Forum artHighlights From the Forum

November 28 through December 4, 1999


Subject: Ends and Means
Date: 11/28/99
From: William Webster-Garman

Only for the sake of contemplation, consider this: The results certainly matter. As the engine of motivation and primary focus of activity, the MacGuffin is always important. But the circumstances and people surrounding it are usually more interesting and important: How the MacGuffin is found/resolved is usually fundamental to the wider outcome.

As a simple example, if the aircraft remains are found but archaeologically compromised (randomly disturbed, plundered, "restored" for purely sensational or economic reasons), the discoverery's obvious significance and importance could be diminished. If someone were to blunder across the remains and scatter them before proper conservation and record keeping had been accomplished, most of the historic and scientific value of the remains would be lost to serious researchers, and truth would suffer. The way things are done, and why, has a direct impact on the quality and meaning of perceived successes (and failures).

Just one more reason why scientific method is more reliable than luck, and why we hope that the Electra, if it is ever discovered, is found by competent people (an organization like TIGHAR, we presume) with appropriate motives using scientific methods.

william 2243


Subject: Pristine Condition
Date: 11/28/99
From: Robert Klaus

In a connected universe there are no off topic subjects, you just have to look harder for the links with some.

In Re the RMS Titanic. The two underwater exploration firms currently looking for NR16020 (and financial backers) have been making public statements to the effect that they expect to "...find the remains of the Electra in pristine condition, preserved by the extreme cold and lack of oxygen at the great depths". Don't I recall similar statements being made about Titanic before Commander Ballard found her? If the Electra is on the bottom, she's only been there 25 years less than the Titanic, and she's made of thin aluminum sheet, not half inch steel plate.

LTM (who never misses her connection)
Robert Klaus


From Ric

I'm somewhat familiar with what happens to airplanes that have been underwater for a long time. The rule of thumb is that there is no rule of thumb. Some hold up really well. Others don't, and the variables that make the difference are so numerous and subtle as to make it virtually impossible to predict the artifact's real condition. Aluminum aircraft in deep water can appear pristine but once they hit the atmosphere they do a number like Dracula on a sunny day.

An excellent example of this problem was seen in the Grumman F-3-F2 fighter recovered by the Navy from 1,800 feet of water off the coast of San Diego in 1990. Although the metal was bright and appeared solid at the time of recovery, most of the skins ultimately had to be replaced. Over time, the chlorides in the water become part of the alloy. Coating the metal with a corrosion inhibitor can postpone the problem but it can only be "cured" by immersing the entire structure in a citric acid bath and subjecting it to electrolytic treatments for many months. In 1992 TIGHAR helped fund the seminal research on this technique which was carried out by the Australian War Memorial and Groupe Valectra Electricité de France on a BMW 801D-2 radial engine from a Focke-Wulf 190 recovered from the Loire River. The process works well but has never been tried on a complete airframe because of the tremendous expense.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: 70th Anniversary
Date 11/29/99
From: Janet Powell

Today sees the 70th anniversary of the grounding of the Norwich City.

Anyone join me in sparing a thought for ALL lost souls on Gardner Island...?

LTM
Janet Powell


From Ric

Janet is the grandaughter of Captain Daniel Hamer, master of S.S. Norwich City. She has been, and continues to be, a terrific source of vital information about the ship and the wreck that seems to be playing a far greater role than anyone expected in the drama of the Earhart disappearance.

As Janet suggests, let's take a moment to remember:

J.W. Horne, third engineer, S.S. . Norwich City
T.E. Scott, fourth engineer, S.S. Norwich City
J. I. Jones, steward, S.S. Norwich City (buried on Gardner Island)
F. Sumner, seaman, S.S. Norwich City
J. Leslie, ship's carpenter, S.S. Norwich City (buried on Gardner Island)
"Arab fireman," name unknown. S.S. Norwich City (buried on Gardner Island)
"Arab fireman," name unknown. S.S. Norwich City
"Arab fireman," name unknown. S.S. Norwich City
"Arab fireman," name unknown. S.S. Norwich City
"Arab fireman," name unknown. S.S. Norwich City
"Arab fireman," name unknown. S.S. Norwich City
Gerald Bernhard Gallagher, Officer in Charge, Phoenix Island Settlement Scheme, Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony (buried on Gardner Island)
Frederick Joseph Noonan, navigator, NR16020 (buried on Gardner Island?)
Amelia Mary Earhart, pilot, NR16020 (died on Gardner Island?)

Love to Mother
Ric


Subject: RE: 70th Anniversary
Date: 11/30/99
From: Janet Powell

Excellent list Ric! However, I'm sure that you won't mind my clarifying a small point... - Daniel Hamer was my Great Uncle rather than my Grandfather.

Can I also add that after further consideration, I believe that we can now safely put forward the names of the 6 Arab firemen. Namely:

Redman Yousef
Said Metanna
Saleb Ragee
Ahmed Hassan
Ali Hassan
Ayed Naif

May all rest in peace.

Janet Powell


From Ric

Whoops! Sorry Janet (See? Even you have become mythologized.)

Great to have the names of the Arab firemen. Thank you.

And thanks to Janet we now also know that there was, indeed, a female member of the Norwich City crew and that she is unaccounted for. Nobody seems to know what happened to "Queenie" the ship's dog.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Re: Off-topic details
Date: 11/30/99
From: Bill

> OK, so it was Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall who calculated Titanic
> in the wrong position. What's the difference ?

1. Saying it was Captain Smith is more "ironic" or "dramatic," but less accurate.

2. Boxhall was far less experienced.

> We know Noonan was the only one who did the calculations
> in the Electra.

Do we? Was Amelia qualified to do navigational calculation? I never wondered before this moment.

> In both cases they were not where they thought they were.

It's clear that Titanic was several miles from where they thought they were. We conjecture that AE & FN weren't where they thought they were since they didn't show up where they were expected. On the other hand, perhaps their navigation told them they were X miles from Howland, and maybe they really WERE in exactly X miles from Howland, and just didn't find it.

You see, I've always wondered if, in fact, Fred did his job just fine, within whatever the normal limits of accuracy were at the time, and maybe they just didn't find the island during their visual search. I thought someone here said that there-and-then over water navigation wasn't that exact an art and that one was not really expected to hit any given island dead on. That is, a visual search at the calculated end point was assumed rather than unexpected.

> Do we all agree on that?

I guess not... but I'm willing to be convinced.

- Bill


Subject: Re: Fire extinguisher
Date: 11/30/99
From: William Webster-Garman

Humbly submitted, the overexposed "mystery" object in may20dep.jpg is probably a thermos-type beverage container. The similarity between it and the fire extinguisher found on Niku is interesting, but the object in the departure photo obviously has a cap similar to the other thermos-type containers grouped with it next to the suitcase. This is very inconsistent with the TIGHAR artifact and with any fire extinguisher design of the period that I'm aware of.

Also, the slope of the top of the object in may20dep is steeper (at a more acute angle) than the slope of the top of the fire extinguisher. Further, the object in the departure photo appears to have a white metal surface (one reason why it probably overexposed), while the fire extinguisher obviously has a brass-like surface. I have lots of experience with black and white images and in general, a polished brass-tint surface would, under the specific lighting conditions of that photo, tend to have a greyer appearance (like the caps of the other thermos-like objects appearing nearby).

Finally, I believe that a metric analysis of the two images will show that the fire extinguisher is narrower and taller than the item grouped with the thermos-like objects.

For these reasons, I'm confident that these are not the same objects.

Of course, if I'm right this doesn't eliminate the possibility that the fire extinguisher came from the Electra: I believe proof, if any, doesn't reside in the object pictured in the photo.

LTM (who liked her beverages hot)
william 2243


From Ric

Of course, even if the objects were identical it wouldn't make then the same object. It will be interesting to see what Jeff has to say.


Subject: Patch?
Date: 11/30/99
From: Ric Gillespie

Here's Jeff Glickman's final opinion on the the photo showing the upper surface of the Electra's fuselage which we hoped might show whether the area around the dorsal mast antenna was patched.

FINAL OPINION

Dear Mr. Gillespie,

Thank you for sending me the photograph of the roof of A. Earhart's Lockheed 10E airplane. The resolution of this photograph is insufficient to image the seams and rivets joining the roof aluminum skin. I am therefore unable to render an opinion from this photograph regarding the relationship of TIGHAR artifact 2-2-V-10 to the aluminum skin on the roof of A. Earhart's airplane.

Thank you for your continued interest in PHOTEK.

Best Regards,
Jeff Glickman
Board Certified Forensic Examiner
Fellow, American College of Forensic Examiners

PHOTEK
209 Oak Avenue, Suite 202
Hood River, Oregon 97031


Subject: The Lost Antenna
Date: 11/30/99
From: Ric Gillespie

I recently sent Jeff Glickman a photo we received from Neil Royes in Australia which was taken by Alan Board who, in July 1937, was a young employee of Guinea Airways at Lae. The photo shows NR16020 on its takeoff roll on the morning of July 2nd and is, as far as we know, the last still photo ever taken of the airplane. Jeff had previously examined the Lae takeoff motion picture film and determined that, while the belly antenna masts were visible when the airplane taxiied out, they were not visible when it came back by the camera on its take off roll. The resolution of the individual frames was not great and this "new" still photo allows us a much better look.

FINAL OPINION

Dear Mr. Gillespie,

Thank you for sending me the photograph of A. Earhart's takeoff from Lae, New Guinea on 2 July 1937. There is ample resolution in this photograph to resolve antenna masts. One antenna mast is visible on the roof to the right of the direction finding loop antenna.

Two antenna masts should also be visible on the belly of the airplane, however they do not appear in the photograph. Their absence from the photograph may be due to:

1) Insufficient image resolution,
2) the antenna masts may be obscured by another object, or
3) the antenna masts may be absent from the airplane.

Insufficient Image Resolution. There are objects of similar size to the missing antenna masts that successfully imaged in the photograph. Therefore, it is improbable that the antenna masts are absent from the photograph for this reason.

Obscuration. There is a single object capable of obscuring the belly antenna masts -- the fuselage. For the fuselage to obscure the antenna masts, the film plane would have to be near the horizontal centerline of the fuselage or above. It can be observed from the photograph that the film plane was well below the centerline of the fuselage by the amount of the underside of the wing that has been imaged. Further, nearly the complete port and starboard landing gears have been imaged. Therefore, the fuselage could not have obscured the antenna masts.

Missing. Therefore, through deduction, the antenna masts must be missing from the belly of the fuselage.

Conclusion. This photograph independently corroborates the prior forensic analysis of the Lae, New Guinea takeoff film.

Thank you for your continued interest in PHOTEK.

Best Regards,
Jeff Glickman
Board Certified Forensic Examiner
Fellow, American College of Forensic Examiners

PHOTEK
209 Oak Avenue, Suite 202
Hood River, Oregon 97031


So there it is. Sometime between when the airplane taxiied out for takeoff and the later half of its takeoff run, the belly antenna was lost. Just how the loss occurred is, of course, not known, but it is not hard to imagine the aft mast being knocked off in a ground strike while the airplane was being swung around to align with the runway for takeoff. The puff of dust visible early in the takeoff film could be the broken mast dragged by the wire antenna snagging on the ground and tearing the wire and center mast off the airplane.

Exactly what impact the loss of this antenna may have had on the progress of the flight depends on the antenna's fuction (which has been a matter of considerable debate). However, the loss of the antenna would now appear to be quite reliably established.

We'll put the photo and Jeff's opinion letter up on the website as a Research Bulletin.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Re: F.N.'s Navigation
Date: 12/1/99
From: Ross in Australia

I imagine this has been covered somewhere (if I recall Ric is a pilot), but I see this business of the accuracy of F.N.'s navigation crop up all the time, and now the suggestion that Nav may not be an "exact" art.

Visual navigation over LAND was NOT an exact art (it pretty much is now with Global Pos Sats). I have several times found myself blown off course on a short flight of maybe 250 miles (and I can see what's under me when flying over the ground). (I have completely missed an island offshore due to fog.)

The problem is, the further you fly on a given heading, the harder it is to stay on course and the bigger any error will be.

RD (Who enjoyed looking for info on inventory items)


From Ric

The issue of Noonan's known navigational techinques and demonstrated accuracy has been the subject of rather intense research and will be covered in considerable detail in the 8th edition of the Earhart Project Book currently being put together. Most of the raw text has now been written and we're ready to begin the process of editing and layout. We're probably looking at March for final publication.


Subject: Antennas
Date: 12/1/99
From: Jerry Hamilton

Congratulations! Verification that the bottom antenna was ripped off is, obviously, a critical fact relating to the Earhart mystery. One which no one else has uncovered. And one which may have a direct impact on why the communications failed so miserably. There has been so much speculation about this and maybe it comes down to something as simple as a lost antenna. As I recall we were never able to resolve exactly what radio gear was hooked up to which antenna. I suggest someone contact Elgen Long re the antenna hook ups. He seemed to have fairly strong documented info on the radio set ups and modifications. I was going to ask him about the antenna connections when he gave his presentation in Oakland, but didn't get to. He is giving presentations in San Diego and Seattle air museums over the next few months if someone wants to try to catch him then. Good diligent, thorough, documented, and successful investigation in the TIGHAR way. Kudos.

blue skies, -jerry

PS - if you still need a photo of the top of an Electra I can take a picture of the Lockheed in Oakland.


From Ric

At your convenience, yes, we still need a good close shot of the seam that runs down the middle of the ship.

Elgen Long's "knowledge" of the aircraft's radio set up suffers from the same problems that plague the rest of his research. He just doesn't understand the difference between anecdote and hard evidence. He "knows" all sorts of things that he has decided are true and are therefore (to him) true. For example, he is certain that there was a Bendix RA-1 receiver aboard the airplane although there is no real evidence for that. He presents a photo which he says shows the remote head for the RA-1 installed in the cockpit of NR16020 and states that this photo was taken on or about May 26, 1937 in Miami by Pan American mechanic F. Ralph Silas. His source for this information is his own interview with Silas in 1977, forty years after the event in question. There is nothing in the photo itself to date when it was taken or even confirm that it is Earhart's airplane. The remote head is mounted in what seems to be a rather dangerous position on the cockpit's left "eyebrow" panel and sticks down beside the pilot's left temple. Elgen says that this could be very hazardous in the event of a ditching (as indeed it would be) but he doesn't explain while this prominent feature is not visible in any of the many photos taken of the airplane during the world flight. If Elgen has real evidence about the aircraft's radio system he hasn't made it public.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Re: The Lost Antenna
Date: 12//1/99
From: William Webster-Garman

Ric wrote in reply to a private congratulatory email about the lost antenna,

> Thanks, but will the public accept it? In the 12 years we've
> been working on Earhart case I've been continually amazed at how difficult it
> is to make a dent in the legend. It's been quite an education.

The public is usually ignorant about history in any case. The obvious route is to get the source material and accounts of it into data bases and repositories that are likely to be protected and consulted through the centuries. Thus, truth will have a way of slipping through, regardless of the wider motives of the writers of history.

The average person has difficulty retaining complex and seemingly conflicting ideas simultaneously. This is probably partly due to human nature, and certainly something that better educational methods could alleviate. But progress along these lines is very slow-- it has taken 5,000 years (since the invention of writing) to gradually pull people from living in a soup of superstition and ritual into a cauldron mixed with superstition, ritual, and a few basic points of reality (no need to digress here into the enormous survival benefits of blind ritual-- which is a kind of cultural instinct).

Romantic subjects are notoriously prone to distortion, and people often accept fictional novels and short stories tied to historical events as fact.

Be patient, protect and disseminate TIGHAR's discoveries and excellent documentation. Over time (and it could be a very long time), widely published historians will tend to pick up elements of the TIGHAR thread.

Even if TIGHAR finds something like a chunk of engine block on Niku with an Earhart related serial number on it, it could be years (even decades) before wide public acceptance happens. And if acceptance comes quickly (spectacular news coverage, etc), the accompanying distortions from bad Hollywood movies and intellectual adventurers trying to grab attention will utterly vex you anyway!

regards,
william 2243


Subject: Thorough searches
Date: 12/1/99
From: Andrew McKenna

>The next people we know visited the island were Maude and Bevington
>in Oct. '37 but they make no mention of coming across the wreck survivors'
>camp.

These are the same guys who so "thoroughly" surveyed the island that they wouldn't have missed anything? Hmmmm

LTM
A McKenna 1045


Subject: Re: Thorough searches
Date: 12/1/99
From: Tom King

Andrew says of Maude and Bevington:

"These are the same guys who so "thoroughly" surveyed the island that they wouldn't have missed anything? Hmmmm"

Yep. This is a good example of how careful you have to be about interpreting historical sources, and avoiding reading things into them. From Maude's standpoint, given what Maude was interested in, I imagine they DID survey the island "thoroughly." They looked it over for possible places where people could live, looked at its coconuts, generally checked out its agricultural land, got a sense of the productivity of the lagoon, etc. He wasn't being slipshod, or saying anything untrue, when he said they had "thoroughly" inspected the place; they just weren't inspecting it to find airplanes or aviators. In the same sense, the TIGHAR crew this year "thoroughly" inspected a portion of western Nutiran looking for airplanes and aviators, but it would be wrong for somebody interested in, say, spider populations to surmise that TIGHAR did a thorough arachnid survey.

LTM (who wonders how many arachnid web sites there are)
Tom King


Subject: Facts of the case
Date: 12/2/99
From: Jim Razzi

I hope you might indulge me for a moment here. I'm new to the forum and I (and I suspect other newbies) would love to get some facts together in a line, so to speak.

I have read the FAQ list but there is SO much information there that it overlaps itself.

Anyway, to get to the point -- I would like to ascertain if the following items are why TIGHAR believes that AE and FN had landed (or crashed?) on Niku.

Physical evidence:

1. A fragment of a woman's shoe that might have been worn by Amelia
2. A bottle of Benedictine that might have been Amelia's or Fred's.
3. A sextant box that might have belonged to F. N.
4. Some bones that could be Amelia's or Fred's
5. A photo of "something" on the reef that is currently being analyzed to see if it might be wreckage from the Electra.

Anecdotal "evidence"

1. A woman named Emily's story that she saw some "airplane wreckage on the reef." when she was living on Niku.

I understand that each or any of these things could be elaborated on but are they essential the point? Inquiring minds, etc.. ...

Regards,
Jim Razzi


From Ric

It's bit more involved than that. Here's a quick summary [or Click HERE for a complete update of essential points, with links]:

1. We are aware of no evidence that suggests that the flight went down at sea. No radio call was heard announcing such a ditching nor did Earhart ever say that fuel exhaustion was imminent. The 1937 search failed to find any trace of debris on the sea. (Itasca Radio Log. U.S. Navy Search Report)

2. When last heard from at 08:43 Earhart said she was flying on a "157/337" line but she was not understood to say what direction she was flying on that line. (Itasca Radio Log)

3. Such a line passing through Howland Island also passes within visual range of Gardner island.

4. Our fuel calculations indicate that the flight, when last heard from, had adequate fuel so that if Earhart followed the line in the 157 direction she should have reached Gardner. (Chater Report. Kelly Johnson telegrams.)

5. The Navy's July 9th aerial search of Gardner noted signs of recent habitation which are not readily explainable unless they were left by the people who disappeared in that area one week before. (Lambrecht's report.)

6. The British October 1937 visit to Gardner noted signs of previous habitation which are not readily explainable unless they were left by the people who disappeared in that area three months before. (Bevington's diary)

7. Early settlers on Gardner Island (Nikumaroro) tell of an airplane wreck on the reef in 1940, long before any possibility of WWII activity. (Interviews with Emily Sikuli and Otiria O'Brian in Fiji in 1999.)

8. A wartime anecdotal account describes aircraft debris in use by residents of Nikumaroro in 1944 which the locals said came from "an airplane that was here when our people first came." (Interview with former USN PBY pilot Dr. John Mims in 1995.)

9. Photographic evidence confirms the presence of anomalous material on the reef in the location where aircraft wreckage is described to have been seen. (1937 Bevington photo, 1938 NZ survey photos)

10. Anecdotal accounts of former residents describe aircraft debris seen on the reef near the main lagoon passage, in the shoreline vegetaition, and along the lagoon shore just opposite the passage in the late 1950s. (Interviews with Pulekai Songivalu and Tapania Taeke on Funafuti in 1997)

11. Photographic evidence indicates the presence of light colored metal debris on the reef-flat near the main lagoon passage in 1953. (Forensic imaging of 1953 aerial mapping photo.)

12. Aircraft debris consistent with the Lockheed Model 10 and (to date) not identified as consistent with any other aircraft type ever know or suspected to have been in the region has been found in the abandoned village on the island. (Results of TIGHAR expeditions in 1989, 1991, and 1996.)

13. Anecdotal accounts by former residents and an American serviceman tell of the remains of a man and a woman discovered on the island and, in some cases, associated with the purported airplane wreck (Interviews with Dr. Teinamati Mereki and Reverend Aberaam Abera in the Solomon Islands in 1995; correspondence with Bauro Tikana in Tarawa in 1991; interviews with Tapania Taeke on Funafuti in 1997; interviews with Emily Sikuli and Otiria O'Brian in Fiji in 1999; San Diego Union interview with Coast Guard veteran Floyd Kilts in 1960.)

14. Extensive official British government records confirm the discovery in 1940 of the human remains of a castaway who perished while attempting to survive on Nikumaroro sometime prior to the island's settlement in 1939. With the bones were found a sextant box bearing a stencilled number that is similar to a number written on a sextant box known to have belonged to Fred Noonan, and the remains of a woman's shoe and a man's shoe. (Records of the Western Pacific High Commission)

15. Evaluation of the measurements taken of the bones found on Nikumaroro in 1940 by modern forensic anthropologists indicate that the individual was most likely a white female of northern European extraction who stood approximately 5 feet, 7 inches tall. (Paper prepared by Dr. Karen Ramey Burns, Dr. Richard Jantz, and Dr. Thomas F. King for the annual meeting of the American Anthropoligical Association in 1998.)

16. The remains of a shoe found on Nikumaroro by TIGHAR in 1991, in the same part of the island where tradition holds that the bones were found in 1940, has been judged to be of the same vintage, style and size as the shoes worn by Earhart on her final flight. (Analysis by the BiltRite Corporation in 1992.)

I've probably missed some points of evidence. There are getting to be rather a lot of them.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Fuel Exhaustion Descent
Date: 12/3/99
From: Birch Matthews

In context with the absence of any Mayday from Amelia at to point of fuel exhaustion, consider that she was probably still flying at 1,000 feet when the tanks ran dry. (To have climbed higher again would have depleted her fuel supply at an even greater rate.) She would not know precisely when the fuel would be exhausted, only that she was extremely low on fuel with each passing minute. Certainly she must have been simultaneously still searching for any safe haven to set down.

One can imagine she would have been rather busy at the moment the last drop of fuel passed through the engines. She would have been trying to extend her glide and then set up for a crash landing while working the wobble pump in a vain attempt to coax a bit more fuel into the engines. Unless Noonan was up front too, it would have been difficult to find time to send a last message. At a rate of descent of 100 ft/min, she would be at sea level in only 10 minutes from the point at which the airplane started down. At a downward rate of 150 ft/min, the descent would have been about 6.7 minutes. At 200 ft/minute she had only 5 minutes to do anything. Not much time.

There is also the likely possibility that at some point she stalled the airplane trying to stretch her glide path. This could easily reduce the time values mentioned above.

I don't know what the power-off sink rate of the Model 10 was, but I doubt it was less than 100 ft/min. Superimpose fear and fatigue on this situation and I find it entirely plausible that no Mayday message went out over the airways. I also understand that this is speculation on my part, but I would argue at the same time that it is not an unreasonable scenario.


From Ric

And I woud argue that to speculate that Earhart permitted the tanks to run dry in flight is to:

1. Make the assumption that she and Noonan were unsuccessful in their attempt to find land.

2. Make the assumption that Earhart was either unaware or chose to ignore the fact that her chances for survival in a water landing would be greatly increased by deciding to execute a ditching under power rather than wait until the engines failed.

Speculation about why Earhart did not make a distress call is no different from speculation about why the Navy's aerial search of Gardner did not see the airplane on the reef. Each is an aspect of the hypothetical scenario that doesn't seem to make sense so we try to think of possible explanations. In the case of the crashed-at-sea scenario, the cessation of radio transmissions is the only indicator that the flight may have ended that way. To make it work one must argue, as you have, for the crew's incompetence. In the Nikumaroro scenario there are abundant indicators that the flight did reach the island and there is no need to ascribe to the crew any unprofessional behavior.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Re: Human error
Date: 12/3/99
From: E. G. Kindley

If you have the time and think it worthwhile, please comment on the use of today's aircraft safety standards to evaluate actions taken by 1930's aviators. For example, are the things we consider poorly done or negligent today, applicable to the standards in effect then? Some things, of course, are unchanged since Orville and Wilbur. However, I have the impression we now have a more highly developed sense of aviation professionalism Vs aviation "foolishism." This does not denigrate yesterday's aviators, it's just the nature of maturation.

So, should historic figures be evaluated against the standards of their times, or, current standards, through the looking glass of comfortable perspective? (Thomas Jefferson --though not an aviator so far as I know-- is a good example of this "applicable standards" conundrum.)

Thanks. E.G. Kindley, 2131


From Ric

Excellent point. If historians, and especially historical investigators, had a mantra it would be "Context. Context. Context."

Today we have much, much higher expectations of safety and security than were prevalent in the 1930s (heck, we put helmets on kids on tricycles!). Earhart wrecked at least 11 eleven airplanes in the course of her career. She and Noonan flew around the world in an uninsured airplane. They never filed a flight plan because there no such thing as a flight plan (in any formailzed sense).

To get some sense of the mix of pioneering bravado and budding professionalism that pervaded 1930s avaition I would urge anyone to visit a good library and leaf through the aviation periodicals of the day. It was a different world.


Subject: Re: Lost Antenna
Date: 12/3/99
From: Jim Razzi

The only problem I have with the lost antenna is, that if it were indeed ripped off during the taxi at Lae, why didn't somebody find it after the plane left? There surely were a number of people who witnessed the little mishap when the Electra was lumbering along the ground, so wouldn't they investigate the area to see if, in fact, something HAD been dislodged from the plane?

Regards,
Jim Razzi


From Ric

The most likely time for the ground strike to have occurred was during the turn around at the far "approach" end of the runway which was easily half a mile from where the spectators stood. This is when the aft antenna mast was at risk from sideloads for which it was not stressed.

We do have one second-hand anecdotal account which indicates that the antenna was later found on the runway. Bob Fullenwider, TIGHAR 0126, says that while he was stationed in Lae during World War II an "old timer" who had worked at the airfield before the war told him that he wasn't a bit surprised when Earhart went missing because "we found her antenna wire laying on the runway after she left." Bob related this anecdote long before we had established that the antenna was missing in the photos. If such a discovery did take place, neither Collopy nor Chater was apparently aware of it when they wrote their respective reports a few weeks later.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Ditching 101
Date: 12/3/99
From: Dennis McGee

Ric said: " . . . her chances for survival in a water landing would be greatly increased by deciding to execute a ditching under power rather than wait until the engines [to fail] . . . "

This point has been mentioned several times but no one has explained why a power-on ditching is preferable to one without power. We all ASSUME that the slower the airplane is when it bellys in, the greater are the crew's chances of survival. But why is power important, other than for a go-around?

LTM, who often bellied into 2nd base
Dennis O. McGee #0149CE


From Ric

Now, mind you, I've never done this and I hope I never have to, but this is what I've read about ditching and it makes a lot of sense.

So there you are, faced with the prospect of putting a land airplane down in the open ocean. Your "runway" is not going to be flat. If you're lucky it will be a series of rolling hills (swells) and valleys (troughs) which may or may not be aligned with the wind. At the speed you're going to hit them (in an Electra, roughly 60 mph) they're made of concrete, so it makes sense not to smack into them but to land along their long axis on the "back" of a swell, even if it means a crosswind approach.

You also don't want to make a three-point full stall arrival. Much better to come in nose-high and drag your tail before you hit. You're almost certainly going to skip once before the nose digs in and you come to an abrupt stop, so the slower you can be going the better. You might even come in below your power-off stall speed "behind the power curve" with full flaps and carrying quite a bit of power.

It's a hairy prospect and it might take several tries to get everything lined up just right, but if you sit up there trying avoid the inevitable until the engines quit you're going to be faced with taking whatever you can get --- dead stick and out of options.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Fuel Exhaustion
Date: 12/3/99
From: Simon Ellwood

Birch Matthews wrote:

>At a rate of descent of 100 ft/min, she would be at sea level in only 10
>minutes from the point at which the airplane started down. At a downward rate
>of 150 ft/min, the descent would have been about 6.7 minutes. At 200
>ft/minute she had only 5 minutes to do anything. Not much time.

I think these figures are very optimistic for powerless descent rates, bearing in mind the L10E didn't have feathering props. I'd guess maybe around 1000ft/min would be more realisitc, giving only about a minute down to to the sea.

I totally agree with Ric's assessment that in such a situation when you've gotta put the plane in the sea --- do it under conditions of maximum control - i.e. still under power.

LTM
Simon #2120


From Ric

I agree with Simon and with myself. With two props windmilling that pig would probably glide like a toolbox --- and AE probably knew it. On top of that, the big engines of the 10E tended to make it noseheavy. The 10E that ditched off Massachusetts in 1967 lost power in the right engine and the pilot couldn't maintain altitude with the left engine operating (that's how bad it is if you don't have full-feathering props). He made a successful ditching but the water was calm near the shore and he still had the left engine.

To say that AE waited until the engines quit to land the airplane (whether on land or water) is to call her an idiot.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Final Descent
Date: 12/3/99
From: Birch Matthews

Ric, I believe you may have misinterpreted my comments regarding the final descent of Amelia's Electra. I did not imply, nor should you infer from my comments, that I presume to know where the airplane came down. I do not.

When I noted: "At a rate of descent of 100 ft/min, she would be at sea level in only 10 minutes . . ." the use of the words sea level is an altitude reference, not a spatial location. I deliberately chose my words carefully to encompass the Gardner Island possibility.

The intent was merely to illustrate that from 1,000 feet, it doesn't take much time to reach the earth, and that this fact alone may account for the lack of any Mayday. I don't claim that's what happened, only that it is a rational scenario.

In response to your first comment, I did not "make the assumption that Earhart and Noonan were unsuccessful in their attempt to find land." To the contrary. My scenario includes this possibility.

With respect to your second response, aircraft ditching at sea was, I believe, not widely studied until the advent of World War II. I have not seen any reference indicating Amelia was trained or studied the art of ditching an airplane with or without power. If she was in proximity to Gardner Island, you may be entirely correct in your speculation.

And finally, please tell me specifically how you reached the conclusion that I have argued on the side of crew incompetence or unprofessional behavior? That is a pretty harsh retort in view of the fact I was merely attempting to give some perspective of how little time it takes to descend 1,000 feet.


From Ric

I'm sorry if I responded too harshly. You began your posting with: "In context with the absence of any Mayday from Amelia at to point of fuel exhaustion, consider that she was probably still flying at 1,000 feet when the tanks ran dry."

That seems pretty clearly to make the assumption that the tanks ran dry. My point was that it would have been foolish ( incompetent, unprofessional ) for her to allow the tanks to run dry. Subsequent postings have made the case that the descent, in such asn event, could well have been considerably more rapid than you postulated.

In other words, there is a consensus that you are correct in saying that an inflight dual engine failure at 1,000 feet would make things pretty exciting in the cockpit and might preclude a distress call, but (and for that very reason) there is also a consensus that such a scenario is less likely than a landing under power.

While it is certainly true that ditching procedures became formalized and much more widely disseminated during WWII, the notion that it is better to make a precautionary landing with power than to wait until you run out of gas probably goes back to the Wright brothers. Amelia herself exercised that option on numerous occasions and thoughout her career as a long-distance flyer I'm aware of no instance in which she ran out of gas in flight.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Fire Extinguisher, Final Opinion
Date: 12/3/99
From: Ric Gillespie

I recently received this Final Opinion letter from Jeff Glickman regarding the fire extinguisher:

FINAL LETTER OF OPINION

Dear Mr. Gillespie,

Thank you for sending the negatives of TIGHAR artifact 2-4-V-100 and of A. Earhart and F. Noonan loading NR16020 depicted in the photograph taken by Dustin Carter at Burbank Airport on May 20, 1937 (may20dep.jpg).

This letter addresses the relationship between 2-4-V-100 and the rightmost canister-like object located in a group of four canister-like objects located on the ground to the right of A. Earhart's feet. While the JPEG image may20dep.jpg shows this canister-like object to be overexposed, the original negative is properly exposed.

Several structures present in 2-4-V-100 are absent in the canister-like object in may20dep.jpg. These are:

1) 6 metal bands that wrap around 2-4-V-100, and
2) what appears to be a handle located at the top of 2-4-V-100.

Further, 2-4-V-100 has a transition area from its neck to its body that is flatter (has a smaller angle relative to vertical) than that shown in the canister-like object of may20dep.jpg. This difference cannot be due to damage to 2-4-V-100 because the required deformation would not result in the smooth surface seen in this part of 2-4-V-100.

While there are additional differences between 2-4-V-100 and the canister-like object of may20dep.jpg, these reasons are sufficient to establish that these are different objects. Therefore 2-4-V-100 does not match the canister-like object seen in may20dep.jpg.

Best Regards,
Jeff Glickman
Board Certified Forensic Examiner
Fellow, American College of Forensic Examiners

PHOTEK
209 Oak Avenue, Suite 202
Hood River, Oregon 97031


I had a couple of questions for Jeff, to wit:

There are no metal bands that wrap around the artifact. Those are impressions stamped into the metal. The body of the cannister is a single sheet of metal. I can see one "ring" around the object in the May 20 photo but it does seem to be a slightly different distance from the top of the cannister than is a similar "ring" on the artifact.

The handle on the artifact rotates freely and we had speculated that a similar handle on the cannister in the May 20 photo might be oriented edgewise to the camera.

The differences in the transition area from the neck to the body do, however, seem to be a disqualifier.

Ric

To which Jeff replied:

Ric,

Here are clarifications to your questions:

By "metal bands" I also mean "impressions stamped into the metal". I did not mean to imply that sole source of the metal bands could be separate pieces of metal applied to the body of the canister, but rather they are visual features present on the canister.

may20dep.jpg has a circular top, possibly a cap, composed of a polished metal containing a complex reflection. It is the reflection of adjacent items in the circular cap which gives the mistaken impression of a handle.

Best Regards,
Jeff Glickman
Board Certified Forensic Examiner
Fellow, American College of Forensic Examiners

PHOTEK
209 Oak Avenue, Suite 202
Hood River, Oregon 97031


Okay. So 2-4-V-100 is not the thing in the May 20 photo. That doesn't mean that it's not Amelia's fire extinguisher but it does mean that the photo is not a reason to think that it might be. We'll put up an updated Research Bulletin soon.

Love to mother,
Ric


Subject: Fuel Exhaustion
Date: 12/3/99
From: Ty Sundstrom

There is one thing that puzzles me about this fuel exhaustion scenario: very seldom do both engines quit simultaneously when the fuel runs out even if both engines were feeding from the same tank due to: different fuel line length, different exact mixture settings for each engine, variances in internal casting flaws in each engine that would vary the fuel consumption slightly and so on, so if realistically they didn't quit at the same time there might have been time to call out. And five minutes is a very long time when you experience an emergency of any type. This is a comment from actual in-flight emergency experiences in various antique aircraft. Just sit and watch the clock for five minutes and you will see what I mean. The human mind works very fast and the model 10 was a good flying aircraft so the demands on a pilot, in my most humble opinion, would not have been such that it would have prevented a radio call. Although this opinion is offered, it just illustrates the fact that there is no black and white answers for now except that they didn't make it.

Ty N. Sundstrom


From Ric

The fuel system schematic for NR16020 does seem to indicate that both engines always fed off the same tank - a bit wierd but it does simplify fuel management. However, as you say, other factors make a truly simultaneous silence be pretty unusual.

As for the way time goes into slow motion in an emergency: I couldn't agree more. I'm sure we all have our own stories.


Subject: Re: Fuel Exhaustion
Date: 12/3/99
From: Ross DeVitt

If Amelia Earhart was at 1000ft and IF the engines failed at that height, she would not have descended at 100 or 150 ft per minute. The aircraft is just too heavy to sustain that rate of descent without power. Ask anyone who has been practicing forced landings in a Cessna or Piper what their R.O.D. is in a glide...

I gather Ric is/was a pilot (I think I read it somewhere). Anyway there must be lots of other pilots on this forum. Rate of descent is controlled by power, you add power you go down slower. Without power, you have to actually get the nose DOWN to keep flying. I haven't seen the Electra's flight manual, but I doubt it would glide better than say a modern Beech Baron (twin) and remember they were supposedly carrying a lot of freight (spares).

I believe they would not have had more than 2 minutes to descent in glide configuration from 1000ft.

What gets me is "KHAQQ CLNG ITASCA WE MUST ON ON YOU BUT CANNOT SEE U" - At 1000 feet, if Earhart was say 30 or 40 miles off track or had somehow overflown Itasca at that time, she would be unlikely to see Gardner Island or Itasca. All it would take was for the sun to be low, or a little haze... We know from her reports at this time she still had at least an hour of fuel.

"BUT GAS IS RUNNING LOW BEEN UNABLE TO REACH YOU BY RADIO WE ARE FLYING AT A 1000 FEET 42"

On her frequency - in fact on any frequency - her chances of being picked up by Itasca were bad. Anyone who flies would tell you, the radio will work better, higher, say 3 or 4 thousand feet.

There are only two reasons she would logically descent to 1000ft.

1. Due stress of weather. (She may have encountered low cloud some distance out that was not apparent to Itasca) - I believe this is most likely (been there, done that). As close as she was to Howland, she would not want to waste fuel climbing again.

2. She may have had some relatively minor engine problems especially if she'd had to lean the mixture excessively. We know there were some plug problems with the type of engine and they had to be changed regularly. For her to remain at 1000ft meant she was pretty certain she was close. I fly around islands in the tropics. I would not attempt to look for a small island from below 3000 feet. From 1000ft a small island might be "just over the horizon" or "just under the aeroplane."

It's unlikely the Electra would have a glide descent of better than 500ft per minute. 2 minutes is plenty of time to make a distress call:

Mayday, mayday mayday - KHAQQ, KHAQQ, KHAQQ, out of fuel, on line 157 337, ditching in water"

If I say that slowly and clearly it takes about 15 seconds (try it). There's not a lot more she could have said. Of course if she was a fair distance from Itasca by the time she supposedly "ran out of fuel," and if they were transmitting at the time she made the call - they would not have heard it.

On the other hand, If AE still had her reserve 20% when she arrived near Itasca (and at sig strength 5 she had to be fairly near) she could have given up in frustration and flown to the nearest alternate island.

Sorry to "waffle on" but the following points have been bugging me for some time.

Why was AE at 1000ft. when she had:

  • Less chance of her radio being effective,
  • Less chance of seeing the island and
  • Less time to plan a descent if something went wrong.

Ross (Who had no intention of doing anything but read this stuff)


From Ric

Well Ross, your first guess was correct. The reason was almost certainly weather. Itasca's deck log described "blue sky with detached clouds" throughout the morning and an observation taken on Howland puts the scattered deck at 2,650 feet. It may well have been a bit lower earlier. Those are very typical conditions out there, and as you know, if you're above even a widely scattered cloud deck you can't see anything except what is right below you.


Subject: The Survivors' Camp
Date: 12/4/99
From: Janet Powell

Ric wrote:

>"Before leaving camp all provisions etc., were placed in the shelter, but I
>sincerely hope that no-one will ever be so unfortunate as to need them."
>
>That's the entire reference. But I just thought of something. Maybe I'm
>reading too much into this but I get an implication that the provisions were
>not just casually left behind but were more or less neatly "placed" in the
>shelter.

In order to avoid any 'confusion,' I have in the past tried to limit my personal thoughts about Daniel Hamer's statement. However, on this occasion I have to say that whilst I completely understand your caution in analysing his words too closely, I am firmly of the belief that they are accurate, i.e. a true account of events, as he saw them.

The way I see it is that whatever the purpose, if he had gone to the trouble of writing those words, then he meant what he said. Therefore, I can only conclude that this was a deliberate act.

My father comes from a family in which for the last 2 generations all the men have shared a life at sea, and consequently I have an understanding of such a lifestyle. My opinion is that as Master, Dan would have taken his responsibilities seriously, and if that included an act of good intent, then he would have done it. Such an act would have been an entirely appropriate exercise of his duty.

Maybe he did it with the thoughts of those who 'couldn't' be saved, in mind? This too makes complete sense to me. He certainly knew the Steward and his wife personally and the idea that a small, deliberate act could possibly assist anyone in the future, would be an entirely appropriate mark of respect, given that little else was possible.

In conclusion, my belief is that if analysis of 'suspected survivors campsite photo' demonstrates that it was 'haphazardly abandoned', then something or someone disturbed it in the intervening years. (The question then being, whom or what?)

As for the apparent possibility of locating the remains of that campsite sometime in the future......? - fair boggles the mind!

Additional Thoughts (Purely THOUGHTS!...)

My father suspects that is was highly likely that alcohol could have been included in the 'provisions' sent from Capt. Swindell of the Trongate. (Could this be a source for your Benedictine bottle...??? - Sorry - I'll have to go back and read about that bit again!)

Regarding the sextant....... He feels that it would have been extremely unlikely that such a valuable possession, often privately owned, would have been left behind, unless in error. Furthermore, he believes it unlikely that it would have been rescued without it's box. (Am still making enquiries for information relating to the possibility of a connection with Reardon Smiths.)

The Rescue Site/The Lee Shore

I'm still not sure if I'm clear about this, but are you concluding that this location was to the South (East?) of Bauareke Passage? (I ask only out of interest and not because I have any other view.)

That's all (and I'm sure enough!) for now.

Janet


From Ric

Just my opinion, but I think that the Norwich City supply cache is an excellent candidate for the source of the Benedictine bottle as well as the "corks with brass chains" thought to have come from "a small cask." In fact, I think that these possible corelations and the disheveled appearance of the camp in 1938 can be seen as evidence suggesting that the castaway found by Gallagher in 1940 had found and used the Norwich City cache. Obviously, these are not items of hard evidence but they are jigsaw puzzle pieces that happen fit our hypothesis very neatly.

My reading of the various descriptions puts the evacuation site somewhere in the neighborhood of Bauareke Passage but it's hard to be more specific than that.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Re: The Survivors' Camp
Date: 12/4/99
From: Tom King

For some reason I thought we had a source indicating that the evacuation site was on the ocean side opposite Kanawa Point. Foua Tofinga and Emily Sikuli say that this is where they went off the island in 1941, for what that's worth.

LTM
TK


From Ric

Here's what we have.

Capt. Hamer says in his statement:

The two (rescue) vessels now cruised along the reef in search of a suitable place, the surf near the wreck being far too dangerous. A place was found about 1½ miles south of the wreck, the breakers being not quite so bad, but bad enough to make it anything but a joy ride to get over. We then crossed the lagoon in the boat to where the vessels were waiting on the outside and transported the boat to the edge of the reef.

That last phrase is the key. Can you imagine anyone dragging a several hundred pound lifeboat through the scaevola or over the coral rubble rather than walking it through Bauareke Passage? I suspect that Emily and Tofiga left the island from the same place for the same reason. They left in December - Westerly season - so they had to go around to the south side. There had to be a place to get the island surf boat out to the reef. Bauareke Passage is the only game in town.

LTM,
Ric


Subject: Fire Extinguisher vs. Thermos Bottle
Date: 12/4/99
From: Vern Klein

I've had an e-mail response to my letter to The Thermos Company with a printout of MAY20DEP.JPG enclosed. I did not ask any leading questions. I simply said that there was some question as to what the object at the rear right might be. Since they have that interesting history page on their web site, I hoped they might know what the bottles were like in about 1930. This is the response received:

Thank you for sending the photo of Amelia Earhart. It is fascinating.

I'll try to answer your questions. First, I cannot tell for certain if the pictured bottles are the genuine Thermos brand vacuum bottles. Based on my investigation into our archive product from that era, I believe most, if not all, are Thermos brand bottles, however, I can't be sure.

As for the 4th bottle in question, it is also a vacuum bottle. Many bottles of this era had very small cups which, from a distance, look like a simple stopper for the bottle. In fact, the first vacuum bottles had a cork. Then came a more refined stopper and cup. So it was not unusual to see a bottle with a shot glass sized cup/stopper.

Thank you again for your interest.

John Lanman
Vice President of Marketing
The Thermos Company

So... I continue to believe that we are looking at four Thermos, or other make, vacuum bottles. There is no point in tryin to match what we see in that photo with a fire extinguisher. We don't have a picture of the fire extinguishers that were on the Electra.

This leaves wide open the possibility that the extinguisher (PYRENE1.JPG) found on Niku is, in fact, from the Electra. It may also have come from the LORAN station, or it may be of some other presently unknown origin.


From Ric

I agree entirely. Thanks Vern.


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