Highlights From the Forum
March 5 through 11, 2000
I thought one comment by Gerald Berger was very interesting. He gives the cause of the accident as being due to lifting off to early and the settling back down onto the runway with a resulting gear failure (I think this is how it was stated). If this is true the ground loop was caused by the failed landing gear and not the other way around. I can see trying to lift off with a far aft center of gravity causing the nose to pitch up more that expected. In making a speedy correct near stall speed the resulting touch down could be hard enough to cause a landing gear to fail. That would be an easy thing to have happen even for a very experienced pilot. Lets not forget that an airplane with the fuel load weight of the 10E really requires a test pilot and that was what Amelia was under those conditions.
Dick Pingrey 908C
Maybe someone has commented previously on the reason(s) for the departure of Harry Manning, the radio operator, from the world flight attempt... but, I submit that one reason may be attributable to the botched takeoff at Luke Field.
That absolutely has to qualify as an event characterized by rapid, major weight loss and sudden change-of-color of clothing.
Perhaps Manning had a premonition as a result?
Harry does seem to have developed some good survival instincts.
In The Sound of Wings Mary Lovell relates the following third-hand anecdotal explanation of Manning's departure (Mary got it from a transcript of a talk Fred Goener gave at the Smithsonian in 1983 in which he quoted what he said Manning had told him many years after the crash):
Others have reported that Noonan was hired when it became obvious that Manning may have been a fine nautical navigator but couldn't navigate an airplane out of paper bag.
Just had another look at Roessler & Gomez's Amelia Earhart--Case Closed? which I think we all agreed is pretty bad -- but concerning the Luke Field accident they may have found the reason for it. Exerpted from pages 88-90: "If the Army had closely scrutinized the first photos of the Electra as it sat on its belly on the runway just after the crash, they could have noticed that the right-hand propeller (Fig 3-4) was in the incorrect "high pitch" position for takeoff; while the left-hand propeller (Fig 3-5) was in the correct "low pitch" position. This is undeniable factual proof that at the moment of takeoff the left engine and propeller would have been turning over faster and producing more power than the right engine. This difference in pulling power would swing the aircraft toward the right and when Amelia reduced power on the left engine in order to correct for the swing, she went into an uncontrollable left groundloop. Both landing gears collapsed from the heavy side loads."
R&G (p.91) say: "Shortly after the crash, AE stated in front of four witnesses that 'the ship pulled to the right as it gained speed on the takeoff roll, I eased off on the left engine and the ship started a long persistent left turn, ending up where it is now'."
I don't have a scanner to copy the photos (even if their copyright would allow) but presume you've got the book, or better yet perhaps Mr. Berger's post-crash pictures will show the props. R&G point to the positions of the counterweights on the prop hubs. Both authors are old-time aircraft mechanics and they go into detail about props, particulary Hamilton constant-speed props. On p. 64 they further say, "Mr. Mantz had stated on arrival (in Hawaii), that for the last six hours of the flight the right hand...propeller had frozen in a position of fixed pitch. Special attention was therefore paid to filling the propellers with fresh lubricant. At about 3:00 P.M., Mr Mantz returned to Wheeler Field and the airplane was placed on the flying line for a test. The self-adjusting pitch mechanism of the right hand propeller still failed to function." The defective propeller was removed for disassembly and inspection, revealing a badly galled condition and blades frozen in the hub due to improper or insufficient lubrication. Both props were removed and sent to Luke Field for reconditioning. (Wonder if Mr. Berger knows about that?) Depot people there worked thru the night and returned them to Wheeler where they were reinstalled on her plane, tested (they worked perfectly) and flight tested by Mantz. Interesting story, but it still doesn't explain why one prop was in high and the other low pitch. We used to do a "run-up" just before we took the active runway in order to catch conditions like this!
I don't buy it. Roessler and Gomez are saying that on the basis of one photograph they have established the accident's proximate cause that went unnoticed by an Army review board at the time. Yes, the props on the Electra needed maintenance when they arrived in Hawaii. They received the needed attention and were thoroughly checked afterward.
As you point out, it has long been standard procedure to cycle the props as part of the pre-takeoff checklist. I don't know whether it was standard procedure in 1937 or not. We have no way of knowing whether AE cycled the props on the morning of March 20th, but given the airplane's recent history it would be pretty foolish not to. Let's say she didn't and that, despite the prop levers both being in the "full increase", "high RPM", "low pitch" position, the right-hand prop was somehow in "high pitch" or "coarse pitch" (as it's sometimes called). She lines up with the runway and advances the throttles to full power, unleashing all 550 ponies on each side. What do you suppose is going to happen --- like, right now? In the right hand engine Mr. Motor is telling Mr. Prop, "MOVE! NOW! FAST!" but Mr. Prop is set up to take huge bites of air instead of itty-bitty bites and it creates a classic situation of irresistible force (the push exerted by the combustion in the cylinders) and immovable object (the big bites of air) and, very quickly, something's gotta give --- and it ain't gonna be the air. Firewalling an engine with the prop in coarse pitch generally results in various engine components being strewn about in a very loud and disorganized fashion. Also, it seems to me that the asymmetrical thrust would become apparent almost immediately, not 1,200 feet down the runway. Perhaps some of our resident forum experts can offer a more learned opinion.
I've studied the photograph in the book and, maybe I'm just dense, but I can't for the life of me see what they're talking about. Maybe Berger's photos, which are perhaps the earliest ever taken of the wreck, will shed more light on the subject.
First, I would like to congratulate TIGHAR staff and members for all the courageous and wonderful work they are doing. In the field of great mysteries, not many have caused such a number of extravagances that AE disappearance. TIGHAR scientific approach is a great step leading to the truth.
I don't know if the following question is very pertinent, but I would like to submit a personnal guess regarding the "wreck photo".
In this presumed picture of NR16020 we could see dense vegetation in the background with some great coconuts trees. We could think therefore that the remaining of the aircraft lied behind the beachfront, which is quite distant from the place were TIGHAR investigators supposed the landing of the Electra. If the "dash and dot" present in the photograph taken in 1937 are really the hull and rudders of the airplane half flooded by the raising tide, then the landing occured on the reef, aside of Norwich City Wreck, and at a quite important distance from the beach ( maybe 150 or 200 yards ). Furthermore, in the 1937 photo, with the cargo wreck in one side, we could see, in the other side, among the vegetation, what seems to be a grove of trees: maybe the coconuts trees of the "wreck photo".If all these speculations are right, then it is obvious that the center section of the plane must have been dragged by sea action across a considerable distance to "match" the location of the "wreck photo". Besides, a photo taken by US Navy's PBY in 1941 ( Forensic=20 Imaging Project 11/29/99, TIGHAR Tracks ) show a very thin vegetation on the northern part of Gardner Island near SS Norwich City, while in the "wreck photo" we could see a rather dense vegetation. I think that it is hardly believable that the wreck had been dragged across such a distance inland, whereas the sea flow uses to go from sea to the lagoon alongside to the beach ( Nikumaroro map ) and that the locals of the island located the wreckage in the reef, near the remains of Norwich City. Of course, during the 4 or 5 years following AE disappearance, the coastline may have changed a lot. Also i'm not an expert in this kind of stuff. I would like to have your point of view about it. I am just an unpretending and non specialist person who is now very interested in NR16020 flight mystery !
In France, we also have great mysteries about vanished great aviators, such as Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Jean Mermoz, or Nungesser et Coli. Is TIGHAR involved with these matters ?
I agree with what I think you are saying about the Wreck Photo --- that it is unlikely that both the photo of something on the reef where Emily says there was airplane wreckage and the Carrington "Wreck Photo" could reasonably be NR16020.
We have done no investigation of the Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Jean Mermoz mysteries, but Nungesser and Coli are old and dear friends of ours. You'll find a brief summary of our research into their disappearance on our website. Just click on Project Midnight Ghost.
Well, not only the Carrington photo ( what I called "wreck photo" ) does not fit really with the puzzle, but also what said E. Sikuli is amazing. She said that the wreck was made of "piece of steel", she also said it was " very rusty (...) very red ". That supposes, if ES memories are right, that it wasn't aluminium. Aluminium doesn't rust ( as it seems to me ). I think only engines, and parts of gear are steel pieces of NR16020 big enough to be clearly seen. Despite all this, ES could remember it was "piece of an airplane". I guess she said the truth, but also that she might have added , during the years, her personal explanation of what she have seen.
Another thing may somewhat cause perplexity : on 9th July, the scout plane from USS Colorado didn't spot any aircraft on Gardner Island. TIGHAR said that the plane must have been engulfed by water from the raising tide. It is a good explanation... However, the tanks were probably almost empty ( 100 US gal max ). Don't you think that with such an air ballast the plane could have been able to float ?
PS: thanks a lot for providing me an info source about Nungesser & Coli. Even in France, it is quite difficult to find reliable data about them. Also I wish to apologise myself for my "frenchy" english !!!
No problem. Your English has a certain je ne sais quoi and it's infinitely better than my French.
You make an interesting point about the airplane's buoyancy. The water on the reef, even at high tide, is probably not deep enough to float the airplane. One would expect that a violent surf might result in the failure of the landing gear and once the aircraft is on its belly the water will tend to move it around until it jams in one of the reefs many depressions. I would expect that the action of the surf would then quickly tear the structure to pieces leaving behind only the heaviest structures, many of which are steel.
Ric, you said:
>The water on the
reef, even at high tide, is probably not deep enough to
Does that mean the tide wouldn't have totally hidden the Electra? So, if the plane was only partly surbmerged, why have Lambrecht, of USS Colorado, seen nothing ? In my opinion, shining aluminium may be quite easy to see even from medium altitude...
PS: If someone is interested in St-Exupery mystery, I have some documents about it... I seems that the "St-Ex" case is far to be closed... as you use to say: "Love to Mother" !
When the sea is rough the environment at the edge of the reef where the airplane was said to be is foaming "white water." Obviously, no one can say for certain what an airplane would look like from the air under those circumstances, but in tryng to explain why Lambrecht did not see an airplane which the evidence increasingly suggests was there, the obscuring effect of the surf seems to be one possibility.
The Bevington journal revelations and his recollections may present us a perplexing archeaolgy puzzle: where did Amelia die in relationship to known artifacts?
In TIGHAR'S interview with Cadet Officer Eric Bevington in 1991, he pointed to a spot and placed a "?" on Aukeraime (near your ? on the Niku map) just east of Bauareke Passage where he recalled seeing "signs of previous habitation" on 14 Oct 1937 and could only add from memory that it looked like someone had "bivouaced" for the night. Unfortunately, he was unable to further describe in detail exactly what he meant.
During TIGHAR's expedition in 1991, a member discovered on Aukeraime a Catspaw heel, a sole, a campfire and other artifacts; the Catspaw heel has been circumstantially linked to Amelia's known footwear in 1937.
Thus Bevington's observation of the bivouac area and the Catspaw discovery fit nicely together since they were found only about 400 or so yards apart on Aukeraime. (If I'm reading the Niku map correctly.)
The Catspaw heel, sole, campfire, etc and the bivouac area strongly support, in my opinion, a castaway survival camp at Aukeraime. The heel probably originated in the mid-30s and the Oct 37 bivouac area seen just 3 1/2 months after Amelia's loss, is reasonable,but not conclusive, evidence of either Amelia or an undocumented Castaway at Niku ---just coincidence?
Now it looks like TIGHAR, based on some new evidence (see Earhart Project---Signs of Recent Habitation) is leaning towards an area near the "7" on the southeast tip of Niku where Gallagher may have found the partial skeleton in the summer of 1940. Not at the Aukeraime area. The skeletal measurements also have been anthropologically linked to Amelia. (See Burns and Jantz).
The puzzle here is that if Gallagher in fact discovered the skeletal remains near the "7" area, the skeleton doesn't seem archaeolgically connected to the Catspaw heel, sole, etc and Bevington's bivouac sighting on Aukeraime. It's like finding the Peking man near Peking but his stout walking sandals near Shanghai. (And we don't have man carrying crabs.)
The answer to this riddle could be simple. The Catspaw heel and the skeleton are not related; or the Catspaw heel is Amelia's, but not the skeleton or vice versa. A neat clean scenario is that the Catspaw heel, the bivouac area and the skeletal bones were found in the same general area--- seldom do these discoveries present such a easy explanation.
Hence a possible conclusion is that the cook over the campfire, and the castaway and Amelia are all one and the same! My bet is that Amelia, if she did make it to NIKU, hung around the Aukeraime area where you found the artifacts and where you orginally speculated that Gallagher found the skeleton, patiently awaiting rescue.
The next archeology dig at NIKU by TIGHAR, perhaps of a grander scale (money), may well solve this enigma.
LTM AND VOLUMES
Allow me to make a few observations:
* Just as interesting as what found is what was not found. We found a Cat's Paw heel and most of the sole it came from, one brass shoelace eyelet, a few small scraps of the uppers --- all judged to be from a woman's blucher oxford. A little distance away we found another heel from a different pair of shoes. Nothing else. Where are the other shoe parts and two heels? Burned up in the campfire? Okay, but then where are the other 19 brass eyelets (each of the blucher-oxfords should have 10)? They should be in or near the fire, but they weren't. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that at least two shoes -- one from each pair --- got moved from their original point of deposition.
* The campfire at Aukeraime has been dated by means of a partially burned can label found in the charcoal. The label includes a fragment of a European barcode, from which we conclude that the fire dates from not earlier than the 1970s. Clearly, the campfire we found at the Aukeraime Site is not the campfire seen by Gallagher nor is it part of the bivouaced-for-the-night scene noticed by Bevington.
* The spot where TIGHAR found shoe parts in 1991 is not where Gallagher found shoe parts in 1940 because Gallagher did not find the shoe parts that we found (duh).
* There are remarkable parallels between the shoe artifacts found by Gallagher in 1940 and shoe artifacts found by TIGHAR in 1991. In both cases, evidence of two shoes, but not a pair, were found. In both cases, fragments of a sole were found that were judged to be from a woman's shoe. In both cases, additional shoe parts were found which seemed to be from a man's shoe. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that there were originally two pair of shoes and that Gallagher found what was left of one shoe from each pair and we found what remained of the other two shoes.
So it does seem like, somewhere along the line, shoes got moved. Because several features of the "7" site seem to fit so well and because extensive work at the Aukeraime site has failed to turn up anything else, I tend to think that it's most likely that the shoes we found at Aukeraime were found at the "7" site after Galllagher's departure and brought to the Aukeraime site which we know was an active work site at around the same time.
When you say that our castaway could not have expired at both the Aukaramie site and the "7" site you are correct, but may be missing a larger point. Our castaway(s) may have been on Niku for anywhere from several days to several months. There is a persistent idea, on the forum, that our wayward souls wouldn't have moved around all that much. In the last eleven years I have walked just about every part of the island and I can't help but disagree. To my way of thinking, the longer our castaways were marooned the more they would have explored their new home. If they were halfway determined to survive then it is likely they would have investigated all their options for food, water and shelter, and that means exploring the island. My point is that there is likely to be multiple bivouac sites scattered in the bush. The "7" site could easily be where someone died and Aukaraime could have been an interim camp site. Realistically there ought to be other camps out there but, it's not likely our duo had much in the way of personal effects to leave for us to find.
Shoes at both locations: There seems to be some evidence that AE, at least, had a second pair of shoes along on the World Fight. This was discussed several months ago on the forum. It is not inconceivable that a shoe could be left (or lost) at one site and it's owner could still walk to another part of the island. I guess the same logic can be applied to Fred and his shoes.
Heck, why not really go out on a limb and speculate that one person died at each place. Whatever the situation, it probably isn't likely that they both died at the same time at the same location. Therefore, there ought to have been two bodies in different locations.
I've got it! Maybe AE died first. Then Fred wanders away, taking one of her shoes as a remembrance, and peacefully expires on another part of the island, under a Ren tree, accompanied by his Benedictine bottle, sextant box and favorite blucher oxford.
The main point is that these various sites could easily be related and we just don't understand exactly how at this time.
LTM (who knows a
smart ass when she sees one)
> There are remarkable
parallels between the shoe artifacts found by
So, AE collects up all the salvageable stuff out of the Electra, including Fred's shoes (poor Fred, he always gets knocked off early), and takes it with her to Aukeraime where she camps out for a while. That nasty cut on her foot gets infected and swells up so she starts wearing one of Fred's shoes for comfort. Meanwhile she moves camp down by the "7" where she can see the sea and the lagoon etc. etc. Later on, mismatched shoes and the skeleton are discovered by Gallagher and another set of mismatched shoes are found by TIGHAR.
Not so far out
LTM who hates to
wear mismatched shoes
I'm told that real archeologists find their greatest treasures in history's trash dumps. Considering that the Norwich City left a stash for future castaways, and considering it is TIGHAR hypothesis that AE/FN may have found and used that stash, then where is the trash dump?
While I wouldn't expect to find every scrap of the trash from the NC stash in a single location, I would expect to find a significant amount of it in a general location. I doubt if AE/FN simply strolled about nibbling on their rations, discarding trash as they went. If in fact they were able to find the NC stash and establish a rudimentary camp, then I would expect a central dump nearby. So far we have found little or nothing that could reasonably be suspected of coming from the NC stash. Are my expectations too high?
LTM, whose favorite
vegetable is an Oreo
That AE and FN found and used the cache of supplies left by the NC survivors seems to me to be a reasonable working hypothesis. If true, it also seems likely that they used that location as an initial base camp and that some trace of their occupation of that site might still survive. Ergo, it's probably worth an attempt to locate the site.
Of course, that's easier said than done. Although we have a general idea where the site should be, it has been a long time and there has been a great deal of subsequent activity in that area. It'll be tricky.
Sounds like we may have to do some archaeological contortions to satisfactorily explain various known artifacts at known sites with various artifacts (at least the bones) at unknown sites. Since TIGHAR has postulated that Amelia and Fred most likely survived a reef crash at Niku and made it to the island finding artifacts directly linked to the them is, of course, critical to irrefutably establishing their presence and along with it TIGHAR's theory. Follow the artifacts, as they say.
I just can't buy at this time TIGHAR's proposition connecting a suspected Gallagher site at the "7" area in 1940 to TIGHAR's artifacts found on Aukeraime in 1991. And it may turn out that the "7" site is not where Gallagher found the bones,etc.
John Clauss and other forum members speculated that maybe Amelia and Fred camped at various places at various times on NIKU as castaways are wont to do. Probably, but I'll bet they had a "base camp" ala other surviors where more artifacts connected to each other would be found. TIGHAR puts it succinctly: why didn't Gallagher find matching shoe parts or parts of two shoes; and why didn't TIGHAR find two matching heels and two soles. Would the site where the bones were found with the shoe sole be more significant than a site where just shoe parts were found. All great questions for debate.
But the theory of Amelia's presence on Niku is not dependent on positively linking similar artifacts found at two different sites quite far apart to Amelia.We don't have to depend on human intervention,or other mysterious forces putting one shoe here and one shoe there.
All possible plus other variations of the theme.
In TIGHAR's posting in Jan 2000 of "Gallagher's Catalogue of Clues" you addressed all of his references to the location where he supposedly found the bones, and described how well they did or did not match the Niku site surveyed in 1996, presumably the Aukeraime site. In this analysis you concluded that TIGHAR couldn't find anything conclusively to "disqualify" that location as the one described by Gallagher in 1940.
Has this site now replaced by the "7" site as the more probable site of Gallagher's discovery.
Support for the "7" site comes from Gallagher's own description if taken literally: He says he found the skull (buried) on the "South East corner of the island under the Ren tree..." That gets you to the "7" site just north of the loran station.
My continuing problem with the "7" site is that I can't see native workers returning to the 7 area after Gallagher's gone, dig up one catspaw heel,etc., cart them some 1 1/2 miles around the island and bury them at the Aukeraime site as part of an island cleanup program. None of the sites described by TIGHAR or Gallagher appear to be garbage dump sites that archaeologists like Tom King love to find.
The one shoe on and one shoe off, switching shoes, wearing Fred's shoes, discarding them purposely or accidently at different sites is also hard to beleive. All possible but not probable.
Another site seems to have disappeared off the radar screen--- the Kanawa Pt area that you speculated about in 1998 as a possible site seems pretty good for at least one reason. The proximity of Gallagher's artifacts if found there with the TIGHAR's artifacts at Aukeraime are just 1/2 mile apart on the same side of the island and reasonably accessible to each other. Is Kanawa point still a possibility?
A last salvo. I think TIGHAR's Catspaw heel and sole is the holy grail of Tighar's search for evidence. The Catspaw remains of all the evidence extant, potentially the kind of evidence that can be positively if not conclusively to Amelia Earhart vis-a-vis the less conclusive evidence derived by Burns and Frantz from the Hoodless bone measurements. The Catspaw evidence is worth vigorously pursuing.
Early next week we'll have new research bulletin up on the website which delves into the which-site is-right? question in considerable detail. In the meantime, I have the following observations:
PS That's Jantz, not Frantz.
Re: Roessler & Gomez's Amelia Earhart---Case Closed?
Ric, you said...
>I've studied the
photograph in the book and, maybe I'm just dense, but I
This is not going to prove much one way or another but I'm curious. I haven't seen the book nor do I know much about variable-pitch propellers... and I shouldn't be spending time researching this sort of thing. I have seen a rudimentary sketch of a variable-pitch propeller showing the counterweights but not whatever linkage may be involved.
Curious. Can you see the counterweights in the photograph in the book?
And curiouser. Are these actually counterweights? Are they compensating for some unbalance caused by changing the pitch of the blades?
Or are they, perhaps, actually a centrifugal governor varying pitch in such a way as to tend to maintain constant engine RPM?
I'm sure there are people here who know all that stuff!
You can sort of see the counterweights in the photos and yes, they are counterweights. As you say, there are folks on the forum far more qualified than I am to explain how a constant speed prop works.
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