Forum artHighlights From the Forum

August 9 through 15, 1999

Subject: Re: A basic premise
Date: 8/9/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Pat wrote:

>I'll let Ric carry this farther than I can, but remember that any hypothesis
>about a mystery must account for everything known. If my keys are lost, the
>most likely place for me to look may well be on the kitchen counter or in my
>jeans pockets.... unless the last time I saw them the dog was playing with
>them in the back yard.

I can't say it any better than that. Crashed-and-sank would be a great hypothesis if the traditional premises were true:

  • That it is reasonable to assume that the aircraft ran out of fuel within minutes of the 08:43 transmission heard by Itasca.
  • That all of the alleged post-loss radio signals were proven to be either misunderstandings or outright hoaxes.
  • That the Navy's aerial search of the Phoenix Group (acknowledged at the time as being the most likely place) turned up nothing suspicious.
  • That nobody ever came across anything during the subsequent settlement of those islands that might indicate that the Earhart/Noonan flight might not have crashed at sea.

In short, the dog had the keys.


Subject: Canton engine, again
Date: 8/9/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Vern asked:

>Have all possibilities of finding people who might know where the engine
>was picked up been exhausted? Do we know who any of those people are? Have
>we been unable to find them... or found that they are no longer with us?

To which Pat replied:

>One of the other mechanics does recall that Bruce had an old engine.

But he doesn't remember it being airlifted to Canton. What we have for Bruce's story is partial anecdotal support. True corroboration would be:

  • a helicopter flight log describing the event
  • photos of the event
  • the engine itself

Similarly, if a wartime resident of Saipan says there was an American lady flier held in Garapan Prison, another resident's assertion that there was a woman in the prison is not enough to say that Earhart was there. True corroboration would be;

  • official records that mentioned prisoner Earhart
  • photos of Earhart in Garapan Prison
  • Earhart's remains in a Saipanese grave

By the same token, if a former resident of Nikumaroro says there was an airplane wreck on the island in 1939-1941, another similar report is not enough to say that a plane was there. True corroboration would be:

  • mention of the wreck in official records
  • photos of the wreck datable to 1939-1941 which match the description and location given in the anecdotal account
  • pieces of the wreck


Subject: Re: Emily's story
Date 8/9/99
From: Don Neumann

Should Emily's description of aircraft debris on the reef flat, in the general vicinity of the Norwich City wreck, be considered an accurate observation, we must again confront the fact that the Lambrecht overflight of the island (a week after last radio contact) failed to observe any sign of the aircraft or identifiable aircraft debris, even though he clearly described the remains of the Norwich City in that same general area of the island.

Since I believe Randy Jacobson, in a previous post, determined that there had been no record of any unusual storm activity or wave/tidal action in the vicinity of Niku island for that time frame, doesn't it seem unlikely that the aircraft could have made a safe, wheels down landing on that particular area of the reef flat & then in a week's time been demolished or washed off the flat by relatively normal tidal action, to the point where no identifiable portions of the aircraft remained to be seen from Lambrecht's plane?

Naturally, the possibility does remain that the aircraft made its initial landing in such close proximity to the outer edge of the reef flat that even normal tidal activity could have sucked the aircraft off the flat, into the much deeper surrounding waters, within a week's time & then in the interim time period from Lambrecht's flight until Emily's observation, portions of the plane could have been washed up fom the depths, onto the reef flat, by any subsequent storm & unusual wave/tidal activity.

So much speculation, so little solid evidence, I guess that is what makes this search so compelling!

Don Neumann

Subject: Re: Emily's story
Date: 8/10/99
From: Tom King

Don Neumann says:

>So much speculation, so little solid evidence, I guess that is what
>makes this search so compelling!

Absolutely, Don. The nearness of Emily's wreck to Norwich City really is a head-scratcher, and one always has the option of saying something like "Oh, the Colorado pilots couldn't help but have seen it, so therefore Emily's testimony actually REFUTES the Nikumaroro landing hypothesis." However, one then has to account for Emily's testimony some other way. Around and around we go.

But here's a question for all the airplane folks -- two questions, really.

(a) It an airplane on a reef is going to get ripped apart by the waves, is it likely that the aluminum body and wings would come off in large chunks, leaving the heavy undercarriage sitting on the reef?

(b) If you've got only the undercarriage sitting on the reef, how hard is it going to be for the Colorado pilots to see it?

More speculation, obviously, but just wondering.

LTM (who's not above speculation)
Tom King

Subject: Re: Emily's story
Date: 8/10/99
From: Chris Kennedy

Concerning the tidal/wave action that was going on at the island at the time of the Lambrecht flyover, something to keep in mind is that (as I understand it) there was a very strong storm to the northwest of Howland soon after July 2nd. Waves travel fast, and there is always the possibility that these could have travelled to Niku and done their work notwithstanding clear and calm weather conditions on the island at the time of the flyover (also, if the waves were high they could have been breaking over the Electra or its remains, making it impossible to see). It's also interesting that the post loss messages stop abruptly on July 4th. Perhaps this is because of a sudden event such as surf? I believe the webpage has a photo taken by Lambrecht, and as soon as I get this message out I will see what the wave action looks like, as having been on the island gives me some idea of what calm conditions look like.

Subject: Traditional premises
Date: 8/10/99
From: Cam Warren

Please note: this posting has been edited. Nothing has been added or changed, but sections that were offensive and irrelevant have been removed.

....... "traditional premises" include----

1) Running out of gas (or serious engine failure) a couple of minutes after 0843 is a distinct possibility, so is flying off (in the direction of your choice) until gas ran out another, and she had switched to 6210.

2) The best Coast Guard radio intercept authority, Comdr. Anthony didn't "buy" any of the post splash messages, and the Navy (and other respected sources) agreed.

3) No, the Navy search did NOT turn up anything suspicious.

4) "anything that might indicate . . . ." OK, but don't try that in court as "proof". Random bits and scraps, and old wives tales don't discount the most likely conclusion to the flight of the Electra.

Cam Warren

From Ric

Whether you prefer to call them "traditional premises" or "possible alternatives", I think you'll agree that the evaluation of any of the various propositions requires a search for supporting evidence. Those propositions for which supporting evidence can be found must be seen as more probable than those lacking any such support.

For example: One possibility (let us call it the Jacobson Hypothesis) is that the flight was abducted by aliens. The absence of UFO sightings in the immediate vicinity of Howland Island would seem to argue against such an event, but it does remain a possible alternative until some other answer is irrefutably proven. In the meantime, it does not seem to be an explanation that merits further investigation.

Now let's look at:

>1) Running out of gas (or serious engine failure) a couple of
>minutes after 0843 is a distinct possibility, so is flying off (in the
>direction of your choice) until gas ran out another, and she had switched
>to 6210.

You ask for facts. Let's talk about facts.

Fact: Two independent, expert, contemporaneous sources ---- Collopy and Chater ----writing in response to inquiries shortly after the disappearance, assert that the aircraft left Lae with 1,100 US gallons of fuel aboard. The only contradictory contemporaneous accounts are a press release telegram by Earhart, sent the day before the takeoff, stating that the aircraft was "weighted with gasoline and oil to capacity" (the full capacity of the Electra's tanks was 1,151 US gallons) and an Australian newspaper story that quotes Noonan as saying that the aircraft carried "950 gallons of petrol - sufficient to give a still-air cruising range of 2,750 miles". Is that US gallons or Imperial gallons? Nautical miles or statute miles? If Imperial gallons, that's 1,141 US gallons, a number which bears no relation to any of the other reports. But a load of 950 US gallons would yield a still-air range (according to Kelly Johnson's recommended fuel management tables) of 2,626 nm, not the 2,750 figure attributed to Noonan. If he meant 2,750 statute miles that would be only about 2,400 nautical miles. This would mean that Fred was saying that they were embarking on a journey of 2,223 nautical miles with only enough fuel, in still air, to go another 177 nm. That's a pretty good definition of suicide.

However, if what Fred actually said was 915 Imperial gallons (an easy enough misunderstanding) that's 1,100 US gallons, and if he meant 2,750 nautical miles that's right in line with the range to be expected using Kelly Johnson's figures.

In short, without being there to stick the tanks ourselves, it seems most reasonable to accept that the fuel load aboard the Electra at takeoff was 1,100 US gallons. That fuel load, if managed according to the tables Johnson provided specifically for Earhart, should have left the aircraft with nearly 4 hours of remaining fuel at the time of the last transmission heard by Itasca. Could she have run out of gas, or had an engine failure, or zipped off to Alpha Centauri within a couple of minutes 08:43? Sure. There's just no evidence that she did and lots of reason to suggest that she didn't.

>2) The best Coast Guard radio intercept authority, Comdr. Anthony
>didn't "buy" any of the post splash messages, and the Navy (and other
>respected sources) agreed.

Where are the voluminous Coast Guard records to support Anthony's claim that all of the hundreds of alleged the "post-splash" messages were investigated? Let's pick just one - the infamous "281 message" heard by Navy Radio Wailupe. Who investigated that one? Or is it possible that Cmdr. Anthony was merely expressing an opinion that was very much in the Coast Guard's best interest?

>3) No, the Navy search did NOT turn up anything suspicious.

You apparently have conclusive proof of what John Lambrecht meant by "signs of recent habitation"?


Subject: Expedition Report, Part 1
Date: 8/11/99
From: Ric Gillespie

This is an excerpt from the first part of the expedition report. The full report, with some photographs, is available on this website as a Project Bulletin at Niku IIIIP Report.

TIGHAR's fifth expedition to Nikumaroro, known as "Niku IIIIP," was conducted July 1-27, 1999 and ran concurrently with an on-site investigation in Fiji, known as the "Fiji Bone Search," which attempted to locate the bones and artifacts known to have been sent there from Nikumaroro in 1941. Tom King has already presented an overview of that operation.

This is Part One of a three part report on what we've accomplished with this summer's field work. Part One (this posting) will describe the Niku IIIP expedition, its objectives, costs, team, and offer a day by day summary of operations.



The expedition's first mission was to determine whether the anecdotal accounts gathered in Funafuti at the end of Niku III in 1997 might lead directly to discovery of the main body of wreckage and, thus, permit the Niku IIII expedition to be organized as an archaeological recovery operation. Recognizing that the identification of conclusive Earhart wreckage would, by definition, put those artifacts at risk, this purpose of the expedition was not widely publicized. No such wreckage was found on this trip, so the point is now moot. The secondary mission of the expedition was as a preparatory operation to gather information for Niku IIII, an intensive search operation scheduled for 2000. The specific objectives of the expedition were:

1. Test the hypothesis that airplane parts could be found in the dense beachfront vegetation of Nutiran district near a "European-style house," per an anecdotal account by Tapania Taiki who was interviewed by TIGHAR on Funafuti in 1997. Ms. Taiki lived on Nikumaroro as a young teenager with her family in the late 1950s/early 1960s just before the settlement was abandoned.

2. Conduct a reconnaissance of the beachfront areas on the lagoon shore where Pulekai Songivalu, interviewed by TIGHAR on Funafuti in 1997, said he saw airplane wreckage when he served as the island's schoolmaster during the late 1950s/early 1960s. Mr. Songivalu is Ms. Taiki's father.

3. Conduct a reconnaissance of Kanawa Point, one of three geographical locations identified by TIGHAR researchers as possibly fitting the description of where a castaway's remains and campsite were discovered by Gerald B. Gallagher, Officer-in-Charge, Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme, in September 1940.

4. Familiarize the project's forensic anthropologist, Dr. Karen Ramey Burns, with the site where shoe parts were found during Niku II in 1991 (known as the "Aukeraime Site") and conduct a further investigation of the site with the aid of remote-sensing data gathered during Niku III in 1997. The Aukeraime Site is the second candidate for where the bones were found in 1940.

5. Familiarize Dr. Burns with the site near the southeast end of the island where village-related artifacts were found during Niku IIIP in 1996. This is the third location suspected of being where Gallagher's discovery took place.


The team assembled to conduct these operations consisted of:

Richard Gillespie TIGHAR Executive Director Project Director
Karen Ramey Burns, PhD TIGHAR #2071E Forensic Anthropologist

Richard Reynolds


member of TIGHAR's Board of Directors, veteran of the Kanton Mission, and project sponsor

Richard Gifford TIGHAR #0001CEB member of TIGHAR's Board of Directors and project sponsor
Chris Kennedy TIGHAR #2068E TIGHAR member and project sponsor
Ronald Rich TIGHAR #2267E TIGHAR member and project sponsor
Jerry Ann Jurenka TIGHAR #0772E TIGHAR member and project sponsor
John Clauss TIGHAR #0142CE veteran of Niku I, II, IIIP, III, and the Kanton Mission.
Veryl Fenlason TIGHAR #0053CE veteran of Niku I, II, IIIP, and III
Russ Matthews TIGHAR #0509CE veteran of Niku I, II, IIIP, and the Kanton Mission
Gary Quigg TIGHAR #1025CE veteran of Niku III
Van Hunn TIGHAR #1459CE veteran of Niku III

Accompanying the expedition as an official representative of the Republic of Kiribati was Senior Examining Officer, Kiribati Customs, Manikaa Teuatabo. Mr. Teuatabo also accompanied the Niku II and Niku IIIP expeditions.


The direct cost to TIGHAR for the Niku IIIIP expedition was:

Airfare* $5,785
Ship Charter $99,492
Kiribati repesentative $1,904
Equipment and incidentals $2,500
Total $109,681

*several team members paid their own airfare

The cost of the Fiji Bone Search was:

Airfare* $1,982
Accommodations $1,300
Meals and incidentals $2,849
Car rental $1,351
Total $7,482

*one team member paid her own airfare

In addition to these direct expenses, TIGHAR's operating expenses during the period of preparation and execution of the expeditions (February through July, 1999) were roughly $90,000.

Grand Total - - $207,523


July 11 Having arrived at Nikumaroro just before dark the previous evening, the team goes ashore at 07:45 and spends the day surveying and building a trail from the landing to the shore of the lagoon passage where a skiff, walked in over the reef at high tide, will be based to ferry the team over to Nutiran. Seas in the lee of the island are relatively calm - a welcome relief. However, tropical downpours during the day make the heavy work of clearing the trail through the jungle a soggy endeavor. ...

July 12 ... the team begins the process of setting out grid lines 20 meters square in the sector where aerial photography indicates there was once a structure which may be the "European style house." Nearby, the 1953 photo also shows a cruciform feature in the beachfront vegetation which looks alarmingly similar to an aircraft. Hopes are high for a significant discovery but the day's searching yields no sign of a European style house (a structure built of wood frame and boards rather than local materials), let alone an airplane. A grave about four feet in length is found not far from the beachfront....

July 13 Further gridding and searching reveal a scattering of cultural material (nails, wire, cans, etc.) indicating that a structure of some kind once stood on the spot where the putative European style house is seen in the 1953 aerial photo, but the absence of boards or framing suggests that the structure was made from local materials. ...

July 14 After a discussion at the grave site with Senior Examining Officer Manikaa Teutabo, permission to excavate is granted and digging begins. Meanwhile, a detailed search of the area where the cruciform object appears in the photo finds only vegetation and what may be a broken oarlock - possibly from one of the lifeboats from the SS Norwich City. Two divers, Van Hunn and Jerry Jurenka, inspect the lagoon passage and inshore reef area at high tide for any anomalous material. The results are negative. Search operations are extended northward along the Nutiran shore in the hope of finding something that better fits the description of a European style house.

Late in the day, Chris Kennedy comes upon boards and sheets of corrugated metal. Further investigation reveals the ruins of a structure incorporating wood framing and boards. There are pipes, a faucet, and even a shower head. It seems quite likely that this was a European style house but it does not seem to be present in the 1953 aerial photos. Plantings of coconut and pandanus just inland from this location support the possibility that this structure is a relic of development in the later days of the settlement. That would conform to Ms. Taiki's time on the island in the late 1950s. ...

July 15 ...While Dr. Burns and two assistants, Quigg and Gifford, proceed with the grave excavation, the rest of the team begins to lay out grids and search the area southward from the newly-identified European house. Heavy iron debris from the shipwreck is found as much as ten meters back into the beachfront vegetation along the shoreline directly in front of and southward from the Norwich City, but no aluminum or aircraft-related material is in evidence. Because it will be roughly the half-way point in the expedition, the following day is declared a "day off" for anyone who needs to take a break. ...

July 16 On this "day off" the entire team turns out for duty except for two people with minor injuries. Further gridding and searching southward from the European house fail to turn up anything of interest. Dr. Burns' team reaches the interment in the grave and finds the bones of a two or three year old child....

At 13:00 a satellite telephone communication with TIGHAR's office in Delaware brings the news that Dr. Tom King in Fiji has interviewed a former resident of Nikumaroro who reports having seen aircraft wreckage ... on the reef north of the Norwich City shipwreck in the years prior to WWII (1939-1941)....This new information matches our previously-formulated hypothesis that the landing had been made on the reef and the airplane destroyed by surf action, but indicates a more northerly specific location than we had previously contemplated.

Later in the afternoon Gillespie and Clauss conduct a reconnaissance of the lagoon shore in the area where Mr. Songivalu reported seeing airplane wreckage. ...A variety of lightweight flotsam (plastic, styrofoam, etc.) indicates that this first 50 meters of shoreline is occasionally subject to flooding, but conducting a thorough search of the entire shoreline by visual means would be labor intensive and time consuming.

July 17 ... Shifting the Nutiran shoreline search northward based on the new information, the team begins inspecting the dense beachfront scaevola from the point of land just off the bow of the Norwich City wreck and working northward. ... The methodology developed for searching what can only be described as the beachfront scaevola wall is for transects to be cut into the bush on a heading 90 degrees to the shoreline and flagged with colored tape. The flagged transects are spaced 25 meters apart and go back into the scaevola far enough to be well beyond any evidence of washed up material (typically 30 or 40 meters). Searchers then space themselves along the beach closely enough to be sure they can visually cover the area between themselves and their colleagues on either side - and start cutting their way in, staying on line as much as possible, much like the beaters in an old-fashioned tiger hunt. When the line reaches the end of the flagged transects the searchers make their way back to beach, move down to the next block, and start all over again.

Yet another grave is identified on the point just off the bow of Norwich City but excavation is not an option due to lack of remaining time. In the afternoon, at low tide, an inspection of the reef north of Norwich City permits a preliminary evaluation of areas that appear flat and smooth enough to permit a Lockheed 10 to land intact.

July 18 ...Gillespie, Matthews, Clauss and Burns conduct a reconnaissance of Kanawa Point. ... Kanawa Point, while probably orignally quite open and pleasant when shaded by Kanawa trees, is now so covered in dense scaevola as to be impossible to search visually from any practical standpoint. On the lagoon shore across the cove to the east of Kanawa Point, a feature first noted by Tom King in 1989 was seen. The coral shelf above the water line is strewn with the shells of an estimated 300 giant clams over an area easily 20 meters long by perhaps 5 meters wide. In some cases the shells have been there so long as to be cemented into the coral and, in at least one spot, a number of shells are neatly stacked, back to front. There is no doubt that this is where a human or humans harvested, opened, and possibly ate clams. A few clams still grow in the surrounding shallow water. A scattering of shells was also found on the shore of Kanawa Point itself.

In the afternoon, at low tide, further inspections and measurements were taken on the reef flat north of Norwich City and the pulse laser was employed to measure the length of areas that were smooth enough to permit a safe landing. The longest area measured was 213 meters (700 feet). It has been estimated that Earhart's aircraft, at near empty weight and landing into a 10 to 15 knot wind as is common on the reef flat, could come to a stop in as little as 91 meters (300 feet).

July 19 Inspection of the heavy beachfront vegetation north of Norwich City continues. ... the entire length of the Nutiran beachfront from the north point southward to the west point just below the shipwreck, a distance of some 700 meters (nearly half a mile) has been searched visually to a depth into the vegetation of 30 to 40 meters The search turns up no aircraft-related debris. Norwich City debris is present on the reef and in the first few meters of beachfront vegetation from a point perhaps 50 meters north of the bow to at least 500 meters southwestward down the beach. The reef and shoreline north of the wreck are free of any type of cultural debris other than flotsam (buoyant objects) and these occur primarily on the open beach and in the first 20 meters of vegetation. After nine solid days of heavy physical labor in the intense heat, many team members are becoming dangerously exhausted.

July 20 Departure day. The skiff must be brought out of the lagoon by noon at high tide and the morning is spent finishing up some last minute searching, breaking camp and recovering all of the equipment back across the lagoon passage. By 14:00, everything and everyone is off the island and that evening Nai'a sets a course for Fiji.

Part Two of this report will detail the interviews conducted in Fiji after the expeditions return from Nikumaroro and before its departure for the United States.


Subject: Re: Niku IIIIP Report
Date: 8/12/99
From: William Dohenyguy

I read your first report with great enthusiasm and interest. I know I'm going to sound like an armchair quarterback, but that's the way of the world. There were several aspects of your report which seemed very delinquent in it's presentation.

First, two divers in the water searching the reefs edge. Can you please tell me what equipment they took with them to aid in their search for metallic parts? Considering wave and tidal action may have buried "smoking guns" two meters below the surface. How did they conduct their search? Are they qualified research divers or recreational divers?

Second, it appears to me, from your report, that a hand full of your searchers, staff, crew are really not qualified to make the journey. I do not make that statement to be antagonistic, I simply ask if backers with money can go and qualified individuals with less funds stay behind.

I have great admiration for the TIGHAR organization and greatly respect the work that you do. I'm a subscriber, not a member, yet.

Third, $95,000.00 for a ship from Lae to Niku? Is this a quality craft or the only Tug available?

If I did not word this correspondence correctly and it angered you, then I humbly apologize, it was not meant to be a derogatory inquiry.

William LTM

Subject: Re: Traditional premises
Date: 8/12/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Jon Pieti writes:

>I'm sorry, but if you are trying to correlate the plausibility of the "UFO
>Hypothesis" with the likelihood that they went down at sea, it just doesn't
>compare. You have no evidence to indicate that they did not go down at sea
>- only some interesting possibilities that they *might* have made landfall

What we're talking about here is fundamental logic. All premises for which there is neither supporting evidence nor disqualifying evidence are, indeed, equal. Fuel exhaustion, mechanical engine failure, in-flight fire, or being abducted by aliens would seem to fit into that category. Abduction by the Japanese can be included only if you postulate that the abductors traveled outside of their territory to someplace the aircraft could have reached.

Your statement "You have no evidence to indicate that they did not go down at sea -- only some interesting possibilities that they *might* have made landfall instead" is self-contradictory. You're saying, "You have no evidence to indicate that they did not go down at sea -- only some interesting evidence that they did not go down at sea." We continue to test the hypothesis that the flight ended at Nikumaroro no because we are somehow fixated on it because it is the only hypothesis (at least, that I am aware of) for which supporting evidence has been, and continues to be, found.


Subject: Re: Expedition report
Date: 8/12/99
From: Ric Gillespie

William Dohenyguy says:

>There were several aspects of your report which seemed very
>delinquent in it's presentation...
>First, two divers in the water searching the reefs edge.

What the report said was, "Two divers, Van Hunn and Jerry Jurenka, inspect the lagoon passage and inshore reef area at high tide for any anomalous material. The results are negative." I say again "lagoon passage and inshore reef area." Not the reef edge.

>Can you please tell me what equipment they took with them to aid in their
>search for metallic parts?


>Considering wave and tidal action may have buried "smoking guns" two meters
>below the surface. How did they conduct their search?

As is apparent from the aerial photograph available on the website, the lagoon passage and inshore reef areas are solid coral. No sand. No need for remote sensing equipment. What you see is what you get.

> Are they qualified research divers or recreational divers?

Van has been trained in search diving. As far as I know, Jerry Ann has not. No diving was contemplated on this expedition. I had originally planned to put people out on the reef flat on foot at low tide to search the shallow water on the off chance that some piece of aircraft wreckage had somehow survived in that dynamic environment. Van noticed that the water at high tide was very clear and suggested that a snorkel search might be much faster and just as thorough. He was right.

>Second, it appears to me, from your report, that a hand full of your
>searchers, staff, crew are really not qualified to make the journey. I do
>not make that statement to be antagonistic, I simply ask if backers with
>money can go and qualified individuals with less funds stay behind.

Five of our twelve team members on this trip were also sponsors. They would not have gone had they not been sponsors but neither would anyone else. It was a compromise that, I'll admit, made me a bit nervous -- but I was pleasantly surprised. All of the team gave all they had. Niku is a very tough environment in which to do the work we do. Casualties are a fact of life, but we've never hurt anyone seriously and I hope we can maintain that record. As it turned out, there were no veteran team members who could have gone but were left behind for reasons of funding or to make room for a sponsor.

>Third, $95,000.00 for a ship from Lae to Niku? Is this a quality craft
>or the only Tug available?

As explained in my report, the expedition did not go from Lae to Niku. It went from Fiji to Niku. Lae is a city in New Guinea. Fiji is an island nation about 1,000 nm from Niku. As has also been explained previously, the expedition vessel Nai'a is the same ship that brought us through the cyclone in 1997. It is a fine vessel with fine crew. It's not clear to me whether you think that the cost of the charter was too high or too low. It also doesn't much matter.

>If I did not word this correspondence correctly and it angered you,
>then I humbly apologize, it was not meant to be a derogatory inquiry.

No need to aplogize. Didn't anger me a bit.


Subject: Circumstantial evidence
Date: 8/12/99
From: Mike Muenich

I confess to being one of the sources of irritation during Mr. Gillespie's absence. I noted in his "catch-up" of 07/31/99 his reply concerning engine changes ala Goerner. Unfortunately I haven't been with this program as long as a number of other people and thus I, as well as other newcomers, must often make irritating inquires. As I understand it the 7th edition of the "facts" is no longer in print and the 8th remains uncompleted.

I read all of the other background volumes, Goerner et. al. to gain perspective. Most, if not all, have substantial anecdotal evidence, "stories", from any number of native sources. Goerner anecdotes, in the circumstantial world, are as credible as Emily. TIGHAR is the only entity that has found any hard evidence, albeit also circumstantial, to substantiate its theory, thus my interest in TIGHAR. However, circumstantial evidence is not the oft refered to "smoking gun". In order for circumstantial evidence to "prove" a theory, it must be overwhelming to the exclusion of all evidence to the contrary. Thus when I read Goerner, who claims to have a "document" that substantiates an engine change, that document must be excluded, found to be an "illusion", or its contents explained in the context of TIGHAR's theory. Several postings after my inquiry seem to indicate that Goerner's records exist, that some, or many of his claims were not totally accurate. However, there appears to be no complete inventory of these assets or their content. Merely stating that the issue is analogous to cantaloupes or pumpkins does not resolve the issue

In reference to the Japanese code issue, although I did not raise it, I do believe it relevant. Not because aircraft transmissions would be monitered, to my knowledge they weren't, but because Japapese merchant ship and IJN movements could have been. Admiral Layton's history, "And I Was There", indicates that a number of Japanese codes, merchant, naval, and others were monitered and tracked from the 1920's. U.S. Naval intercepts could once and for all reject the various theories that involve the movements of KOSHU and KAMUI or any other vessels that could be identified. They certainly didn't move or operate without instructions.

Finally, I have reservations about the current excitement over Emily's recollections. I appears contrary to most of what TIGHAR has developed to date. Why these ancecdotes are any more valid than the natives interviewed by Goerner, Loomis/Ethel, el al. escapes me. We seem to be stretching a number of theories, or suddenly discounting others, to make her recollections fit. Since I have only a limited knowledge of her statements, this comment may well be premature. A full report on the content of her interviews may well dispell my concerns, but that will have to wait until a full report can be distributed. Until then, please excuse my inquires if you feel that they are inappropriate.

Subject: Re: Circumstantial Evidence
Date: 8/13/99
From: Tom King

Mike Muenich says:

>Why these (e.g., Emily) anecdotes are any more valid
>than the natives interviewed by Goerner, Loomis/Ethel,
>el al. escapes me.

Two factors make them more valid from the standpoint of this perhaps biased correspondent. For one thing, we collected 'em, and we've tried to be very, very careful not to lead the witnesses, put words in their mouths, and otherwise pollute the sources. We've also not paid them, or given them any reason to think they had anything to gain by telling us what we wanted to hear. The other factor, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is the very fact that there are so many anecdotes about Japanese capture, all over the place. They can't all be right; they contradict one another. Maybe some of them are right; we have no way of knowing. We don't know if Emily is "right," either, and we don't take what she says as gospel. It's a bit of anecdotal data, which gets fed into the mill along with everything else as a basis for generating hypotheses that we can test against harder data.

But this whole "smoking gun" business is a bit troubling. How many gunshot murder cases have been conclusively solved, I wonder, without ever finding a gun, smoking or not. In archeology, definitive proof of how specific events occurred is very, very rare. Reaching a conclusion is almost always a matter of generating hypotheses and testing them by piling up lots and lots of little bits of data that either support the hypothesis or don't. Right now we've got some pretty good pieces of data supporting the Niku hypothesis, but none is by itself definitive, and there are lots of soft spots and contradictions within the data set. This is very characteristic of real data; it would be very strange if it were any other way.

LTM (who's wary of smoking guns)
Tom King

Subject: Re: Circumstantial evidence
Date: 8/14/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Mike Muenich says:

>Thus when I read Goerner, who claims to have a "document"
>that substantiates an engine change, that document must be excluded, found
>to be an "illusion", or its contents explained in the context of TIGHAR's
>theory. ... Merely stating that the issue is analogous to cantaloupes or
>pumpkins does not resolve the issue.

I don't recall Goerner ever claiming that he had such a document, but if he did it was his responsibility to make it public if he expected anyone to believe him. There is abundant documentation (Bureau of Air Commerce inspection reports, photographs, etc.) to establish beyond doubt that Lockheed 10E c/n 1055 was delivered with Pratt & Whitney R1340 S3H1 "Wasp" engines in July 1936 and took off from Lae, New Guinea a year later with those same powerplants. The credibility of Goerner's allegations on this issue is not helped by the fact that he quite obviously has no idea what he's talking about. On page 82 of The Search For Amelia Earhart he says, "The Lockheed Electra's power had been publicized as twin 550-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Junior Wasp engines...". The truth is that all Lockheed 10Es came equipped with 550 hp Pratt & Whitney Wasps. The 10A featured the 450 hp Wasp Junior (not Junior Wasp).

Later in the book Goerner claims that Earhart's engines were replaced with "Wasp Senior" engines of greater horsepower. There never was any such thing as a "Wasp Senior" of any horsepower and the Model 10 airframe was simply incapable of carrying any engine larger than the 550 hp Wasp.

> In reference to the Japanese code issue, although I did not raise it, I
>do believe it relevant. ... U.S. Naval intercepts could once and for all
>reject the various theories that involve the movements of KOSHU and KAMUI or
>any other vessels that could be identified. They certainly didn't move or
>operate without instructions.

It would be nice to have copies of such intercepts if they existed but, as far as I know, the U.S. Navy was not monitoring IJN movements in the Central Pacific in 1937. if you know otherwise and can direct us to those records we would be most appreciative.

>finally, I have reservations about the current excitement over Emily's
>recollections. ... A full report on the content of her interviews may
>well dispell my concerns...

I hope so.


Subject: Clarification
Date: 8/15/99
From: William Dohenyguy

I knew I was going to step on a few toes with my last correspondence, but I was hopeful my size nine Reeboks would cause no permanent damage.

Let me preface this next paragraph by saying I'm no expert in arranging expeditions, but since you asked. I do not believe it is a good practice to allow unqualified individuals to take part in an adventure such as the Niku expedition simply because they can afford to go. I realize without their support there would be no expedition, certainly a Catch 22 situation. However, this conundrum can be conquered. On all the digs I went on, the hard work, the dirty work, was always done by the locals. They were hired because they were familiar with the area and could overcome the hostile environment simply because they were used to it. And just as important, each dig crew, contained only the most qualified individuals, there was no room for dead weight or excess baggage (there I go again).

As far as raising funds for such an adventure is concerned, that is outside of my pay grade. I'm not questioning Ric's ability to put together an expedition. Obviously, he knows what he is doing. I was just bring up a point. I apologize for stepping too hard.

William LTM

From Pat

You know, you're making some assumptions that aren't actually justified.

>I do not believe it is a good practice to allow unqualified individuals ...

Who says these folks were unqualified? (Skeet? Dick? Chris? Did you feel unqualified? Did you feel like excess baggage or dead weight? From what Ric said when he got home, you were essential to the work that got done and desperately needed.) Other than experience level, they were as qualified as the others. And the *only* way to get experience on Niku is ... to go to Niku. Let me know if you can find a flight.

>On all the digs I went on, the
>hard work, the dirty work, was always done by the locals.

Fine. You tell me where to find the locals. Or have you simply forgotten that Niku is uninhabited? Not to mention that training "locals" is time-consuming, expensive, and inexact to say the least. No matter --- the point is that anyone who is going to work on Niku is going to be imported there. We have found repeatedly that for the kind of work *we* are doing (which is search work, not dirt-moving) we need educated, intelligent people who are familiar with technological society and can differentiate between cultural "noise" and the Real Stuff. Every time we have attempted to use "locals" (members of the ship's crew, for instance) it has resulted in hours, if not days, of wasted time and effort.

> I'm not questioning Ric's ability to put together an expedition.

Actually, you ARE questioning our abilities and the qualifications of the participants. So let me clue you up: we have run almost 50 expeditions, in various parts of the world, most of those parts being hostile as to climate and distant as to medical care. We have done so in extremes of financial crunches, with the barest minimum of equipment, and we have done so successfully and SAFELY. The sum total of injuries requiring medical care beyond a sticky bandage: two---in 15 years. A broken wrist, caused by unsafe (in retrospect... at the time it seemed ok, but we wouldn't permit it now) behavior on the part of an individual who was not part of the expedition and was not under our control, and some stitches needed by another individual, who was not part of the TIGHAR team and was not under our control, and who was clowning and showing off. (We now make it clear that *all* participants, no matter who they are working for, are under our control or they don't leave the ship.)

>As far as raising funds for such an adventure is concerned, that is
>outside of my pay grade.

Yup. And so is staffing and leading field work, obviously, or you would not refer to it as an "adventure." Adventure is what happens when things go wrong. Adventure is a sign of incompetence. We don't have adventures.... at least not on the ground, where we can control things. Usually the weather throws enough at us that there is plenty of "adventure" to go around---the other leading definition being "terror and discomfort remembered from the vantage of security and safety."

I would *really* like to hear from Veryl, John, Kenton, and some of the other "veterans" on this topic.

LTM, who thinks there's more to running an expedition than most people think there is,


Subject: Armchair archeologists
Date: 8/15/99
From: Don Neumann

In recent days there seems to be a frenzy of posts, the gist of which seems to be demanding a "rush to judgement", for conclusions as yet not supported by factual evidence developed to date.

The AE/FN mystery is now over 62 years old & given that basis there is a strong possibility that it is going to take some additional years in time to uncover such factual evidence. Additionally, even if TIGHAR is successful in locating & properly identifying the remains of the Electra, (or its crew) it will not necessarily follow that all the many questions about the reasons why the flight failed its objective (reaching Howland safely) will be answered satisfactorily or completely & as Mr. Gillespie has often warned, such discoveries will probably not convince some folks to abandon their long held, contrary theories about the causes which resulted in the flight's failure to achieve its objectives.

From my perspective, given the fact that there doesn't appear to be any other group or individuals actively working to locate the plane & crew, (TIGHAR's primary mission) I'd suggest the rest of us "armchair Archeologists" allow the mission to proceed, unless or until such activity proves successful in finding the plane &/or its crew or that the evidence or lack thereof forces us to conclude that the..."Well is finally dry"... & that we must reluctantly concede that "Mother" was right all along & doesn't really want the mystery solved, at least not by this generation of seachers....but of course there is always "next year"!

Don Neumann

Subject: Re: Clarification
Date: 8/15/99
From: Tom King

While ALMOST entirely supporting what Pat has said about qualifications and such, let me make a couple of points as the project's long-term archeologist, with the appropriate Piled-higher and Deeper in the subject, founding member of the Soc. of Professional Archeologists (defunct), etc. etc. etc. --

First off, the question of "qualifications" is something that archeologists argue about all the time -- who has 'em, what they are, what kind are necessary for what kinds of work, etc. The jury is by no means in on the subject, and probably never will be, and my personal belief is that professional qualifications, in terms of degrees and such, are highly overrated. You need to have technically qualified people in charge, but to do the work you simply need people who are bright, observant, careful, able to work in a team, able to make judgements, willing to question authority, and in decent condition. Experience helps a lot, too, but even it can be overrated; the downside of experience is that it can make you jump to conclusions, or miss things that a fresh eye will see. Then there's the matter of what kinds of experience are relevant. Personally, I wouldn't know a piece of a Lockheed Electra if it fell on my head (well, I would now, but I certainly wouldn't have ten years ago), so people with airplane experience are real important members of the team. There are lots of other kinds of non-archeological experience that are important -- some of which we've had access to, others of which we'd dearly love to have but haven't.

Bottom line is that there are lots of definitions of what a qualified team is. I think the Niku IIII team fell well within reasonable parameters.

Re. William Dohenyguy's statement that "On all the digs I went on, the hard work, the dirty work, was always done by the locals." --

I reckon the digs you've been on have been in countries other than the U.S.; here the hard, dirty work is usually done by undergraduates and what we sometimes call "shovel bums" -- people who migrate from dig to dig and make a living at it (Actually they're unionized now, and I'll probably get in trouble for calling them that, but I regard it as a rather honorable term). However, you make a point that's actually not been entirely lost on the TIGHAR team over the years, and it's one that we've argued about. It's the one point in Pat's response that I kind of disagree with.

I've worked with teams of "locals" in places like Chuuk and Yap, the Marianas and Palau, and they're certainly as able as anyone else to get on top of a project's purposes and to master the necessary techniques. They sure beat a lot of college students. Moreover, they're used to working in the environment, with the tools (e.g., bush knives), and they can do a lot of things a whole lot more efficiently than we can. I think there's a lot of merit in the idea of having a small team of "locals" to do the cutting and clearing and other heavy work -- AND to apply their own unique areas of intellectual expertise. Foua Tofiga suggested to us in Fiji, for example, that we take along some Fijians who know all about coconut crab behavior, to work on the possible bones discovery sites by tracking down crabs to see where they may have taken stuff. I'm rather embarassed to say this had never occurred to me, in all the time we've talked about learning how crabs do their thing with bodies.

Of course, Pat's right about the distinct dearth of "locals" on Niku, but there are Fijians, Samoans, I Kiribati, and Tuvaluans within easy enough striking distance. The downside is that, unlike us idiots, they won't work for free, so it would be cost item. But I think it's very much worth considering.

LTM (who doesn't much like hard work)
Tom King

Well, as I said---when we tried using the ship's crew, it worked out very poorly indeed. I think I'd rather have undergraduates . By the time we finished finding, paying, equipping, training, monitoring, and cleaning up after a gang like that, we're better off doing it ourselves with educated volunteers.

But this is an old argument between Tom and us, and no doubt will never be fully resolved...


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