Forum artHighlights From the Forum

August 29 through September 4, 1999

Subject: Body Decomposition
Date: 8/30/99
From: Tom King

To elaborate a bit on Pat's report on the body in Fiji -- the environment was not dissimilar to Niku -- warm and moist, rainforest, though the site was on top of a clay ridge rather than on coral sand and rubble. The body was completely skeletonized, the bones fairly scattered, some entirely missing. No musculature at all. On the other hand, the muscle attachments were clear enough that Kar could tell that the fellow had smiled a lot. On the other hand, there weren't any coconut crabs to chew on the bones. On the other hand, there were dogs and pigs, and some of the bones WERE chewed. On the other hand...

Incidentally, an apparently equivalent case of rapid skeletonization has been reported recently on Saipan by the Northern Mariana Islands Historic Preservation Officer, investigating an apparent crime scene for the local police. Study is ongoing, but the last I heard it looked like complete skeletonization in only a few months.

Tom King

Subject: Re: LOP Demystified
Date: 8/30/99
From: Don Neumann

Thanks for your "LOP Demystified" post.

However, having advanced our LOP through the night & when our sun reading at dawn (when our chronometer tells us we should see Howland Island appearing on the horizon to intersect with our own LOP line) fails to coincide with any sign of Howland Island, how do we plot an accurate course to any of the Phoenix Islands when we do not know exactly by how many miles/degrees we have missed our objective, whether we have fallen short or overshot the island, whether we are somewhere northwest or southeast of the island?

In other words, even tho we may have a very accurate LOP, since we did not hit our original objective & do not have any definite idea as to exactly where our LOP has deposited us, how can we be sure that by simply heading southeast on the lower leg of our LOP that we will strike one of those (admittedly) small, widely spread out islands of the Phoenix chain, especially with an acknowledged, dwindling fuel supply, that will not permit any extensive seach for one of these islands even if we are successful in navigating ourselves into a "ballpark" area of the Phoenix chain?

From all the information which has been developed through the Forum & TIGHAR's investigations of the many questions raised in this case, I've personally concluded that flying southeast to the Phoenix Island Chain was the only reasonable choice that AE/FN had available, once they ascertained that they were unable to sight Howland or make any reliable radio contact with Itaska & after examining the charts of the Pacific surrounding Howland & reviewing the critical condition of their remaining fuel supply.

Had they decided to simply ditch the aircraft in the sea at this point, it would seem probable they would have wanted to do so in as close proximity to where they_thought_ Howland should be located (likely right after their only reception of an Itasca radio signal, which was unable to provide them with any directional "fix") & would have communicated that information to Itasca until they actually hit the water, in order to assure a reasonably prompt "pick-up" by Itasca.

Since no such radio message was ever recorded, it seems unlikely they ditched the plane at sea, at least not within radio range of Itaska, so now I'm stuck with the problem of trying to establish (if only in my own mind) just how "easy" it would have been for FN to plot an accurate course to any one of the Phoenix Islands & quite frankly, I've concluded such a task was no "piece of cake", given all the above unknowns he had to overcome!

Maybe my own lack of any navigational experience is simply blocking my view of seeing & understanding how FN achieved what I would consider IMO(very)HO to be a very remarkable piece of navigation.

Thanks for putting up with my continued inability to see what most TIGHAR & Forum members probably believe should be right in front of my nose!

Don Neumann

Subject: Re: Electra structural members
Date 8/30/99
From: Frank Kuhre

The beam runs the entire length of the wing, although it is in three pieces, 1is the center section and the other two are in the detachable wing sections, which are just outboard of the engine mounts.

The steel part you are looking for, do you know any of the other dimensions besides the 10' ? I think that for the length, maybe the flap control rods? The gear was a worm drive, and did not have actuator rods. I will see if I still have the drawings for the repair I did to the truss beam, center cabin. I can't remember whether the cap for the beam was steel or aluminum, I think it was aluminum.

If you have other dimensions for the steel part let me know, I'll drudge up the pictures, and see if I can't dust the cobwebs off of my memory.


Subject: Re: Shoes and more shoes
Date: 8/30/99
From: Patrick Gaston

In connection with the Great Shoe Debate (successor to the Great Fuel Debate, may it rest in peace), I think it might be instructive to review what Gallagher actually said about the footwear fragments he saw on Niku in 1940. The following are excerpted from telegrams and letters reprinted in "The Tarawa File," TIGHAR Tracks Vol. 13 No. 1/2 (September 1997):

In his initial telegram to the Resident Commissioner dated 9/23/1940, Gallagher reports finding "part of a shoe," which was "a woman's and probably size 10." Pressed for more details by the RC, Gallagher responds on 10/6/1940 by clarifying that "only part of sole remains." Yet in the very next sentence, he nonetheless asserts that the shoe "appears to have been stoutish walking shoe or heavy sandal".

On 10/15/1940 Gallagher receives a telegram from no less than Henry Vaskess, Secretary of the Western Pacific High Commission, requesting the basis for Gallagher's belief that the remains found along with the shoe fragments were those of a woman. Two days later, Gallagher replies: "Only experienced man could state sex from available bones; my conclusion [is] based on sole of shoe which is almost certainly a woman's." This is Gallagher's last explicit reference to the shoe fragments; subsequent correspondence deals primarily with the skeletal remains, the sextant box and Dr. Isaac's wounded pride.

It has always mystified me how Gallagher, who had no known experience as a cobbler, could have reached his very specific conclusions (type of shoe, size, gender of wearer) based upon part of a shoe sole. These inferences could be understandable if a portion of the uppers had survived, or if other evidence found in the general vicinity pointed to a female wearer. But Gallagher specifies that no clothing, hair or personal effects were located; his conclusion is based entirely "on sole of shoe." It is also worth noting that on two separate occasions, 9/23 and 10/17/1940, Gallagher opines that the human remains found on Niku appear to be more than four years old, adding the second time that he is "quite certain" of that fact.

Now I realize that TIGHAR also has fragments of a sole, probably a woman's size 8.5 or 9 Blucher oxford, which it believes to be from the same pair of shoes. But what I want to focus on here is the fragments found by Gallagher, because IF they were more than four years old then it stands to reason that TIGHAR's shoe relics also predate 1937. (After all, what are the chances that *two* rather large-footed women both lost American-style shoes on Niku in the 1930's?)

There has been a great deal of speculation in previous forums regarding how a pair of "stoutish walking shoes" like the ones worn by our heroine could have been reduced to sole fragments in just over three years. Scavenging by coconut crabs is the generally-accepted theory, but does this also explain the complete absence of clothing on a three-year-old skeleton? Little first-hand research seems to have been done in this area, which is surprising given the importance of the skeletal remains and shoe fragments to the Niku Hypothesis. (As I recall, a pair of leather gloves left behind on one expedition was recovered in pretty good shape a year or two later, but this appears to be TIGHAR's one and only experiment directed at the deterioration of organic substances in the Niku enivronment).

So in an effort to develop additional hard data regarding what seems to be a pretty significant piece of the Earhart puzzle, allow me to suggest an appropriate, if somewhat messy, testing regiment for next year's expedition. I assure you I'm *not* being facetious about this; however, the squeamish may wish to stop reading here.

1. Enlist the aid of a shoe manufacturer in finding a pair of shoes roughly similar to 1930's-era Blucher oxfords.

2. Purchase a medium-sized farm animal (sheep, pig, goat) on Fiji and transport it to Niku in vivo. I realize this will make for a less than pleasant voyage, but science is a stern mistress.

3. Lead the animal to a site near where TIGHAR found the shoe fragments.

4. Kill it (humanely, of course). 5. Put the shoes on the carcass and do your best to drape it in clothing similar to that worn by AE, as depicted in the Lae takeoff film. You might puts some coins and keys in the pockets.

6. Come back three years later and see what's left.

If the above seems too distasteful, then I suppose you could find a pre-slaughtered animal carcass on Fiji, but let's hope Naia has a BIG freezer. In any event, I can think of no better or simpler way to determine what would likely happen to clothed-and-shod human remains in three years of exposure to the Niku environment. (Remember that only the skull had been buried; the remaining remains were found lying under a "Ren" tree, indicating continuous exposure since the unfortunate wayfarer's death.) If, after three years, the shoes are seriously degraded, the bones scattered, and the clothing all but gone, then you have concrete evidence in support of the Niku Hypothesis. If the shoes, skeleton and clothing are largely intact, then alternative explanations of the artifacts found by Gallagher (and TIGHAR) must be given serious consideration.

I realize that the thought of dispatching a live animal may be offensive to some, but if anyone can come up with a more valid means of determining shoe, clothing and skeletal deterioration rates, the feeding habits of coconut crabs, etc., in the precise environment purportedly experienced by our heroes, I'm all ears. It just seems to me that these factors are crucial to TIGHAR's entire hypothesis, no other physical evidence of AE's presence on Niku having panned out thus far. (My position? Firmly astride the fence.)

Sometime I also would like to see the actual correspondence between TIGHAR and Biltrite regarding Artifacts 2-2-G-7 and 2-2-G-8 (the shoe fragments and heel found on Niku in 1991), as it's unclear from the descriptions appearing on the TIGHAR website which comments are Biltrite's and which are Ric's extrapolations therefrom. Maybe you could post the correspondence as a "document of the week" when you get the time.

LTM (whose delicacy forbids further comment)
Patrick Gaston

From Ric

Last things first. Good idea. We can certainly post the correspondence. The identification of the shoe as to size, style and vintage was entirely Biltrite's, not mine. Until I talked to them I only knew Blucher as the Prussian general at Waterloo and Oxford as a school.

Your suggested experiment is not at all too distasteful for our taste. As a matter of fact, a crude version of just such a test was attempted during Niku III in 1997 when we laid out the left-overs from a rather delicious leg of lamb to see whether the crabs would disarticulate and scatter the bones. Unfortunately, within two days the weather got so bad that the area flooded and we lost the experiment.

More recently, with the help of a colleague (accomplice?) on Saipan, Tom King has been fostering a more elaborate experiment. I'll let him say what he wants to about that.

It was also our intention to set up a test similar to what you describe during our recent trip to Niku, but there was just too much other work of higher priority.

The biggest problem with such as experiment is selecting exactly where on Niku to set it up. We don't know for sure where Gallagher found his bones and shoe parts, and even if we did, chances are that the specific environment in that location has changed since 1940. Crab population, ground composition and overhead cover are important factors.

That said, we can make a few observations based upon our experience with the island (which, I will point out, is now as good or better than Gallagher's at the time he wrote his opinions).

*** I would not expect any conventional leather shoe to break down to the extent of the one Gallagher found or the one we found in four years, or even ten years, by climatic forces alone. The example of the gloves suggests that leather will be eventually consumed by microbial activity but it takes along time. On the other hand, politically incorrect, non-biodegradable, plastic flagging tape is faded and brittle after two years.

*** The absence of clothing and hair doesn't bother me. A castaway on Niku might very quickly get down to the barest essentials in terms of clothing. After death, any cloth exposed to direct sunlight would break down very rapidly and the birds would make good use of any available hair.

*** Jewelry, watches, and coins should survive indefinitely unless carried off by crabs, rats or birds. On the other hand, such items are of no use to a castaway.

*** I don't know how valid Gallagher's or Isaac's opinion may have been about how long the bones had been laying around. As far as I know, neither of them had any experience in assessing the age of bones that had been laying out in that environment. I do know that, according to Dr. Karen Burns (who does forensic anthropological assessments of bones all over the world) the environment on Niku would make bones look very old very fast.

*** What puzzles me the most are the missing bones. Big chunks of the body were gone. Most of the right arm. The left leg from the knee down. Virtually the entire rib cage and spinal column and half of the pelvis. Time alone doesn't do that. Dem bones, dem bones doesn't walk around. Gallagher attributes the missing bits and the damage to existing bones to the depredations of coconut crabs, and maybe he's right, but the only way that Birgus latro can handle the missing bones is if the skeleton is so dried out as to be disarticulated (the bones separated from each other). Then Mr. Crab can toddle off with an individual rib or vertabra, and maybe even a tibia (shin bone). But by then it's hard to see why he'd be interested. Crabs aren't like terriers who love to chew on bones. They're into flesh, man. The scattering of the skeleton seems to be a problem regardless of when it got there. The kind of body parts distribution Gallagher describes sounds to me like what you see when dogs find a deer carcass. Dogs would also account for the rapid breakdown of the shoes. Pigs would work too. Trouble is, I can't put dogs or pigs on the island anytime before the bones were found. Emily Sikuli says the early colonists didn't have any animals with them. Mrs. O'Brian doesn't remember one way or the other.

It's a puzzlement.


Subject: Re: Shoes and more shoes
Date: 8/30/99
From: Tom King

Just a couple of additions to Ric's response:

1. The apparent suicide that Kar Burns and I (with many others) examined in the field in Fiji had only a few remnants of clothing left, and it had been there only a few months. It's not certain what clothes the guy started out with, but surely there was at least a pair of shorts. There were no shoes found at all, but then again, there weren't any feet, either. The site is on a steep-sided ridge, very heavily forested, and the bones had been scattered, probably by pigs and/or dogs; the feet/shoes probably went off downslope somewhere.

2. An apparent double murder site (or post-murder body deposition site) on Saipan recently investigated by the Northern Marianas police had only remnants of clothing remaining. It's not clear what clothes the victims started out with here, either, but one of them was wearing pantihose, only small fragments of which were found under the skeleton. Both bodies had been completely skeletonized, probably in about 4 months.

3. The experiment to which Ric alluded was one my colleagues on Saipan referred to as "Operation Snoop-Doggy-Dog," in which a dead dog was to be lightly dressed, shod, and placed in an area on Saipan frequented by coconut crabs, fenced to keep other critters out, and then inspected monthly to see where things went and how. Unfortunately, no dog made itself available before the aforementioned murder site came to light and deflected everyone's attention. Something of this kind is definitely worth doing, and we don't necessarily have to go to Niku, or sacrifice a live animal, to do it; another tropical island with appropriate fauna, and an already dead animal, should do.

LTM (who thinks this is all REALLY disgusting)
Tom King

Subject: Re: Body decomposition
Date: 8/30/99
From: Tom King

Ric says: "I trust that Kar Burns will correct me if I'm wrong here, but Hoodless is probably talking about features of the bones themselves rather than material that would decompose away. They're obliterated because they've been chewed off."

In case Kar doesn't -- that's right. The muscle ATTACHMENTS are bone, built up for the muscles to attach to, and by the use of the muscles. A skilled physical anthropologist can tell (more or less) whether a person was right or left handed, whether they walked a lot, and that kind of thing from the muscle attachments even on a skeleton that's thousands of years old. With the Fiji suicide, Kar commented while examining the skull that the guy had smiled a lot; she could tell this from muscle attachments. Later we saw photos of him, grinning like crazy.

So the missing muscle attachments on Niku don't indicate any particular age; they indicate that something had been chewing on the bones, or that some other sort of erosive process had occurred that looked like something chewing on them.

Tom King

Subject: Re: LOP
Date: 8/30/99
From: Mark Prange

>They assumed they were running on the 157/337 LOP
>through Howland, but if for some reason they could not get an accurate
>sunrise time, how could they be sure?

To run on the LOP through Howland the sun's height is observed and compared with a precomputation of what it would be if flying right above Howland. As long as the observations match the precomputed height--and they seldom do--then the plane is about right on the LOP. If there is a discrepancy, then the number of minutes of angle is the indication of the number of nautical miles the plane is off the LOP.

When using a bubble sextant, the natural horizon need not be visible. The disadvantage of the bubble sextant is in its imprecision. Usually the body is dialed into the center of the bubble and the reading taken. (The aviation sextants I have seen are calibrated in minutes of angle. No verniers). The estimate of where the exact center of the bubble is, is not nearly as precise as what is done with a marine sextant using the natural horizon. So instead of just one observation, several are made. Whatever is convenient, or necessary, or possible. Maybe one 30 seconds early, one on time, and one 30 seconds after; the average of the three is used as the height observed.

With the bubble sextant although it is usually possible to estimate the center of the body, even with the moon in its various phases, the navigator can use a limb of the moon, dialing it into the center of the bubble, taking the reading, and taking account of semidiameter. When the plane is very stable it is possible to improve precision by using the upper or lower outer edge of the bubble, instead of its center, as the sighting index. For this you just need to have a good idea of the semidiameter of the bubble as well as that of the body observed.

Using the 1937 Nautical Almanac, there is considerable arithmetic --mostly interpolation--required to get the coordinates for the sun's subpoint. The latitude is found easily enough from the Apparent Declination column, but figuring the Greenwich Hour Angle takes some time. Doing this ahead of time, (when possible, before the flight), is the preferred way in aviation.

If computations of the sun's height are made for 15 or 30 minute intervals, the intermediate heights can be found by interpolation and listed or just graphed, since the height changes per time are very nearly linear for such short periods.

Subject: Science
Date: 8/31/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Not infrequently on this forum we get into discussions (okay, squabbles) about TIGHAR's approach to the Earhart puzzle and I find myself trying to explain why it's so important that we remain rigorous in our adherence to accepted standards of scientific investigation. Pat recently came across the following comment about science by physicist Richard Feynman, one of the most incredible intellects of this century.

Science is a way to teach how something gets to be known, what is not known, to what extent things ARE known (for nothing is known absolutely), how to handle doubt and uncertainty, what the rules of evidence are, how to think about things so that judgements can be made, how to distinguish truth from fraud, and from show.

(From "The Problem of Teaching Physics in Latin America" in Engineering and Science, November 21, 1963; page 24)

There's no way I can improve on that.


Subject: Lack of more aircraft wreckage
Date: 9/1/99
From: Dave Porter

One of the photos included in the recent expedition report on the website got me thinking. (uh-oh, trouble) The Norwich City wreck has now been reduced to several unrecognizable hunks of rusty metal. It was fairly large and heavy in comparison to a Lockheed Electra. If that can happen to a large heavy ship over 70 years time, it seems quite possible that a relatively small, light airplane could be similarly reduced, or even more completely obliterated, in a much shorter time span. Say, for instance, the 54 years between the 1937 landing and the 1991 (first?) TIGHAR Niku expedition. The only part about that that troubles me, aside from the thought that I'd like very much for us to find large, easily identifiable chunks of NR16020 debris, is the 1988 New Zealand aerial photo(s) which reportedly appear to show large metal objects in the bush. Was that the "cruciform shaped object" the recent expedition looked for? Are the aerial photos/radar returns, etc. something that would be suitable for posting on the website? Ric, do you think that the "cruciform shaped object" is still there just beyond where you guys recently chopped the Legendary Scaevola (TIGHAR's fund raising magician) back to, or are you satisfied that you searched the area where it was, and it isn't there anymore?

Sorry for all the questions--I suppose they'll all be answered in the report that explains why we no longer think the wreck photo is NR16020, a report eagerly awaited by us all.

Re: the Wreck Photo--If it's turned out to be a red herring/dead end for us, it still shows a Lockheed 10 somewhere right? Are there areas in the vicinity of Hong Kong, where Adamant was docked at the time one of her crew allegedly took the photo, that would A. be accessible to crew on shore leave, B. have the kind of vegetation shown in the photo, and C. be home to a wrecked Lockheed 10. (are any known to have gone missing in that vicinity?) Certainly Niku is our first priority, but if the wreck photo is indeed not NR16020, it would certainly be interesting to know what it was/is.

I certainly agree with Tom King (and, incidentally, Rodney King) in that we should all try to get along.

LTM, Dave Porter, 2288

Subject: Re: Possibilities
Date: 9/1/99
From: Ric Gillespie

William Dohenguy writes:

>I would also take what remaining fuel I had in the tanks and set fire to
>the entire island. The glow, at night, would be seen for a hundred miles.
>And dear Franklin would not have spent four million dollars of the Tax
>payers money looking for my bones.

Just when would you do this? On the night of July 2nd? If you're on any island other than Howland (and you ain't on Howland) there is nobody within a hundred miles to see your conflagration. July 3rd? Nope, nobody around. July 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th? No luck. If you're psychic and you pick the night of the 8th and you're on Gardner, the Colorado pilots who fly over the next day will certainly see the smoke and investigate. They might even make a note in their report "Here signs of recent habitation were clearly visible but after repeated circling and zooming we were unable to elicit an answering wave from possible inhabitants."


Subject: Bendix HF/DF
Date: 9/2/99
From: Cam Warren

Attention Warren Lambing -

Earhart let it be known the "Flying Laboratory" was to be used as a test bed for direction finders. More than one system was installed prior to her final flight, including one designed by Fred Hooven, whose company was acquired by Bendix Radio early in 1937. The Hooven set, a LF unit WAS removed for sure, and replaced by a Radio Research (also acquired by Bendix) unit, which included the superhet RA-1 receiver, and utilized the large loop visible in all the late photos of the Electra. There is some indication that installation, done in Burbank, was upgraded in Miami, at which time the loop, according to one Pan Am source, was apparently replaced.

The 250' trailing wire antenna (probably the SECOND TW installed on the Electra, replacing the original 40' installation, when the WE radio was converted for 500 kc) was removed, presumably at Earhart's request. Her "public" reason was that it would be a considerable weight saving (true). Privately, she probably had been told her HF/DF would be all she needed.

Note that wire antennas are "generic", i.e., not usually specific to any particular receiver and/or transmitter, whereas loops ARE specific to DF gear. (Ordinarily requiring a "coupler" since a loop is a "balanced" input device, a straight wire is not).

The WE receiver could have been fitted with a WE loop; it was so designed. But that would have eliminated the opportunity for Putnam to "sell" Vince Bendix on a chance to demonstrate his RDF system. So the latest (possibly a prototype) Bendix gear was installed. Conversely, the RA-1 was a perfectly good (nay, excellent) general purpose receiver, and could have been used as such.

As for "this subject goes nowhere", I don't agree. The DF (and AE's radio reception problem) were the principal reason for the loss of the Electra.

And yes, the presence of the Bendix receiver certainly DOES explain "some of the radio messages". Those dealing with 7500 kc. Most researchers haven't figured this out yet, hence their puzzlement.

Cam Warren

From Ric

If I may:

>The Hooven set, a LF unit WAS removed for sure,

Agreed. Hooven's Radio Compass used a globe-shaped antenna enclosed in a translucent dome which was mounted on the top of the fuselage. Numerous photos document that this feature goes away in late February/early March 1937 and is replaced by the Bendix open loop over the cockpit.

Fred Hooven had this to say about the removal of that system in a manuscript entitled "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight" which he wrote in June 1982:

"Before Miss Earhart took off on her Round-the-World flight she removed from her plane a modern radio compass that had been installed and replaced it with an older, lighter-weight model of much less capability. I am the engineer who had invented and developed the radio compass that was removed and I discussed its features with Miss Earhart before the installation was made. I have reasn to beleive that it was the failure of her radio direction finder to do what the more modern model could have done that caused her to be lost. I met Miss Earhart for lunch at Wright field in the summer of 1936. .... Too much time has elapsed for me to remember when it was that I learned that my device was not on the Earhart plane when it was lost, or even whether it was before or after the takeoff that I learned."

Later in the manuscript Hooven says:

"Miss Earhart had announced prior to her flight that she would transit on a regular schedule, but would use her receiver only for direction finding. Loop antennas, however, do not function for direction finding much above 1500 kc so her loop was not designed to operate above 1500 kc.... A much improved type of direction finder had recently been developed and Miss Earhart had had one installed on her plane, but had removed it to save its extra weight of about 30 lb., the weight of five gallons of fuel. It incorporated a super-heterodyne receiver of the highest sensitivity.... The improved sensitivity made it possible to use a much smaller loop than the older device, and in Fig 2 may be seen the smaller, streamlined housing of the newer loop as it appeared when installed on the Earhart plane. Miss Earhart did not realize that this streamlined loop reduced air resistance to an extent that would have saved several times the five gallons of fuel that she had added by removing the radio compass and replacing it with the older device."

A detailed description of Hooven's career prepared by the Thayer School of Engineeering ar Dartmouth College where he was a Professor of Engineering at the time of his death in 1985 shows him as Vice President and Chief Engineer for the Radio Products Division of Bendix Aviation Corp. from 1935 to 1938. ("Who's Who in America" shows him holding that position from 1935 to 1937.) The Dartmouth account of his career says that between 1934 and 1935, as a self-employed individual, he designed, built, and patented an experimental direction finder which he sold to the U.S. Army. Bendix bought him out and made him V.P. and Chief Engineeer of their Radio Products Division as a "base for experimental development and production of the Hooven Radio Direction Finder, licensed to Bendix. Built 5 prototype devices one of which was used for first automatic blind landings ever made (Wright Field 1936) one of which was installed on aircraft used by Merrill and Richman in transatlantic flight 1936, one of which was installed on Amelia Earhart's airplane and then removed owing to bad advice from competitor. One of these prototypes was installed on the first DC-3 to go into commerical passenger service (American Airlines. April 1936)"

I have a photo of the Merrill/Richman Vultee "Lady Peace" equipped with the same "Hooven dome" that appears on NR16020. The photo was taken September 2, 1936.

A 1995 letter to me from a close friend of Hooven's, - Robert C. Dean, Chairman of Synergy Research Corporation in Hanover, N.H. - presents a somewhat different picture. He says:

"During the Depression, not being able to find a job in mechanical engineering, he took a job in electrical engineeering with a French company, American Loth Corporation. This company had an office in Dayton, OH and manufactured aircraft radios and direction finders. For them, Fred invented an asymmetrical radio direction finder which had different gain on each side of the loop. In other words, the signal from a station would be received stronger on one side than the other side (after the natenna was rotated 180 degrees). so the operator could tell immediately whether his/her direction finder was pointing at the station or away from it. After Fred's direction finder was installed on Earhart's plane, the Bendix salesperson convinced her (or perhaps her engineer) that the French antenna was unreliable. consequently, the Earhart party decided to remove the Hooven-Loth antenna and reinstall a standard Bendix symmetrical antenna. Fred always wondered whether this decision may not have sealed her fate. I have this information from Fred Hooven. However, it may contain errors."

Another clue that may be part of the puzzle is a photo of the Electra sporting the "Hooven dome" that appeared in the January 1937 issue of National Aeronautic (the magazine of the National Aeronautic Association). AE is posing in front of the airplane with a guy in an overcoat. The caption reads:

"Herbert Sharlock, vice president in charge of public relations of the Bendix Aviation Corporation, is shown with Amelia Earhart as she makes a stop at South Bend to visit with Vincent Bendix..."

This had to have been taken in the fall of 1936 around the same time the Hooven radio compass was installed at Wright Field in Dayton.

So what can we deduce from the above, sometimes conflicting, reports? There is certainly no support for Cam Warren's claim that the Hooven radio compass was:

>replaced by a Radio Research (also acquired by Bendix) unit,
>which included the superhet RA-1 receiver, and utilized the
>large loop visible in all the late photos of the Electra.

Perhaps Mr. Warren could describe the documentation that supports his allegation. It does seem a bit odd that all this stuff about a high frequency DF could be going on at Bendix and Hooven be totally unaware of it.

An article in the March 1937 issue of Aero Digest magazine reviews a new "Bendix direction finder for use with conventional receivers." The black box and loop pictured in the article looks just like the ones in the photos taken when Earhart installed the open loop in early March 1937.

It's not clear to me whether Bendix had yet acquired Hooven's invention at the time it was installed and then removed from NR16020, but it might not matter. My suspicion is that some Bendix salesman convinced AE that the new loop and adapter would allow her to eliminate the weight of a separate DF receiver (saving 30 lbs sounds about right) and so she chucked Hooven's fancy rig.


Subject: Re: Some concerns about the Forum
Date: 9/2/99
From: Don Jordan

Ric wrote,

>It's not our purpose here to try to convert everyone to our view of what
>probably happened to Amelia Earhart. The website offers a pretty good
>overview of what we think and why we think it. This forum is for those
>who want to help us pursue that line of reasoning to see whether or not it
>is true.

I wanted to just sit back for a while as watch the posts to see which way the wind was blowing, so to speak. But, the above statement just struck me wrong. Though I agree with the tone and theme of the post in general, I have trouble with this statement. This statement says to me, if you don't agree with the TIGHAR theory, you don't belong on this Forum.

I also agree that the answers to all our questions are on the Web site, but sometimes you just don't know where to look or don't have the time to research it. Ric is able to answer those questions in great detail. It seems no matter what you ask, Ric has the answer at his finger tips. I have a life outside the Earhart mystery and don't have time to read the entire web site looking for some small detail. It's much easier to just ask Ric!

Don J.

Guess I'll field this one....

First, in a very real sense, it *is* true that if you don't have a serious interest in pursuing our line of research, the Forum probably is not for you. We are open to constructive criticism, and to constructive research that does not necessarily go in directions we would go, but we are not really interested in running a bull session about Amelia, or a general-interest Amelia Earhart discussion group, or a "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" program for the various theories.

Research or lines of investigation which can be *documented* and shown to be useful are always welcome, but pure opinion---no. It wastes our time, it wastes bandwidth, and it clutters the Forum for those who have great demands on their time but still have an interest.

>Ric is able to answer those questions in great
>detail. It seems no matter what you ask, Ric has the answer at his
>finger tips. I have a life outside the Earhart mystery and don't have
>time to read the entire web site looking for some small detail. It's
>much easier to just ask Ric!

Yes, thereby taking up *his* time with questions that have been answered a dozen or more times before, keeping him from pursuing real research, writing up the results of previous research, writing a TIGHAR Tracks, and in general staying up to the mark with all of the work that TIGHAR generates that is *not* necessarily Amelia.....

Sorry. There is going to be a lot more referral to the FAQs and the Highlights and TIGHAR Tracks from now on.


Subject: Re: the Morgenthau Myth
Date: 9/4/99
From: Daryll

I am typing this even though my mouth is wide open !

>From Ric
>I apologize to the Forum for posting this message from Mr.

???? I'm looking in the message for profanity and abusive language. Is there something wrong with the e-mail that I received? I don't see any !

>I did so only because, if I had not, he would have probably claimed
>that we suppress criticism....

It would seem that is just what you are doing by no longer posting Mr. Reineck's messages.

>I have posted his message in its entirety, not because I intend to
>respond to his questions (which I do not),...

Webster's Dictionary - FORUM ; 3. an assembly for the discussion of questions of public interest.

>but to allow the forum subscribers to judge for themselves how well
>Mr. Reineck has been able to grasp what we've been talking about on this
>forum for the past year and a half......

I've made a judgement, the questions, were honest and not abusive.

>I think Mr. Reineck has made his opinions and his expertise quite
>clear and, unless the Forum specifically asks otherwise, we won't bother
>you with his offerings again. Love to mother,

If your asking for a FORUM VOTE, Then I vote FOR, Mr. Reineck's postings.

When I went into the Army part of my oath was to up-hold the Constitution of the United States of America. Freedom of Speech is one of the first things that are lost in the down fall of a democracy that has that in it's constitution .

Will you unplug every voice that asks questions you don't WANT to answer ?


OK. Once more, for those who are having trouble with the concept.

The Earhart Forum is not a government-sponsored public debate on the various theories pertaining to Amelia Earhart's disappearance.

The Earhart Forum is a research tool *OWNED* by TIGHAR. Free speech rules do not apply. Members of the Forum are given ample opportunity to pursue research and contribute to TIGHAR's research. This is not the same as being given opportunity to say whatever they like so long as they leave the four letter words out.

Let's put it this way. The Earhart Forum is as much a business tool for TIGHAR as a high-level management meeting is for MegaCorp. If the agenda for the meeting is to discuss the marketing strategy for Product A proposed last week, you'd better not come into the meeting and start discussing the decision to pull Product X from the market. You will, at the least, be labelled Not Serious, and at worst a dingbat. And you could lose your job if you do it often enough.

Fair warning: no more! We are too busy to fiddle with formatting these posts into acceptable shape so that other busy people get them in readable form, only to have the content do absolutely nothing to move the research forward. I don't mind the occasional joke, even the occasional totally off-topic post, if it's interesting and informative.... but

No more conspiracies
No more spies
No more Japanese involvement
No more endless discourses into irrelevant minutiae

Please don't waste bandwidth sending it. It won't be posted.


Subject: Enough is enough
Date: 9/4/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Back in the winter of 1997/98 the National Geographic Society website, in league with an article about Earhart that appeared in National Geographic magazine, had an unmoderated Amelia Earhart forum. Although an interesting idea, it was quickly taken over by conspiracy theorists and soon became an embarrassing carnival of idiocy. Eventually Nat'l Geo took it down.

As has become painfully obvious on this forum recently, there is a small but vocal group of researchers whose conviction that TIGHAR is wrong to investigate the Nikumaroro hypothesis is only surpassed by their ignorance of sound investigative methodology. In an attempt to keep the dialogue as open as possible, we have posted their postulations and patiently pointed out their errors. We've even edited out their insults and irrelevancies and posted what was left of their messages in an attempt to salvage anything that might be useful. Our efforts seem to have only made matters worse.

There is plenty of room on this forum for dissent and debate. Indeed, peer review is the essence of scientific inquiry. There is also lots of room for dumb questions. That's why we have FAQs. There is, however, no longer any room for stupidity and those few who have diligently demonstrated their dedication to that trait will have to find another outlet.

They will howl. They will cry foul. They wiil claim victory. But they won't do it here.

Let's get back to work.

Love to mother,

Subject: Re: HF/DF yet again
Date: 9/4/99
From: Bill Leary

> From Cam Warren
> As for your remark "there is certainly no support for Cam
> Warren's claim" that Hooven's DF "was replaced by a Radio
> Research" unit. Mr. Warren has a respectable reputation as a
> journalist, as testified to by the appearance of his work in
> such publications as Newsweek International, and many other
> magazines, published here and abroad. Presumably, when he makes
> a statement in writing, it carries a high degree of authenticity,
> and is not a careless off-hand remark.

Nobody can be their own support for their own credibility. That's circular logic at its worst.

Credibility comes from having verifiable, dependable sources. I'm not prepared to presume the accuracy of anything anybody says just based on their own alleged reliability.

I'm reminded of a highly reputable news agency who used model rocket engines to "simulate" the effects of gas tank ruptures. And another report about Vietnam deserters being "hit." Just because someone's reputation is good doesn't mean their reporting on any one given incident is any good.

No, I want to see the evidence before I'll believe, or even credit, anyone's theories.

One of the most obvious reasons is that I want to see if the other guy perhaps interpreted that evidence through the eyes of his own point of view. I don't track names really closely when I read things here, so I can't recall who it was, but someone recently said that TIGHAR claims the Kanton engine was from the Electra. I've seen no place where this was ever claimed. Rather it was stated that perhaps it was. PERHAPS. This leads me to wonder about this author's ability to read correctly what he or she sees and to research correctly his or her statements. Were this same author to then make claims about other evidence I haven't seen, I'd wonder about that too. But I take a more general approach. I assume that anyone is capable of misinterpreting what they see, so I always want to see the evidence myself.

- Bill #2229
LTM (who says "Who told you that, dear?")

Back to Highlights Archive list.

About TIGHAR Join TIGHAR TIGHAR Projects TIGHAR Publications Contract Services
The TIGHAR Store Blog TIGHAR Forum Contact TIGHAR TIGHAR Home

Copyright 2018 by TIGHAR, a non-profit foundation. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be reproduced by xerographic, photographic, digital or any other means for any purpose. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be stored in a retrieval system, copied, transmitted or transferred in any form or by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, digital, photographic, magnetic or otherwise, for any purpose without the express, written permission of TIGHAR. All rights reserved.

Contact us at:  •   Phone: 610.467.1937   •   JOIN NOW