Forum artHighlights From the Forum

January 16 through 22, 2000

Subject: Alternates
Date: 1/17/00
From: Ric Gillespie

Andrew McKenna asks:

>...are the Phoenix Isles even a possibility as an alternate for the East to
>West leg? Any other possibilities?

In its Earhart collection, Purdue has a regular old Nat'l Geographic map of the Pacific that has some pencil marks on it that indicate that Canton and Enderbury (the two islands of the Phoenix Group then being claimed by the U.S.) may have been considered as alternates for the first world flight attempt.

Subject: Re: Alternates
Date: 1/17/00
From: Alan Caldwell

> The point is that they may have had the Phoenix islands in mind

You know, Andrew, this alternate question is really a curious one, but, of course, I'm applying my more modern logic to a 1937 event. I've tried to picture myself making that flight and how I would have planned it --- particularly the bail out issue at Howland. I think I have just about come to the conclusion that Howland was either all or nothing or they had so doggone much confidence that an alternate was less of an issue than I would have made it.

To be specific there WAS no alternate, at least if you think of an alternate as some other place to land. There wasn't any other runway. Somehow I have trouble believing they knew the geographic details of all the Phoenix and Gilbert islands to know which had nice beaches to land on. Perhaps the Navy or Coast Guard had that knowledge and passed it on but I have never heard such being discussed. At the same time I have trouble believing they planned on diverting to a little island with no knowledge whatsoever of what they would find when they got there. It would almost seem they were aware of Niku's possibility. With no runways I suppose beaches come next and ditching close in as a final choice.


From Ric

Alan makes a good point. Niku, or other islands, were probably not seen so much as alternates as a way to save your neck if the worst happened. Long distance record-setting aviators of those times were accustomed to all-or-nothing flights. What was Lindbergh's alternate once he passed the point of no return?

Subject: Noonan
Date 1/17/00
From: DonNeumann

There have been so many posts over the last few months concerning FN's navagational options for the Lae/Howland leg of the flight that my non-pilot, navigationally challenged brain has begun to "tune-out" much of what I'm reading.

Which is unfortunate, because a lot of (what seem to be) highly qualified persons have obviously spent a great deal of their valuable time trying to explain in simple(?) terms what they think FN could/should have done under the (admittedly limited knowledge thereof) circumstances he was seeking to overcome in order to find that speck in mid-Pacific, called Howland Island.

Even though it's doubtful that anyone will ever know for certain exactly what he did or did not do, there do seem to be some records (in many old & musty posts) which fairly well document what he actually did on some of his previous (13 in all) trans-Pacific flights while functioning as chief navigator for PanAm, during flights across the Pacific, both East & West, to & from the Orient by way of California & Hawaii. While I know that on most, if not all, legs of such flights he had some DF assistance, I do recall that reports related to his 'philosophy' of overwater navigation, seemed to imply that he had no implicit trust in DF, even though he did insist that to engage in such long range, over water flying without radio directional finding at the terminus of such flights, was to risk the very sitation that did occur at Howland.

While I don't pretend to fully understand even the simplest explanations appearing on the Forum, regarding FN's navigational options for this flight, my common sense does tell me that any person with such a long & seemingly distinguished record of performance on somewhat similar, long distance, over water flights, would not deviate in any significant measure from his own, previously established methods of navigation which had served him so well in the past.

Whatever went wrong (presumably between the Gilberts & Howland) had much to do with the flight's inability to establish two-way radio communication with Itaska, in order for Itasca to obtain any reliable DF fix on the incoming Electra & not any failure of FN's navigational skills or methods, at least that is my own (totally unprofessional) opinion. Additionally, given past opinions expressed about FN's lack of total trust in DF bearing procedures, it is difficult for me to believe that a long time 'survivor' such as FN, would not have plotted, in advance, a backup plan to reach some alternate landfall in the event Howland didn't show up on the horizon where it should be, according to his chronometers.

Don Neumann

From Ric

Can't fault your logic.

Subject: A review of the Longs' book
Date: 1/18/00
From: Randy Jacobson

Well, I finally got around to reading Amelia Earhart, The Mystery Solved by Elgen and Marie Long. I suspect I will be getting a lot of flack for this message, but here goes.

I found the book to be a good read, particularly regarding the details about the flight up to AE and FJN's leaving of Lae. The Longs have gathered a lot of information, and it pretty much matches up with what I and TIGHAR have found as well. They got details right about the crossing from Oakland to Honolulu and across the Atlantic (well, almost right: about 95% correct). The rest of the World Flight details are actually quite interesting to read. The Longs don't give in to the drunked FJN hypothesis, but they also don't address AE's cover-ups with the press. Their basic hypothesis of why they ran out of gas at the end of the last message is poorly constructed however. As for their descriptions of radio message back and forth from the Itasca to Lae/Darwin, they did a pretty good job, and describe the mix-ups in the Itasca radio room.

The book is not perfect by any means, even if one disregards the basic mystery being solved. They put Warrant Officer Anthony, the chief communications officer for the Coast Guard in Hawaii, as the Head of the Coast Guard Unit there, which is false. They have the Ramapo going from west to east to refuel the Lexington (it was actually headed west to Hawaii at the time), and they fail to mention the all-important Nauru receipt of a purported AE broadcast the night of her downing. The Longs show a great wealth of detailed knowledge of what happened prior to and after the loss, and shouldn't be tossed out on their ear for that.

There are so few factual books out on AE, that I almost want to recommend this one for the details of the World Flight. Despite poetic license, the book reads very well, and was hard to put down, even for one knowledgable in AE.

Okay, I'll get under my rock cover, and prepare for the onslaught of stoning...

From Ric

No stones from here. I pretty much agree. The Longs did gather a great deal of information and they seem to have a good understanding of the events surrounding the world flight. It is only in their description of the final flight that the book falls apart. Unfortunately, that's mostly what the book is about.

Elgen and Marie are not responsible for the stupid title (The Mystery Solved) except to the the extent that they were naive in negotiating their book contract.

What they ARE responsible for is the convoluted and self-deluding argument they put forth to support their hypothesis. Probably 90% of their readers (and 100% of media reviewers) will make little or no attempt to understand what they're trying to say and simply be impressed by all the numbers. Readers will, however, recognize some familar devices which lend the book an aura of credibility; the expert as author (Elgen is a retired airline pilot and a record-setting long distance flyer in his own right); and the newly discovered piece of evidence that is the "key to the mystery" (in this case, the Chater report). Few are likely to look past the assumptions and calculations to see the fundamental flaw in the reasoning.


Subject: Bendix "coupling unit"
Date: 1/18/00
From: Vern Klein

In its endless turning, the forum has sort of rolled around to the subject of DFing again. And I still have a sort of major question in my own mind. I claim this to be as long-winded as it is for the benefit of those who may not have been here when we went through it before.

That Bendix "coupling unit" that was part of their DF rig for use with any receiver tuning the appropriate frequency range. If the "coupling unit" was installed somewhere on Amelia's plane, and we don't know that it was, what bearing did this have on what she might have expected to be able to do with her manual loop? Could she expect to DF at 7500 kc? May she have been told that she could? The nature of that "coupling unit" and the possible utilization of a "sense antenna" have a definite bearing on these questions. I've been able to deduce almost nothing about the circuitry of that "coupling unit."

There is, in Frank Lombardo's radio document, a photograph of the Bendix "coupling unit." It's BWP4-9 on page 4-29. The technician is holding it in his hands with most of the front panel visible. The picture is not at all good in the Xerox-type copy of the document I have.

Does TIGHAR have the original of the photo? If so, is the resolution good enough to make out any of the lettering on the front panel? Even a better picture of what dials, switches and terminal posts that are there might be of some help.

Aside from this photo, the only other information I've found is a picture and superficial description in Aero Digest, March 1937. The unit contains two type-77 tubes (RF pentodes) and is powered from the receiver. There are the usual resistors, capacitors, etc. in view along with the two tube sockets. That's about all that can be made of it. My impression is that this is where amplitude and phase of signals from the loop and from a sense antenna are combined to yield the cardioid signal intensity pattern -- only one null rather than two 180 deg. apart.

Does anyone know any more about the Bendix "coupling unit" or have any ideas where one might search for information on the circuitry involved?

From Ric

That photo is one of a batch taken by Albert Bresnick in the first week of March 1937 about two weeks before the first World Flight attempt. I don't have negatives or good prints of them and I can't make out what it says on the face of the instrument. Bresnick used to sell prints of these from the original negs and I think his wife still does.

Subject: Gallaghers
Date: 1/18/00
From: Phil Tanner

>From Vern
>I keep thinking about that photo album of Gallagher's that just MIGHT still
>exist. How can we pick up that Clancy trail again??

We're a bit stuck on this one, but it was clear while I was briefly in contact with the adoptive daughter of Gallagher's aunt here in the UK that she didn't have any knowledge of what became of the effects sent to Malvern. I sent her a wad of photocopies from TIGHAR Tracks but received no acknowledgement, and a follow-up email went unanswered. She said the third Gallagher sister lived in Worcester, very near Malvern, and remembered the married name of this sister's daughter (i.e. Gallagher's natural cousin and her own cousin by adoption) but a letter to the only entry under this name in the local phone book yielded no reply. She said a daughter of this family had lived some years ago in Fleet, Hampshire, but a letter to the local paper for that town yielded no replies.

A possible next step would be to try and establish who were the beneficiaries of Gallagher's parents' wills, or his mother's at least. These ought to be on public record somewhere, but I'm not up to speed on the mechanics of searching for wills and I'd bet it would be pretty hard without a death date/s. Another avenue might be establishing who were listed as next of kin of Gallagher's only brother, who also died during the war but on active service. Again, service records are available to family historians to some extent --- World War One certainly and I keep planning to research my grandfather's service --- but I don't know if WWII records are, or whether if so they are available to non-family members.

On the possibility of the apparent fire extingusher being of British origin, I have sent copies of the research bulletin to an excellent local museum specializing in 20th century artefacts and asked for impressions and advice, and await their reply.

Phil Tanner 2276

Subject: Re: Bottles and corks
Date: 1/18/00
From: Jon Watson

Ric wrote:

>There was some fishing line in the Luke Field inventory, but if you were
>going to use corks that way wouldn't you remove the brass chains?

Obviously we don't know the size of the corks, or of the chains, but if the corks were small enough to use as a bobber, the chains might be just enough to get them to float right, and act as a "fishing weight" with the line tied to the chain on one end, and the hook on the other. Not an ideal situation, but it might be workable. Then too, maybe these were extras that they just hadn't gotten around to removing the chains from yet. Picking up on what someone wrote a few messages back, I can recall as a kid (early '50's) we had thermous bottles with cork stoppers in our lunchpails. I'm sure that none of those had chains, though.

jon 2266

From Ric

Any other ideas? Here we have a scene which seems to include:

  • A partial skeleton in the shade of a small tree.
  • No hair, clothes, jewelry, or coins.
  • Parts of the sole of a woman's shoe and a man's shoe.
  • The remains of a fire, dead birds and turtle (no mention of fish bones).
  • No knife, plate, pot or other utensile.
  • A Benedictine bottle which may or may not have contained some fresh water.
  • A sextant box which may have contained an inverting eyepiece and seems to have been most recently used primarily as a general purpose container.
  • Corks (apparently two or more but we don't know how many) with brass chains thought to have come from a small cask.

What is NOT here is probably as important as what IS present if we're trying to reconstruct the scene. Lets remember that Gallagher doesn't come upon this scene until some months after the skull and bottle (and the inverting eyepeice?) were first found. Other stuff could have been taken from the site that he was never told about.


Subject: Re: Bottles and Corks
Date: 1/19/00
From: Tom King

A couple of other things to think about, while we're on the subject...

  1. Gallagher, newly arrived on Niku, first reports the bones discovery on 23rd September 1940. He reports the skull, other bones, the shoe, and the sextant box, but not the inverting eyepiece or the corks on chains.
  2. On 6th October, when he provides amplified details, he still doesn't mention them (but he's responding to specific questions).
  3. On 17th October he still doesn't mention them, though by now he says "we" have "searched carefully." He opines that an "organized search" would take several weeks.
  4. On 26th October Vaskess directs him to make an "organized search."
  5. According to Gallagher's quarterly progress report for this period, "(t)he second half of the quarter was marked by severe and almost continuous North-Westerly gales, which did considerable damage to houses, coconut trees, and newly planted lands." The second half of this quarter would have been November-December. Hard to make an organized search.
  6. On 27th December, however, he acknowledges the 26th October telegram and says that the bones and sextant box have been packaged for shipment to Fiji. The latter, he says, also "contains all the other pieces of evidence which were found in the proximity of the body."

So one wonders, was there further, organized search during the second half of the last quarter of 1940, during breaks in the storms, which produced (perhaps among other things) the corks on chains? And if so, who did the searching? All the colonists? Some smaller group? Gallagher by himself? And does this suggest anything to us about where the search might have taken place? It would seem to argue against anyplace very far from the village -- hard to travel very far in the heavy weather -- unless one equipped oneself to go and stay for awhile. Which makes one (this one, anyhow) wonder about the "house built for Gallagher" that Laxton places on the southeast end of the island, and that is apparently represented by the Evans/Moffit water catcher re-located by TIGHAR in 1996.

Tom King

From Ric

Innterressting..... We seem to have at least one item (the bottle) that sort of goes away. Koata takes it to Tarawa. Irish tells Werham to intercept it, which he does - and that's the last we hear of it.

Conversely, there are items that seem to turn up only AFTER Vaskess tells Gallagher to do an "organized search." As you point out, these include the "inverting eyepiece" (which Gallagher apparently never actually sees), and the "corks on brass chains." I wonder also about the pieces from a man's shoe. Is this a case of Dr. Steenson and Gallagher having a difference of opinion about the shoe parts or have more shoe parts been found since Gallagher's original telegram?

Let's pursue your hypothesis about the "house built for Gallagher" being a base of operations for ther "organized search" ordered by Vaskess.

I think it is pretty safe to say that the site we identified in 1996 is the site described by the Coasties and the site described by Laxton. We know from photos taken in June 1941 that it was there then. It clearly includes objects from the village, so we can say with some certainty that it dates from sometime between, say, April 1939 (when the first real batch of settlers arrived) and June 1941. If it was indeed built "for Gallagher" or at least at Gallagher's direction, it had to have been built between September 1940 and June 1941. This puts it smack in the middle of the time period in question.

Let's look at the null hypothesis --- that the site was constructed for some reason other than as a base of operations for an "organized search." What reason could that be? There is no indication that the area was ever contemplated for planting to coconuts. We had wondered about it being a bird or turtle hunting camp, but Gallagher mentions nothing about the establishment of such a camp. During the period in question, the big push was to get land cleared for coconut planting and yet somebody put a lot of effort into setting up an operation way down in the bush --- a project that was apparently never completed.

I think you may be on to something. As you know, I have resisted the notion that the site at the southeast end had anything to do with Gallagher's bone discovery but I'm starting to think I've been wrong about that. We have lots of notes and photos and video tape from the 1996 trip. Our initial reaction was that all we had done was disprove the theory that the site was of interest to us. I think we really need to take another look at all of that data.


Subject: Gallagher's Catalog of Clues
Date: 1/19/00
From: Ric Gillespie

The following are all of Gallagher's references to the location where the bones were found and my comments as to how well they do or don't match the site surveyed by TIGHAR in 1996.

1. On October 6, 1940 in response to question from the Resident Commissioner as to how far from shore the bones were found, Gallagher says

"100 feet from high water ordinary springs"

Ric comment: We didn't measure how far inland the 1996 site was from the lagoon shore due to impossibly thick scaevola, but it seems like it was perhaps a little farther than 100 feet above the ordinary high tide mark. Can't be sure though.

2. On October 17, 1940 in response to question from the Secretary of the High Commission as to where the bones were found Gallagher says:

"Bones were found on South East corner of island about 100 feet above ordinary high water springs..."

Ric comment: The 1996 site could well be described as being on the South East corner of the island.

3. In the same communication Gallagher says:

"Body had obviously been lying under a "ren" tree and remains of fire, turtle and dead birds appear to indicate life."

Ric comment: There are "ren" trees in the area. There were bird bones at the site. The ocean beach nearby (the island is very narrow at this point) is prime turtle country. I think I also recall charcoal at the site but I'll have to double check.

4. In the same communication Gallagher says:

"All small bones have been removed by giant coconut crabs which have also damaged larger ones."

Ric comment: Whether or not the scattering was actually done by coconut crabs, Gallagher obviously thought that there wwere crabs in the area. Although the site is now covered with dense scaevola, the crab-infested Buka forest is less than 100 yards away and the presence of old fallen Buka nearby indicate that the site was once within the forest.

5. In the same communication Gallagher says:

"...this part of island is not yet cleared"

Ric comment: Aerial photos show that some limited clearing had been done around the 1996 site by June of 1941, but no coconut planting was apparently ever done there.

6. In Gallagher's letter dated December 27, 1940 that accompanied the bones and artifacts to Fiji he says:

"found on the South Eastern shore of Gardner Island"

Ric comment: The 1996 site might be described this way.

7. In the same letter Gallagher says:

"...the skull has been buried in damp ground for nearly a year"

Ric comment: The soil in the Buka forest is damp.

8. In the same letter Gallagher says:

" view of the presence of crabs and rats in this area"

Ric comment: There are crabs and rats in the Buka forest.

9. In the same letter Gallagher says:

"...something may come to hand during the course of the next few months when the area in question will be again thoroughly examined during the course of planting operations, which will involve a certain amount of digging in the vicinity"

Ric comment: If the 1996 was ever intended for planting, those plans were never carried out.

10. In the same letter Gallagher says:

"...the coffin in which the remains are contained is made from a local wood known as "kanawa" and the tree was, until a year ago, growing on the edge of the lagoon, not very far from the spot where the deceased was found."

Ric comment: There is certainly no kanawa growing there now but it is not impossible or even improbable that there was once kanawa growing along that shoreline.

11. In a note to the file in Fiji on July 3, 1941 Gallagher wrote:

"There was no evidence of any attempt to dig a well and the wretched man presumably died of thirst. Less than two miles away there is a small grove of coconut trees which would have been sufficient to keep him alive if he had only found it. He was separated from those trees, however, by an inpenetrable [sic] belt of bush."

Ric comment: At the 1996 site there was an obvious attempt to dig a well, but that may have been done later. From the 1996 site to the closest stand of cocos that were present in 1940 (as far as we know) is about 2.5 miles.

Bottom line: I don't see anything in all of this that would conclusively disqualify the 1996 site as the location described by Gallagher, assumming that the village-related material we found there was brought later, perhaps as an abortive preparation for a more ambitious search.


Subject: Gallagher's stuff
Date: 1/20/00
From: Vern Klein

Gallagher would have had no trouble developing film and making contact prints on Niku. I'm betting he was into photography to the extent that he could well have done it. He probably sent photos home too. I wish we could confirm whether or not he was into photography to that extent.

It's so easy to do whith B&W film and contact prints. I've done it in all sorts of situations. If it's difficult to find a dark place, you do it reaching into a duffle-bag or even working under a coat. Remember the black cloth bag the professionals used to use in the field?

There would have been nothing specifically photographic to send back. Any chemicals that might have been around would have been discarded and not sent with his other stuff. Of course, there is the question of a camera. Sold? I understand that his sextant was sold... When? Where?

From Ric

Hold the presses. I found it. Gallagher did have a camera.

Item 31 in the inventory is

"1 Case marked G.B.G. containing:

"1 rain coat, 1 box playing cards, 1 envelope of magazine [?], 1 bottle lotion, 2 clothes brushes, 1 box ties and cigarette case, 6 fans, 1 cigarette box, 1 pair hair clippers, 1 brass ornament, 1 bottle ?, 1 tube shaving cream, 1 picture, 1 camera, 1 bottle talc powder, 1 stud box, 9 Gilbertese hats, 1 pair braces, 2 felt hats, 1 pair evening shoes, 1 pair mosquitoe boots, 1 tennis racket, 1 handkerchief case, 5 Gilbertese curios, 1 hair brush, 1 Flying helmet, 2 pairs goggles, 1 ash tray, 1 wallet, 1 pair dark glasses, 1 curtain, 1 pair sox, 1 packet negatives, exercise books, luggage labels, etc."

Item 30, by the way, is an attache case containing:

"Set of links and studs, 2 gold coat buttons, Pilot licence, Pilots log book, passport, cheque book, 2 fountain pens, torch, travelling clock, photographs and personal papers, 2 Ordinance survey maps."

His sextant, as I recall, was given to the master of the Viti.

Still no mention of photo developing supplies and the inventory is so exhaustive that I would expect them to be listed. Everything was cataloged, right down to the contents of the pantry which were left on the island ( "8 dozen Ideal Milk, 5 doz and 10 Condensed Milk, 7 Gross Box of Matches, 9/3 worth of Fish Hooks, 1 box Refined Black Lead, Tilly Vapourisers and Mantles, 3 doz. and 10 assorted Soup, 2 tins Milk, 2 doz tins assorted vegetables," etc, etc., etc.).


Subject: Re: Bottles and corks
Date: 1/20/00
From: Tom King

I just noticed another clue. In trying to bribe Isaac to spring the bones from Tarawa, Gallagher offers him his own kanawa box or table, saying "we have a little seasoned timber left." Suggesting, and it's doubtless so, that you've got to season kanawa wood before you make it into something. Since the tree from which the coffin was made was from a tree that had until recently been standing near where the bones were found, they must have already been doing some clearing in the neighborhood, so that the wood would (chuck chuck) have had time to become seasoned.


From Ric

Gallagher's communication to Isaac was on February 11, 1941. I his transmittal letter of December 27, 1940 (which accompanied the bones) he says:

"Should any relatives be traced, it may prove of sentimental interest for them to know that the coffin in which the remains are contained is made from a local wood known as "kanawa" and the tree was, until a year ago, growing on the edge of the lagoon, not very far from the spot where the deceased was found."

This would indicate that the tree was cut down as early as December 1939, long before any clearing was started on parts of the island other than the immediate village area. Sounds to me like they were harvesting kanawa trees independent of clearing operations because they recognized the value of the wood. In fact, it may have been a kanawa harvesting foray that led to the initial discovery of the skull.

I also notice that there is a discrepancy about who found the bottle and when. In his very first communication to the Resident Commissioner on Ocean Island on September 23, 1940 Gallagher says:

"Some months ago working party on Gardner discovered human skull --- this was buried and I only recently heard about it. Thorough search has now produced more bones ( including lower jaw ) part of a shoe a bottle and a sextant box. ...."

This clearly indicates that the bottle was found by Gallagher along with the other artifacts. But in his telegram to Wernham on Tarawa on the same day he says:

"Please obtain from Koata (Native Magistrate Gardner on way to Central Hospital) a certain bottle alleged to have been found near skull discovered on Gardner Island ..."

He is telling rather different stories in the two messages.

Kilts says that the "cognac" bottle was found "beside the body" and that the skull was found "farther down the beach." This agrees with the version of the story Gallagher told the Resident Commissioner. Sounds to me like Koata went off with the bottle when he left for Tarawa and Irish didn't find out about it until after he had left. He wires ahead to Wernham to get him to intercept Koata and retrieve the bottle, but he doesn't tell him the whole story. When you think about it, it makes more sense for the bottle to be at the campsite with the other stuff rather than have somehow traveled with the skull.


Subject: Gallagher
Date: 1/20/00
From: Mike Meunich

The more I read of the body location and the field clearing operations, the more I think they are connected. Am I correct that the village was not near the area where the bones were located? If so, how were they discovered. If Gallager was intent on clearing areas for planting, I doubt that anyone had time to explore, except in the immediate areas they were assigned to clear. I note the reference, in several posts, that the bones were "near an area to be cleared". Ergo my opinion that the bones were discovered by crews either proceeding to the work or very near an area already cleared or to be cleared. Given the British passion for detail, were there any surveys or maps prepared of areas to be cleared, status reports of area cleared, or descriptions of same. If you could confirm by any of this data were clearings and plantings were to be made or were made, you might substantially narrow your searching area or confirm further the 1996 site.

From Ric

The first discovery, the skull, was made about six months before Gallagher came to live on the island. At that time clearing and planting operations were confined to the area immediately surrounding the village and , yes, the bones were found at some considerable distance from the village. But Gallagher specifically says that the skull was found by a "working party." Working at what? He later indicates that a kanawa tree that stood near where the body was found had been cut down as early as December 1939. Sounds to me like the skull was found by a kanawa harvesting work party.

Subject: Re: Gallagher
Date: 1/21/00
From: Tom King

> Gallagher specifically says that the skull was found by a "working party."
> Working at what?

I think it's a tossup as to whether "working party" means a small, project-specific party or the whole gang, who were all salaried government employees at the time, engaged in the work of getting the island cleared and planted sufficiently to become a real colony.

Of the three current candidate sites for the bones discovery site, one of them (Kanawa Point) is quite close to the village; Aukaraime is pretty distant, and the '96 site is real distant. One thing that impressed me yesterday going through the logs of the Loran Station, though, was how quickly folks were moving up and down the island through the lagoon. It was common practice for the crew to take Saturday liberty trips to the village, leaving at 1330 and returning about 1630 but often earlier, and there are instances of round trips of little more than an hour. That's in a power boat, of course, but canoes are pretty fast, too. We may be overrating the difficulty of travelling to even the most distant of the candidate sites.


From Ric

Reading through Gallagher's quarterly reports I get a strong impression that no clearing and planting operations were undertaken at any distance from the village until the spring of 1941. What aerial photos we have from that period seem to bear that out.

As for travel times on the lagoon, it takes a good 15 minutes to go from the lagoon beach near the village to the 1996 site in a good powerboat (about 2.5 nm at 10 knots). How fast is a sailing canoe?

Anytime we're working at some distance from the landing/village we always set up a base camp at the remote location. Just makes sense.

Subject: Gallagher
Date: 1/21/00
From: Mike Meunich

As usual, I am getting confused. Mr. Gillespie's most recent post seems to indicate that no "distant" clearing occurred until after Gallagher arrived. I a given to understand the the '96 site is quite removed from the village, yet several references yesterday quoted Gallagher's notes referring to finding the body near either sites cleared or soon to be cleared. I doubt that there were native "survey" parties laying out areas away from the village unless they had some form of maps or instructions that they could follow. Was someone else there instructing them prior to Gallagher's arrival or were they operating solely on their own? It seems to me that some form of detailed map of the island with references to various sites, times, events, locations etc. and posted at the web site for reference is a necessity for those of us who try to correlate all this information. I am still wondering whether or not Gallagher or the natives had maps or drawings instructing him where and how to layout all of these platting areas. If so, who prepared them and have they been located?

From Ric

A couple of months ago we put a map of Nikumaroro with references to various sites, times, events, locations etc. on the TIGHAR website. To find it go to the Earhart Project page, look under "Information on the TIGHAR Website" and click on "Maps." Or you can go directly to: Niku map.

If you'll re-read the posting about Gallagher's references to where the bones were found you'll find that there is just one mention that the place was to be cleared later. Whether it was or not is another question.

Subject: Benedictine bottle
Date: 1/21/00
From: Patrick Gaston

I see no great discrepancy between Gallagher's two reports on the finding of the Benedictine bottle. One can easily assume (i.e., speculate) that a "thorough search" would have included a thorough grilling of the work party who actually found the skull back in April. I can envision one of these guys sheepishly handing over a Benedictine bottle: "We found this at the same time, Mr. Irish."

More problematic to me is why AE would carry her drinking water around in a Benedictine bottle when more suitable containers (canteens, water bottles, thermos flasks) were available on the Electra. If there was time to salvage Fred's sextant there should have been time to transfer other survival gear ashore before the plane broke up. I imagine that potable water would be Item Number One on the survival list, followed closely by food. A sextant would be important if you were capable of radioing your position to potential rescuers, but even then, why take it very far from the radio?

So it seems to me that the sextant box either was used as a container for more important items (like provisions) or was simply flotsam from the Electra or the Norwich City.

I remain perplexed at how Gallagher, with nothing more than a partial skeleton and part of a shoe sole to go one, was so convinced that the remains were female and the shoes were women's size 10 stoutish walking shoes (no indication of any correspondence between Gerald and the Cat's Paw people). One is led to conclude that there must have been other indicia of the castaway's gender, but if that is so why didn't Gallagher report it? An enigma wrapped in riddles....

I continue to believe that the complete disappearance of the leather uppers and the apparent lack of even a shred of clothing on the skeleton strongly suggest that the remains were more than three years old. However, this all was debated some months ago (see: Scavenging Habits of Coconut Crabs) and the general consensus was that "in situ" experimentation might be helpful. As in, "Delaware Man Murders Goat on Remote Pacific Island."

Pat Gaston

Subject: Re: Gallagher
Date: 1/21/00
From: Ross Devitt

On this same subject of maps, and Re my question on the 19th and 20th: "I have been reading everything I can on the web site, and wonder if during your stays on the island, you have produced a map showing where the clearing and the planting was actually carried out?"

The map doesn't show any of the clearing operations Mike and I asked about.

It's not only the places that the settlers cleared that is interesting now, but perhaps just as interesting is where they DIDN'T clear. If I remember correctly, my coconut trees took over 5 years to bear fruit that would "sustain life" from the time of planting. Somewhere on that island was an established "small grove" of coconut trees already.

Is there any indication of where the early planting (prior to the settlement) was? Another interesting point is the reference to "no attempt to dig a well". By that time Gallagher knew a bit at least about the island. He must have deemed it not to be an impossible task.

I also can't imagine a "Polynesian native" lying under a tree, dying of thirst with coconuts anywhere within miles. Obviously we don't know his circumstances (in the unlikely event it was a male Polynesian native), he could have been seriously injured. But he had a sextant box (an odd article for a Polynesian native) and a benedictine bottle (also odd). He had either been fit enough to find the survivor's cache, or was a very sophisticated native who wore size nine lace up boots.

If he was fit enough to find the survivor's camp, surely he could have located a few coconut trees. And being a "Polynesian native" I'm sure he would have known how to collect and open coconuts and drink and eat them --- especially as he was active enough to catch and cook birds and turtles.

I know this doesn't rule out the bones being Polynesian - but if you think about it, the average white man or woman faced with coconuts (with their thick husks) and no tools hasn't a clue how to get into the things. Much less how gather any drinking nuts (green and on the tree).

Anyway, back to my original question. Do you know where the original plantings were before Gallagher's time. Are there any sign of established trees in early pictures. They would be quite tall. (5 years gets the trunk of a coconut to about 3-4 metres and the tips of the fronds about the same again.) This is NOT a guess, but there are different varieties of coconuts so it is also not completely foolproof either.

Any established or old trees should still stand out from the others.

Another point of interest. "There was no evidence of any attempt to dig a well and the wretched man presumably died of thirst. Less than two miles away there is a small grove of coconut trees which would have been sufficient to keep him alive if he had only found it. He was separated from those trees, however, by an inpenetrable (sic)belt of bush. GBG"

If the bones had been found near Kanawa Point, that would put Gallagher's description at "Less than one mile away". The British have historically been pretty well known for detail and accuracy in their official reports. That kind of suggests (if the coconut grove was near the village - and that seems logical - if you were settling a Tropical Island I imagine if there was a nice grove of coconuts nearby...) that the bones location was nearer to the site TIGHAR recovered relics from.

Or on the other side of the lagoon, near where aeroplane wreckage was thought to be...

I'd opt for the TIGHAR site as being still interesting. But I still believe there would be another camp for night time.


From Ric

In 1892 a work party of approximately 20 Niue islanders in the employ of John T. Arundel did some limited clearing and planting on Gardner. By October of 1937 when Maude and Bevington visited the island there were a total of 111 trees in bearing. These were in five groves --- 2 in what would later be called Ritiati district and 3 in Nutiran district near the main lagoon passage (see map on website). The exact location of these trees can be confirmed in early aerial photos of the island.

The parts of the island that were cleared and planted are:

1. Ritiati and Noriti districts, and some parts of Tekebeia (1939-1940)
2. The western section of Aukeraime (1941)
3. The southern section of Nutiran (1949)
4. The central section of Nutiran (sometime after 1953)

Whoever the castaway was, the skull measurements taken by Dr. Hoodless strongly indicate that the person was not Polynesian.

Anyone who found the Norwich City survivors' camp would have had to have found the groves of cocos on Nutiran, but as you say, coconuts don't do you any good if you can't get them down. By 1937 the surviving trees from Arundel's planting were mature and very tall. Again, as you say, only green nuts have milk and green nuts are still in the tree.

We have three suspect sites for the place where the bones were found:

1. Kanawa Point --- but only because we know that kanawa trees once grew there.
2. The Aukeraime shoe site --- because we found shoes like Earhart's there and we know that the area was being cleared in the months following the Gallagher's discovery.
3. The site that TIGHAR investigated in 1996. This site is not marked on the website map but is on the northern shore of the island just west of the Loran station. No planting was apparently ever done in this location.


Subject: Re: Gallagher
Date: 1/21/00
From: Tom King

Let me just say something about maps, who was in charge on Niku, etc. It's a serious mistake to think that the folks working on Niku needed a European to tell them where to work, or to draw them a picture of where to do so. They had a very skillful and respected Magistrate, Koata of Onotoa, in overall charge, and he'd doubtless make the daily assignments within general guidelines laid down by the OIC-PISS -- first Maude, then Gallagher.

It's hard to say exactly what the priorities were for clearing the island. Generally it would make sense to start at the village site and work out, and that's pretty much what seems to have happened. But there were also considerations of leaving "bush reserve" in places to provide bird habitat, and of clearing land that would be appropriate for allocation to families for their permanent ownership and use. There was also a politely raging debate about whether land that supported buka (Pisonia grandis) was any good for growing coconuts, and some experimentation with different buka areas might have been a factor in planning. In other words, in general it's probably safe to say that clearing moved centrifugally out from the village site and government station, but there may have been some leapfrogging.

Anyway, within whatever basic priorities were set, it would be up to Koata to make sure the work got planned, scheduled, and done on a day today, week to week basis.


Subject: Benedictine bottle
Date: 1/21/00
From: Tom King

For what it's worth, the suicide that we (Kar Burns and the local police and medical examiner, with me along as interested observer) looked at in Fiji last summer -- only three or four months dead and completely skeletonized, somewhat scattered -- was almost certainly wearing shorts and at least flip-flops if not more substantial footgear, and carrying a back-pack; only a few fragments of cloth and some buckles were noted by the police in their initial inspection (we found nothing in the way of clothing remnants). In the case of two murder victims recently reported in a coconut crab area on Saipan, probably at least partly clothed at the time of death and disposal (estimated at 4-6 months before discovery), there were only small fragments of clothing found on the undersides of the completely skeletonized bodies.

I have no idea how Gallagher was able to be so sure about the "stoutish walking shoe" being a woman's. Anybody got a shoe catalogue from the 1930s? Maybe there's some obvious distinction that none of us knows about.

LTM (who prefers to be barefoot)
Tom King

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