Forum artHighlights From the Forum

February 6 through 12, 2000

Subject: Dating
Date: 2/7/00
From: Randy Jacobson

One can date relatively early historical material with thermoluminescence, if the material has been out of the sunlight; with certain radioactive materials based upon lead and Uranium; Carbon 14 to Carbon 12 ratios with known calibration curves for the past 100 years, etc., etc., etc. Most of these have real problems with calibrations and assumptions. That is why historians and archeologists abound!

From Ric

Sounds like we'll just have to keep abounding.

Subject: Lambrecht Photo of Gardner Island
Date: 2/7/00
From: Frank Westlake

Has the Lambrect photo been analyzed yet? In the copy I'm looking at there appears to be one of Lambrect's aircraft about 500 feet above the northwest corner of Gardner. This isn't the right position for either wreck and it actually appears to be airborne. I just finished reading nearly everything available on the web site and saw no reference to this object.

If this is an aircraft it may answer the two questions "when was the photo taken" and "at what altitude did they fly?"

Frank Westlake

From Ric

That's a flaw or a speck of dust, not an aircraft. It's way too big. The size of things on that island is very deceiving. An O3U-3 flying along the stretch of beach closest to the camera plane would be very hard to see. A person standing on that beach would be invisible. (The Lambrecht photo is at: The Lambrecht Photo.)

Subject: Search Radar
Date 2/7/00
From: Jim W.

NASA is testing a synthetic aperture radar for searches:

[NASA] engineers use a Douglas DC-8 with synthetic aperture radar (large panels on side of aircraft) that will search large areas through cloud cover, at night, and through vegetation.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is working on a "beaconless" search-and-rescue aircraft equipped with synthetic aperture radar. The system could be used to find aircraft that crash on land. The advantage to radar is that it can be used through cloud cover, at night, and through vegetation. The technology successfully located a crash site in a remote region of Montana last year after rescuers had called off search efforts. To test the new method, simulated airplane wreckage sites have been created in North Carolina, Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Alaska, and Oregon. Wreckage from a long-lost aircraft in Montana was found during testing.

The technology was not ready for deployment as of early last fall. When this radar is ready for use it may have practical application for radar mapping Niku. Although it is not described as ground penetrating radar, test results indicate it works well in vegetation. Maybe it would save quite a lot of time, as well as expense, by better detailing and locating potential sites for ground archaeological search. Of course it would be expensive to use initially but the cost savings through a more specific and efficient ground search may be the result. Sure would be nice if the radar system tests out well and is reasonably cost effective.

Jim W.

From Ric

We struggled with this for a long time and it always comes down to a question of resolution. The big impetus to develop technology that will find downed aircraft is, of course, centered around SAR operations --- saving lives. This naturally assumes that most of the aircraft will be present, even if in kit format.

In archaeological applications we're usually looking for relatively small objects. The most promising (but still not available to us) technology now being developed is airborne synthetic aperture radar designed to help map minefields.


Subject: Two Shoe Sizes
Date: 2/7/00
From: Kenton Spading

The following appeared recently on the Forum:

>We do know that Earhart's feet were quite narrow. But what of the
>discrepancy between Gallagher's "probably size 10" and Kilts' "size nine
>...Kilts' information about the shoe came from his informant. The fact that his
>informant's version of the shoe size is different from Gallagher's is
>interesting and seems to indicate that there was some disagreement even
>among the people on the island as to the shoes probable size, but not its

I think there are two apparent sources for reported the shoe sizes 1) Gallagher's field estimate [obviously] and 2) the results of a detailed analysis that was most likely done in Fiji. Let's look at this a little closer.

Gallagher examines the shoe artifact(s) on Gardner Island in the later part of 1940 and makes a field estimate of the size. Quoting Gallagher in part: "...probably size 10" [British Size 10]. The obvious reference tool for his estimate would have been his own shoes. He probably compared the shoes he was wearing to the remains of the shoe artifact(s) and made his best guess. It would have been easy for him to have been off by a half size or so even if the shoe(s) was in very good condition (which it seems it wasn't).

In May 1941, Gallagher returns to the headquarters office in Fiji (WPHC) where the artifacts now reside. We know from the Fiji WPHC documents that various people (including Gallagher) undoubtedly examined the artifacts in some detail in Fiji. It is likely that the officials in Fiji made an attempt to nail down the size of the shoe from which Gallagher made his field estimate. The study of the artifacts in Fiji is most likely the time at which the "Size 9 Narrow, American Kind" determination was made. Gallagher and Dr. Macpherson then return to Gardner in September of 1941 and deliver the results of the analysis of the bones and artifacts (including the shoes) to the very curious natives. They tell the natives the shoe appeared to be an American kind, size 9 narrow. That information is subsequently passed from the informant to Kilts.

I don't think there was any disagreement amongst the people on the island as to the shoe size. They are simply relating what Gallagher and/or Macpherson have told them. The size estimate evolves over time as the analysis moves from a field estimate to a more rigorous examination in Fiji and the subsequent return of the infomation to Gardner in Sept. of 1941.

Kenton Spading

From Ric

Sounds like a reasonable hypothesis. What puzzles (or perhaps disappoints) me is how Gallagher caves in and follows the party line once he is back in Fiji. On July 3, 1941 (two days after Dr. Steenson records his comments about the shoe parts and corks with brass chains) Gallagher writes a note to the file:

The Secretary,
I have read the contents of this file with great interest. It does look as if the skeleton was that of some unfortunate native castaway and the sextant box and other curious articles found nearby the remains are quite possibly a few of his precious possessions which he managed to save.
2. 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 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.

Aw c'mom Irish! An unfortunate native castaway collecting precious corks with brass chains and bits of shoe soles?


Subject: Re: Two Shoe Sizes
Date: 2/7/00
From: Chris Kennedy

Was Gallagher's "note to the file" that you mention a note that he basically stuck in the file to close the matter intending for no one in particular to read except if they read the file, or was it actually a note meant to be sent to someone ("To the Secretary....")?

From Ric

The way the sytem worked was that when a matter worthy of a file (for example, the discovery of human remains on Gardner Island) came up, a file was started. In the front of the file was a chronological diary of handwritten, and sometimes typed, notations by various people who looked at the file and wished to comment on something. Telegrams and letters that came in, or copies of correspondence that was sent out referring to the subject of the file were put in the file and "logged in" on the diary.

Gallagher's note of July 3rd, 1941 was a hand-printed entry in the diary. Anyone subsequently reviewing the file would be able to read his note, although it was specifically addressed to The Secretary (Vaskess). It was his way of officially stating his opinion. Of course, very few people had access to this file.


Subject: Amelia's Voice
Date: 2/7/00
From: Ron Bright

I hate to dwell on a subject but your answers to the sound of Amelia's voice during her last transmission are contradictory. I think it is an important clue on what was going on inside the cabin and the decisions made by AE and FN.

In my characterizaton of Amelia's voice during the 0843 transmission (in a posting on 28 Jan) I said in essence she was yelling frantically, almost incoherently into the mike. You replied that she was not "yelling frantically and incoherently..." But in the very next sentence you quote Capt Thompson describing her voice as "hurried, frantic...not complete...and that toward the end Earhart talked so rapidly as to be almost incoherent." You believe that Capt Thompson was biased but others in the radio room heard the same message-one of which was Leo Bellarts. And for some reason you stated that Chief Bellarts "mentioned nothing about the way Earhart's voice sounded in Elgen Long's interview in l973."

Not so.

After my interview of Leo Bellarts Jr., indicating his recollection of his dad's description was near "hysterical" but he deferred to his father 's description in l973 and you quoted Long interview:

...but I'll tell you, you could hear her voice all over the shack and even outside the shack (pretty loud)...real lound and clear. I mean it...we heard her quite a few times... but that last one, I'm telling you, it sounded as if she would have broken out in a scream...she was about ready to break into tears and go into hysterics...thats exactly the way I'd describe her voice now. I'll never forget it.

That is powerful first hand testimony you must respect. Now I submit that that kind of tenor and emotion to AE's voice certainly suggested an emergency and deductively indicative of her perilous situation at 0844-- lost, looking for Howlandg as running low, and now forced into the decision of continuing to look for Howland or begin a contingency plan.

Whether she then calmly regained her composure and headed for a contingency landing area southeast in the Phoenix Is on that LOP and crashing on or near NIKU is, of course, the mystery TIGHAR is trying to unravel.

For you airplane crash investigators, voice analysis and content, etc, must be quite valuable in determining aspects of a pilots situation and behavior. Thompson and Bellart, the two reporters, and others in that radio room are the next best think to a cockpit recorder. (By the way were any of her transmissions recorded?)

Are any of the reporters (AP and UP) releases available?

Ron Bright

From Ric

I was obviously mistaken when I originally said that Bellarts mentioned nothing about the way Earhart's voice sounded in Elgen Long's interview in l973. It's a very long interview and the subjects covered skip around quite a bit. I simply missed the reference the first time I looked for one.

Okay, so the issue at hand is:
What primary source, contemporaneous evidence is there which describes how Earhart's voice sounded during the last transmission heard by Itasca?

First question -- What primary, contemporaneous sources are there which describe what happened that morning? Well, the most contemporaneous, virtually real-time sources are the two radio logs kept aboard the Itasca and the log kept by Ciprianni on Howland. None of them mention anything about the quality of her voice except that the later transmissions were heard at Strength 5.

The next closest sources are the transmissions sent out by Itasca informing headquarters about what happened. None of those mention anything about how her voice sounded.

The first reference I could find was by the United Press reporter aboard Itasca who filed his report at 15:45 Hawaii Standard Time on July 2nd after the search was well underway. He said that in her last message "her voice sounded very tired, anxious, almost breaking."

The other two reporters who filed stories earlier made no mention of how her voice sounded.

Bottom line: The first mention of Earhart's voice is by a newspaper reporter in a story filed many hours later. Clearly, Earhart's perceived emotional state was not deemed worthy of mention by official sources at the time of the disappearance.

As for Bellarts' 1973 story being "powerful first hand testimony", it's anecdote --- nothing more, nothing less --- and no more worthy of respect than any other reminiscence. It's an old memory, colored by many years of telling and retelling. Maybe it's accurate, maybe it's not.


Subject: Was Amelia Tearful?
Date: 2/8/00
From: Hugh Graham

Let me see, we are discussing how long AE's hair would be after two years' hiding on Niku, because two natives have recounted seeing an apparition of a fair, long-haired lady, yet we are questioning what two trained observers (Bellarts & UP reporter) heard on the Itasca's radio which is a predictably apprehensive AE. What is wrong with this story?

LTM(who thinks a military radio operator's anecdote is more reliable than natives' ghost stories)
HAG 2201.

From Ric

You raise a point that is fundamental to the investigative process. We start from the premise that all anecdote is suspect because the human memory is fallible. A military radio operator's anecdote is NOT automatically more reliable than natives' ghost stories. We examine all recollections to see if there is hard evidence to corroborate them, recognizing that culture predjudices inevitably color a person's observations and impressions.

A Gilbertese colonist on Gardner Island is going to relate an unusual event to preconceived notions about how the world works (i.e. ghosts are a fact of life). We inquire about how fast hair grows in order to try to assess a possible alternative explanation.

A Coast Guardsman aboard Itasca in 1937 is, likewise, going to relate an unusual event to preconceived notions he has about how the world works (i.e. women get panicky). We look at the available sources and assess Earhart's known actions in order to try to assess a possible alternative explanation.

In the first case, we find that the known rate of human hair growth makes it virtually impossible for Earhart's hair to have reached the length described in Laxton's version of the ghost story. Either his version of the story is embellished or it was not Amelia.

In the second case, the fact that Earhart's radio transmission was made at her scheduled time and the reported content of the message seems entirely rational, plus the fact that allegatons about her emotional state apparently did not become part of the story until later, tend to make that part of the tale no more believable than Mrs. Koata actually seeing Nei Manganibuka.


Subject: Amelia's Voice
Date: 2/8/00
From: William Webster-Garman

Ric mentioned,

> The first reference I could find was by the United Press
> reporter aboard Itasca who filed his report at 15:45 Hawaii Standard Time on
> July 2nd after the search was well underway. He said that in her last
> message "her voice sounded very tired, anxious, almost breaking."

Subjective descriptions by 19th and 20th century journalists are notoriously unreliable. Newspaper and wire service accounts from the time of an historical event are usually somewhat accurate about the broadest facts ("City Hotel ravaged by fire"), but frequently distorted or simply wrong in the details ("12 injured as terrified guests gather in street to watch conflagration, faulty wiring in linen closet sparked blaze").

To gain an appreciation for this, go to your local public library's newspaper microfiche section, pick a random date before, say, 1960, and read the entire first section of a large metropolitan daily. The experience will probably surprise you, and you'll learn scads of interesting cultural history from the most unobjective elements of the newspaper-- the ads.

william 2243

From Ric

The stories filed by the reporters aboard Itasca contain numerous factual errors.

It's really very instructive to plow through the progression of messages sent from the Itasca and then read the official reports prepared after the search failed. You can watch the mood change from hope, to despair, to "Hey, man. It ain't our fault."

Subject: Re: Hair
Date: 2/8/00
From: Tom King

Ballendorf's written account of Erenite Kiron differs from your rendition. On page 11B of Ballendorf's report, he has Teng Erenite, when asked about the bones, saying:

I have heard the others talk about the bones that were found on the island, but I don't know anything about them. I never saw them. But I did see a ghost once on the beach near the lagoon. The ghost was that of a woman without a face. She came right up to me and I saw her. I told my mother about it, and other people. I saw this ghost only once.

Teng Erenite was something over 60 years old when Ballendorf interviewed him in February '96.

Tom King

From Ric

Unfortunately, much of Ballendorf's written account differs from the videotape his associate made of the interviews he describes.

Erenite Kiron is a Nei, not a Teng. She was interviewed in December 1995. She did not say that she had heard others talk about the bones. In spite of numerous leading questions from Ballendorf she insisted that she had no knowledge of the bone story. She did not say that she saw the ghost on the beach near the lagoon. In fact, when asked specifically if she had ever seen the ghost herself she replied, "No. A woman who saw the ghost told me about it." She said nothing about telling her mother anything. Her attempt to describe the ghost's face was apparently difficult to translate. She passed her hand over her face and Ballendorf asked if the ghost had no face. She said, "No, but up close the face was blank." There was no mention of long hair but the ghost was said to be female with light skin, but not necessarily a white person. No mention of Nei Manganibuka or children or a maneaba. She did say that the ghost was wearing a red shirt and a grass skirt. She said that this sighting occurred at a place the translator called "mooRAHB" but when she says it it sunds to me more like "nooRAHB." Risasi Finikaso, whom we interviewed on Funafuti in 1997, was born and raised on Nikumaroro in the 1950s. She told us that there is a place on Nikumaroro (she didn't know where) that was said to be sacred to Nei Manganibuka and was called Niurabo.


Subject: Lae Radio Logs
Date: 2/8/00
From: Frank Westlake

Somewhere along the line I read a comment, which I think was made by Ric, that the position information in the Lae radio log was probably erroneous. I had already read the log (Chater report) and remembered that is seemed odd so I went back and examined it more closely. Here is the relevant information from the Chater report:

2.18 pm: "HEIGHT 7000 FEET SPEED 140 KNOTS" and some remark concerning "LAE" then "EVERYTHING OKAY". The plane was called and asked to repeat position but we still could not get it.
3.19 pm: "HEIGHT 10000 FEET POSITION 150.7 east 7.3 south CUMULUS CLOUDS EVERYTHING OKAY".

What struck me as odd is the order in which the information was logged, which indicates that it is the order in which it was transmitted. It is very likely that Noonan recorded position in the standard format: latitude, longitude, altitude. I don't know if this format was standard in 1937 but it is today and I suspect that it was then. It is also very likely that Earhart read the position information directly from Noonan's notes as she transmitted it. It is also likely that through her own experience with poor communications she realized the importance of formatted reports. In reviewing the Lae radio logs I see this:

2.18 pm: (failed to recv position) HEIGHT 7000 FEET SPEED 140 KNOTS (???/status)
3.19 pm: HEIGHT 10000 FEET POSITION 150.7 east 7.3 south (wx/status)
5.18 pm: POSITION 4.33 SOUTH 159.7 EAST HEIGHT 8000 FEET (wx/???) WIND 23 KNOTS

Her report format appears to be:


I think it is likely that the operator recorded the numbers correctly and in the proper order

(6.10) -- 150.7 -- 7.3

then later, when logging, filled in the rest of the information incorrectly. You have already seen from the Itasca's log how operators typically fix the log to read what they THINK was said, this was necessary and expected because of the state of radio communications at the time. I think the Lae operator saw the 6.10 (or whatever it really was) and assumed it was recorded wrong (it didn't look like an altitude), or perhaps he only heard some of the numbers (10) and assumed it was altitude. The actual report was probably more like this:

3.19 pm: POSITION 6.10 south 150.7 east HEIGHT 7.3 thousand FEET

I only threw in the latitude of 6.10 as a guess. The other reports show that Noonan recorded latitude to the nearest hundredth of a degree and longitude to the nearest tenth. Working backwards (I'm aware of the hazards), to get 10000 feet there would probably have been a 10 in the latitude somewhere. An altitude of 7,300ft is much more realistic and is about midway between the preceding and following reports.

I'm currently reading past forum messages and I've found something interesting in Fred Noonan's memo on the navigation of the Clipper flight to Hawaii in 1935. With reference to the Lae radio logs you may remember that I said Noonan would likely record position information in a standard format and that Earhart would likely read it in that same format.

"Although such errors are made under all conditions,,(sic) it is believed a reduction of paper work during flight would tend to reduce such errors. Such reduction of paper work could be obtained by shortening the position reports to a statement of latitude, longitude, track desired, and ground speed, and leaving the compilation of the log data (excepting cloud formations) to be completed on the ground after each flight."

Frank Westlake

From Ric

At the very least this would seem to lend credence to the notion that when Earhart said "speed 140 knots" it was a groundspeed reported by Noonan and indicated a slight tailwind component at that time.

Subject: The Goerner Letters
Date: 2/9/00
From: Ric Gillespie

In preparation for an upcoming visit to the Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas by TIGHAR researchers, I've pulled out and transcribed some excerpts of correspondence from the late Fred Goerner (whose papers are at the museum). I thought the forum might enjoy seeing them.

Letter from Goerner to TIGHAR member Rob Gerth dated April 13, 1989 (Gerth was a local TV producer who was thinking of covering our first expedition and initiated a correspondence with Goerner to get "balance" on the story. He sent me copies.)

I truly believed the north of course theory was the most probable at the time I wrote The Search for AE in 1966, and I chose Mili as the most logical landing place. Through the assistance of Dr. Dirk Ballendorf, who was Deputy Director for our U.S. Peace Corps activities in the Pacific, I was able to disabuse myself of that conjecture in 1969. Dr. Ballendorf assigned a fine young American named Eric Sussman to assist me with the people of Mili Atoll. Mr. Sussman spent nearly two years in Mili as a Peace Corps volunteer, and he interviewed every Marshallese there who was old enough to remember anything about the pre-WWII years, especially 1937. A story existed about a woman pilot being picked up somewhwere in or about the Marshalls in 1937, but Mr. Sussman satisfied himself and consequently satisfied me that Mili HAD NOT BEEN (emphasis in the original) the landing place of the Earhart plane.

Goerner still clung to the idea that Earhart had eventually, somehow, ended up on Saipan but thought she had probably landed on Winslow Reef and been picked up by the Japanese and taken to Saipan from there.

Here's what Goerner knew about the bone story, as related in a letter to me dated March 1, 1990.

With respect to the Floyd Kilts business: One of our KCBS investigative reporters, Bill Dorais, who was deeply interested in the Earhart story, dug into Kilts' claims. Dorais concluded that it was third-hand information at best and totally suspect. Bill became convinced that Kilts had seen Flight for Freedom in which the female pilot character was supposed to land at "Gull Island" and because Hull Island was a part of the Phoenix Islands, speculation was rife that the Earhart plane came down on one of the Phoenix Islands.

Bill wrote to the Central Archives in Fiji and The Western Pacific High Commission for information, and the archivist, named Tuiniceva, replied that "No skeleton has ever been reported found on Gardner Island." Bill finally decided (as did I) that Kilts' story was the result of a corruption of varied events, difficulty in translation, vivid imagination and the traditional exaggeration of the story over the years.

I learned more in November, 1968, at the time I took a film crew to Tarawa in the Gilberts to do a documentary on the 25th anniversary of the Wolrd War II U.S. invasion of Tarawa. I was accompanied by General David Shoup, USMC, Ret., who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor at Tarawa, and five U.S. combat correspondents, who had been part of the Tarawa invasion. The film, TARAWA D+25 was aired in 1969.

I tried out the Kilts story on Roberts, and he gathered together several of the older Gilbertese who had been part of the colonizing activities at Gardner shortly after the Earhart disappearance. After much conversation and deep-thinking, it was decided that there was a legend about the remains of a Polynesian man being found on Gardner, what year or specific circumstance unknown. They were firm, however, that the skeleton of a woman had NEVER (emphasis in the original) been found. There was, too, a strange story of a woman's "high-heel shoes" turning up at some point on Gardner. This was a matter of some hilarity.

Roberts said he was absolutely certain that the remains of a woman had never been found because it would have been a matter of considerable import to everyone. He added that the Polynesian man story was plausible because Polynesians from Niue has occupied Gardner Island sometime around the turn-of-the-century.

I dearly wish that Fred had lived long enough to see the files we found in Tarawa and England.

And finally, here's what Goerner said about the "land in sight ahead" message in a letter to Rob Gerth dated April 18, 1989.

On Page 37 [of an early edition of TIGHAR's Project Book], there is a reference to a message supposedly received at Nauru at 10:30 A.M. the morning of the disapearance from the Earhart plane stipulating "Land in sight ahead." Ross Game and I found that message in the CLASSIFIED U.S. Navy file which we were shown in 1965. We were not permitted to make photocopies of any material in the file, but we were permitted to make notes which were later cleared by the Navy. When the Freedom of Information Act took effect, the file we had been shown in 1965 was released to the public, but the message "Land in sight ahead" was no longer part of the file. In other files we found that Nauru had received a message "Ship in sight ahead" at 10:30 P.M. the evening before the disappearance. Captain Lawrence Frye Safford, USN, (Ret.), who did considerable Earhart research in the late '60s (and was writing a book on the matter at the time of his death) , told me he believed the message Game and I saw was pulled by the Navy before the file was released in the belief that it had been corrupted from the "ship in sight ahead" and/or because I had made a point of the morning message in The Search for Amelia Earhart. At this writing i am unsure whether the morning message was bonafide or not. I am sure the message existed because both Ross Game and I have exactly the same wording in our notes.

A couple of years ago we tracked down Ross Game. He had no specific recollection of the incident and had not saved his notes. Had there ever been a "morning message" it should have shown up in the official government message traffic as did all the other reported in-flight and post-loss transmissions. Convenient as it would be for us if there had been such a message, I really can't buy it.


Subject: Re: Lambrecht Photo of Gardner Island
Date: 2/10/00
From: Jeff Glickman

The following information about photographic enhancement may be of interest to your forum readers.

There is much misunderstanding about what it means to "enhance a photograph." There are many mathematical operations which can be applied to a distorted or unclear image, which are commonly referred to as image enhancement. One entire class of such operations, consisting of diverse algorithms, are known as sharpening algorithms. Commonplace sharpening algorithms such as those found in popular computer software such as PhotoShop and PhotoDeluxe employ edge detection algorithms. These sharpening algorithms locate edges and brighten them in the original image. A side-effect of this is the introduction of a darker area adjacent to the edge. This is particularly apparent when two edges are close together resulting in the overlap of the darker adjacent areas. These algorithms are of limited use in examining photographic evidence as their application has side-effects which distort the photograph that often leads its user to inappropriate conclusions. Further, many forms of resampling a photograph have serious implications, as many resampling algorithms leave a computational fingerprint on an image which sharpening algorithms can detect and amplify.

Alternatively, a photograph can be "reconstructed" instead of "enhanced." These operations are designed to not distort a photograph while reconstructing the photograph's original content. These algorithms are computationally intensive and often require hours of computation to reconstruct a very small area of a photograph. Unfortunately, these algorithms are not available in popular computer software.

In conclusion, "resampl[ing] the image" and "sharpen[ing] it quite a bit" using popular computer software, in this instance, resulted in computational artifacts rather than an image useful for image interpretation.

Jeff Glickman
Board Certified Forensic Examiner
Fellow, American College of Forensic Examiners
PHOTEK Imaging

Subject: Long's Photo---1936 or 1937?
Date: 2/5/00
From: Ron Bright

A bit of a controversy has developed over the date of Elgin Long's photo showing the Itasca "smoking" off of Howland on 2 Jul 37 . The questioned photo appears in his book Amelia Earhart, The Mystery Solved on page 7 of the photo insert. Long furnished the photo for publication and attributed the photo to Lt. Frank Stewart, USCG, reportedly a member of the Itasca crew that day. It is not clear whether Lt. Stewart took the photo but at least he gave it to Long. The purpose of the photo is to illustrate the Itasca's effort to make smoke to aid Earhart to the island. No exact time is given only that it depicts a shore party arriving at Howland prior to Earhart's expected arrival. Long reports that the smoke was dissipating behind the the ship.

Forum member Russ Matthews posted on l0 Jan 00 his interview with Lt. Frank Stewart c. 1992 in San Diego; Stewart was in his 90's. According to Matthews, Stewart said he served aboard the Itasca sailing between the Hawaii and the Line Islands. He was a gifted photographer and sold photos to shipmates and kept the originals in his scrapbook.

A review of the scrapbook by Matthews showed what appeared to be an identical photograph which Lt Stewart said he took during the Itasca's visit to Howland in 1936, not 1937. Lt Stewart looked and couldn't find any photos that were taken during the Earhart search.

Matthews believes the confusion stems from the photo collection donated to the National Archives by Leo Bellart Jr.One of the photos was the "smoking" photo with the date 2 July 37 on the back. Matthews believes Bellarts got his copy of the photo from Stewart, can't really account for the 2 Jul 37 date on the back but believes that the date, apparently on the reverse of the original, is more conclusive.

Maybe, but here's what Leo Jr wrote me on 6 Feb 00 and authorized me to pass on to the forum. First my comments. Of all the interesting historical events that Itasca was involved in the AE event was the most memorable, yet Lt Stewart,a semi-pro gifted photographer who took photos to sell to shipmates, didn't take any photos, he said, of the Earhart search. Interesting. Did Stewart recall selling/ giving a photo to the Chief Radioman?

I wonder if Lt Stewart developed more than one photo of this particular scene or did he just take one, make one copy, then sell or give it to Leo Bellarts? Was a specific date written down on the back of Stewart's orginal (so we could verify if the Itasca was at Howland on whatever date?

Leo Jr, who contends the photo date of 2 Jul 37 is correct,makes the point that the Itasca was making a signal that is by deliberately causing the boiler to make smoke,which under routine conditions would not be done. Leo Bellart, Sr., in an interview with Long in l973,does mention that the Itasca was making smoke. And Leo Jr. adds there simply would be no reason for the ship to make smoke in l936. He recalled the smoke photo that he donated to the Archives with the "Jul 2,1937 and Itasca making smoke" notation of the back.

Leo Jr opined that why in the world would Leo Sr buy a picture taken in l936 as it "would mean nothing". Maybe a souvenir?

Leo Jr was not sure Lt Stewart was aboard Jul 1937. (a fact that should be quickly resolved by crew lists)

Leo Jr. is pretty sure that the Itasca didn't visit Howland in 1936 but beleived it was the cutter Shoshone, which ship "Itasca replaced for AE's second attempt." It should be easy to confirm if Itasca was at Howland in 1936 and the date of visit.

I'm not all that sure why that smoke photo is so important other than to refute the 40 mile visible smoke plume theory (reportedly easily visible from certain directions) or to impeach Long's claim it was taken on 2 Jul 37. Maybe Russ Matthews can shed additional light and maybe somone knows if Stewart and the Itasca were at Howland on 2 Jul 37 or sometime in l936. I am finding it intersting in the Amelia research to see how many photos, letters, witnesses, evidence, go sideways after more careful research.

Ron Bright

From Ric

I've reviewed the videotaped interview Russ did with Stewart. Stewart was not an officer. He was a Quartermaster First Class. He says that immediately prior to his retirement from the Coast Guard in 1950 he was made a Lieutenant (thanks to his "connections in Washington") so that he would get a better pension. I suppose stranger things have happened, but I can't think of any at the moment.

Stewart seems to have served aboard Itasca from about 1935 to sometime after 1937. He made several (probably at least three) cruises to service the Dept. of Interior "colonists" occupying Howland, Baker and Jarvis Islands. He claims to have been along on the cruise which supported the Earhart flight and I have no reason to doubt him, but it's clear than any memory he has of that experience has been so clouded by folklore over the years that he is worthless as an "eyewitness." He insists, for example, that Earhart's last transmission was "I'll be arriving in ten minutes. I want three things --- a cup of coffee, a bath, and a bed." He says that he listened to her transmissions when he was on the flying bridge with the Chief Radioman (whose name he could not remember) who had "cadged" a loop antenna from Pan Am before they left Hawaii. He also says that Itasca searched where it did on orders from Hawaii and does not remember searching anywhere but in the Gilberts.

He did have an album of photographs. During the interview, he went through the entire book with Russ looking over his shoulder. At no time did he say anything like "Here's a picture of Itasca making smoke for Earhart" or make any other reference to that particular cruise. He did point out a couple of photos which, he said, showed how supplies were landed at Howland.

After the interview he apparently gave Russ one of those photos but it didn't happen on camera. (Is that right Russ?) We still have the photo. It was --- very obviously --- taken a minute or two after the photo appearing in Elgen Long's book. Long's photo shows black smoke streaming from Itasca's funnel and two whaleboats approaching the beach where four men are waiting. In our photo, the same plume of smoke is visible streaming downwind a little distance from the ship, but smoke has almost entirely stopped coming out of the funnel. In our photo the first launch has reached the beach and the same men who are waiting in Long's photo are gathered around it. On the back of our photo, written in pencil, is "Servicing Howland."

These photos appear to show Itasca "blowing tubes" while standing off Howland. The year is unknown. "Blowing tubes" is a standard maintenance procedure that has to be performed every few days. It generates a dense cloud of black smoke for a few minutes. I see no reason to think that either of these photos shows Itasca making smoke for Earhart on July 2, 1937.


Subject: E-Bay Offer on Amelia
Date: 2/11/00
From: Ric Gillespie

Here's the story on the offer on ebay to disclose the burial place of Earhart and Noonan to the first lucky person to come up with $500,000. I've reviewed a packet of photocopied information sent out by two gentlemen named Don Kothera and Ken Matonis. A few excerpts:

Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan died at the hands of the Japanese on the Island of Saipan, Mariana Islands, South Pacific.

Answers are still being sought because Amelia achieved so much, especially as a woman, in the field of aviation and needs to have her last accomplishment --- flying 2/3 around the world --- lauded. More important, the mystery of it --- how does an experienced pilot and an accomplished, proven, experienced navigator, reportedly 700 miles on course, 30 percent of the distance from Lae to Howland, unknowingly make a 90 percent [I think he means degree] turn and land on Saipan.

It gets better. Apparently Kothera read Goerner's book in 1966 and told his friend Katonis that he remembered seeing an airplane that looked like Earhart's in a ravine on Saipan when he was there while in the Navy in 1946/47 . The two of them went to Saipan in 1967 but couldn't find the plane. They did find a woman who, as a seven year old in 1937, had seen Amelia and Fred executed by the Japanese and thrown into a hole. Don and Ken returned in 1968 and the woman showed them where the hole had been. They dug and found a fragmented skull and 19 bone chips and some gold dental bridgework. The bonees were given to the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, OH in the custody of Dr. Raymond Baby, anthrolopogist, for examination. The packet of papers includes a report by Dr. Baby and Martha Potter, M.A. dated 12 November 1968. Their conclusion was:

It is our opinion that the cremated remains are those of a female, probably white individual between the anatomical ages of 40-42 years. Since the age changes are slight, an age of 40 years is probably correct. A single unburnt bone is not a part of or associated with cremated remains, but the remains of a second individual, a male.

Dr. Baby has since died. The bone fragments and bridgework are now missing. For only $500,00 Don and Ken will tell you where to dig for more bones.


Subject: Re: Blowing Tubes
Date: 2/11/00
From: Jon Watson

I just called my step-son, who was a member of the black gang on the USS Hoel, a guided missile destroyer. He told me that on the Hoel they did not have to blow the tubes that frequently, because they were using JP-5, but he believes that the Itasca was probably burning "number 6" fuel oil, which would likely require the process each watch, because the heavier fuel would build up soot more quickly.

He describes the process of blowing the tubes as increasing air flow through the boiler, and injecting live steam into the tubes. Because of the increased air and steam, he doesn't think the process would look much like smoke coming out the stack (it's been about 20 years ago for him). He further said that in order to generate increased smoke through the stack, all they would have to do is cut back on the air to the boiler and it would generate a lot of smoke --- particularly with #6. He didn't see any potential danger to the boilers if this process was kept up for several hours.

I'm not sure this helps anything. Could this be the source of the phrase "blowing smoke"?

jon 2266

From Ric

I'll defer to Bob Brandenburg on boiler management issues. I don't think he served on a black gang but he did captain a Destroyer Escort.

I remember that the ship we used for our 1991 expedition - R/V Acania -- periodically did something that caused black smoke to pour out her funnel for a few minutes. As I recall she had one (or maybe two) diesels.

Subject: Inside the Extinguisher
Date: 2/11/00
From: Tom King

Thanks to Vern Klein, who kindly loaned me the high-tech equipment needed for the job (a tiny light bulb on a wire), I've now looked inside Artifact 2-2-V-100, and can be pretty sure that it really is a fire extinguisher. No numbers, no little bitty Amelia or Fred, just a heavy pipe-tube assembly that closely resembles what's shown in a cutaway view sent me by Pyrene showing (probably) the kind of extinguisher aboard the Electra. This is not for a moment to suggest that this means that 2-2-V-100 has anything to do with the Electra; there are lots of other ways in which the Pyrene specs are different from our artifact, but it does suggest that the object in hand is a fire extinguisher.

Interestingly, the assembly I can see inside 2-2-V-100 closely resembles Artifact 2-2-V-64, a head-scratcher hitherto identified as "Machine Part, Strange." A heavy assembly of tubes and a sort of bracket, apparently originally soldered to the inside of the cylinder. It looks like perhaps the colonists were taking extinguishers apart, probably to make nice cylindrical containers, and tossing the guts (as it were).

LTM (who's not going to say the obvious)
Tom King

Subject: Re: Blowing Tubes
Date: 2/12/00
From: Bob Brandenburg

JP-5 is a jet engine fuel, essentially a thermally stable form of kerosene. Some destroyers, such as the one I commanded, operated the radio-controlled drone anti-submarine helicopter (DASH) and carried JP-5 for fueling the DASH.

Standard maintenance policy required that soot buildup be removed from oil-fired boiler tubes at intervals not exceeding 600 operating hours. It was a terrible job, performed while the ship was in port and the boiler was out of service. The job required "black gang" sailors to climb into the boiler fire box and use wire brushes to manually remove the soot buildup from the boiler tubes and the fire brick lining of the boiler, a process known as "cleaning firesides". I never knew or heard of a "black ganger" who eagerly anticipated cleaning firesides.

When destroyers began carrying JP-5, tests were conducted to determine whether its hotter and cleaner combustion properties could be used to burn off accumulated soot, thus extending the interval between manual fireside cleanings. The results exceeded expectations, and boiler maintenance policy was revised to extend the fireside cleaning interval to 1200 hours for ships that alternated burning standard fuel oil and JP-5 in accordance with a specified ratio. But those ships still followed the once-per-watch practice of blowing tubes.

Later, a few ships (perhaps Hoel was one of them) were authorized to burn JP-5 exclusively, as an experiment to determine whether there were any long-term deleterious effects. Those ships had (as I recall) even longer intervals between fireside cleanings, and did not need to blow tubes as often as the oil-burning ships.

Having observed thousands of tube blowings from the bridges of the ships in which I have served, I can state unequivocally that the initial surge of soot coming out of the stack looks exactly like black smoke. Within moments, however, the density of the follow-on exhaust rapidly diminishes, leaving the initial blob to drift downwind.

Making black smoke for an extended period is a sure recipe for disaster. It is true that black smoke is produced by reducing the amount of air fed into the boiler, which reduces the efficiency of the combustion and increases the soot content of the the exhaust gases - - - hence the blackness of the smoke. But there also is a rapid buildup of soot on the boiler tubes, exponentially increasing the likelihood of abnormal spot heating of the tube surfaces, leading to tube ruptures and resultant boiler failure. Thirty minutes of heavy black smoke generation, followed by 15 minutes or so of tube blowing, is about the maximum safe duty cycle for an oil-fired boiler.

The expression "blowing smoke" originates from the use of smoke screens in naval combat. It refers to someone who is practicing deception and attempting to cover it up.


Subject: Navigation and Radios
Date: 2/12/00
From: Randy Jacobson

I just realized something, that seems somewhat unusual. When AE crossed from Oakland to Honolulu, she often gave position reports during her radio broadcasts. She also did the same when leaving Lae. Yet, she did not give any position reports to the Itasca when approaching Howland. Did she suddenly change her modus operandi? Of course, we can never tell.

Alas, giving out-of-date position reports, as she apparently did, was a very poor procedure to follow. If something happened to her, and the plane went down, the position report should be the most accurate and timely that could be provided. The fact that she NEVER provided the time that the position report was valid makes potential search and rescue even more difficult. Surely she must have thought about this at some time or another during her illustrious career....

LTM, who is bewildered by these thoughts...
Randy Jacobson

From Ric

Let's think a little bit about context. If you have radio capability the assumption is that if you have a problem you'll say so and if you think you may need somebody to come look for you you'll let people know where you are. Traditionally, the primary purpose of position reports has been traffic separation. Today nobody sends position reports unless they're in an area where there's no radar coverage (for example, out over the middle of the ocean). The exception to this is the old Followed VFR system which was similar to the VFR system in use in Britain in 1980 (maybe still), where you told the authorities where you intended to go and how you intended to get there, and then you checked in at specific points along the way just to let them know that your flight was going as planned.

As far as I know, there was nothing like that in the 1930s --- especially on a 'round the world flight where most legs were flown over trackless wastes where rescue in the event of a forced landing would be out of the question. (Who would help AE and FN if they went down over the South Atlantic or between, say, Ft. Lamy and Khartoum?)

My impression is that, for Earhart, radio position reports were essentially press releases intended to provide copy for stories to (she hoped) a breathless public waiting for news of her progress. To judge her, or her reports, in a 21st century context is misleading and unfair.


Subject: Anthropologists' Report
Date: 2/12/00
From: Ric Gillespie

Here is the anthropologists' report that is part of the packet sent out by Kothera and Matonis.


12 November 1968

Mr. Donald Kothera
11315 Brunswick Road
Garfield Hts. Ohio 44125

Dear Mr. Kothera:

I am herewith enclosing a detailed report on the "Saipan Bones" which you submitted to me several months ago for analysis. You will note that Martha A. Potter, our Associate Curator of Archaeology, did assist me in the study, and is, therefore, included in the report.

Several minor changes in our observations have been made since you were in Columbus. These do not alter our final conclusions.

Sincerely yours,

Raymond S. Baby
Curator of Archaeology
Associate Professor of Anthropology

RSB: ems


188 cremated human bone fragments
1 "normal" human bone fragment
1 gold dental bridge
1 Amalgam dental filling


The cremated human skeletal material submitted for analysis consists of 188 small fragments ranging in length from 2.0mm to the largest piece, 50.0mm. The remains have been greatly reduced by burning and then disinterment. Ninety-eight percent of the fragments, ranging in color from light grey to blue-gray, are completely burnt with the exception of two small portions of skull and a portion of ulna that are "smoked" (Baby, 1954). Deep checking, diagonal and transverse fracturing, and warping are characteristic of burning in the flesh (sic) or "green" bone (Baby, 1954).

The fragments were sorted into anatomical groups and carefully examined. Sixty-five percent of the total number of parts were identified, representing approximately 1% of the axial and appendicular skeleton. Pieces making contact with each other made possible the restoration of a few bony segments.


The vault is represented by two fragments. One is a portion of the anterior inferior parietal bone; the second is probably a segment of frontal bone. Both are "smoked" or incompletely incinerated. The former is thin and female-like. Bits of charred periosteum are adhering to its outer surface. A small segment of the lateral margin of the right (?) bony orbit is moderately sharp and female-like.

The left condyle of the mandible and a portion of the ascending ramus are present and completely incinerated. The condyle is small and most certainly associated with a female individual. Slight bony "ripping" along the interior articular surface is indicative of the beginning of the aging period --- 40 to 45 years.

The completely incinerated tip of a third (?) molar tooth is small and female-like. The closed root end is evidence of an adult individual.

A gold bridge between the first permanent pre-molar (Pm1) and the first permanent molar (M1) to replace an extracted permanent second pre-molar (Pm2), is 30.0mm in length. Incineration is manifest by ashen black stain and cracking of the anterior lingual surface. The small size of the caps or crowns (Pm1 length, 8.0mm., width, 5.0mm.; M1 length, 11.0mm., width, 9.5mm.) are within the range of a female individual. Wear on the labial surfaces of the bridge, the spacing, and the slight curvature are associated with the teeth of the lower left jaw. Professor William H. Sassaman (personal communication, October 13, 1968) "guessed" upper right.

A small, irregular metallic mass appears to be an amalgam filling(s?). The irregularity is the result of incineration.


Four rib fragments are small, delicate, and female-like.

Bodies of vertebrae are represented by three fragments. One segment of a cervicle [sic] vertebra shows slight ripping along the edge confirming age change between the ages of 40-45. Three vertebral articular processes also exhibit slight ripping and bony exostosis. All fragments appear small and female-like.


Bones of the upper and lower extremities are represented by some 19 fragments. Perhaps the most significant fragment of the group is that of an upper shaft of the left ulna, 50mm in length. Muscular markings are weak and the lateral edge is sharp indicating a female. The metric dimensions (anterio-posterior and transverse diameters) correspond to those of a typical white female.

A midsection of the right fibula exhibits the morphic characters of a female individual.

Sections of the femora appear small and female-like. In spite of incineration, the bone texture is that of an adult individual.

Bones of the hands and feet are present in the total series. Two complete terminal phalanges clearly indicate age change ("aging") by slight bony deposits on the articular margins. This is consistent with the other bones mentioned above.


A "normal" or unburnt bone fragment is present in the collection. It measures 26.0mm by 45.5mm. One surface is smooth and the reverse side exhibits irregular bony cells. This fragment is associated with the frontal bone which forms the upper margin of the bony orbit and frontal sinus. The thickness and ruggedness suggests a male individual, and certainly not a part of the cremated remains.

It is our opinion that the cremated remains are those of a female, probably white individual between the anatomical ages of 40--42 years. Since the age changes are slight, an age of 40 years is probably more correct. A single unburnt bone is not a part of or associated with cremated remains, but the remains of a second individual, a male.

Raymond S. Baby, D.Sc.
Curator of Archaeology
Associate Professor of Anthropology
The Ohio Historical Society --- The Ohio State University and

Martha A. Potter, M.A.
Associate Curator of Archaeology
The Ohio Historical Society

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