Forum artHighlights From the Forum

September 19 through 25, 1999

Subject: Charging and Cooling
Date: 9/19/99
From: Robert Klaus

Regarding charging batteries and cooling engines. Having worked on quite a few of the American WW-II types I can say that you can charge the batteries, and keep the engines cool in most cases.

It's true that overheating is a concern, however, except under very hot conditions, setting the prop to coarse pitch provides sufficient cooling air over the engine. Weren't most of the apparently legitimate post loss messages at night when it would have been cooler? I suspect that the earlier postings reporting overheating experiences on the ground came from light civil aircraft with fixed pitch props and small cowl openings.

I've worked engine runs on the AT-6, which has a similar R-1340 and variable pitch prop, during the summer in California and encountered no difficulties with overheating. (Just be careful you don't jump the chocks with the RPM up and prop pitch coarse.) The battery would usually completely recharge during the course of the engine run.

For a critical battery charging situation: rather than running the whole start procedure with the electric starter, you can walk the prop through to purge the lower jugs, and to prime. Then use the electric start only when the mags are hot. This substantially reduces battery drain (and incidentally saves the starters).

Also, while I agree it's not possible to hand prop a 1340, it probably is possible to hand start it. A procedure I've seen used on the R-1830 of a Dakota is to rig a cup to go over a prop tip. This has a long rope attached for the start crew to pull. This provides sufficient leverage to kick the engine over. The Dakota did take three strong men and a boy, so I don't know how practical it would be with the Lockheed, but it's certainly possible.

LTM (Who never jumps the chocks, or to conclusions.)
Robert Klaus

From Ric

Think night-time, ambient temperature about 80 degrees F, with maybe a 10 to 12 knot breeze. So the run-up recharges what was used in the start.... Interesting.

Subject: Power for the Electra
Date: 9/19/99
From: David Dunsmore

On Sat, 18 Sep 1999, Richard E. Gillespie wrote:

> We know that a Lockheed 10 sitting on the ground can start its engines from
> its own battery. (duh) NR16020 even had an extra battery. If the airplane
> was sitting on the reef at Niku intact it should be no big deal to start an
> engine. As for how many rpm for how long, using how much fuel, it takes to
> recharge the batteries with a set-up exactly like Earhart's, and whether
> cooling would be an issue - I have yet to hear an educated opinion.

How about we try using an existing Lockheed 10 (like that 10A model that Air Canada still flies for charity flights) and do an experiment on the ground to see just how long the engine can run from a cold start to almost overheating, and record what fuel flow reading, RPM and generator charge it puts out, and for how long? To be accurate, we may need to hook up a second battery like on NR16020, drain power like their radio would have, and hopefully do the test run on a day with a similar ambiant temperature to what our heroes would have had on Niku. Just a thought.

LTM, (Who likes any excuse to get close to airplanes!)
David Dunsmore

From Ric

If we were going to do an experiment that had any meaning we would need to use an airplane with the same engines Earhart had. The 10A uses the smaller R985. The only operational Electra with 1340s is Finch's and we're not likely to get any cooperation there. The next best thing would be a North American T-6 which uses the military variant of the 1340 (the AN-1 rather than the S3H1). Fortunately, Texans are a dime a dozen. (No offense to our friends from the Lone Star state).

Subject: The Nutiran Reef
Date 9/19/99
From: Don Neumann

Warren Lambing said:

> ....Is it possible that Lt. Lambrecht was so
> involved with viewing the wreck of the Norwich City, that he could miss any
> smaller debris left by the Electra (if nearby the Norwich City) by the time
> he flew over? ....

We seem to imply with this statement that the Electra had, within the space of a week's time, been reduced to small pieces of debris no longer recognizable as fitting the configuration of an aircraft, by observation from an aircraft whose only mission was to look for & find such plane or wreckage. While it has already been argued that the pilot Lambrecht & his observer may or may not have been as focused on the task at hand as they should have been, I think we would have to agree it would be very hard to explain how they missed seeing an intact Electra, sitting on the reef, especially if it were in reasonable proximity to the Norwich City, the only other readily noticable landmark on the island, which Lambrecht describes in some detail.

Admittedly, had there been some unusual strong or violent wave or storm action around Gardner Island during that interval of time, it is surely possible that the Electra was either swept off the reef or in fact reduced to unrecognizable aircraft wreckage; however I seem to recall a post from Randy Jacobson that no such unusual wave or storm related activity was recorded for that period of time, which if true, means that either the Electra was still on the reef (intact) at the time of Lambrecht's flight or that the otherwise normal tidal action at Gardner Island had indeed been sufficiently strong to render an aircraft the size of the Electra to pieces of wreckage, indistinguishable from that of the nearby Norwich City; or that in landing the Electra, AE had set down so close to the edge of the reef that such normal tidal action had swept the aircraft off the reef into the deeper waters surrounding the island so that there was no visable signs of either the plane or it's wreckage at the time of the overflight.

The only other possible scenario is that the aircraft didn't land on the reef near the Norwich City, accounting for the fact that Lambrecht & his observer failed to see the plane or wreckage, because it was never on the reef at that location.

Don Neumann

From Ric

I guess you missed my posting in response in a similar question from Jerry Ellis on September 14th:

>I think you underestimate the power of the sea. No whopping great storm is
>needed. Just a bit of a swell. If you could stand on the reef at Niku in
>that area on just an average day when there's a swell running .... well - for
>one thing, you wouldn't be standing for long. Russ Matthews was out there
>this last trip. What was it like Russ?

To which Russ replied:

>I was out on the Nutiran reef at low tide several times on the July trip
>and mostly had the good sense to stay away from the breaking water. On one
>occasion I ventured close to the Northwestern edge in order to videotape
>"crashing waves." I wasn't disappointed. The sea pounds that area
>relentlessly and made for some nice footage (with a zoom lens of course).
>It's certainly a dynamic environment - evidenced by large slabs of coral
>strewn about the reef surface. I had to set up on top of one big chunk in
>order to get clear of the swells and the numerous blacktip sharks.
>On another occasion, several of us decided to save a little time returning
>to the ship (moored to the wreck of the Norwich City and so tantalizingly
>close) by going over the edge of the reef. It was one of the calmer days
>we'd seen at the island and the whole thing seemed like a good idea. The
>launch came in to get us - and in no time was broadside to the waves, bashing
>its hull against the coral. After some unexpected (and unnecessary) tense
>moments, we got her off again. Needless to say, everyone was happy to
>commute the "long way" home from then on.

I was a participant in the little adventure Russ describes above, which took place (now that I think about it) very close to where Emily says the airplane wreckage once was. The sea that day was by no means stormy. In fact, it was rather calmer than is typical at Niku - and we came very close to rolling the launch and maybe losing some people. And that was at LOW tide. I must confess to a perverse desire to share that experience with anyone who doesn't think the surf on a normal day at Niku could utterly destroy a Lockheed 10.


Subject: Re: The Nutiran Reef
Date: 9/19/99
From: Tom King

Don Neumann writes:

>We seem to imply with this statement that the Electra had, within the
>space of a week's time, been reduced to small pieces of debris no longer
>recognizable as fitting the configuration of an aircraft, by observation
>from an aircraft whose only mission was to look for & find such plane or

But remember that what Emily describes is not small pieces of debris, but some fairly massive elements that, if parts of an airplane, must have been major structural members or parts of the undercarriage. So two things could have happened to the rest of the plane -- smashed to smithereens (which should have, presumably, left a lot of shiny stuff around to be seen), or lifted more or less intact off the undercarraige and dropped over the reef face. Question: would the latter scenario be a reasonable one, given what we know about the way Electras were held together?

Tom King

From Ric

In my opinion, no. I've never watched an Electra, or any other kind of airplane, get torn apart on a reef, so anything I say is pure speculation based upon what I know about the reef at Niku in that location and about how Lockheed 10s are constructed.

As the surf picked up I would expect the airplane to "weathervane" so that it was facing the oncoming waves. At some point there's going to be a wave big enough to pick the airplane up and move it some distance "downstream" where it will then slam down onto the reef and get spun around by the "weathervaning" effect of the retreating undertow. That's when at least one, maybe both, of the main gear legs will fail at the down-lock, fold up, and dump the airplane onto its belly which will be ripped open, making the airframe less buoyant.

Now, with the airplane's entire center section belly in contact with the reef surface, the next big wave doesn't so much pick up the airplane but slides it across the reef, essentially disemboweling the fuselage and destroying its integrity. At this point the major structural member, the main beam, comes in contact with the reef and soon gets jammed into one of the many shallow depressions or "pools" in the reef flat.

With the main beam held firm the airplane becomes the classic immovable object assailed by the irresistable force. Water rushes in through openings in the skin and the fuselage literally explodes into shards of aluminum, many of which are light enough to get sucked back out over the reef edge by the retreating undertow. Within a few hours nothing is left on the reef but the heaviest elements that offer the least surface area to the waves - i.e. the main beam and the hardware attached to it (main gear legs, worm gear drive shafts, etc.) and the engines. The rest of the pieces of the airplane are either pulled back out and over the reef edge or swept downstream depending upon an impossibly complex formula in which size, weight, buoyancy and surface area are subject to wave size, undertow force, the smoothness or roughness of the reef surface, etc. etc.

That's what I see in my tiny mind.


Subject: RE: Radios on Airplanes
Date: 9/19/99
From: Harry Poole

Greg asked:

>Does anybody know the specifics on the radio? IE Who built it? What
>was the model number?

And Ric answered:

>Yes, we have all those specifics. How about it radio gurus? Can we reliably
>estimate how much power it would take to transmit for - say - fifteen minutes
>using the WE 13C and the dorsal V antenna?

The life of the two batteries depends on the state of charge, and the percentage of time transmitting. The battery was rated at 85 amp-hours (two Exide 6-FFHM-13-1). The Westinghouse transmitter required about 50 amps, and the receiver about 5 amps.

Thus, if transmissions occurred once an hour for 6 minutes, while the receiver remained on constantly, battery drain would be about (50 X 0.1)+5 or 10 amps per hour. This results in a radio life of about 8.5 hours. If they tried to transmit for 15 minutes per hour, the drain would be more like (50 X 0.25)+5 or 17.5 amps per hour, with radio life shortened to about 5 hours. Finally, if they shut the receiver off (especially if they could not hear Howland), and restricted transmissions to 3 minutes per hour, they could continue to transmit for 85/(50 X 0.05) or as long as 36 hours.

Harry #2300

From Ric

Whew! I asked for specifics and I got specifics. Does everybody agree with Harry's figures?

Subject: Re: Radios on Airplanes
Date: 9/19/99
From: William Webster-Garman

Ric wrote:

>Can we reliable estimate how much power it would take to transmit
>for -- say-- fifteen minutes using the WE 13C and the dorsal V antenna?

In principle, for a reasonable estimate of maximum transmit time one needs to know:

1) The factory-rated power consumption (in amperes or watts) of a typical WE 13C. The wattage/power output delivered to the antenna when the mike is keyed must be factored in with the unit's power consumption in stand-by mode (that is, tubes energized but not delivering output power). This information could possibly be acquired from the original manual (or possibly extrapolated from a manufacturer's plate on the cabinet), for example.

2) The capacity of the battery array on the Electra: The calculation of battery capacity requires an estimated starting charge, and will be influenced by the actual rate of drain (average coulombs/sec/volt, i.e. amperes) over time, ambient temperature, and the age/condition of the battery.

With the right information, one could easily come up with a reasonable number in kilowatt hours for the transmitter. However, I'd have to read up a little on 30s era aviation batteries to estimate a realistic capacity curve.

To illustrate the final calculation only, IF the transmitter consumed (not broadcast) 500 watts (amperes x volts at the power connection) when keyed, and IF the battery could deliver 1/4 kilowatt hour under that continuous load, then its capacity in that case would be 30 minutes.

william #2243

Subject: Re: Radios on Airplanes
Date: 9/19/99
From: Mike Everette

The radio transmitter was a Western Electric model 13CB, the receiver a Western Electric model 20BA.

The transmitter specifications list it as drawing approximately 65 amps at 12 volts when on the air in voice mode. Given the design of the transmitter (screen modulated AM voice) the difference between voice mode and CW (morse code) mode would not be very great. The receiver drew about 5 amps.

It will not take very long, with this kind of power drain, to kill a storage battery unless the battery is recharged at least periodically.

I will have a complete analysis of this equipment prepared for the 8th edition of the Project Book.

By the way... anyone ever seen an old John Wayne movie titled Island in the Sky? The plot (in a hurry): a C-47 is forced down on a frozen lake in northern Canada during WW2... massive search is mounted to find it and its crew before they freeze to death. Radio, and direction finding, plays a huge role. It is also pretty realistic (unusual for Hollywood)... especially in the depiction of the radio operator's plight... this one may give you some ideas of what people were up against in the Earhart incident.

73 and LTM (who is a huge movie buff)
Mike E. the Radio Historian #2194 (who also writes screenplays)

From Ric

My understanding is that both Island in the Sky and The High and the Mighty, (both based on Ernie Gann books) are tied up in Duke's estate and so, are not available on videotape. Pity. Is there a Black Market?

Subject: Re: Wreckage on the Reef
Date: 9/21/99
From: Don Neumann

Using Ric's scenario:

>...Within a few hours nothing is left on the reef but the heaviest
>elements that offer the least surface area to the waves - i.e. the main
>beam and the hardware attached to it (main gear legs, worm gear drive
>shafts, etc.) and the engines....

Wouldn't Lt. Lambrecht or his observer have been able to see, at least, the two radial aircraft engines on the reef, which would have presented a very different configuration than any of the other debris that might have remained on the reef from the Norwich City; or would the normal tidal wave action at high tide (assuming his overflight was made during a high tide) be sufficient to totally engulf the engines & render them unseeable from the air?

(Not trying to be argumentive, just trying to convince skeptics why Lambrecht & his observer couldn't have seen the wreckage that was still on the reef, from the air.)

Don Neumann

From Ric

Unfortunately, a radial engine is not very different in size and shape from typical a coral head.

Emily said specifically that the stuff was visible only at low tide. A photo taken during the Navy search of Gardner shows that the tide was high and that there was surf on the reef. At high tide there is about four feet of water standing on that reef - more than enough to hide a couple of R1340s.

Subject: "Readily Locatable" wreckage
Date: 9/22/99
From: Patrick Gaston

Oh. Well, then (speaking as an atty who has paid a lot of experts in his time) consider whether it's really worth thousands of bux to have Photek conduct its analysis. Whatever they come up with is going to be so heavily caveatted that I doubt it will settle anything ... and if the analysis can't be verified by firsthand observation, then one must ask what's the point. Think "Aircraft Skin, Round II" Or maybe "Loch Ness Monster, Round CCXLIX".

I won't belabor the many inconsistencies in Emily's story, as you already have identified most of them in your article. However, if her recollections are accurate then we seem to be moving toward a scenario where FN died in the crash-landing but AE survived, eventually dragging herself -- B&B bottle in hand -- more than a mile down the shoreline, where she expired under a Ren tree. Perhaps two or three miles, depending upon where the Fiji Bones actually were found (whatever Gallagher's shortcomings in island geography, we have to assume he knew southeast from northwest).

It just doesn't add up. Any crash violent enough to kill Fred outright probably wouldn't have left Amelia in shape for a nature hike. Even if she did miraculously escape unscathed, why would she abandon the Norwich/Electra wreckage -- the most visible objects on the island -- and head for the remote southeast? The logical thing (and our gal was always cool under fire) would have been to remain in the vicinity of the wreckage, find the nearest shade, and wait it out until the searchers came. Electra breaks up and washes into the sea? You would still stay close to the Norwich City -- maybe even inside it. It's the first thing any searcher would notice (see, e.g., Lambrecht Report).

My point is that the "Emily Bones" seem increasingly incompatible with the "Gallagher Bones". Either we had a violent crash-landing at the island's northwest corner that killed both occupants of the Electra on impact, or we had a relatively soft landing farther down along the reef flat, followed by establishment of a campsite and a slow death by dehydration. I cannot think of a plausible unifying theory that would account for two widely-separated sets of remains. (Key word here is "plausible," not "possible".) Eventually, TIGHAR may have to choose between one theory and the other.

Feel free to post as much or as little of this as you wish, but I warn you: My info comes from an absolutely reliable source (I refer to me) and dissent will NOT be tolerated.

P. Gaston

From Ric

Hey, I LOVE postings like this and I wouldn't change a word. Like your last one where you had the island teeming with European administrators, it gives me a chance to address commonly held misconceptions and unwarranted assumptions. Let's take them in order:

>Whatever they come up with is going to be so heavily
>caveatted that I doubt it will settle anything ... and if the analysis can't
>be verified by firsthand observation, then one must ask what's the point.
>Think "Aircraft Skin, Round II" Or maybe "Loch Ness Monster, Round CCXLIX".

Allow me to point out, counsellor, that the forensic analysis of vintage photography has an excellent track record within the context of The Earhart Project.

  • We determined Earhart's actual shoe size through photogrammetric measurement of a photo of Earhart standing on the wing of the Electra. The fact that some critics reject that evidence doesn't make it less credible. The jury in O.J. Simpson trial rejected the DNA evidence. (duh)
  • Close inspection of a photograph taken in San Juan, Puerto Rico allowed us to disprove our own fondly-held hypothesis that the aircraft skin found on Nikumaroro was from a patch on the belly of the Electra. It could still be from somewhere else on the airplane, but we at least know that it's not part of that particular patch.
  • As explained in my earlier posting, forensic imaging enabled us to establish the "ground truth" about the reported "water collection device." Were it not for Photek we might still be spending miserable man-hours and thousands of dollars bashing the bushes looking for that elusive feature.

We have no way of knowing how "caveatted" (try "laced with caveat") the photos of presumed wreckage on the reef may be, but anyone who thinks that forensic imaging cannot result in convincing evidence should talk to some of the guys now doing time who were convicted on the basis of images Jeff has pulled from badly out-of-focus security cameras.

The stuff that was on the reef in the late 1930s is not there now, but the photos may be able to show not only what it was, but if we can track its movement over time we may be able to figure out where it went and thus get the ground truth we need.

>However, if her recollections are accurate then we seem to be moving toward
>a scenario where FN died in the crash-landing but AE survived, eventually
>dragging herself -- B&B bottle in hand -- more than a mile down the
>shoreline, where she expired under a Ren tree.

That may be your scenario, but it's not mine. I see a safe landing on the reef followed by a couple of days of radio messages, ending when rising surf forces an evacuation of the airplane under hazardous circumstances. If Noonan died near the wreck - and I think that's a big if - then his demise was most likley associated with that event. And by the way, it was a Benedictine bottle (a crucial distinction I'm sure).

>Even if she did miraculously escape unscathed, why would she abandon the
>Norwich/Electra wreckage -- the most visible objects on the island -- and
>head for the remote southeast? The logical thing (and our gal was always cool under
>fire) would have been to remain in the vicinity of the wreckage, find the
>nearest shade, and wait it out until the searchers came.

For how long? At what point do you say, "I'm getting pretty thirsty and hungry. Maybe I'd better explore this island and see what assets may be available." ?

>My point is that the "Emily Bones" seem increasingly incompatible with the
>"Gallagher Bones".

I address that in the report. In fact, "Emily's bones" are entirely consistent with "Gallagher's bones" (i.e. skull found first, not many bones, big bones, shown to Gallagher who asks her father to make a box for them). The incompatible parts of the story are those that Emily gets second hand but Gallagher relates first hand. There is, of course, room for interpretation that Emily is talking about different bones and there has been some debate on that subject between me and Tom King who may wish to share his take on this issue with the forum. It's a classic problem of anecdote evaluation and nobody has any hard answers - yet.

>Either we had a violent crash-landing at the island's
>northwest corner that killed both occupants of the Electra on impact, or we
>had a relatively soft landing farther down along the reef flat, followed by
>establishment of a campsite and a slow death by dehydration. I cannot think
>of a plausible unifying theory that would account for two widely-separated
>sets of remains.

You're formulating your own hypothesis and then declaring it to be invalid. If it please the court:

  • The wreckage on the reef reported by Emily and apparently corroborated in the photos, if it is that of NR16020, indicates only that the airplane was reduced to bare bones debris by October 1937.
  • The failure of the Navy's aerial search on July 9 is an indication that the wreckage may have been in a similar state by that time - one week after the putative arrival.
  • If the post-loss radio signals are credible, they require an essentially intact aircraft for the period when the more credible signals were received (the evening of July 2 through the night of July 4th). That leaves at least four days for the surf to reduce the airplane to a condition that would render it virtually invisible to an aerial search at high tide.
  • The scenario thus suggested by the available evidence certainly does not preclude the destruction of the aircraft and the survival of both Earhart and Noonan. The discovery of remains that may be Earhart's elsewhere on the island in 1940 indicate only that sometime between the arrival on July 2, 1937 and some months prior to the discovery of the skull circa April 1940, Earhart traveled to the southeastern part of the island. The absence of a second set of bones at that location suggests, but does not require, that Noonan was not with her at that time.
  • If Emily's testimony is interpreted to mean that bones other than the ones found by Gallagher were found near the plane wreck (an interpretation that I do not share) it could be an indication that Noonan's absence from the Gallagher site is due to his demise in some event relating to the evacuation/destruction of the airplane. The 281 message indicates that such an evacuation may have occurred in the wee hours of July 5th. Crossing that reef in the dark with a strong surf running would be an extremely dangerous undertaking.

>I cannot think of a plausible unifying theory that would account for two
>widely-separated sets of remains.

See above.


Subject: Re: "Readily Locatable" wreckage
Date: 9/22/99
From: Tom King

Very elegantly stated, counsellor. As Ric says, there's room for disagreement about exactly how to interpret the relationship between Emily's account and Gallagher's, but certainly the existence of one doesn't disverify the other.

My own tendency is to speculate that Emily is compressing memories of two bones discoveries into one -- the first being the discovery recounted by Gallagher, the second being one that takes place while Gallagher is in Fiji, and that might be responsible for the "they threw the bones into the ocean" story that's part of the Kilts account. But my speculation hangs on the assumption that Koata returned from Tarawa after the incident of the Benedictine bottle, and the evidence that he did is thin at best. So stay tuned.....

LTM (who prefers serious jam on sourdough toast)

Subject: Historic NACA Reports
Date: 9/23/99
From: Tom Robison

I can't remember if our favorite Lockheed Model 10E was made of the product known as "Duralumin", but if it was, those of you interested in its structure and dissolution of same over time might find the following interesting:

3.Henry S. Rawdon, Corrosion embrittlement of duralumin V : results of weather-exposure tests, NACA TN 304, Feb 1929, pp. 30.

Abstract: In a series of weather exposure tests of sheet duralumin, upon which accelerated corrosion tests in the laboratory by the wet-and-dry corrosion method in a sodium chloride solution has already been carried out, a close parallelism between the results of the two kinds of tests was found to exist. The exposure tests showed that the lack of permanence of sheet duralumin is largely, if not entirely, due to corrosion. A corrosion attack of an intercrystalline nature is very largely responsible for the degree of embrittlement produced. The rate of embrittlement was greatly accelerated by a marine atmosphere and by the tropical climate. Variations in corrosion and embrittlement are noted in relation to heat treatment, cold working, and types of protective coatings.

Go to NACA Central, Cranfield for the abstract and a link to the full PDF.

There may be other NACA reports here that are pertinent to Amelia's aircraft as well.

Tom #2179

From Ric

Aluminum sheet was used on airplanes very early on (such as the cowlings on WWI aircraft). It was light and resisted corrosion very well, but it was too soft to use for structural purposes.

One way around the problem was to corrugate the aluminum sheet for added strength (such as in the Ford Tri-Motor) but that also meant using a lot of aluminum which, of course, increased the weight.

Then along comes duralumin which was aluminum alloyed with other stuff like zinc and copper. It was a lot stronger than pure aluminum but it was also (as noted in the report above) very corrosion-prone. What to do? What to do?

Long about 1930 along comes the Aluminum Corporation of America (ALCOA), with the bright idea of bonding a thin (5 percent of the total thickness) coating of pure aluminum on each side of a sheet of alloy, thus obtaining the best of both worlds. the process was called "cladding" and the product was named ALCLAD.

Now the aviation industry had a sheet aluminum product that was strong enough and durable enough to be practical and before long new designs (such as the Boeing 247, the Lockheed 10 and the Douglas DC-2) began to appear that did away with the heavy steel tube internal skeleton completely and used the ALCLAD skin of the airplane to carry the structural load. We're still building flying machines that way today.

To be specific, NR16020 was built of 24ST ALCLAD (today known as 2024). It was not augmented with any additional corrosion inhibiting treatment (such as anodizing) or coating (such as zinc-chromate). These came along later and were widely used during WWII.


Subject: Flyover 'n' More
Date: 9/23/99
From: Patrick Gaston

To Warren Lambing: Sorry if my previous post on Lambrecht's flyover read like a personal attack. It wasn't meant to be. There have been a number of posts on the forum over the past few months implying that Lambrecht maybe didn't take his duties all that seriously, as indicated by the chatty and sometimes irreverent tone of his report. I was just trying to point out that his procedures seemed thorough regardless of his writing style.

To the extent there is a point lurking here, it's that Lambrecht's failure to see aircraft wreckage on Niku cannot fairly be explained away as mere inattention, nor is it likely that his eyes were playing tricks on him. I think we have to accept the fact that, one week after AE's disappearance, a trained observer was unable to discern anything on the island that reasonably resembled aircraft wreckage. This raises three possibilities:

1. The Electra was instantly reduced to smithereens by a violent crash, which means there was probably nobody left alive to set up a campsite and eventually perish under a Ren tree;

2. The Electra landed largely intact but was subsequently destroyed and/or washed off the reef by surf action;

3. The Electra came down somewhere else. Scenario No. 1 is consonant with Emily's recollections of human remains being found near the purported airplane wreckage. But it rules out any post-loss messages and strongly suggests that the campsite, partial skeleton and shoe fragments found by Gallagher belonged to someone else. Also, one would think that a violent crash on the reef flat would have resulted in a debris field visible from the air.

Scenario No. 2 is, of course, the current TIGHAR theory, and it leaves room for a connection between the "Gallagher artifacts" and AE. But if the Electra came down near the Norwich City wreckage, why didn't AE and FN remain in that area? As several Forum members have pointed out, the shipwreck was a virtual "beacon" for rescuers. Why walk a mile or two down the beach and set up camp in the bush when it's obvious that any search party is going to be drawn to the Norwich City like a moth to a porchlight? To my tiny mind this counsels against a landing on the northwest corner of the island and in favor of one farther down the reef flat to the southeast. Wherever they came down, I'm still not convinced that an intact Electra could vanish so completely in the space of one week, but guess this will remain in the realm of the Great Unknowables (sorta like FN's navigation techniques) unless and until verifiable wreckage is found. If the post-loss radio messages are credible, then this utter and complete disappearance took place over four days (July 5-9) rather than a week.

Scenario No. 3 gets us into the whole grab bag of competing AE theories which are presently (and properly) off-topic. This is TIGHAR's forum, and they have a right to make the rules. I, for one, have always felt that it might be profitable to spend a few days poking around the Gilberts, but enough said.

LTM (who just doesn't know WHAT to think)
Patrick Gaston

p.s. To Tom King: The Suva Tomato Hut experimented with sushi idea but that four-week delivery time resulted in lots of dissatisfied customers. You didn't want to be delivering rotten fish to the Japanese Mandates in 1937 if valued your head.

Subject: Reef Landing
Date: 9/25/99
From: Jim

Are there any archives that address the theories of the reef landing and what could happen to the plane even if a non-destructive landing occured? What about the "topography" below the water of the reef where it is theorized that Amelia and Fred may have landed.

My first point is that most reefs are not flat planes just below the surface of the water. There are usually holes (some rather deep) that could catch the landing gear and result in a ground (reef?) loop or even worse. Even if it was low tide and the water was just a foot or two deep then wouldn't the water hamper a stable nose-up landing? How deep could the reef be below the water before the landing would be a water landing.

Also point 2. Assuming a safe? landing - in looking at the distance between the bottom of the fuselage and the landing gear, it seems that even if the plane's landing gear was sitting on the reef at the time of landing, it wouldn't take much of a tide for the plane to become buoyant and enable the ocean/reef to start destroying the plane. Especially since the 1937 technology tires could have easily been flattened by the coral. The plane could have been pushed around a lot just after coming to a stop. Since there are two low and two high tides at varying times in 24 hours it seems likely that even in the best conditions the plane could only last a short time, maybe just hours.


From Ric

You have the usual perception of what a reef is like, but Nikumaroro is different. There are large areas on that reef where you could easily ride a bicycle at low tide. One such area is just north of the Norwich City, out near the ocean. I know. I was standing there just two months ago. At low tide, in July, that area is either dry or just barely awash in maybe an inch of water. Other parts of the reef are much rougher and are, as you say, pock marked with depressions that would prohibit a safe landing. But in the location where Emily says she saw wreckage an uneventful landing seems entirely possible.

As for the height of the tide versus the height of a Lockheed 10: That airplane is probably bigger than you realize. In the 3-point attitude (on its three wheels) the top of the cockpit is fully 10 feet off the ground and a six foot man cannot step up onto the trailing edge of the wing unassisted. Four and a half feet of standing water (typical high tide at Niku) is not sufficient to reach the buoyant features of the aircraft (the wing and fuselage fuel tanks). As long as the seas remain relatively calm the airplane should stay more or less in one place.


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