Forum artHighlights From the Forum

August 23 through 28, 1999

Subject: Johnson's Tables
Date: 8/23/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Harry #2300 writes:

>I only have limited information on these power/fuel recommendations. Are
>more detailed notes available?

Here are Johnson's recommendations:

Time Altitude Manifold Pressure RPM Gallons per/hour
1 hour
0-8,000 ft
28.5 inches HG
3 hours
8,000 ft
28 inches HG
3 hours
8,000 ft
26.5 inches HG
3 hours
8,000 ft
25 inches HG
10,000 ft
24 inches HG

>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?

We don't have any hard data on what airspeed was recommended for the climb so anything I say here is just old pilot talk. In a situation like this I would expect that there was a very narrow window between stall and maximum speeds. Anecdotal witness reports (see The Collopy Letter) suggest that, at first, the best they could do was stagger along just above the water in ground effect. As fuel burned off they'd be able to begin a slow climb but their airspeed might remain pretty much the same. Normally, on a long flight you'd use a slightly higher airspeed than normal for slightly better efficiency - what's known as a "cruise climb" -- but I'd be surprised if they had that option. Johnson's tables call for 28.5 inches and 2,050 RPM for the first hour during which they're going to climb to 8,000 feet and burn a 100 gallons (600 pounds) of gas. If it takes the full hour to reach that altitude that's an average rate of climb of only 133 ft/min. Nothing to write home about but I'll betcha they didn't do much better than that. This is just a guess, but I'd say that during that first hour their speed ranged from maybe 100 mph to no more than about 120 mph. Even after they leveled at 8,000 I'd be surprised if they saw their target cruise speed of 150 mph until several hours later. That puppy was HEAVY.


Subject: Expedition Report---Part 2, First Installment
Date: 8/23/99
From: Ric Gillespie

The Interviews

While still on Nikumaroro during Niku IIIIP we had received word via satellite phone that the team in Fiji had talked to a woman who was a former resident of the island. She described seeing aircraft wreckage on the Nutiran reef north of the Norwich City shipwreck. A few days later, another interview with an early settler, said to be the widow of the island's radio operator, appeared to confirm that villagers on Nikumaroro in the prewar years were aware that an airplane had come to grief there at some time before their arrival.

During the voyage back to Fiji, again via sat/phone, we made arrangements to do follow-up interviews with the two women. No video or audio tape had been made of the initial interviews out of concern that cameras or recorders might create an intimidating atmosphere, but a friendly rapport had been established and we hoped that it would be possible to videotape the second interviews. We arrived in Suva, Fiji early on the morning of Sunday, July 25 and were scheduled to fly back to the U.S. the night of Tuesday, July 27, so it was imperative that we waste no time in arranging and preparing for the interviews.

Foua Tofiga

(pronounced "fowOOa towFINGa")

That afternoon, July 25, Kristin Tague and I met with Foua Tofiga who had worked as a clerk for the Western Pacific High Commission in Suva during the years in question and had been instrumental in helping our Fiji Team locate and contact the two women. He also served as translator during the interviews. Kris and I spent a pleasant two hours or so with him at his home. I found him to be a pleasant, well-educated, articulate, and soft-spoken man with an excellent command of English. Having studied the files of the Western Pacific High Commission, I was quite familiar with the names, procedures and personalities of the WPHC and in chatting about those times and those people it was immediately apparent that Mr. Tofiga was entirely genuine in his representation of his experience. He was, in fact, able to clear up several questions we had about the meaning of various abbreviations in the files and flesh out our picture of the various officials with personal anecdotes.

Tofiga at Nikumaroro

Mr. Tofiga has only been to Nikumaroro once, in late November 1941 with High Commissioner Sir Harry Luke who was touring the Phoenix Islands settlements in the wake of the death of Officer-in-Charge Gerald Gallagher in September. His presence on that trip is confirmed in the published diary of Sir Harry Luke (A South Seas Diary, Nicholson & Watson, London, 1945) who says: "The party consisted of Dr. Macpherson and 'Mungo' Thompson with Tofinga (sic), the Ellice Islander clerk from the High Commission, as interpreter." Tofiga has no recollection of seeing or hearing about bones or airplane wreckage during that visit but Sir Harry's diary indicates that the ship was only at Gardner one day (Sunday, November 30, 1941). Mr. Tofiga's recollection that it was during his visit to Nikumaroro that the party learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor is apparently in error.

The Sextant Box

Despite his close association with the top officials of the WPHC, Tofiga had not been aware of the discovery of bones and artifacts on Gardner nor had he seen any of the official correspondence about attempts to identify them. This was because he worked in the Accounts section rather than in Correspondence and, as we know, the whole issue of the castaway of Gardner Island was kept "strictly secret." Tofiga does, however, remember that Henry Vaskess, Secretary of the WPHC, kept a collection of curios on a credenza in his office. The center piece was a wooden box which, Tofiga says, looked very much like the photos we showed him of the Pensacola sextant box. His recollection matches the official record which last mentions the sextant box as being stored in Vaskess' office. Mr. Tofiga doesn't remember whether it had any numbers on it and has no idea what may have eventually become of it.

Otiria O'Brian

(pronounced "ohSEEria O'Brian")

Mrs. O'Brian was interviewed twice by TIGHAR: once by Kristin Tague, with Foua Tofiga serving as translator, on Monday, July 19th and again by me, accompanied by Kris, with Tofiga again translating, on Tuesday, July 26th. The latter interview was videotaped. Mrs. O'Brian, despite her Irish surname, is a Gilbert Islander by birth. Her late husband, Fasimata O'Brian, was not Irish either but was born in the Ellice Islands. (Perhaps there was an Irishman involved somewhere along the line but that was not clear.) Otiria speaks and understands virtually no English The interviews were conducted in her bedroom in her son's home where she is confined by her frail health. Tofiga translated the questions into Gilbertese, and her answers into English.

Throughout both interviews she appeared to be alert and lucid, and although some of her memories seemed to be jumbled, others tracked quite accurately with known documented events. Otiria O'Brian is a Protestant Christian and, to my astonishment, began her videotaped interview by turning to the camera and singing several verses of a Gilbertese song which Mr. Tofiga later explained was a hymn about "Standing firm for Christ." She says she is 80 years old which would make her year of birth 1919, and her general appearance seems consistent with that age. But when asked what year she was born she said she was born in August of 670 and went to Nikumaroro in 178. It is possible that she was using a numbering system that is not familiar to Tofiga or to us.

Otiria says she was born on the island of Onotoa in the southern Gilberts. When asked how she and her family came to live in the Phoenix Islands, she says that the government came and told the people that "Those who wished to own land - they could go." That's a good description of what happened and most of the first settlers did come from the southern Gilberts, including several from Onotoa.

In both interviews Mrs. O'Brian made it clear that she never lived on Nikumaroro but only stopped there briefly enroute to Sydney Island (Manra) where she and her family settled. Fortunately, the specifics of the settlement of the Phoenix Group are well documented in the official record. From clues gleaned from her answers to various specific questions it is possible to pin down when she was there.

Although she doesn't remember the name of the ship that brought her to the Phoenix Group, she does recall that it was a "big ship" that "belonged to Banaba" (Ocean Island). "Word came from Heaven saying that it was all right to go on this ship because it was from the government." This could be a reference to an endorsement of the Phoenix Island Settlement Scheme (P.I.S.S.) by the London Missionary Society, the predominant religious presence in the southern Gilberts. Ocean Island was the headquarters for the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony which administered P.I.S.S. Its principal vessel was the Royal Colony Ship (RCS) Nimanoa. Indeed, most of the settlers for Gardner (Nikumaroro), Hull (Orona), and Sydney (Manra) were transported in Nimanoa.

Sailing from the Gilbert Islands they came first to Nikumaroro where they went ashore in boats that belonged to the ship and spent one night in the village where there was a "wooden house". About "20 or 10" people, including some women and children, "whose names were for Nikumaroro" stayed behind when, the next day, the others numbering "20 or 30" reboarded the ship and continued on to Orona where some disembarked. The rest, including Otiria and her family, came finally to Manra.

Gerald Gallagher, Officer-in-Charge of the Phoenix Island Settlement Scheme, whom Mrs. O'Brian refers to as "Kela", was already in residence on Nikumaroro when she got there. He had "a house that was just built" and he had "servants to cook for him." She says that he came with them when the ship continued on to the other islands.

Being from Onotoa, I wondered if she might remember the name of the headman on Nikumaroro who had been a prominent figure on Onotoa before becoming Native Magistrate on Nikumaroro. To my surprise, the name she came up with was not Teng Koata, but "Tikana." Bauro Tikana was Gallagher's clerk and interpreter. He arrived with Gallagher in September 1940 at the same time that Koata took a leave of absence and traveled to Tarawa.

It seems clear that Mrs. O'Brian was on Nikumaroro, albeit very briefly, sometime after Gallagher's arrival in early September 1940 but before his departure for Fiji in early June 1941. We can further constrain the time because, according to Gallagher's "Progress Report, Fourth Quarter 1940", his house on Nikumaroro was not sufficiently completed to permit occupancy until the middle of November. It is also clear from his report that no ships and no new settlers arrived between his arrival in September and the end of the year. He does mention that "RCS Nimanoa paid a very hurried visit to the District to distribute essential stores" in early January 1941. The ship called at Nikumaroro first, apparently on the 11th, and Gallagher accompanied it to Orona and Manra to check on the progress of those settlements. No mention is made of the ship bringing any new settlers but neither is it specifically stated that it did not. The "Progress Report, First Quarter 1941" specifically states that aside from Nimanoa's brief visit in January, "No shipping has been available for the transport of settlers, stores, or equipment..." through the end of the quarter (March 1941). During the spring of 1941 RCS Nimanoa was being overhauled in Suva and no other ships are mentioned in the record as having visited Nikumaroro.

It would therefore appear that there is really only one documented possibility for when Otiria O'Brian spent her night on Nikumaroro - January 11, 1941. This places her visit well after Gallagher had found the bones in September. Indeed, the same ship that brings her to the Phoenix Group carries the box of bones and the artifacts away from Nikumaroro when it leaves (Gallagher's letter that accompanies the shipment is dated December 27, 1940). This may help explain her response to my question:

"Was there a shipwreck at Nikumaroro?"

"No. It went aground, but was not broken up. Maybe it is still there. There was no damage to it. It was right on the reef but there were no people on board. I remember seeing it. Standing there firm. Nothing broken. No people. Another ship came and took away the people from the ship. The government put a stop to people going on board.

When Mr. Kela (Gallagher) arrived he went to that ship and found a person that had been killed but he was put under the ship, below the ship. Mr. Kela then directed certain ones to come and build a box and put this person in it and take it to be buried. The person was lifted and put in the box. The one who died was not a European. He came from Onotoa."

The story about the body and the box may be a very garbled rendition of something she heard on the island about the bones Gallagher found and the box built to contain them. We've heard other stories about bones being found near the shipwreck which may or may not be true, but Gallagher certainly made no mention of any such discovery. Her assertion that the one who died was from Onotoa could stem from the fact that the original discovery of the skull seems to have been made by Teng Koata, the Native Magistrate from Onotoa who left the island when Gallagher arrived.

If Mrs. O'Brian's recollections about Kela finding a body are difficult to match with known events, her account of an airplane wreck at Nikumaroro is even more confusing. Greatly complicating the issue is the fact that she spent the war years on Sydney Island (Manra) where we know that a C-47 crashed catastrophically on December 17, 1943. How much of what she remembers of that event is mixed up with what she says about what she heard talked about on Nikumaroro is hard to determine.

In her initial interview, Kris Tague asked her whether she had seen wreckage of any kind at Nikumaroro. She answered:

"Many things I have seen. Things that float or move about in the sea. People said they were parts of an airplane."

(Note: As far as we know, Mrs. O'Brian had no idea that Kris had any interest in anything about an airplane. I later asked Mr. Tofiga if, in setting up the initial interview, he had told Mrs. O'Brian that we are searching for an airplane. He was quite sure that he had not.)

"People and even members of the government came to look at it. ... Men were making expressions of sadness about the fate of those whose plane crashed. I didn't see because we were there only briefly. ... It is said that they broke up and sank in the ocean. They said that the parts were seen by a ship and they went to look for more of them."

In her second interview eight days later, I tried everything I could think of to give her an opportunity to talk about the airplane wreckage without "leading" her. I asked if there was anything unusual about the island. She said the fishing was very good. I asked if there were other wrecks on the island besides the ship that was on the reef. She said there were other wrecks there and on Orona, but volunteered no details. (There were no other shipwrecks at Nikumaroro but there was a shipwreck at Orona). Finally, in desperation, I asked:

"Did the people on Nikumaroro say anything about an airplane?"

"We did not stay on Nikumaroro. I was on Manra."

(Okay, I thought, let's see if she knows about the crash on Manra.)

"How long did you live on Manra?"

"We were there when we were young and when we were girls." (giggles)

"During the war?"


"Do you remember an airplane crashing on Manra?"

"There was one, but it landed in the lagoon. [As indeed it did.] Nobody died. Only a few days and they went away."
I said nothing while she thought for a minute.
"We buried three of them and maybe the one who piloted the plane. One died and one lived. I do not know for sure if they were American or British."
(In fact, there were nine fatalities in the Sydney Island crash. All died on impact except one who lived for about fifteen minutes.)

I then said to her as a statement, not a question,

"But you remember nothing about an airplane at Nikumaroro."

After a long thoughtful pause she said,

"There was a plane that crashed at Nikumaroro. There was a woman. No. A couple. A man and a woman. The man was the pilot. He was the one flying the plane."

(Another long pause during which I said nothing.)

"A bullet hit in the eye (gestures toward her eye) and of course that made him lose control (moves her hands as if rocking a steering wheel). One died. The Onotoa people came and lifted him out and made a box for him. When he was questioned why he didn't take care, he said that he was hit and he didn't have any control. The Onotoa people were very angry so that that one became very frightened (here she laughs) and he was saying, 'I didn't kill him. I didn't do anything bad to him. He was my brother.' And he left his plane and followed the Onotoa people. One died. The other lived."

I then asked,
"How did you hear about it?"
"This happened before the war. He died. He was buried a day after the war happened."
I decided to try again.
"How did you hear about this thing that happened on Nikumaroro?"
"This I heard because this happened before we arrived at Nikumaroro. We arrived and we followed the burial procession. The man who died was a government official. He was buried under the flag, not in the common graveyard."

This sounds very much like Gallagher's death. He was the only government official to die during this period and he was buried at the foot of the flagpole on Nikumaroro, but that wasn't until September of 1941. Was she there or did she just hear about it? More importantly, how much of her airplane story or stories are rooted in fact? Which details belong to which crash? The pilot of the plane who was questioned by the Onotoa people could be the one brief survivor of the Sydney crash. The C-47 had been circling the island and inexplicably hit a palm tree on a low pass. Was the fatally injured pilot trying to explain to the islanders who found him that a bird had come through the windshield and struck him in the face? Were the protestations of innocence that Mrs. O'Brian found so amusing, in fact, the hysterical apologies of a guilt-ridden dying pilot? We'll never know.

It would be tempting to ascribe all of her memories about crashed airplanes to the one accident we know happened on the island where she lived, except that some of the details she offers about the Nikumaroro wreck don't fit the Sydney wreck at all. The mention of "a woman, a man and a woman, a couple" is remarkable. She also describes not a witnessed crash but parts said to be "pieces of a plane." The phrase "the parts were seen by a ship" can be interpreted as "the parts were seen by people on a ship" or it could mean "the parts were seen near a ship." If she meant the latter, then her recollections match those of Emily Sikuli who says she saw aircraft wreckage on the reef at Nikumaroro near the wreck of the S.S. Norwich City.

In the next installment we'll review Emily's story. She is younger and much clearer in her memories than is Mrs. O'Brian. She also lived on Nikumaroro for two years.

Love to mother,

Subject: A Bendix DF?
Date 8/23/99
From: Cam Warren

Ric says:

> . . . without knowing what the frequency range of her DF
>receiver was (if she had a separate DF receiver at all), it's
>impossible to say whether Earhart's request for signals on 7500
>kcs was a mistake or not."

AE stated quite clearly in Last Flight that she had a Bendix DF aboard. Isn't she a good source under the circumstances? So why say "IF she had a separate DF receiver . . ."? (Emphasis mine).

Cam Warren

From Ric

Let's take a look at what actually is said in Last Flight. In the chapter entitled "Karachi" she is describing the layout of her instrument panel.

One group of instruments has to do with the engines and is completely duplicated for each motor. There is another nest of flight and navigation instruments, aids in establishing the ship's position in space and its location geographically. In the first are numbered turn and bank, rate of climb, air speed, artificial horizon, and similar indicators. In the latter are compasses, directional gyros, the Bendix direction finder, and various radio equipment. In the center of the instrument board is the Sperry Gyro Pilot, the automatic device which can relieve the human pilot.

There are twelve fuel tanks (holding in all 1,150 gallons), six of them in the wings and six in the fuselage, whence complicated plumbing leads to the engines. On long flights there always a tidy bit of bookkeeping to do, for one should know exactly how much fuel has been used and how much remains.

The receiver for the Western Electric radio is under the co-pilot's seat and the transmitter is in the cabin. The main dynamo is under my seat. The radio's cuplike microphone is hung beside the window at the left. .....

She goes on to inventory practically the whole darned airplane.

The loop antenna over the cockpit and the display on the instrument panel are clearly Bendix products. No argument. The question whether the antenna and display are coupled to the Western Electric receiver or whether there's a separate Bendix receiver in the airplane. When Earhart says that the "Bendix direction finder" is on the instrument panel she is clearly talking about a display, not a receiver. The receiver would be far too large to mount the whole thing in the instrument panel. Earhart then goes on to describe the location of all of the components of the radio system right down to where the mic is hung, but no mention of any receiver other than the Western Electric under the co-pilot's seat.

I wish you could show me some real evidence that there was another receiver aboard the airplane. It would sure answer some puzzling questions.


Subject: Re: Shoes
Date: 8/24/99
From: William Webster-Garman

Excuse me for jumping in on this one...

William Dohenguy wrote

> My point being,
> Tighar found, on Niku, the remains of a shoe in 1991.
> However, in the early
> 1940's, there was a great war in that area, and many women, presumably
> wearing Blucher Oxfords might have been in the area too...

1) There is no documented record of any female of European ancestry being on Gardner in the 30s and 40s (that is, the roughly 20 year period when the Blucher Oxfords in question most likely arrived on the island). No shipwrecks, no cruise ship visits, no military or medical personnel. Several males of European ancestry, mostly British and American, visited the island, but we know of no women. This tends to lead to a logical possibility that Earhart was the owner of the shoes. Note that this is not proof, just a heightened probability. There may well have been a small number of undocumented visits to Gardner by one or more females of European ancestry during this period. One of those women could have been Earhart, because she disappeared while piloting an airplane in the general vicinity.

2) When we correlate the shoe fragments with Gallagher's discovery of the human remains of a man and a woman, dating from the 1930s and probably of European ancestry, combine this with the island's well-documented history and then factor in all those anecdotal accounts of plane wreckage (remembering that there is no documented instance of any plane ever crashing on Gardner during that period), a body of circumstantial evidence begins to build, pointing to the possibility (but as yet, not proof) that these things appeared on the island because Earhart was there in 1937.

William #2243

Subject: Re: Aircraft crash sites in the Phoenix Islands
Date: 8/25/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Don Jordan writes:

>All I remember about the story is that a plane disappeared while
>trying to fly from Hawaii to California, sometime before Earhart.

Sounds like they may have been talking about one of the Dole racers back in 1927 or 1928. After Lindbergh flew the Atlantic, Dole (as in pinapple) put up a huge prize for the first flight to Hawaii. There was a whole bunch of entrants but, as I recall, only one made it. There were several fatalities. The whole thing was a disaster.

Don's premise that there might have been undocumented flights across the Pacific that went missing anywhere near Howland or the Phoenix Group just doesn't hold water. It's about as likely that there were undocumented moon shots. Prior to WWII, flying across the Central Pacific was a big deal. The only commercial traffic was by Pan Am via Canton. Their only loss was Musick's S-42B at Samoa. Anybody else who was out there (such as Kingsford-Smith) was headline news. As for the military, the Brits were doing "sovereignty cruises" in the Phoenix Group in 1935-38 using cruisers which usually carried a seaplane, but there is no indication that any were lost. In June of 1941 the U.S. Navy sent a flock of PBYs down from Hawaii to fly around the islands and take pictures. None were lost. During the war there were a number of aircraft lost at Canton. These included a B-24 that went into the drink just after takeoff and a PV-1 Ventura that bellied in. There were probably other wrecks on the island. A few aircraft went missing enroute from Canton to other places and were presumed lost at sea. It is not inconceivable that one or more of these may have crashed on or near one of the uninhabited islands of the Phoenix Group. The C-47 crash on Sydney in December 1943 is the only known instance of an airplane crashing on any of the three inhabited atolls - Gardner, Hull and Sydney - and our experience with the Sydney crash indicates that any crash, however difficult to document, lives in the island folklore. After the war, the only loss we know of is an FAA Lockheed Constellation that bit it bigtime on Canton.

Obviously, none of the aircraft that came to grief on Canton are candidates for Bruce Yoho's engine. The Sydney crash is out because we have photos of both engines from the C-47 sitting on Sydney - and, of course, they were double row engines on dry land, not a single row engine in the water. That leaves the remote possibility that one of the aircraft missing and presumed lost at sea out of Canton came down on or near an uninhabited island and escaped notice. But all of those aircraft were B-24s (double row engines) except for one Martin PBM (also double row).

There is, of course, one airplane missing in the area which had engines that fit the description of the one Bruce says he found. I think that the most reasonable speculation is that he found one of the engines from that plane. However, since verifying his memory by finding the engine is a very expensive proposition, it seems like the next reasonable step should be to attempt to verify the accuracy of his memory by other means. If need to document that his memory is accurate and then, if possible, learn what island the engine came from.


Subject: The Bendix HF/DF
Date: 8/25/99
From: Cam Warren

As I have frequently pointed out, solving a puzzle often requires MORE than just collecting a fact or two. One tracks the quarry by following the bent grass - until you come to a river. Then you try to think like your prey - would it (he or she) go upstream or downstream? So it comes down to an educated guess (or first hand knowledge) of what the prey would most likely do. The casual observer would call it a "hunch". "Unscientific" perhaps, but Indian trackers were more often right than wrong.

Among the many puzzles surrounding the Earhart disappearance, I personally have been most concerned with the role played by the communications equipment (including the DF), since my experience is primarily in the field of electronics. To fully explain the long hunt for clues is more than I want to do at the moment, but here's a summation.

So what DF equipment did AE have (if any)? Why did she toss her (250') trailing wire antenna? Why did she ask for, and hear, a signal from the ITASCA on 7500 kc, and nothing else?

Suffice to say, my hypothesis answers these and other questions in a convincing manner (at least, to my satisfaction). No, I don't have hard evidence to connect the dots, unfortunately. But a dot here and a dot there is ample indication I'm on the right trail. Let's just say it's a "walks like a duck, quacks like a duck" situation.

Background: Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Navy was VERY interested in HF/DF in 1937, following the Coast Guard's success in tracking rum-runners during Prohibition. In '36 the Navy started fitting out PBY patrol planes with radio direction finders for military surveillance and ship location (NOT just to find their way back to base), and because they knew the Japanese and Germans were doing it. Prime contractor, Radio Research Labs, of Washington, D.C. In early '37, Vince Bendix, flushed with his success as an OEM for the auto industry (the Bendix starter drive), wanted to get a piece of the military budget, and bought Radio Research, and other companies, and formed Bendix Radio [All documented].

Note that Bendix was a supporter of aviation (the Bendix Air Races), and as such was a prime target for big time promoter George Palmer Putnam. Note too, that the announced reason for Earhart's "flying laboratory" was to test aircraft DF systems. (Put two and two together and Putnam rubs his hands!)

There's a lot of fine points to the story, but suffice to say, it's more than a good guess AE took off with a Bendix DF system, corroborated by Vernon Moore, Bendix project engineer, AE herself in LAST FLIGHT, aviation journalist C. B. Allen (Earhart's close friend and unofficial historian), and others who don't come to mind at the moment. And of course there's the photo of Bendix engineer Karl Remmlein, showing the gear to Amelia on the ramp at Oakland. (He flew out west with her to test the equipment a day or so before she left for Miami, where, apparently, some changes in the setup were made).

Hams were getting amazing results with 40 meters in those days, and the Coast Guard/Navy selected 7500 kc (just above the amateur band) [This supported by classified documents in my possession]. So a few people, apparently NOT Comdr. Thompson, were in on the big secret - AE would home in on the ITASCA using 7500 kc. Just in case, somebody said, we better have a HF/DF (covering 3105) on Howland. (And IT was from the secret Navy intercept station on Hawaii). [Documentation on THAT, too.] Unfortunately the system didn't work, and L. A. Hyland of Bendix Radio, later (1964 or so, when queried by Goerner) denied that there was any Bendix gear aboard the Electra (naturally!).

So what was wrong with her WE communications receiver? Mistuned to 6540 by Harry Balfour at Lae, so he could conduct "duplex" conversation with AE (i.e., she talked on 6210, he used 6540). And I'll bet HE felt guilty to the day of his death! Why she wasn't able to properly retune her receiver to 3105 is anybody's guess, but I suspect it was a goof aggravated by too many hours in the cockpit.

So that's a highly condensed account, based on "following the dots" (in this case, assorted documents of verifiable authenticity and a hunch or two). Incidentally, I have willingly shared my conclusions with Randy Jacobson and Mike Everette, among others, and cited my sources. So, believe it or not - and I'm well aware that "experts" will disagree - that's the HF/DF story. And the principal reason AE/FN missed Howland!

Cam Warren

From Ric

Just one quick question.

Documentation that the Navy had specifically selected 7500 kcs for experiments in HF/DF in 1937 might be reason to explore the possibility that it had something to do with Earhart's puzzling selection of that frequency. You claim to have such documentation. Will you share it with us?

Subject: Re: A Bendix DF
Date: 8/25/99
From: Rollin Reineck

I hope that what I have to say is not offensive as I disagree with you.

Last Flight. page 50:

"My flying laboratory became equipped with all that is modern ......There is a Bendix radio direction finder which points the way to any selected broadcasting station within range. There is the finest two-way voice and code Western Electric communications equipment in whose installation the Bell Laboratories, under the aegis of Dr. Frank K. Jewett , co-operated.

It does appear that there were two receivers on board. One was the Western Electric and the other was a Bendix. Also the loop was a Bendix.

From Ric

I honestly don't see how this is any different from the Karachi quote where it does look like she is referring to the Bendix loop and instrument panel display as the "Bendix Radio Direction Finder"? The quote you cite is from Earhart's description of the preparations made for the first world flight attempt. Between this quote and her Karachi description of the airplane's equipment the aircraft gets wrecked in Hawaii, repaired in California, and dickered with in Florida.

I'm happy to acknowledge that she may have had a separate DF receiver aboard, but we need something better than the above to establish that.


Subject: Re: A Bendix DF?
Date: 8/25/99
From: Rollin Reineck

Also note page 288 in The Sound Of Wings. Photographs of the Bendix receiver, installed in the Electra immediately before AE and FN left Miami were shown to the author (Lovell ) by Elgin and Marie Long.

Also, East To The Dawn, page 369.

On March 11, AE flew the Electra into Oakland accompanied by Geog McNeely and a representative of the Bendix Aviation who were checking out both direction finder and the radio. Indeed a Bendix official had made a special flight from Washington at the end of February so that Lockheed could install it on the plane.

Now go to page 371 same book .The navigation instruments included two magnetic compasses, directional gyro, the Bendix radio direction finder , the Western Electric radio and the cup like microphone........etc.

That seems to be fairly conclusive evidence that there was a Bendix direction finder on board. If there were any secrets about the AE flight one was to test HF/DF as a practical navgation technique. A real conspiracy.

Subject: How blucher oxfords get to Niku
Date: 8/25/99
From: Dave Porter


I don't mind you playing Devil's Advocate at all. I've found that a friendly conversation with a reasonable skeptic is actually a pretty good way of checking for holes in a hypothesis. I think Ric pretty much answered your question, but I'll add a bit to further illustrate "the rules". Since there's never been a blucher oxford factory on Niku, they obviously had to have been brought there from somewhere else. As I said in my previous post, there is physical evidence that Earhart, who was known to wear them, was there, and no one else known to wear them was. You suppose that WWII could be a cause for womens shoes from the '30's to be found on Niku. You're making the same mistake that critics of Niku aircraft debris repeatedly do. Simply, (as explained on TIGHAR's website, the second world war largely bypassed Gardner Island. As Ric mentioned, the history of the island is fairly well documented. There are no records of nurses passing through en route to various hospitals. There are no records of a USO show coming through to entertain the Coasties at the Loran Station. There are, in fact, (correct me if I'm wrong here Ric) no records of any "western" (i.e. blucher oxford wearing) women having ever been on the island. If you're going to suggest that the shoe parts found weren't from Earhart, (when physical and circumstantial evidence collected by TIGHAR suggests that they were) you're going to have to come up with something more than "WWII took place near there around that time." If you had said that you have a 1940's-1950's vintage photo of five of your aunts wearing blucher oxfords, and that shortly after it was taken, one of them disappeared while on a tour of the South Pacific, we might have something to work with.

Remember folks, if (horrors) Johnnie Cochran were a TIGHAR member, he'd say "if you're going to write, first check the website."

Love to mothers and aunts with old photo collections,
Dave Porter, 2288

Subject: Re: A Bendix DF?
Date: 8/25/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Rollin Reineck writes:

>Photographs of the bendix receiver, installed in the Electra immediately
>before AE and FN left Miami were shown to the author (Lovell ) by Elgin
>and Marie Long.

You were doing better with the quotes from Last Flight which is, although heavily edited and embellished, fundamentally a primary source. Lovell's mention of a photo shown to her by Elgen Long is, of course, a secondary source. The photo itself would be a primary source if it could be documented as to date and content. What Lovell actually says is. "The Longs also have located photographs of the Electra's interior, taken in Miami, showing an RA-1 receiver fitted on top of the instrument panel directly in front of Amelia." (page 350, The Sound of Wings) There is, of course, no way on Earth that a Bendix RA-1 receiver would fit on top of the Electra's instrument panel.

Elgen showed me the same photo. I later obtained a copy of it. It shows a black metal box roughly a foot tall by maybe ten inches wide by about four inches deep mounted on the overhead panel of an Electra cockpit so that it hangs down just above the pilot's left eybrow. There is nothing in the photo to link it with Miami. Indeed, although the cockpit layout looks like Earhart's, there is nothing in the photo which identifies the aircraft as NR16020. There are no people in the photo and the only thing vaguely visible through the windshield is what seems to be the ceiling of a hangar. The box is most certainly not a Bendix RA-1 receiver. Whatever it is, it hangs down far enough so that it should be visible from outside. However, of the dozens of photos of the Electra taken at various times and places during the world flight, I can find none that shows such a box. Personally, I think the photo does show the cockpit of NR16020, but not at Miami. I think the box is probably the remote unit for the Bendix "Radio Compass" that was installed sometime around October 1936 and removed during preparations for the world flight in February 1937. But that's a long story we don't need to get into here. My point is, neither Lovell's claim nor Long's photo establishes the presence of a Bendix receiver aboard the airplane for the second world flight attempt.

>Also, East To The Dawn. Page 369. "On March 11, AE flew the Electra
>into Oakland accompanied by Geog McNeely and a representative of the
>Bendix Aviation who were checking out both direction finder and the
>radio. Indeed a Bendix official had made a special flight from
>Washington at the end of February so that Lockheed could install it on the

Another secondary source, and this time the information is not even attributed to a primary source. By the way, you left out the first part of the second sentence. What Butler actually said was, "Amelia was undoubtedly the first private pilot to receive a radio direction finder - indeed a Bendix official had made a special flight from Washington at the end of February so that Lockheed could install it on the plane." Perhaps you'd like to comment on the accuracy of that statement?

>Now go to page 371 same book .The navigation instruments included two
>magnetic compasses, directional gyro, the Bendix radio direction finder , the
>Western Electric radio and the cup like microphone........etc.

Now go to Butler's notes on page 460 same book. Her source for this information is the same passage in Last Flight which fails to mention anything about a Bendix receiver.

>That seems to be fairly conclusive evidence that there was a Bendix
>direction finder on board. If there were any secrets about the AE
>flight, one was to test HF/DF as a practical navgation technique. A real

I guess it won't surprise you if I beg to differ.


Subject: RE: HF/DF
Date: 8/26/99
From: Cam Warren

>From Ric
>Just one quick question.
>Documentation that the Navy had specifically selected 7500 kc
>for experiments in HF/DF in 1937 might be reason to explore the
>possibility that it had something to do with Earhart's puzzling
>selection of that frequency. You claim to have such
>documentation. Will you share it with us?"

Yes, documentation certainly WAS a reason to explore, etc., which I have certainly been doing. I should clarify that my statement " . . . the Coast Guard/Navy selected 7500 kc" was something of a generalization, if you wish to split hairs. One specific quote (from a classified CG document of 1931) was as follows:

" . . . . Headquarters is confident that experiments which are now underway, will shortly succeed in making changes in the present high-frequency direction finding apparatus which will enable accurate bearings to be taken on frequencies of 7000 and 8000 kilocycles . . . ." (Note: this was in 1931!)

At the close of this particular multi-page document from the office of the Commandant, USCG is this statement:

"This letter and the contents of enclosures are to be kept strictly confidential." The document I have DOES NOT carry any "Declassified" stamp, so, as a journalist I don't wish to disclose the source. (It was not obtained via the FOI act).

The Navy is NOT specifically mentioned, but various other sources reveal their intense official interest in HF/DF. Missing unfortunately, is an official document that provides a direct link with Earhart, and I doubt such a piece of paper still survives. Note that people that should have known, including Capt. Safford (who was nominally in charge of DF intercept activity) and Comdr. Thompson, were apparently kept in the dark.

You can pursue a search in Treasury/Coast Guard records, now in the National Archives. As I am actively doing.

Cam Warren

From Ric

What you said was:

>Hams were getting amazing results with 40 meters in those days,
>and the Coast Guard/Navy selected 7500 kc (just above the amateur
>band) [This supported by classified documents in my possession].

As it turns out, what you've got is one 1931 Coast Guard document that says they're doing experiments with high frequency direction finders. And you call that "splitting hairs."

>Note that people that should have known, including Capt. Safford (who was
>nominally in charge of DF intercept activity) and Comdr. Thompson, were
>apparently kept in the dark.

So the Coast Guard or Navy gives Earhart this new HF/DF which is apparently so secret that they don't even tell the captain of the ITASCA about it. Why then, did he not question Earhart's request for an impossibly high frequency?

Oddly, the authorities are apparently not concerned about the various foreign nationals who will be performing maintenance on the aircraft's radios at various destinations around the world. The guys in Darwin and in Lae who helped Earhart with her radios and later write about the experience fail to mention that her direction finder is a new high frequency unit. Also, this new technology uses an old fashioned open loop antenna (so as not to arouse suspicion?) even though Earhart until recently had a state-of-the-art Bendix Radio Compass installed in the aircraft but had it removed prior to the first world flight attempt.

I think your theory needs a little more work.


Subject: Re: How blucher oxfords get to Niku
Date: 8/27/99
From: Tom King

Having a real soft spot for devil's advocates (and loving the picture of women in blucher oxfords running amok on Niku), I have to note that there are records, in the WPHC files, of "shoes" being in stock at the cooperative store on Niku. We don't know what KIND of shoes, of course, and blucher oxfords seem pretty unlikely, but if government procurement practices then were anything like government procurement practices today, there's really no telling.

Like everything else, the blucher oxford by itself isn't definitive; it COULD have come from someplace other than Earhart's foot, just like the dado and plexiglass COULD have come from another airplane, the wreckage on the reef COULD have come from Emily's imagination, the bones COULD have come from a Polynesian transvestite, and so on. It's the whole corpus of evidence that's impressive, not any one piece.

LTM (who says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single shoe)
Tom King

Subject: Re: Canton engine
Date: 8/27/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Don Jordan says:

>As for the only way to prove Bruce's memory is intact is by finding
>the engine. That is not necessary either! I have done that for $25.00
>in phone calls. Bruce's memory is perfectly intact and getting better
>with every phone call to him. I am verifying his memory by talking to
>others who were with Bruce on the island. People who have not seen
>Bruce in 30 years and know nothing of what the research is about. It is
>amazing how accurate Bruce is!

One more time. You can't establish the truth of an anecdote with another anecdote, or even twenty other anecdotes. Of course, the more people you can find who tell the same story the more likely it is that they all saw the same thing, but it doesn't prove anything. Prisons are full of people who were wrongly convicted on the basis of multiple eyewitnesses. Just how bad the problem is has recently been brought to light by the re-examination of cases using DNA matching. Current findings indicate that eyewitness testimony is accurate no more than 50 percent of the time.

I personally believe that Bruce is doing his absolute best to tell us what he remembers and I'm encouraged that the recollections of others appear to support parts of his story, but until we have some kind of hard evidence - a log book, a diary, a letter home, a photograph, an engine - the Canton Engine is an enticing possibility. Nothing more.


Subject: LOP Demystified
Date: 8/27/99
From: Ric Gillespie

The concept of the Line of Position (LoP) and an understanding of its use in navigation is central to the Earhart mystery but it's not something with which most people are familiar. ("The Post Office? Sure. Just pick up a 157/337 line of position and take Exit 4. You can't miss it." ) However, there's nothing difficult about it once it has been explained in plain English. With apologies to the celestial navigators among us -

Let's say that Tom, Dick and Harry are standing in an unobstructed parking lot about the size of - oh - Nebraska. It's a few minutes before dawn and there's not a cloud in the sky. Our heros have been selected for their lightning-fast reflexes and we have equipped each of them with a stopwatch set to local time, a walky-talky, a compass, and a can of white spray paint. We position Tom so that he is facing the horizon where the sun will soon appear. We place Dick facing the same way but a mile behind Tom. Harry gets to stand a mile behind Dick.

(push to talk) "Okay gentlemen. When you see the sun first break the horizon, stop your watches."

The sun comes up and everybody hits his button.

(push to talk) Okay, now take out your compass and your spray can and paint a line on the pavement at right angles to the sun going several feet out to your left and out to right.

When we compare the stopwatches we see that Tom stopped his watch just a tiny bit sooner than Dick stopped his, and Harry was a just a tad behind Dick and twice as much behind Tom. In other words, the sun came up at a slightly different moment for each of them depending on where they stood. The line each of them painted on the ground was their Line of Position. Anyone standing anywhere along Dick's line on that morning would have seen the sun at that same moment he did. If they were standing anywhere else they would see it at a different time. Of course, all this is perfectly predictable so, if you have it all written down ahead of time, you can stand in the parking lot on any morning and just note what time the sun comes up and you'll be able to tell exactly what Line of Position you're on - Tom's, Dick's or Harry's, or anywhere in between. You won't know where you are on the line, but you will know what line it is.

As everyone knows, the sun always rises in the East so these lines of position will always run North and South, right? Wrong. The sun rises only sort of in the East, and if you stand in the same spot in the parking lot and draw your lines for a week you'll see that each day the sun rises in a slightly different spot on the horizon and your line of position at right angles to it is a little different every day.

Now, instead of standing in a parking lot let's say you're flying over the Pacific Ocean and instead of Tom, Dick or Harry let's say your name is Fred. But it's the same deal. By noting what time the sun comes up you immediately know that you're on a particular line just as if it was painted on the water. Because the date happens to be July 2, 1937 the sun comes up at 67 degrees and your line of position at right angles to it is, naturally, 337 degrees going one way and 157 degrees going the other way. That's the only line of position you can get from the sun at dawn and this is the only time (within a day or two) that you would get this particular line. As it turns out, it's a pretty handy line to have. You're headed east-northeastward toward Howland Island flying almost directly into the rising sun so this line of position falls pretty much at right angles across your course. Even though you don't know for sure where you are on the line, it does give you a good check on your progress. It's also useful for finding the island.

Because you know what line of position you're on at sunrise, you can "advance" that line across the map until it falls through Howland and measure how far you still have to go to reach that new line. Knowing your speed, you can know at what time you will be on a 337/157 line that passes through Howland. But there is also a happy coincidence to the line you happen to get on this particular day. Advanced through Howland, it also passes through or near three other islands, all of which are to the southeast of Howland - Baker at 40 miles, McKean at about 300 miles, and Gardner at 356 miles. This means that the 337/157 line of position is like an Interstate with four exits. If you miss the one you want all you need to do is head 157 and you'll have three other chances.


Subject: Sea Classics article
Date: 8/28/99
From: Jon Pieti

I can't help but wonder about one issue Mr. Reineck has raised in the Sep 99 (Vol 32, No. 9) issue of Sea Classics. Maybe this has been hashed & rehashed before my interest in the postings on this forum, but I have to ask:

What is this about the transcribed Dictaphone record between Henry Morgenthau, and Mrs. Roosevelt's secretary Malvina Scheider, that Mr. Reineck quotes? For those of you who may not have (or care to) read it, the article indicates that Mr. Morgenthau knew of Amelia & Fred's ultimate ending, suppressed the Itasca Official Report, then eventually "modified" the Itasca radio log to cover it up. Sounds like a wild one to me, but I would think that it should be easy enough to confirm this document in the Roosevelt hyde Park Library, as Mr. Reineck states.

It's also amusing to note that the inset panel (in the article) by Mr. Owen Gault, seems to support Mr. Reineck's theory, and makes no mention of the possibility of Amelia's making landfall on Niku, then recommends that people who care to learn more about this visit the TIGHAR website. Won't those people be suprised!

- Jon Pieti

Subject: Heading for Gardner?
Date: 8/28/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Jaume Balaguer asks:

>If they finally decided to fly to Phoenix Islands (after trying to find
>Howland), Why they didn't report their intentions to Itasca?

By coincidence, I just went through the hypothetical scenario with one of our researchers off forum. I'll let my reply to his questions do double-duty here.

It's 1912Z (0742 local, "WE MUST BE ON YOU...") and I've reached the LoP ( or my best calculations tell me that I have). No Howland. Damn. I don't know where I am on the line but I do know that I'm somewhere in the neighborhood and not in the South China Sea. Howland is either off to my left (337) or off to my right (157). In other words, I'm either northwest of Howland or southeast of Howland. I can go look to the northwest but I've got to make sure that I can come back to this spot and still have enough fuel to fly southeastward far enough to be sure of reaching land. How far is that? All of the other islands on this line are southeast of Howland - Baker at 40 miles, McKean at about 300 miles but off the line a bit to the east, and Gardner at 356 nm. If, having not seen Howland on my excursion to the northwest, I come back to this spot with enough fuel to fly another 356 miles, I can be quite sure of reaching land. The only way I'm screwed is if I'm already more than 356 miles away from Howland in either direction.

So it's 1912Z and I'm about to head up the LoP. I have 188 gallons of fuel left (if I've been following Kelly's tables). To cover my 356 nm insurance policy I need at least 2.7 hours at 130 knots. I can't expect to get 38 gallons per hour if I'm down low looking for islands. Lockheed specs show the 10E burning 56 gph at 65% power which yields 158 knots at sea level. Staying backed off to an ecomomical 130 knots should get us about 45 gph (a guess). At that rate my 188 gallons will last me just over 4 hours. Let's play it safe. I can afford to fly up the line for half an hour (65 nm), but if I haven't spotted Howland by then I'll have to turn around and come back here so that I start my run to the southeast with 3 hours of fuel.

>Given the gravity of the situation, why wouldn't they use a few more words
>and give Itasca some useful clues like "we think we are South of Howland
>but don't know how far", or "we are heading for the Phoenix Islands", or . . . .?

It's interesting that the 2013Z (0843 local)transmission comes at just the time that my speculative scenario has them beginning their run to the southeast. They don't say "we think we are South of Howland but don't know how far", or "we are heading for the Phoenix Islands" because they don't know any of that. At this point they're hoping that they were northwest of Howland all along and that they'll find it just over the horizon to the southeast. Exactly what AE said at the end of the transmission is questionable. It's clear from the log entry that it caught the operator by surprise and he had to go back and cram it in, but something about running north and south on the line is about all they can say about where they are and what they're doing.


Subject: Re: How blucher oxfords get to Niku
Date: 8/28/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Tom King says:

>I have to note that there are records, in the WPHC files, of "shoes" being
>in stock at the cooperative store on Niku. We don't know what KIND of shoes,
>of course, and blucher oxfords seem pretty unlikely,...

Some hint as to the quality of shoes in stock at the Co-Op store might be gleaned from the fact that all 10 pairs were inventoried at a total value of 1 Pound, 9 Shillings and 2 Pence. If I remember my medieval British history correctly, there are 12 Shillings in a Pound. I recall my Dad saying that when he was in England during the war, a Pound was worth about $5. So, as a rough estimate, it would seem that the wholesale cost of the shoes at the store was a little less than a buck a pair.

Apparently, litter from the remains of women's shoes has long been a problem on Niku. Gallagher ran into it in 1940.


Subject: Re: How blucher oxfords get to Niku
Date: 8/29/99
From: Phil Tanner

Ric writes:

>I recall my Dad saying that when he was in England during the war,
>a Pound was worth about $5. So, as a rough estimate, it would seem
>that the wholesale cost of the shoes at the store was a little less than a buck a pair.

Cheaper still, in fact. It was 12 pence = one shilling, 20 shillings = one pound. So the whole lot were valued at 1.46 in British decimal currency, used since 1971 (about 100 years too late), which makes about 70 US cents a pair.

LTM, Phil 2276

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