Highlights From the Forum
August 16 through 22, 1999
After having been on many of those 50 expeditions I would put forward that two of the most important qualifications for the team are the ability to be compatible with one another in tough situations and close quarters and dedication to the project. This assumes that all are physically capable of doing what is required of them. As Skeet and Pat have said these operations require a diverse array talents and capabilities. If we had only athletic types that could work all day and barely break into a sweat we probably wouldn't get anywhere. In the last five years TIGHAR has been able to field teams with impressive depth and diversity. At any given time during these expeditions there are at least a dozen things going. Ric can't direct every task, he must delegate the work to the rest of us and act as the team's manager pulling all the components together so that we end up with a cohesive focused operation. You can't imagine how tight and productive one of these teams is until you have seen it.
As far as the team member/sponsor thing goes there is no differentiation once we step onto the plane in LA. There are only team members and we work that way. We are extremely grateful for our sponsors' ability to make an operation like this possible (that goes for all of you out there also). Do they get any slack when it come to work load.....NO! Does Ric take every person that wants to write a check and come along.......no. He interviews and pre qualifies each one and seems to do a pretty good job walking this tightrope.
I am not sure how much more discussion is warranted on this subject. We field excellent teams that get the work done.
LTM , who loves
I have not paid enough attention to the forum over the last month or so. However, I gleam from the postings that nothing of significance was found on Niku. However, some interesting interviews were made in Fiji. To this is significant criticism of you and the forum in general. The fact is that the thoery which the forum has built up maybe right, maybe wrong or even somewhere in between. However, unless we pursue this thoery, modifiying it according to the evidence which becomes available or even scrapping it if some evidence from an unquestionable source (if there is such a thing) reveals its flaws, we will never know what the truth is. Truth itself is very subjective, and even if you came back with bodies or an electra, there would be no doubt that someone would say that it was all false.
My attitude is quite simple keep pursuing the theory until someone produces evidence that throws it into disarray. To date there has been a lot of criticism, but no real evidence. Best of luck in future expeditions. One day, the fate of AE/FN will reveal themselves.
Thanks David, but let me correct any impression that this year's field work turned up nothing of significance. The Niku Team accomplished exactly what it set out to accomplish -- we conducted a reconnaissance that will allow us to organize and equip Niku IIII so that it stands the best possible chance of finding the conclusive proof we're all seeking. We did not come across the big silver airplane lurking in the bushes, but the Fiji Team uncovered new anecdotal evidence that may explain why and may give us a better idea about where to look for conclusive proof. As we've said a hundred times, anecdotal evidence can not stand by itself, but it can point the way toward hard evidence. I'm very pleased with the results of this summer's work.
Is truth subjective? "What is truth?, said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer." (Francis Bacon, Essay "Of Truth," 1625) I guess that depends on what truth you're talking about. Certainly religious truths are subjective. What is gospel to one is superstition to another. But it's hard to debate the truth of, say, gravity. Historical truth is, of course, the subject of constant debate and the acceptance of historical "facts" depends on the weight of the evidence. The better the evidence, the more widespread the acceptance. But is it true? The fundamental paradox of historiography (the study of the study of history) is that, no matter how hard we try and no matter what "proof" we find, we can never really know what happened.
We continue to investigate the hypothesis that the Earhart/Noonan flight ended at Nikumaroro, not because we don't have anything better to do, and not because it's the easiest theory to investigate (the Japanese capture theory is much easier) or because we've already dropped a pile of time, energy and money on it, or because our egos won't let us admit that we may be wrong. We continue to follow this trail because it is producing results. If some have difficulty recognizing those results, that's okay. If we're right, the harder we look the more we'll find and the easier it will be for them to understand the evidence. And, as you say, no matter what we find, some will disagree. That's okay too.
Patrick Gaston writes:
>...it seems to
me that the entire debate comes down to how much fuel was >left in
No. Chater's explanation of where the 1,100 US gallon figure comes from is nice to have but the only reason that there is a debate at all is the lack of understanding among the debaters about basic issues of source credibility. Is there ANYONE out there who has at least a BA in History who does not agree that contemporaneous written sources are superior to decades-old recollections?
>Chater also refers
to the short tank as having a capacity of 81 gallons,
We don't have to guess about this. The Bureau of Air Commerce Inspection Report of May 19, 1937 (the last one done before the flight) certifies that the aircraft had 12 fuel tanks of the following capacities -
In the wing centersection:
In the fuselage:
Total - 1,151 gallons
>In other words,
Chater's "1,100 gallons" is an estimate based upon another
No. Chater says that the 81 gallon tank containing 100 octane "was approximately half full and can be safely estimated that on leaving Lae contained at least 40 gallons." The only estimate involved is how much fuel was in the tank that was not filled. Chater says that that amount can be "safely estimated" as "at least" 40 gallons. In other words, Chater is quite sure that there was not less than 40 gallons of gas in that tank. If the amount was exactly 40 gallons, that would give the airplane a total fuel load of 1,110 US gallons (1,151 minus 41). It would appear, therefore, that Chater's 1,100 figure at departure allows for warm-up, taxi, and run-up. In any event, I see no reason to dispute the figure as a number to start with when we attempt to determine how long the airplane could remain aloft and how far it could go on the flight in question.
>As for Iredale,
I wouldn't rush to dismiss his story as a mere reminiscence
But that's exactly what it is. That doesn't make it wrong and it shouldn't be dismissed. The point is, if credible contemporaneous sources disagree with anecdote, you go with the better source.
Ric writes Aug.15.:
>Is truth subjective?
[...] But it's hard to debate the truth of, say, gravity.
Granted that Newton's law of gravity goes largely unchallenged by now. Nevertheless, even in the so called exact sciences like Physics and Cosmology the "truth" that we teach our childern in schools only coincides with the *current* scientific opinion (and consensus) which is by no means always unchallenged. Physics has advanced into dimensions that cannot be observed directly (neutrinos & Co.) but are "proven" by indirect experiments.
The implications of new (anything that happened in this century is new) mathematical models are so mind boggling that even their discoverers ultimately deny them.
A. Einstein and E. Schroedinger after postulating Quantum Mechanics became its most fervent opponents because they couldn't *believe* the implications of their theory (see the thought experiment called "Schroedinger's Cat" in which a cat bound into a quantum mechanical observation would be in a neither dead nor alive state before observation and only at the instant of measurement assume one of the two states).
Still the overwhelming evidence (indirect of course - no smoking guns - nobody ever *saw* a neutrino) brought forward by decades of experiments convinced the majority (by far not all) in the scientific community and thus QM became the current scientific opinion and is thought as the *truth* (sic!) in Universities all over the world today. And Physics is supposed to be an exact science.
LTM (who is appalled
at sacrificing a poor little kitty in a thought experiment)
We have actually dabbled with the thought of modelling the whole Earhart thing as a probability study, haven't found a volunteer mathematician who was willing to crunch it for us but it would be quite interesting.... probably too many variables.
Historical truth is of a different flavor than mathematical proof, in many ways. But even in physics and mathematics, the "best" models are those that work in the real world, accounting for all the facts. That's why QM is generally accepted now---- when applied to the "real" world (granted, at that level, the reality of the world is a little fuzzy) QM explains things and predicts things quite well, whether Einstein and Schroedinger liked it or not. While no one has ever seen a neutrino, cannot one observe their paths, and also their effects on other objects?
If we're right, then our models will continue to predict and explain with a fairly high degree of success, whether Cam Warren et al like it or not. We cannot be there for the actual end of the Earhart flight (lacking a time machine) but we can certainly observe the evidence and the effect of their presence on the island, and later on the island's people.
Pat, who agrees entirely with Mother about the poor cat.
Mike Muenich asks:
>Does anyone have any knowledge about how much of the fuel load was "usable".
It's a good question to which, unfortunately, there is no good answer as far as I know. We have a Lockheed drawing dated March 12, 1937 entitled "Fuel System Diagram Amelia Earhart Electra" which is a schematic of the system with the same tanks described in the May 19, 1937 Inspection Report. No notation about "usable" fuel appears in any of the paperwork, but the schematic does show that on March 10, 1937 a "stripping valve and wobble pump" was added to the system. This would appear to be an understandable attempt to insure that as much of the fuel aboard as possible was usable. But that's as good as it gets.
Have been reading article in TIGHAR Tracks, Vol. 12, No. 2/3 entitled "Log Jam" again. Also looking at map on pg 4 of same issue. Do we have any information concerning wind speeds/directions Noonan used to establish headings for Amelia to steer to arrive at Howland? Since they were flying many hours at night over water at an altitude of 8000-10000 feet (am guessing this altitude for best power settings per chart in article) and probably couldn't observe the sea state to estimate wind conditions, how far off target and in what direction would they be if Noonan had estimated an easterly headwind of 5-10 knots more than actual? I ask this since my roommate-the station meteorologist--at Canton claimed he had the most boring job in the AF. His daily forecasts were normally all the same---easterly winds at 5-15 knots. Some days, however, there was not even a breeze-the dog days.
To partially answer my last question above, while neither being a pilot nor navigator, I would guess the Electra could be 50-100 miles northeasterly of Howland after 8-10 hours of night flying without weather info necessary to make heading corrections. Such a location would also provide radio signal strengths of S5 as recorded during the last 2-3 transmissions from Amelia. As Ric reads this, he will say something like, "Forest WOULD want this answer since he wants Bruce's engine to have been found on an island closer to Hull". Yes, I guess I do if the engine turns out to be Amelia's since I' m 99.99% certain Bruce didn't go to Niku to find it. About all the artifacts found on Niku? Isn't it possible the natives brought them when the natives were taken from Sydney and Hull?
Anyway, would enjoy any discussion on the above.
Randy, this wind stuff is your department, especially when Ric is out of town which he is.
There is not a lot of wind information at elevation other than at Howland itself, and that only during the day. We can extrapolate winds at the sea surface from the Itasca and Ontario/Nauru, but that doesn't give us a lot of constraints. Running Monte Carlo simulations on AE's navigation suggests that the more likely scenario is that she ended up SW of Howland, due to stronger headwinds at the beginning of her flight, and slightly more northerly winds at the end than forecast.
LTM, who doesn't like winds to pick up her dress ala M.Monroe
Thanks to Forest for bringing up the subject of the other islands. As long as the subject was brought up, I would like to know what islands the TIGHAR group visited. I think Tom King said you visited one or two of the other islands early on.
I know it is probably in the TIGHAR Tracks articles somewhere. I would like to read it there also, it you can point me in the right direction. It is so much easier to ask the Masters than to go searching in all that stuff.
The only other island we visited was McKean, a barren outcropping of coral which is home to roughly one million seabirds. You can smell it from a mile off shore, and hear it farther than that. The vegetation there maxes out at about 24 inches, and the lagoon is a skim of water over an apparently bottomless pit of guano. There are the remains of walls of buildings from the guano mining activities of the late 1800s there, and nothing else. It is quite certain that had the Electra landed there, it and its crew would have been clearly visible to the Colorado pilots, who overflew it. Check out the TIGHAR Tracks which had reports of the first expedition.... probably winter 1989/spring 1990... don't remember which issues.
We've never had the funds to investigate any of the other islands. The ship charters at $4200/day plus food and fuel, and you are talking a number of days to go 'round the group.
Mike Meunich asks:
>Is it possible
to identify the common named tanks with the air commerce
There is no confusion. The Bureau of Air Commerce Inspection Report specifies that the aircraft has two 81 gallon tanks. The locations of these tanks, and the others, are shown in a schematic attached to an earler (November 1936) inspection. The 81 gallon tanks are in the forward part of the inboard wing sections between the engines and the fuselage. It was one of those tanks (no way to be sure which one, but it doesn't matter) that was not filled.
None of the original sources make any reference to a "short" tank or a "take off" tank. Those are not standard aviation terms and, as far as I can tell, are merely descriptive phrases used by the author of that message.
can't believe the number of people that continue to write here
I'd like to comment on "negative manner" and "prove them wrong". Somehow (ok, I know how), this whole issue of what happened to Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan turned into a brawl between various theorists. There are as many who rally around one general theory as the other. The Silent Majority is whoever you think you are siding with at the time, whatever flag you find yourself rallying around.....at the time. That's human nature.... to want to be a part of the majority. It's how you justify what you think at the time (or where you're putting your hard earned cash), with the information available to you.
If this search for the truth about Amelia Earhart is ever.....ever?..... solved, then The Vast Majority of the people of the world aren't going to really care who was "proved wrong".
The Vast Majority (in my opinion) will wonder why in the world all these interested people didn't cooperate with each other instead of trying to prove each other wrong!
Serious researchers with the purest of motives will put solving the mystery above being "right". They won't mind being "proved wrong". They might wish they had seen it first, or sooner, but they will be infinitely happy that somebody finally did it! .... unless, of course, solving the mystery has some other meaning for them......pmw
Let's clarify why TIGHAR is looking for Amelia Earhart in the first place. We're not trying to solve the mystery because it is historically important to know what happened to Earhart. It isn't.
We're not trying to solve the mystery to honor Earhart's memory. She already has plenty of admirers.
We're not trying to solve the mystery to prove anybody wrong. That's just petty.
We're trying to solve the mystery to prove a point -- that the truth is accessible to anyone who will take the time to learn and employ the basic principles of the scientific method. This is about learning how to think, how to gather and evaluate evidence, how to develop a hypothesis, how to test that hypothesis, how to analyze the results of that testing to improve the hypothesis and test it again, and perhaps ultimately, to be able to reach a rational conclusion. The Earhart Project is an educational vehicle -- for us and for everyone else who struggles with the puzzle along with us.
That's why I'm so insistent that those who are negative about our hypothesis, and all others too, accept some basic principles of historical investigation before we debate specific points of fact. The process of getting there is far more important than the destination.
Love to mother,
To elaborate a little on Pat's answer to Don Jordan's query about the history of the other islands Phoenix Group:
Hull was the only island of the Group that was inhabited at the time of Earhart's disappearance. A guy named John Williams Jones was there supervising a work party of Tokelau islanders who were planting coconut trees under contract to Burns Philp Co., an Australian firm. They had done some work at Sydney also but had moved everyone back to Hull by July. (That's why Lambrecht and company saw huts but no people at Sydney.) No work was done at Gardner. The British put a couple of guys and a radio on Canton late in 1937.
When the British set up P.I.S.S. they settled only three islands of the Phoenix Group - Sydney, Hull, and Gardner. Because Sydney and Hull already had trees planted they could support larger populations than Gardner which was still undeveloped. Pan Am developed Canton as a seaplane base for refueling flights to Samoa and New Zealand. During the war, of course, Canton became a huge facility. After the war it became a major refueling stop for transpacific traffic.
When Canton was shut down in the early '60s with the coming of jet travel, the British also shut down the settlements on Sydney, Hull and Gardner. Nobody has lived there since. Canton became the downrange headquarters of a USAF missile testing program (SAMTEC) in the early 1970s. During that operation helicopters visited all of the other islands of the Group but there was no permanent settlement. When the islands became part of the newly formed Republic of Kiribati in 1979 a small administrative population was put on Canton (now Kanton) and is still there. No settlement or resettlement of the other islands has yet been undertaken.
Natko Katicic, in his posting of Scientific Truth, and Pat, in her response refers to science and historical truth. In particular, Pat stated:
>We have actually
dabbled with the thought of modelling the whole
Perhaps I can help in modelling AE's flight. I had independently taken a similar approach several months ago, and developed a computerized program to track, as far as is possible, AE's actual flight. I put my spherical trigonometry experience and computer backgound into good use, breaking the problem into four steps:
A) Determining a most likely path that AE followed assuming "perfect" great circle navigation.
B) Comparing this with actual information from the flight.
C) Reviewing sources of potential errors and their likely impact.
D) Forecasting AE's most probable final position.
In the first stage, I tried to include such factors as great circle position, the increase in Air Speed as a function of fuel (i.e. weight) remaining, the effect on altitude changes, wind and direction on the distance flown each hour, etc.
During the second I compared the known flight information with this computerized flight plan. This stage produced a few surprises (to me, at least), especially bearing on when and where Noonan might have selected an offset and follow a 157/337 LOP.
The third and fourth steps are being checked now, and the results should be available shortly. However I have progressed far enough to develop preliminary information which supports (surprise) the theory that she landed on Nikumaroro (Gardner Island).
If this is of any interest, I can send you a aeries of postings (every couple of days) stepping the forum through this approach, listing the major assumptions, and a series of conclusions.
Of course I realize this approach may not be accurate or even of interest, but I still believe it might be helpful as a "scientific" approach.
PS - I still hope to be of help on the next edition.
Sounds fascinating. The validity of the conclusions, of course, depend upon the validity of the assumptions and I see a couple of problems right away. Airspeed does not increase as fuel is burned off. Power is reduced to conserve fuel and airspeed remains constant at the most efficient figure for a particular aircraft (in the case of NR16020, 150 mph/130 knots). You also seem to be assuming that Noonan selected an offset on his approach to Howland. I know of no evidence that he did so and some pretty compelling evidence that he did not.
What you're doing sounds somewhat similar to the Monte Carlo simulation that Randy Jacobson worked on. Assumming we can all agree on what assumptions can be made, it might be a useful exercise.
In Ric's reasonable response to Cam Warren, he asked:
>Next point. Do
you agree that the power/fuel management recommendations
A very good approach -- however, I only have limited information on these power/fuel recommendations. Are more detailed notes available?
Incidently, my computer program assumes that the plane throttles back as its weight decreases, after reaching planned airspeed. However, I also use an increase in airspeed with lower fuel weight during the initial phase, namely the time between takeoff and reaching nominal airspeed. Is this wrong?
LTM (who was another
"Kelly" Johnson fan)
> We're trying to
solve the mystery to prove a point - that the truth is
I would like to commend Ric on one of the most erudite and positive answers I have ever read on the subject of why Amelia. For TIGHAR, there is little doubt that the public face of Amelia forms the perfect rallying point to further the organization's core goals -- research and study, archaelogy, preservation, and understanding the value of history.
For others, however, the whole Amelia affair has more to do with personal profits. Put the search and others under the harsh light of the sun, and ask that Latin question, "Cui Bono?" -- which translates to "Who is to benefit?" Anytime you ask this of TIGHAR, you find a wonderful set of answers -- most laudable being in the field of education and preservation.
Thomas Van Hare
You're doing a commendable job of explaining why some evidence is given greater weight than other evidence, but some folks just don't seem to get it. Sources closest to a given event, in either distance or time, get the greatest weight of validity. This is why the Itasca radio operator's log gets more credibility than the report of the guy who used it as a source for his own report. Why then, some might ask, isn't Iredale (who fueled the Electra) given more credibility than Chater (who reported the fueling)? The answer is simple--and by the rules-- Iredale was closer in distance, but his report isn't--it's a 50 year old oral recollection. Chater, who was at least one step further removed from the fueling operation than Iredale, has a written report FROM THAT DAY. Using the Kennedy asassination as an illustration, the Zapruder film was shot from a distance, and isn't really clear. If then Texas Governor Conally, who was actually in the car with Kennedy, had made some statement prior to his death a few years ago that he distinctly remembered shots from the grassy knoll,(VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: HE MADE NO SUCH STATEMENT) it would be an oral recollection of events 35 years past, and as such, even though he was closer, in distance, to the event than Zapruder, Zapruder's evidence (the film) carries more weight because it is actual documentation from that day. This is why Ric correctly gives greater weight to contemporaneous documentation, and lesser weight to anecdotes (like 50 year old memories) even if they come from sources closer to the actual event.
This is why politicians give polling results rather than the raw data. Raw data (what were the exact questions asked, and of whom) cannot be spun for favorable effect. Iredale's memory might be perfectly accurate, but it is subject to 50 years of possible, unintentional, spin. That's why Chater's report MUST be given more weight.
As regards TIGHAR's Niku landing theory, it too is based on logic. The only known sources of aircraft debris on Niku are the C-47 crash on Sydney, and NR16020 (which was certainly lost in the vicinity).
The plexiglass shard found on Niku by TIGHAR searchers is not consistent with any plexiglass found in C-47s, but is consistent with plexiglass found on Lockheed 10Es. The logical conclusion, since there were no other Lockheed 10Es lost in the vicinity, is that the plexiglass shard came from NR16020, which was last known to be within range of, and on a bearing to Niku/Gardner. Now, if new facts surface which could better explain the evidence found, Ric has already stated that we would go "back to the drawing board". Despite claims on this forum to the contrary, no such new facts have been found or presented.
The shoe fragments found are dealt with in the same manner, and have the same conclusion. Shoe fragments found on Niku are from a mid 1930's woman's blucher oxford. Earhart, who disappeared in the vicinity in the late 1930's, was photographed shortly before her disappearance wearing blucher oxfords. The crew of the Norwich City would have been wearing shoes made prior to 1930, because she wrecked on Gardner in 1929. Also highly unlikely that any of them wore women's blucher oxfords, of any vintage. Neither Bevington, Gallagher, or any of the P.I.S.S. settlers were known to wear women's blucher oxfords. Unless some facts surface that show someone else on Gardner island in the mid to late 1930's--someone who wore women's blucher oxford shoes, then the fragments found can be safely assumed to have come from Earhart.
The beauty of logic is that when you do it correctly (by the rules) it cannot be refuted unless new, previously unknown, indisputable facts are brought to light which better explain your previously arrived at logical conclusions.
TIGHAR's logical conclusion, based on the indisputable facts available, is that NR16020 landed on Niku.
I'm only an amateur logician, and new to TIGHAR, so Ric, or anyone else should feel free to correct any errors I've made above.
On a decidedly illogical note, the movie MARS ATTACKS was on TV a few nights ago. Did anyone else notice that the main word in the Martian vocabulary was "KHAQQ"?
LTM (who apologizes
for this being such a long post)
From Cam Warren
Yes, I agree Kelly Johnson is an excellent choice, but -- a word of caution -- he also said (I paraphrase) Earhart ran out of gas and splashed down (it's in his book).
Forum please note:
The above posting has been edited to remove irrelevant offensive passages. The only reason I didn't bounce the submission entirely is that the question of Johnson's remarks in his autobiography does come up from time to time and is worth discussing.
Over the past few days there have been a number of postings and quite a few private emails to me expressing what can only be termed disgust with Cam Warren's behavior and annoyance with me for letting that behavior intrude on the Forum's work. We have received no postings or private communications to the contrary. Therefore, in a last ditch attempt to avoid banning Mr. Warren from the forum altogether, I'll post only those portions of his submissions that deal with facts and evidence.
My response to Mr. Warren:
Do you agree that the validity of Kelly Johnson's opinion of how far the airplane could go (as expressed in his autobiography) depends entirely upon whether or not he had an accurate figure for how much fuel was aboard? Remember that prior to the discovery of the Chater letter in 1991, the Electra's fuel load was the subject of much debate. The most widely known proponent of the crashed-and-sank school was (and still is) Elgen Long who was very sure that the airplane could not have taken off with more than 1,000 gallons (see the section on "Fuel" in Appendix B of Mary Lovell's The Sound of Wings).
I don't have a copy of Johnson's book. As I recall the title was something like, More Than My Share Of It All. Can somebody give us a publication date and quote exactly what Kelly had to say?
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