Forum artHighlights From the Forum

November 14 through 20, 1999

Subject: Fit
Date: 11/14/99
From: Robert Klaus

I'm the one who suggested a possible fit on the B-18 lower aft fuselage. On the basis of the description of 2-2-V-1 on the website, and a short piece of video from Unsolved Mysteries I made a sketch of what the piece may have looked like before damage. The aircraft I compared is the B-18A at McChord AFB. An area aft of the tail wheel matched for rivet spacing, rivet size, stringer spacing and stringer taper. However, the skin in this area consisted of several pieces. The aircraft has been through many modifications in its career (B-18A bomber, B-18B ASW aircraft, civilian cargo plane, smoke jumper and borate bomber) and has obviously been repaired and reskinned. It is possible the area was originally covered by one piece of skin.

A second good match was found on the upper wing surface of the outboard panel. A big section of skin outboard of the butt joint has an area that matches the description exactly (with the exception of thickness, which could not be determined).

A third area on the same aircraft worth checking is the upper aft fuselage, which should have a similar taper.

I'd like to suggest that good scaled drawings of the piece (and other artifacts) be added to the website. This will make it much easier for other people to try to find a fit, or to rule out candidates.

There is an older B-18, much closer to original condition at Castle Air Museum just north of Merced California. As it has gone through many fewer modifications it would be a good one to compare. Perhaps someone in the area can check.

Another B-18A can be found at the Air Force Museum, as can another candidate aircraft, the DC-2 (C-32). The wing skin of both these should be checked for a fit.

One other candidate for the source of 2-2-V-1 is the Consolidated LB-30. Two LB-30s are extant (more or less). One is the Confederate Air Force "Diamond Lil", the other is an ex-Knudson LB-30 freighter in Alaska. Both are unfortunately compromised as information sources. The CAF bird has been modified, first as a transport, then with B-24D components. The Knudson aircraft was also modded as a transport, then crashed. It's remains are said to be in pretty good shape.

One last question that remains unanswered: how far could aircraft debris have come from? I understand that some of the debris on Niku came from a B-24 which crashed on Kanton Island. Just how big a circle should be considered for sources?

Robert Klaus

From Ric

We approached that question by making a list of every American aircraft type known or suspected of being in the Central Pacific since the Wright brothers (who, as far as we know, were not terribly active in the region). We've come across a number of close-but-no-cigar matches but, like a jigsaw puzzle piece, it has to be perfect or it doesn't count. Once you start speculating about patches and repairs, the field is wide open.

We'll get some good photos and scale drawings of 2-2-V-1 and other artifacts up on the website as soon as time permits.

Subject: Phoenix Alternate
Date: 11/14/99
From: Andrew McKenna

> But the idea of leaving the
>area near Howland and going on to an alternate several hundred
>miles away with an unknown fuel situation is not logical unless it
>was planned. Was there any evidence that she had planned alternates
>in previous flights? If so is ther any information about how much
>fuel reserve she considered?

I think both Carrington and Goerner mention in their books that AE did include in her plan for the first attempt from Hawaii to Howland to use the Phoenix Islands as an emergency alternate in the event Howland could not be found. My impression is that the source of their information probably came from Paul Mantz who helped AE plan her east to west flight.

Has anyone looked at the flight planning from Honolulu to Howland to see how much fuel it would have taken, and whether or not they would have had enough to get to the Phoenix from Howland if they had come from the East? Are there any other islands that would have been within range given the assumed fuel situation arriving at Howland from the East?

If the Phoenix are the only other islands reachable given the scenario of not finding Howland having flown from Hawaii, I would think that AE would have been forced to think about the Phoenix Islands as the only emergency landing area. If she had thought about it during the plan for the East to west flight, she certainly would have had it in the back of her mind for the Lae to Howland flight.

My guess is that it is likely that AE and FN were well aware that the Phoenix Islands was their most logical destination should they not be able to find Howland.

LTM (who always wants us to plan ahead)
Andrew McKenna 1045

From Ric

I don't have copies of the navigational charts prepared for the Hawaii/Howland leg by Clarence Williams but they are on file at Purdue. My recollection is that they do not mention the Phoenix Group. The only indication I've ever seen that supports the idea that the Phoenix Group was seen as an alternate is a plain old National Geographic map of the Pacific in the Purdue file on which Canton and Enderbury Islands in the Phoenix Group are underlined in pencil. Those two islands were claimed by the U.S. at that time.

Subject: Crawling all over the Phoenix Islands
Date 11/14/99
From: Don Neumann

I suggest the reason anecdotal accounts of seeing aircraft wreckage on the reef flats near the Norwich City, by 'local' residents, would be more credibile than the..."non-sightings"... of any European visitors to the island, was because the "locals" probably spent a great deal of their time fishing on or off the reef flats around the NC & therefore were more observant of their surroundings on the reef than occasional visitors.

I concede that I've always had a difficult time understanding why Lt. Lambrecht & his observer failed to see the Electra or the larger parts of it's wreckage..."IF"... it still remained on the reef flat only seven days after the aircraft landed in such close proximity to the NC. Posts by Randy Jacobson have suggested there were no recorded adverse weather conditions that would have created any abnormally high tides or violent seas to strike the island, that might have destroyed the plane completely or washed it off the edge of the reef flat, during that seven day time frame. Of course, there have been many explanations submitted as to why the aircraft wasn't seen by the navy pilots, including some that claim the simple reason they failed to see the Electra was because it wasn't there when they over-flew the island. Frankly, I'm still trying to keep an open mind on the subject.

Until the remains of the aircraft &/or its crew are found on the island, all of our respective arguments fall within the catagories of assumptions, speculations or personal opinions, however as Dr. King correctly suggests, some are seemingly more credible than others based upon the weight we attach to the considerable amount of documentary evidence & physical artifacts that has been uncovered over the past 62 years, most recently through the extraordinary efforts of the TIGHAR expeditions & on-Forum research programs, which results seem to make a very strong & plausible argument for Nikumaroro (Gardner) Island as the likely, final destination for the Electra & its crew.

Don Neumann

Subject: Forensic Imaging
Date: 11/14/99
From: Ric Gillespie

As you all know, TIGHAR has engaged the services of Photek, Inc. in Hood River, Oregon to perform forensic imaging analyses on early photography which seems to show material on the reef in the location where Emily Sikuli says there was airplane wreckage in 1940/41. The first preliminary progress report is up on the website at Forensic Imaging Preliminary Report.

Recently, Jeff Glickman, founder of Photek, was explaining to me a little bit about some of the techniques he is using. It's fascinating stuff and I thought I'd pass it along.

Naturally, the clarity of the image in a photograph is limited by many factors such as distance from the object, focus, exposure, impurities in the film emulsion, etc. Many of those factors can be removed, corrected or at least improved by digital processes but, at the end of the day, you're still limited by the grain of the film. So what do you do after you've "cleaned up" the image as much as possible and you've still got a blob made up of vario us shades of gray instead of a recognizable object?

Well, you ask yourself, "What might this thing be?" If the blob is on the reef at Nikumaroro in 1937 there are relatively few things that it could be. It could be a hunk of coral thrown up by storm action. (Such coral blocks can be seen on other parts of the reef.) Or it could be debris from the nearby shipwreck (even though the ship is still pretty much intact at that time). Or it could be the wreckage of an airplane (as people who later lived there said it was). On the other hand, it is probably not a '56 Chevy or a locomotive.

Having identified the most likely candidates and having accepted that you can't make the image any clearer, you start to approach it from the other direction. If I take a good sharp photo of, say, a typical coral block and I degrade the image until it's a really lousy picture of a typical coral block, do I end up with something that looks like the object in the photo? How about a typical hunk of shipwreck debris? How about your garden variety Lockheed 10E Special? It's a tedious and painstaking process but it can sometimes yield very interesting results. Any image of a complex object, when degraded down to a blob, has certain distinctive characteristics. A toothbrush, for example, in profile view may become a fuzzy line that almost disappears and then grows to an oblongish blob at the end. If you're trying to decide whether your old picture shows a screwdriver or a toothbrush, this technique can be very helpful. If you get the same result from several photos showing the object from different angles and it keeps coming up toothbrush, you can be pretty sure that it's a toothbrush.

At this point, we know that Photo #1, the October 1937 Bevington photo, shows a very interesting blob on the reef. I've sent him good sharp photos of coral blocks, Norwich City debris, and he has models of the Electra and a PBY to photograph from various angles and degrade as appropriate. We now have decent images to work from for all but two of the ten photos we're examining. We're still working on getting Photo #3 and Photo #4. It is also becoming apparent that we really need to get a very high resolution scan of the original print of Photo #1.


Subject: RE: Artifact 2-2-V-1
Date: 11/14/99
From: Tom King

Re. fish frying on 2-2-V-1: Aluminum (e.g. roofing) is widely used in Micronesian villages as a sort of frypan, and also to cover things that you're baking. It wouldn't necessarily only be fish that the colonists would cook on or under it; could be bananas, breadfruit (except there wasn't any on Niku), tinned meat -- whatever they wanted to cook. Presumably different cooking methods, and other variables like number of times used and distance from the fire, would affect the way the aluminum was affected. Unfortunately, we have no experimental data on what different kinds of cooking do to aluminum, or on what kinds of residues different kinds of cookees leave.

LTM (who prefers chocolate chip)
Tom King

Subject: Re: Crawling all over the Phoenix Islands
Date: 11/14/99
From: Tom King

Thanks, Don, and I certainly agree with you about the locals being a whole lot more likely to see something on the reef than any visiting or overflying European-types.

I've been reading some about I Kiribati fishing techniques lately, and find (no surprise) that spear fishing and line fishing from canoes offshore of the reef edge was a common male occupation. It's pretty easy to imagine a couple of fishermen in a canoe, coasting along the reef edge at low tide, coming upon a chunk of unusual looking wreckage and recognizing it as not being from the Norwich City, particularly if they had recently seen one of those flying things with the gizmo that spins around on the front. It's also of some interest that diving spearfishermen used goggles purchased at the Co-op store. If these became unavailable during WWII, as they probably did, a piece of plexiglass found on the reef or in the bush would probably look very useful.

Tom King

Subject: The wreck photo
Date: 11/16/99
From: Dennis McGee

I was breezing through the latest edition of Air Classics and came across a photo of an AVRO Anson (page 12), a light twin of the 1930s somewhat similar in appearance (and performance?) to the Lockheed 10. Is it possible "The Wreck Photo" could be an AVRO Anson?

The only reason I mention this is that the photo is a right-front quartering shot of an Anson under reconstruction, showing the fuselage sitting on the main landing gear but without the engines and outer wing panels. The photo's angle offers a glimpse of the wing structure behind the leading edge, and there appears to be at least one large circular cutout similar to that which is visible on our wreck photo. The Anson also has split main windshield, which was on the Lockheed 10E (and just about every other twin of that era!).

I don't know what type of engines the AVRO would have used, so considering the measurements taken from the surviving engine in the wreck photo, that may eliminate the Anson as a candidate for the wreck photo. Earlier, did we consider the Anson as a candidate?

LTM, who still likes the pix in AC
Dennis O. McGee #0149CE

Subject: Crawling all over the Phoenix Islands
Date: 11/16/99
From: Don Jordan

I believe I was misquoted! I didn't say they were "Crawling all over the Phoenix Islands looking for Earhart and Noonan". What I said was, "The bottom line is that there were people crawling all over the Phoenix Island area . . . ".

I respect your opinions and would gladly sit in on any lecture you give on the subject. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but as you can tell, I am having a hard time going along with the current TIGHAR theory. I must confess the biggest reason is the fact that there were a lot of people on Niku just after the disappearance and nobody reported wreckage. I don't believe they had to crawl all over the island. There would be no reason to go inland. The wreckage would be on the beach. I'm sorry, it would! There would be something there. If not, where did the Colonists pick up the aircraft wreckage that the TIGHAR expeditions brought back. Surely those pieces were not the only pieces of the Electra left.

Piece 2-2-V-1, the patch I believe, was most likely either cut from a much larger piece or the product of a catastrophic crash. If it was cut from a larger piece, don't you think it would still have been on the beach or reef and seen by Maude and Bevington (1937), or the New Zealand survey party (1938/39)? They camped on the very spot where the Electra supposedly landed and was later torn to bits. On the other hand, if it were the product of a catastrophic crash, it wouldn't fit the TIGHAR theory.

The Colonists were there from 1938 until 1963 (quoting you). Maybe there was some aircraft wreckage there, but if there was wreckage, I have to believe it was war related. I have to believe that because nobody saw or reported anything until after the Colonist arrived.

"Suspicious human remains and artifacts".

Until all the bodies from the Norwich City can be accounted for, I can't consider those remains "Suspicious". Especially in view of the fact that the bones were thought, at the time to be much older than three years. If it could be proven that there were no Sextant boxes, no bottles and no women on that ship, then I would consider the remains suspicious! Even the shoe parts were considered to be much older than three years!

"Parts which are more consistent with an Electra than any other aircraft".

Just yesterday a new candidate was found for those parts. The B-18? Maybe, maybe not. There is a B-18 practically in my back yard (Castle Air Museum). If asked, I will compare the artifacts TIGHAR found to that B-18. Not to disprove TIGHAR's theory, but to help find Amelia. The last I heard, that and that alone was our main goal. I think sometimes we forget that.

"It would be poor practice, at best, to ignore this evidence because of the negative evidence provided by the Colorado pilots and the New Zealand surveyors".

Why is the evidence provided by the Colorado pilots and the New Zealand surveyors negative? It's not their fault they didn't see any airplane wreckage. If it wasn't there. . . how could they see it? I might be convinced the Colorado pilots missed seeing wreckage. . . maybe, but I doubt they would have missed it if it were there.

True the New Zealand survey team wasn't looking for Earhart and Noonan, or the Electra. Some local hunters weren't looking for Mr. Cornell and his missing Cherokee 140 from 1964 either, but when they stumbled upon the crash site just east of here fifteen years later, it didn't take them long to figure out that they should report it to the authorities. I don't think you would have to hit the survey team up side the head with a 2X4 to get them to recognize airplane wreckage and report it.

When I joined TIGHAR some three years ago, I don't remember signing anything that said I had to believe the TIGHAR theory to be a member. Just a genuine burning desire to know what happened to her. To know the truth. . . what ever that may be.

Don J.

Subject: Crawling, etc., on Niku
Date: 11/16/99
From: Patrick Gaston

Thanks to Tom King for the recap of known Euro-type visitors to Nikumaroro. I do think Dr. King left out the U.S. survey team (1941?) -- unless that party is included in Tom's Item No. 4 -- and, more importantly, our old friend Gerald Gallagher.

As far as this SSBWTBC* Forum member is concerned, it's not any single visit but the sum total of all these visits that casts reasonable doubt on the viability of the Niku Hypothesis. For example, one can offer a number of plausible arguments as to why Lambrecht and his wingmen failed to spot a trace of the Electra only 7 days after the purported crash landing. One can argue (somewhat less plausibly) that the New Zealand survey crew didn't see anything because they weren't looking in the right place, etc., etc., although the question then becomes how these guys did pass the time during their two-month stay on the island. (If, indeed, their surveying efforts were concentrated in a single 200-acre plot, what did they do for the remaining six weeks? Play whist?) Same can be said, generally, of the later U.S. survey effort, although they were not on the premises nearly as long.

That brings us to Gallagher, who was certainly aware of a possible Earhart connection even if the NZ and US survey crews were not. Difficult to believe that a fellow who so readily associated the skeletal remains and shoe fragments with AE would not also have inquired about the existence of other potential artifacts. Put yourself in his position: "Gee, these might be Amelia Earhart's bones and shoes! Oh, well, guess I won't ask if any other strange stuff like airplane wreckage has been seen around here in the past few years..."

I suppose this, too, can be explained away in isolation. But put 'em all together -- 1937, 1938, 1940, 1941 -- and you have some pretty persuasive evidence that nothing was seen by the Euro types because there was simply nothing to see. I do not mean to denigrate the islanders' recollections, but their stories are hazy at best. For example, Emily Sikuli clearly is mixing up the Norwich City wreck with the later "aircraft wreck" -- which is not to say an aircraft didn't crash on Niku but only that more anecdotal evidence needs to be developed. Again, however, if there were large hunks of aircraft-type wreckage at the reef margin per Emily's story, or sticking out of the water as per the 1937 Bevington photo, it's hard to believe this would not have been noted by (or reported to) Gallagher.

LTM (as in "put 'em all together, they spell....")
Pat Gaston

P.S. *SSBWTBC = Still Skeptical But Willing To Be Convinced

Subject: Anecdotes
Date: 11/16/99
From: Don Neumann

Ric said:

.."Which would you rather have - a couple of 80 year old guys who say they saw a propeller while they were out fishing 60 years ago, or a couple of photos of identifiable aircraft wreckage on the reef at Nikumaroro in 1937/38? That's why we're working so hard on the forensic imaging project."...

Obviously, 1937-38 photos of identifiable aircraft wreckage on the reef flat "trumps" the 62 year old recollections of any eyewitnesses; However, even the most optimistic reading of Jeff's 11/2/99 letter doesn't promise that his image enhancement process will provide us with indisputable evidence that the objects visable in the 1937-38 are the remains of an aircraft. We'll still need to either physically locate those objects, visible in the photos, or identify eyewitnesses who will be able to describe the objects as being aircraft wreckage.

The (enhanced) photos alone are not an end in themselves, rather they are a means to confirm alleged sightings of aircraft wreckage in the area near the NC & provide a focal point for continued search efforts for the aircraft remains & a point of reference to clarify the testimony of any further eyewitnesses we may be able to locate in the future.

Trusting Ric's eye surgery is successful & that he enjoys a speedy recovery & return to the Forum!

Don Neumann

Subject: Re: the wreck photo
Date: 11/17/99
From: Simon Ellwood

Dennis McGee wrote:

>Is it possible "The Wreck Photo" could be an AVRO Anson?

Well, I haven't see this photo in question, but a year or so back I was fortunate enough to crawl over an Anson being restored - with just the same question in mind. This was at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford - over here in England.

The wing was almost entirely made of wood - the main spar being a box like structure of wooden sheeting. This spar was situated close to the leading edge, and had no holes as such cut into it (as we see in the wreck photo). The leading edge in front of the spar had a sort of curved cut-out where the engine nacelle/bulkhead etc. joined the wing. Could you be looking at that feature perhaps?

It struck me, as I remember, that the distance along the spar between the fuselage and engine didn't look great enough on the Anson, as compared to the Wreck.

Also, if I remember correctly, the nose of the Anson was of a metal tubular construction, rather than former/stressed skin that seems to be the case in the Wreck Photo.

I'd be very interested in seeing this photo - any chance you can scan it in Dennis?

LTM (who still thinks it's a Ki-54 ;-)
Simon #2120

The Wreck Photo is on the TIGHAR web site several times, try either the Project Bulletin for 11/21/97 or the one for 10/10/98. [A web search on Avro Anson yields a number of different photos; see below for info on the photo in Air Classics which Dennis mentions.]

Subject: Re: The wreck photo
Date: 11/17/99
From: Herman de Wulf

I don't think there is a chance that the picture we're talking about shows an Avro Anson. While the Lockheed 10 was of all-metal construction, the Avro Anson was made from the steel tube covered by canvas. The Anson saw light as Avro 652 in 1934 in Great Britain, a twin-engined six-passenger light transport built to a specification issued by Imperial Airways. While the Lockheed 10 had two robust 450 hp Pratt & Whitney engines, the Avro 652 had two less powerful 350 hp Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah radials, giving it a max. speed of 188 mph.

With war clouds gathering, the Royal Air Force was interested in a military development for shore-based maritime reconnaissance to be used by Coastal Command and large numbers were ordered, the first aircraft being delivered to the RAF in 1936. But at the outbreak of WW II (1939) the Anson was already obsolete and by 1940 was being replaced by bigger and faster Lockheed Hudsons, themselves a development of the Lockheed 10.

Ansons remained in service on recce duties until 1942, however, but were then relegated to training duties, becoming the backbone for twin-engine conversion training and widely used in the Commonwealth Air Training Plan. As a result the type was used throughout the Commonwealth and large numbers were built under licence in Canada. The type was widely used for transport and ambulance duties. Teh Anson became very popular among pilots. Although deadly on a single engine it was affectionately called called "Faithful Annie". By the end of the war Ansons were used in a wide variety of roles and they were as frequent as Jeeps. Almost each RAF air station had at least one to do their shopping. After the war a new civil version was built as Avro XIX. Production of all Ansons ceased in May 1952 after 8,138 had been built, 2,882 of these in Canada. Canadian models made use of plywood.

Span was 56 ft. 3 in, length 42 ft. 3 in. and height 13 ft. 1 in. Empty weight was 5,375 lb, loaded weight 8,000 lb. Normal range was 790 miles.

The Anson is easily recognisable as it had large windows stretching the length of the fuselage, giving it a streetcar look. Contrary to the Lockheed 10, which had a metal cockpit with rather narrow forward facing windscreens, the Anson has a large glass greenhouse type of cockpit. It had a single fin and rudder. A remarkable feature was its classic main landing gear, which lowered from the engine nacelles, stretching forward as it were at a 45 degree angle.

Subject: Re: Crawling over the Phoenix Islands
Date: 11/17/99
From: Tom King

Yes, I did forget the Americans among the visitors; as for Gallagher, I counted him in with the colonists.

Without going into this point by point, the reason the lack of reports of wreckage from the Colorado pilots et al is "negative" has nothing to do with anybody being at "fault," it's just that a sighting of something would be positive, and a non-sighting is negative. That's just what they are; no value assigned. A negative observation can't prove or disprove anything, but it can, of course, be suggestive, and when you get a lot of negatives piled up, the suggestions get pretty impressive. I agree that if there was very visible wreckage on the reef in 1937-40, in the vicinity of the Norwich City, it's very, very hard to explain why none of the European visitors saw it. But it IS true that Europeans were hardly crawling all over the islands, whether looking for Earhart or not, and that those who DID visit, with the exception of the Colorado pilots, were pretty clearly focused on other things. As for the I Kiribati, they were even more focused on other things (like making a living), and had no particular reason either to recognize airplane wreckage as anything unusual or to report it to anybody.

That said, I'll freely acknowledge that the near-coincidence of the reported wreckage on the reef and the Norwich City and Nutiran puzzles me a lot. Most of the early European visitors got to the island across the NC. Their ships tied off to it and rode there, sometimes for days at a time. The Kiwis did their survey there; the Leith crew made observations. If there was something there, why didn't any of them report it?

Maybe, as Don suggests, it wasn't there, but in that case we've got to discount some pretty good anecdotal evidence and -- maybe -- the photographic evidence now being analyzed. Or maybe it WAS there and for some reason couldn't be readily seen or recognized -- though it (maybe) could be and was photographed. I don't know, but I do know that the great bulk of archeological reports end up saying that whatever question is being investigated "needs more study," so the fact that we CAN'T readily come to a conclusion right now doesn't particularly startle me.

LTM (who's waiting to be startled)
Tom King

Subject: Re: Avro Anson Theory
Date: 11/18/99
From: Dennis McGee

Thanks to Herman de Wulf, Simon Ellwood and Bill Stout for the information on the AVRO Anson vs.. a candidate for The Wreck Photo. (For the curious, the photo we are talking about appears on page 12 of the November 1999 edition (Vol. 35, Number 10) of Air Classics magazine.)

My query was based solely on the photo I saw in Air Classics. Many of the differences between the Anson and the 10E are obvious to anyone who knows both aircraft and could see both of them intact side by side. But because The Wreck Photo is such of poor quality and unidentified (and the airplane itself is mangled pretty badly [Grammar police, grammar police!! :-)]) I tossed out the Anson theory just to be chewed on. I don't even subscribe to my own theory on this, but thought the possibility The Wreck Photo could be an Anson should be mentioned, at least to allow TIGHAR to cross the Anson off the list of possible candidates.

(I wish I did have the capability to scan in photos, as Simon requested, but at this time I don't.)

The photo in AC clearly shows a tube-frame aircraft with all of the features Hermann mentions, but the wings looked metal through and through. The ONLY part of the AC photo that looked like The Wreck Photo was a small section next to the RH nacelle where the wing structure is visible. I thought the structure appeared to have large holes in the wing's main spar, like in The Wreck Photo.

Thanks for the input and I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about AVRO Anson.

LTM, who's a Cessna gal through and through
Dennis O. McGee #0149CE

Subject: RE: Islander perception
Date: 11/18/99
From: Patrick Gaston

Tom King wrote:

"As for the I Kiribati, they were even more focused on other things (like making a living), and had no particular reason either to recognize airplane wreckage as anything unusual or to report it to anybody."

Tom, the discovery of human remains seems to have been reported quickly enough (not counting the skull, which evidently was found and re-interred before Gallagher's arrival). My point is that, if mysterious aircraft debris also had been found on the island, wouldn't somebody have been likely to put two and two together (strange wreckage + strange, shoe-wearing human = maybe human came from wreckage)? I dunno, maybe I'm applying Western thought patterns to a decidedly non-Western culture.

LTM (who always thought a scleral buckle was something won by a rodeo cowboy),
Pat Gaston

From Pat

Even for western culture, you might be surprised at how focused people can be...

Back in the old days of Project Midnight Ghost, we were interviewing tons of people in Downeast Maine about the old days, and trying to figure out why hearing an airplane, maybe even hearing an airplane crash, wouldn't have automatically touched off a big excursion to the woods. One lovely old lady, maybe... 92 or 93 years old at that point (1989 or 1990) put it best:

"It was just so far outside our way of livin', it was none of our concern."

People get awful busy making a subsistence living, tending their families, making sure the winter/summer/cyclone/dry season won't catch them behind-hand, keeping their houses mended and their powder dry.... even in a place like the central Pacific, where cultures have perhaps more leisure time than those in places like Maine, there is always more than enough to do. And if you can't see any possible relevance to your life, your times, your ability to do for yourself and your family, you may just not feel the need or desire to spend time and energy on exploratory forays.

Just a thought.


Subject: Finders-Keepers on Niku
Date: 11/18/99
From: Don Neumann

Dr. King posted:

..." As for the I Kiribati, they were even more focused on other things (like making a living), and had no particular reason either to recognize airplane wreckage as anything unusual or to report it to anybody "...

Since previous TIGHAR expeditions to the island have revealed they apparently were pretty good scavengers, able to put to good practical use whatever they were able to find on the island, I'm inclined to agree they probably were more concerned with finding uses for the stuff they found than in identifying it's source... However, if some of them did, in fact, spend most of their days fishing on/off the reef in the vicinity of the NC, it would seem likely that they would have been much more aware of any "wreckage" or debris in the waters of that area, if only as likely spots "holding" fish or to be careful about snagging their nets/lines. Additionally, it would also seem likely they just might have snatched any loose portions of such wreckage or debris for use back in the their homes on the island.

The other visitors to the island, were simply using the wrecked ship to tie off their own vessels & to gain access to the nearby lagoon, therefore they may well have regarded any visable wreckage (if not in what one might call the..."normal"... configuration of an aircraft) as an obstacle/hazard to avoid in negotiating their trips in smaller boats through the nearby inlet, rather than an object or objects of interest to be investigated or explored.

Even though forensic imaging of the photographs may not identify the... "spots"... as being any recognizable aircraft wreckage, it will, no doubt, clearly show an artificial anomaly on the reef flat that will certainly bear further study & investigation, including recontact with the native colonists who just might be able to identify others who actually spent time at that location during their sojourne on the island, & if still alive, could provide a more detailed description of the objects shown in the photos.

Don Neumann

Subject: Harry Maude on Gardner
Date: 11/19/99
From: Michael Real

This is the verbatim transcription of a section of Harry Maude's book dealing with his arrival at Gardner Island for the first time on 13 October 1937:

Of Islands and Men: Studies in Pacific History. Oxford University Press, 1968.

Chapter 8: "The Colonization of the Phoenix Islands;" pp. 327-329: "The Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme"

We arrived at this this atoll on 13 October and tied up to the wreck of the Norwich City, near the main lagoon entrance. I remember stepping out of the canoe into the shallow water on the edge of the reef with a feeling of pride at being the first to land on this remote shore for many years; but this was soon cured by a young lagoon shark, which knocked me over in its pursuit of a school of fish. The lagoon and shore waters of Gardner teemed with fish, like those of all uninhabited coral islands, and in the hold of the Norwich City they were swimming around in their thousands: the officers of the Nimanoa (the schooner on which they arrived here) used to shoot them by torchlight with revolvers.

Once ashore, we proceeded on the work of the expedition: the island was thoroughly explored from end to end; [my emphasis - these explorations obviously did not locate the skeletal remains or anything else found later by Gallagher, and therefore these preliminary explorations have to be questioned as to how thorougly they were conducted---I have asked Harry Maude to comment specifically about this later find] holes were dug and the soil examined; wells were sunk and the water tasted; the flora, fauna and fish were studied from the point of view of future settlers; the lagoon was explored in the canoes which we had brought with us and anchorages and landing facilities discussed and recorded.

We soon found that the Admiralty chart of the island was quite inaccurate, and those of the delegates who had volunteered to walk round the lagoon on the first day ashore, on the strength of it, had to be rescued by canoe during the night.

I shall always remember that first night in the Phoenix Islands. We lay in a circle under the shade of the giant Buka trees by the lagoon, ringed by fires as a protection against the giant robber crabs, who stalked about in the half-light or hung to the branches staring balefully at us (the Niue islanders called Gardner by the appropriate name of Motu Aonga- -the land of coconut crabs [Ellis 1936:58]). Birds were everywhere and for the most part quite tame, and the noise they made until well into the night was deafening. Unfortunately for them, both the crabs and birds were very good eating and we gorged ourselves on a diet of crabs, boobies and fish. Until I stopped them, the delegates would walk up to the boobies, seize them by the neck and crack them like a whip before roasting them on one of the fires. The fish were so plentiful and unaccustomed to man that they were literally scooped out of the water by hand.

Before completing our work on each island we did not omit the ceremony of hoisting the flag. A wooden flagstaff was erected, a substantial cairn built round, and the Union Jack nailed to the top with a notice board commemorating our visit.

There was obviously an abundance of easily obtainable food which A.E.and F.N. could have survived on if they had survived uninjured. There is the matter of poisonous fish which I will deal with in another later posting.

Harry Maude's answers to my specific questions will all be transcribed (without errors I hope!) verbatim when they arrive.

If anyone is interested in having scanned images of the 93 year-old Harry Maude's letters to me (dictated by his wife- -he is blind and partially deaf) as well as any photographs of coconut crabs, (Vern, have you received a picture yet?) maps , navigation charts, photographs of island flagpoles, wells being dug, Canton island + landing strip, pictures of Baker and Howland island and maps of their airstrips together with the location of the Amelia lighthouse, please don't hesitate to let me know , and these will be sent free of charge by email should you have the facilities for accepting large images.

Also, please remember that Barnes & Noble (on the web-U.S.A) has most of these books which I use as references.

From Pat

Yes. Well, so does the TIGHAR research library have most of these books. Do you imagine we are not familiar with Harry Maude's work and recollections?

Tom, perhaps you could field this. Ric is not able to do the Forum yet. Thanks.

Subject: Harry Maude on Gardner
Date: 11/20/99
From: Tom King

We've had extensive correspondence and an interview with Harry Maude, though frankly I'm trying now not to bug him; he and his wife Honor are both in less than great health, and he's not at all interested in the Amelia saga. He is, incidentally, one of the most respected of scholars on the ethnohistory of the Central Pacific.

Re. Harry's statement that they "thoroughly explored" the island, one has to understand this in context. They "thoroughly explored" it in terms of figuring out where it looked like the good coconut land was, where one might site a village, and so forth; that's a whole lot different from "thoroughly exploring" it for things like airplane wreckage and expired aviators. We've communicated directly and at length with both Harry and his colleague Eric Bevington about exactly what the "thorough exploration" consisted of, and have a pretty good handle on where they went and what they did. One thing they both report is seeing some kind of signs of occupation at Aukaraime South, close to if not precisely at the location where TIGHAR found the suspicious shoe in '91.

Harry, incidentally, at last report was pretty convinced that Earhart was captured by the Japanese, but his conviction was not based on serious study; it's not a topic that greatly interests him. And he got pretty irritated with TIGHAR a few years back (as he indicated in correspondence with me) about being questioned too much on the subject.

Michael, your correspondence with him would be of great interest. And I'm sure you share my desire not to bother him too much in his declining years.

Tom King

Subject: Harry Maude on Gardner
Date: 11/20/99
From: Don Jordan

Pat wrote,

>Yes. Well, so does the TIGHAR research library have most of these
>books. Do you imagine we are not familiar with Harry Maude's work
>and recollections?

If you do have this information, then why wasn't it considered important before now. It seems now that there were in fact people "Crawling all over Gardner Island" just months after the disappearance. How can you possible put so much faith in the gear down landing on Gardner Island with so strong an indication that the Electra wasn't there.

I can't imagine why you would spend so much money going back there time after time in view of the report by Maude. That report alone should have put doubt in the thinking process. Now we are spending thousands of dollars analyzing photographs of something on the beach that is round and rusty and doesn't look anything like airplane wreckage. Don't you think if it were airplane wreckage and was there when Maude was, that he would have seen it! They almost had to fall over it to get to the beach!

If we don't believe the Long theory, then don't you think we better start putting forth a bigger effort to find out where that Kanton Engine come from?

Don J. (Who is beginning to feel betrayed!)

From Tom King

Oh for heaven's sake, Don Jordan, give us credit for a modicum of intelligence, will you? See my post in response to Michael Real's post. Are you suggesting that when we read Harry's statement that they had "thoroughly searched" the island we should have just said, "well, that's that," and written off Niku?

Back in the 1940s and 1950s, there were many archeological surveys done in this country specifically looking for prehistoric sites in specific river valleys. When these valleys have been resurveyed in recent years using modern methods, we've typically found at least twice the number of sites that were found earlier, and they've been different types of sites because we now look for a different range of evidence than people did back then. And that's with everybody looking for the same general class of thing -- prehistoric sites. To suggest that one should write off an island as a possible Amelia venue because someone who wasn't looking for her offhandedly says that he thoroughly inspected it is ludicrous -- particularly when you know that he was there for only a couple of days.

Tom King

Subject: Real Answers to Real Questions
Date: 11/20/99
From: Ric Gillespie

I'm happy to see that Michael Real is back and up to his old shenanigans. Makes for lively discussion and promotes good research. To save time, I'm going to excerpt and respond to several of his recent postings in this one message.

I'll start by replying to the question he asked at the end of his November 18 posting:

>[P]lease inform me whether you are prepared to systematically investigate
>all aspects and all information relating to Tighar's quest without resorting
>to inscientific behaviour or any pedantic attempts at evasion and distortion
>of the true facts.

Michael, we're prepared to do just exactly what we've been doing for 12 years and we're prepared to keep doing in just exactly the way we've been doing it - with integrity, scientific rigor, and good humor - and the next time you accuse me of evading or distorting information I'm going to kick your ass off this forum.

On November 20th Michael cites a book by Horace Brock entitled Flying the Oceans: A Pilot's Story of Pan Am 1935- 1955 as a "confirmed, first hand account of (Noonan's) behavioural patterns which could possibly account for any problems of navigation as well as problems of another nature during the last hours of the flight".

According to, the most recent edition of that book was put out in 1983. I don't know when it was first published but I'll be surprised if it was prior to 1966 when Fred Goerner's The Search for Amelia Earhart first introduced the idea that Noonan had a drinking problem. Since then, lots of people have suddenly remembered stories about Fred's drinking.

Michael also says that he has been talking to Harold Gatty's son Ron who has stated that "in fact Noonan visited the family at their residence in Auckland, New Zealand..". Michael goes on to speculate that Gatty may have been "instrumental" in Noonan's "dismissal." What dismissal? I've never seen the first bit of evidence that Fred was dismissed from the airline. Mrs. Crosson was under the impression that he was merely on a leave of absence. The fact that William Cluthe, who was in school for the airline's Pacific Division at the time of the Earhart disappearance, still had a sextant loaned to him by Noonan would appear to support that possibility. Others have suggested that Fred resigned because he had gone as far as he could with the company. Until some kind of contempraneous documentation turns up, nobody knows for sure what Fred's employment status was. Just when, I wonder, is this visit to Auckland supposed to have taken place and how, I wonder, is Fred supposed to have gotten there? As I recall, the Pan Am survey flights to New Zealand didn't start until after Fred had disappeared with AE.

Now, about Harry Maude and his opinions:

I have great respect for Harry Maude's accomplishments in his field, but having read everything I can find (and it's a lot) about the establishment of the Phoenix Island Settlement Scheme, the Maude/Bevington visit to the island in October 1937, and subsequent progress reports for the colony; and having corresponded directly with Harry and having read Tom King's correspondence with Maude, and having had a TIGHAR member interview him about specific issues, and having spent a couple of days with my friend Eric Bevington at his home in the south of England and having corresponded with him frequently and having studied the diary he kept of the 1937 visit to Gardner - I feel like I have pretty good handle on where Maude's information is reliable and where it is not.

Maude's descriptions of Gardner as some kind of island paradise were part of his agenda to encourage the British government to approve the Phoenix Island Settlement Scheme. Harry had been lobbying for this project for years as a way to relieve the desperate overpopulation situation in the southern Gilberts. That the island is not the Garden of Eden he describes in Of Islands And Men and his other writings is well-documented in the life-threatening difficulties encountered by the Norwich City survivors, the New Zealand Survey party, and the very work party that Maude himself put ashore in December 1938. In each of these cases, the opinion was expressed at the time that without timely outside support, survival would have been highly questionable.

Bevington's diary provides an excellent account of what did and did not occur during the three day visit to the island in October 1937. Maude did not even come ashore the first day due to severe back pain. Bevington took a group of Gilbertese delegates on a hike around the island which was thought to be much smaller than it turned out to be. The party had neglected to bring along any water (can you believe it?) and the jaunt soon became an exercise in survival. To say the that island was "thoroughly explored" is laughable. The second day Harry's back was feeling a bit better and Eric took him on a canoe tour of a few points of interest along the lagoon shore. One of these was a site mentioned by Tom King in an earlier posting where "signs of previous habitation" were noted. The third day was occupied in digging wells at the western end of the island in an attempt to find an acceptable source of water. Then they left. That was it.

When the rumors of bones being found on Gardner first came to our attention in the late 1980s, Harry Maude was adamant that nothing of the sort could have happened or he would have known about it, and besides, how could anyone have perished on such a lush island? Well, sorry Harry. It did happen and they didn't tell you. And whether you want to think that it was Amelia Earhart or not, what is certain is that somebody failed to survive being castaway on beautiful Gardner Island.

Well, I hope that cleans up some of the mess.


Subject: Lambrecht's Manoeuvres
Date: 11/20/99
From: Michael Real

The reason why I continue to cast doubt on the possibility of the landing on Gardner, is because scouting crews were alerted to the posssibility of A.E. reaching the Phoenix Islands after receiving that radio signal purporting to emanate from from these islands , from HMS Achilles, and that is why the search was withdrawn from northwest of Howland and directed to vicinity.

Although I do believe that freakish phenomena and events do occur from time to time which are difficult to explain, it defies logic that these scouting crews would not have been briefed before every flight and to be constantly reminded that radio signals had emanated from this location, and Lambrecht's closing remarks in his report bear this out. Especially when arriving at Gardner and Sydney and Canton islands, I would speculate that these airmen had their eyes peeled for any sign of the aircraft or its wreckage- can you imagine the deleterious effect on their careers and lives and/or their respective surviving family members should A.E. have been found dead or alive on these islands a week or a month , or a year or 60 years later?

So far we have concentrated on their search patterns on Gardner , but you only have to read the rest of the Lambrecht report on the TIGHAR website to establish that in fact they were doing a very good job of searching for possible wreckage:

Plenty of zooming at low level, I suspect, and good observations:

When the planes zoomed the beach, the natives, dressed in their traditional loin clothes, turned out en masse to wave and yell (anyhow they looked as if they were yelling) and to wonder at such strange birds. After a circle of the island, during which other (and smaller) native shacks were noted, the "village" was again zoomed. This time as many of the natives as possible were on the roof of their "civic center" and all of them entirely naked waving their loin cloths! It is not known whether this is their especial form of welcome for oceanic flyers, but it was later learned that none of them had ever seen an airplane.

"dropping down" to me, infers that they are descending to a lower level to have a good look: several good observations, and several zooming manoeuvres.

Heading southeast from the ship, we soon picked up Sydney but upon dropping down for an inspection of that island could discover nothing which indicated that the missing flyers had landed there. The lagoon was sufficiently large to warrant a safe landing but several circles of the island disclosed no signs of life and a landing would have been useless. There were signs of recent habitation and small shacks could be seen among the groves of coconut palms, but repeated zooms failed to arouse any answering wave and the planes headed northeast for Phoenix Island.

And in his closing statements, it is clear that he was well aware of the importance of a thorough search of these islands:

In the beginning, after a careful study of the situation it had been considered most likely that Miss Earhart was down on one of the islands of this group. Numerous reports were received that the plane's radio had been heard. Some of these reports proved to be spurious. Others coming from more reliable sources, though not definitely confirmed, could not be entirely ignored. The plane's designer's insisted however, that had a carrier wave been broadcast the plane must have been in a position capable of turning up one of its engines, i.e. somewhere on dry land.

Hence, since Miss Earhart had not landed at Howland or Baker, the only other possibility of a safe landing was on one of the islands of the Phoenix Group,unless, of course, she had fallen far short of her goal and was forced down in the Gilbert Islands, some four hundred and fifty miles to the westward. Canton proved to be the biggest of the Phoenix group, but showed little difference in appearance from the others. It took approximately fifteen minutes for the planes to make one circle, and, although one end was covered by a heavy rain squall, a careful search was made of the island and its lagoon. Vegetation is sparse and not more than half a dozen palm trees exist on the entire island. At the Western end there still remained the shacks and various constructions of the eclipse expedition. The broad blue expanse of the lagoon was broken at regular intervals by transverse coral reefs and, except for these, the water appeared to be fathoms deep. At either end (eastern and western) an area of open water could be found sufficiently large for operations of any size seaplane or air boat. No signs of contemporary habitation were visible.

My opinion is , that if she had managed to reach Gardner, then she would not have landed on the reef , but on the beach or as close to it as possible , probably along the shoreline to minimilize the damage to the aircraft and its occupants- it is by far the better option than to land on water of undefined depth and on a reef flat of indeterminate obstacles.

From Ric

Okay. So you would have landed on the beach.

Subject: Peripheral Data
Date: 11/20/99
From: Michael Real

In response to both PAT and Randy:

If you have the results of interviews with Harry Maude, Bevington and any other documentation which is crucial to the understanding and evaluation of the artifacts found on Gardner by TIGHAR and Gallagher, and any detailed survey data and information, maps and charts, which could assist in authenticating the items and events surrounding their find and existence, then I am sure that most people would be interested to know about them. I am surprised that this information has not been posted on the website or presented to the Forum for evaluation, as it cannot be considered peripheral to the dicussions about the atifacts in question.

As regards to peripheral information , my understanding is that the Forum is endeavouring to scientifically document all relevant information and to then allow scrutiny of this data, and my perception is that many concerned people have had their questions sarcastically dealt with when they have presented rational arguments for the alternative possibilities of how these artifacts could have made their way to this island.

There is no concrete evidence to link these archaeological items with the A.E. flight yet, and I am amazed that discussions about likely visitations of aircraft and ships to this area have been dealt with by comments such as "we must consider naval personnel to be all wearing Blucher Oxfords" or similar words to the same effect.

I certainly agree that flights were infrequent, but unknown and even known flights cannot be discounted, and hopefuly enquiries in this direction will turn up evidence of sorts to satisfy either one or the other view 99%.

As regarding shipping movements, well , there were many of these in the area at the time, and we are well aware of the island hunting efforts. We are also now aware of the secret sailing of Gatty in the Kinkajou in 1935 delivering 2 PAN AM personnel to each of the important islands in the planned trans -Pacific routes. The sailing of the German sailing ship owned by Lucknow was also in the area , but these are the only ones we are certain of. There could be many others we do not know about. But as per the observations of the naval activity off Baker island and Howland island in 1936, we can only be certain of the existence of activity if it is witnessed - if activities are not witnessed, it does not exclude the fact that visitations had in fact occurred, but only that they just cannot be proved until all shipping logs are investigated.

The merchant shipping is a different story , and has so far been discounted: I have restricted war time publications containing maps, charts and tables of all shipping in the Pacific for 1938 and the results are as follows:

Naval Intelligence Division BR 519 A, B, C, D

A map clearly shows that the main shipping route between Hawaii and Fiji and then onto Auckland (N.Z.) and Sydney (Australia) pierces the very heart of the Phoenix Group of islands, and in fact bypasses Gardner Island and Enderbury Island. The tonnage given for 1938 is 250 000 tons (approx.) The map is available by email should anyone require it.

Therefore it is more than reasonable to assume that there exists a very strong possibility that the artifacts and skeletal remains could have arrived on this island from this source of peripheral activity.

One further point that troubles me somewha , and that is on what basis are Gallagher's examination and dating of the skeketal presumed to be correct? He reportedly stated that they were more than 4 years old.

So if Harry Maude's October 1937 visit and "thorough search" of the island did not reveal them, they presumably arrived on the island after this visit unless these remains were so well hidden as to be invisible to the original search parties and to the subsequent N. Z. survey of the island in 1938/1939. And if they were more than four years old, then they cannot be from the A.E flight.

When Harry Maude arrived in 1937, only 4 months after the flight, he, together with Gallagher, must have been well aware of the search conducted by the navy and the possibilities of "castaways" being found on one of the islands during his travels to settle these islands, and Gallagher surely could have been on a permanent lookout for possible wreckage and skeletal remains.

From Ric

Your understanding of the forum is incorrect. This is a discussion group and a research tool. It can not possibly "scientifically document all relevant information and to then allow scrutiny of this data". We're attempting to test a hypothesis. We are not seeking a review of the entire body of data upon which the hypothesis is based to see if everybody agrees with our hypothesis. We don't have time to do that. We're happy to answer questions and explain why we have taken the direction we have. We're even willing to listen to rank speculation like yours on the chance that it might be of some value in the search, but then again, I'm an optimist.


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