatplane launched from the seaplane tender U.S.S. Pelican.
To our knowledge, nobody mentioned, much less plotted, any aircraft wreckage on the reef. But I would caution about drawing any conclusions about what someone MUST have noticed or what condition the wreck MUST have been in. Emily Sikuli seems to have arrived at the island very shortly after the Bushnell survey team departed. She described the wreckage as being only a few pieces of heavy structure, very rusted, and visible near the edge of the reef "where the waves break" only at low tide. Nothing she saw from the beach was obviously an airplane. The common knowledge that it was an airplane came from native fisherman who had been out to look at it some time earlier.
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