Forum artHighlights From the Forum

March 12 through 18, 2000

Subject: The photos, the airplane, and the aviatrix....
Date: 3/13/00
From: Renaud

To all people who helped me ! What could I say ! Thanks again for your support ! Bill, the airborne Electra you provided me is a very nice picture. Frank, i am really interested in yours photos, especially because Finch's airplane is a quite close reproduction of AE's L10E. It is really kind of you. Ron, I will follow your advice and try to find the NG issue of January 1998.

At first glance I was (and still was ) appealed by the thickness around AE disappearance, but now I'm really fond of the Lockheed Electra itself. I guess it must be a dream to fly !

Other point: It seems that you don't appreciate Finch very well and what she have accomplished around her Worldflight. Frank, you said that you "couldn't stand to be around the woman", Ric, you added that you "made the silly assumption that she might have some interest in at least another Earhart-related nonprofit".

Sounds like Worldflight 97 was not so great...

Other subject: is there any mountain, or hill in Howland Island? I guess not from the description i have found. It was actually a very flat and tiny piece of sand and coral. Therefore, it is not very suprising that AE and FN couldn't be able to see it, even if they came very near. Sometimes, at dawn, there is a light "sea fog" tide ( there is no other word for the French "brumes de mer ") that may occur and deteriorate dramaticaly visibility, especially at low altitude ( AE reported that she was flying at 1000 feet ). This "tide" is so thin that it is almost invisible. So at 1000 ft and 150 kt, you may pass aside a flat piece of land ( 5 miles or even less ) without knowing it was there... And then you enter into the legend...

From Ric

No mountains or hills on Howland. Very flat.

If Finch's converted 10A is any indication, the Lockheed 10E was a dream to fly -- a rather bad dream. The engines are really a bit too heavy for the design and the airplane has a tendency to stand on its nose if the brakes are applied too vigorously. That wasn't a problem on Earhart's 10E because the brakes were so bad. Finch's airplane had modern, more effective brakes. She also had full-feathering props --- a very wise modernization. Perhaps the biggest problem with the 10E was the noise and vibration of those oversize engines with the prop tips just outside the cockpit window. Finch reportedly found that the sound was so intense that it defeated her state-of-the-art active noise-cancelling headset. Earhart used wads of cotton. After 20 hours it is not unlikely that she and Noonan had both suffered some temporary hearing loss not to mention the fatigue factor from that kind of prolonged noise exposure.


Subject: World Flight photos
Date: 3/13/00
From: Ron Bright

I've had some luck tracking down the world flight photos. Today I spoke with Virginia Morell who was the author of the Amelia Earhart article in the Jan 1998 National Geographic magazine (NG). The article was a summary of Earhart's attempt, loss and searches in 1937, along with the commemorative flight of Linda Finch in the restored Electra 10E. Morell said that Sarah Leen, the photographer in the article and chase plane, can be contacted now at National Geographic in Washington D.C. at 202-857 7000, ask for "Sarah" or her voice mail. She may have many of those photos for sale from her freelance position.

Morell said she accompanied Linda Finch on the Sourabaya to Darwin leg in the rear of the Electra where Noonan would have been. She described the trip in some detail. One thing she thought was interesting was the extreme noise in the Electra.

According to Morell, she parted company with Finch and has no idea where she is or how to contact her. Apparently they are not on good terms.

Morell said she did only basic research, but did talk at length with Elgin Long, as you can see in the article. She cited Long's belief that the Electra climbing over the mountains after takeoff from Lae consumed far more fuel than expected ! She is no longer involved in active research. (Ric, maybe she would write up TIGHAR's theory, plus photos, etc in the National Geographic; she is well regarded by NG and another article will be published in Nov '00 re the Nile)

Maybe some forum member in the DC area might help Renaud call NG and put Leen in contact with him as TIGHAR has his email.

Ron Bright (tracker of missing persons, except Amelia)

From Ric

We're very familiar with National Geo and have met with senior management several times at their headquarters in DC. Like so many other things in the media world, the National Geographic Society is very different from what the public imagines it to be. Let's just say that we don't anticipate National Geo involvement in TIGHAR activities in the near future.

Subject: John Mims and the fish story
Date 3/13/00
From: Ron Bright

Whatever happened to John Mims and his great fish story. According to an old Honululu news clipping, Mims, a retired Navy pilot and surgeon, said that in the summer of 1944, he observed a large aluminum homemade fishhook on a 1500 lb fish on one of Niku's lagoons. A 25' leader made of aircraft control cable, he said, was attached to the hook. It was "too short for a navy plane". A Gilbertese boy, who could speak English, told Mims that it came from a wrecked plane found on the southeast corner of Niku (more confirmation of the "7" location).

He believed it came from Amelia's Electra but he didn't ask to see the plane because it might "upset" the natives who were using the parts for various tools, etc.

Mims flew supplies regularily to a navy navigation station on Niku (location not specified) from 1941 --- 1944. Came in on a float plane.

Did he ever tell his superiors about it,or write a contemporaneous report,etc. I don't know how the reporter got his hame. Tighar may have talked with him already. Since this report was in 1997, maybe he's still alive somewhere in Alabama,where he reportedly lived.

Sounds fishy to me.

Ron Bright (who has better fish stories to tell)

From Ric

John Mims is TIGHAR member 1936. We first located him back in March of 1995, or more accurately, his daughter Rosemary Fisk, TIGHAR member 1934, located us to tell us about the stories her father had told for many years. We interviewed Dr. Mims at his home in Tuscumbia, Alabama and his recollections appeared in TIGHAR Tracks Vol. 11, No. 3 in September 1995 in an article entitled "Catch of the Day." His picture was featured on the cover. (That particular issue is not on the website.)

The newspaper article you quote does not quite have the story right (surprise, surprise). John was the copilot of PBY-5 BuNo 08456 that flew resupply flights from Canton to Loran stations on several islands, including Gardner, in late 1944/early 1945. We have the paperwork on those flights. I can tell you how many pounds of mayonnaise were delivered on a particular day.

On the day in question (and we don't know exactly which day that was) John and his navigator were shown a big fish that had been caught the night before by the Gilbertese villagers on Gardner. They noticed that the hook was made of bent-over pieces of sheet aluminum and that the leader was an airplane control cable. They asked where the parts came from and were told, through an interpreter, that "when our people first came to the island there was a plane here." They did ask where the plane was now and received only an I-don't-know shrug for an answer. They were curious enough to later make inquiries of the British District Officer back on Canton as to whether any British aircraft had gone missing in the area before the war. None had.

Mims has a collection of small kanawa wood boxes he received as presents from the villagers on Gardner. They are inlaid with small decorative pieces of metal which he was told is metal from the plane. He allowed us to remove one for testing. It is 24ST Alclad --- aircraft aluminum. That this is not just a tale he concocted after seeing publicity about TIGHAR's work is confirmed by his daughter's recollections of playing with the boxes as a young girl. She always knew them as "the boxes with the metal from the crashed plane."

Mims' story is anecdote but it fits perfectly in a mosaic of other anecdotes from Fiji and Funafuti which tell of an airplane wreck at Gardner Island before World War II.


Subject: Why Wasn't Gallagher Told?
Date: 3/14/00
From: William Webster-Garman

An interesting question is posed on page 35 of the new TIGHAR Tracks (1999, Volume 15), which, by the way, I enjoyed reading and found to be well written and presented:

"And why didn't Koata, or anybody else, tell Gallagher about the plane?"

The evidence indicates that the early Gilbertese colonists on Niku, not known for their material prosperity, had been scavenging the aircraft wreckage regularly. Perhaps they were a bit cautious about advertising this activity to begin with. For example, they seem to have been aware that the aircraft debris was somehow associated with human remains, which from the start might have made them feel slightly guilty about pilfering the site.

Then, they somehow learn about Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan and an important airplane flight that went missing. Someone quickly comes to the conclusion that they've been looting the remains of the most famous and sought-after airplane in the world. They panic, fearing significant rebuke or even criminal accusations from their British administrators, who in true colonial fashion are regarded with both admiration and wariness. The Gilbertese involved subsequently agree among themselves to keep absolutely quiet about the airplane from that time on, Koata puts the wreck off limits, and some convenient ghost stories are circulated to complete the taboo.

Taboos usually indicate that there is more to a story than someone is willing to tell. There probably weren't many people involved in the pilfering of the wreck at the time, and fear of prosecution or scandal could have easily created a bond of silence among them. I wouldn't characterize this as a conspiracy, but as an act of perceived communal self-preservation among a handful of people living a subsistence existence with big hopes for their future on the island, who thought they had made a big mistake.

Perhaps Gallagher, who certainly entertained the idea that the bones and artifacts he found were associated with the Earhart flight, given his curiosity and rapport with the Gilbertese, would have eventually discovered the wreck if he had lived. But he died unexpectedly, and was buried under the village flagpole by a genuinely grieving (and perhaps slightly guilt-stricken?) well-meaning community.

The years pass, and aside from a few casual remarks about airplane wreckage made to island visitors in the 40s and 50s, the closely held knowledge of the wreckage fades and dies off with those who kept it, even as the wreckage itself is dispersed by natural forces, a few scattered bits of it quietly filtering about the village as implements and elements of decorative art. By the late 1990s, the only people alive who remember anything about it were children at the time, and can only offer jumbled memories about bones, off-limits airplane debris in the surf, and warnings of ghosts from wary adults.

Of course, I must add the disclaimer that however neatly this may fit my understanding of human nature and the facts we know at the moment, it's just a theory. But it has some compelling features.

william 2243

From Ric

Interesting theory, but from a careful reading of the telegrams, I suspect that Koata is not involved in the apparent conspiracy of silence. Here's why.

Gallagher arrives at Gardner in early September 1940 and hears about the skull that was found and buried. His curiousity is aroused and he insists upon being shown where this happened. He looks around a little bit and finds the skeleton and artifacts, including part of a woman's shoe, at the castaway campsite. By Jove, this might be Amelia Earhart!

On September 23 Irish alerts Werham at Tarawa:

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. Grateful you retain bottle in safe place for present and ask Koata not to talk about skull which is just possibly that of Amelia Earhardt. [sic]

A couple of things about this telegram are very interesting.

  • It's important to realize that Wernham is Gallagher's buddy and his equal, not his superior. They (and Bevington) came out to the Pacific together as Cadet Officers in 1937. Wernham is the Acting Administrative Officer at Tarawa. This is not an official notification. This is Irish asking David to do him a favor.
  • It doesn't sound to me like Gallagher has ever seen the bottle. It's a "certain bottle" (no other description) "alleged to have been found near skull..." It is Wernham who, in his reply, provides the information that "Koata has handed me one Benedictine bottle."
  • This telegram only makes sense if Koata leaves with the bottle before Gallagher is aware of its possible significance --- that is --- before Gallagher has been to the place where the skull was found. It may be that Koata left the island on the same ship (Nimanoa) that brought Gallagher in early September and Gallagher only found out about the bottle after he left with it.

On the same day that Gallagher asks Wernham to be on the lookout for the bottle he makes his first official report about the discovery to his immediate superior, Jack Barley, the Resident Commissioner of the Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony who resides on Ocean Island (not Tarawa):

"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. It would appear that---

(a) Skeleton is possibly that of a woman,
(b) Shoe was a woman's and probably size 10,
(c) Sextant box has two numbers on it 3500 (stencilled) and 1542 --- sextant being old fashioned and probably painted over with black enamel.

Bones look more than four years old to me but there seems to be very slight chance that this may be remains of Amelia Earhardt [sic]. If United States authorities find that above evidence fits into general description, perhaps they could supply some dental information as many teeth are intact. Am holding latest finds for present but have not exhumed skull.

There is no local indication that this discovery is related to wreck of the 'Norwich City'.


This telegram clearly implies --- no, states outright --- that the bottle was found during the "thorough search", which the telegram to Wernham just as clearly states it was not.

When the Resident Commissioner informs the High Commissioner in Fiji on October 1st he says:

"Gallagher reports from Gardner Island the finding of a skeleton believed to be that of a woman.
Near the skeleton was a box containing an old fashioned sextant. Box had number 3,500 stencilled on it and also bore the number 1,542. A woman's shoe was also found.
Possibility of this being Mrs. Putnam is naturally remote but Your Excellency will probably wish to make enquiries concerning numbering of sextant box."

No mention of the bottle. In fact, Fiji never hears about the bottle and, once Werham has retrieved it from Koata, it is never referred to again (possibly to protect Koata?). As far as we know, Koata never returns to Gardner.

The point of all this is that, at the crucial moment when the locals find out from Gallagher that the skull they found might be connected to a famous lost aviator there is no Gilbertese authority figure on the island --- just 14 workers and their families who are, according to Gallagher's clerk and interpreter Bauro Tikana "afright to talk to him (Gallagher)". Under such conditions it's not hard to see people keeping their mouths shut.



Operation Benedictine Bottle

Date: 3/15/00
From: Renaud

No, that's not the latest release of 007 adventures ! That is just my report concerning the Benedictine bottle.

I went to one of the finest Liquor & Wines Shop of Bordeaux and asked for the Benedictine bottle. I've examined nowadays Benedictine bottle. It is quite similar to the one shown on the 1915 advert except for the shape which is round while 1915 bottle is square-shaped. In the back there is the name of the manufacturer engraved: ABBAYE BENEDICTINE FECAMP, if I remember it correctly. That is why Gallagher, who was english, recognized so easily the bottle origin. The bottle is not big (about 25 centimeter high), and have a capaciousness of 0.7 liter (enough to get drunk anyway). As common to most of French liquor bottles, there is a big wax logo in the front, with the armorial-bearings of the Abbaye.

Also, I asked the Shopkeeper about the chained stopper. He affirmed that he had never seen such a stopper on any liquor or wine bottle. It seems obvious that the brass chain ans corks are nor from the Benedictine bottle nor from other liquor bottle. Nevertheless, the Shopkeeper couldn't say how Benedictine bottle looked like prior to 1940. I may try to send a letter to Benedictine SA at Fecamp.

I am convinced that the brass-chained stoppers came from gourds.

Now I need to finish up the Benedictine bottle !!! Hips !!!

From Ric

....and the Delightful Posting award for the first quarter of 2000 goes to----- (the envelope please) - Renaud!

Subject: Re: Why wasn't Gallagher told?
Date: 3/15/00
From: William Webster-Garman

Thanks for the synopsis of the telegrams and timelines. My idea is that Koata and the other Gilbertese who were visiting the wreck found out that the debris was significant before Gallagher ever arrived on Gardner. Perhaps the news came through another visitor or new colonist on a supply ship, a stray newspaper, or even commercial broadcasts heard on a newly arrived wireless. It is likely that news of Earhart's flight took time to filter out to the ears of the Gilbertese, but Gallagher wasn't necessarily the first to have mentioned it to them.

Local silence regarding hidden items or caches on Pacific islands is fairly common. One example is the experience of Father Sebastian Englert on Easter Island in the 1940s and 1950s. He was a respected "father figure" on the island, yet for years a network of old underground family burial caves was maintained without his knowledge. The visiting and maintenance of these caves was nominally illegal in the eyes of the Chilean military administration. The now controversial Norwegian explorer/archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl arrived in the mid 1950s, and after locals began offering him artifacts that seemed to appear from nowhere in exchange for gifts of supplies from his well-stocked expedition ship, a converted Greenland trawler with a large hold, he began prying away at their source and was eventually allowed to visit some of the caves (usually in the dead of the Rapa Nui night and more than once fearing for his life).

If Koata knew about the wreckage (and for the sake of discussion, Earhart), and didn't tell Gallagher, he probably had a reason. Then, with Koata off the island, when Gallagher tells the settlers that the skull he found might be associated with Earhart, is it any surprise that Gallagher's clerk and Bauro Tikana report that the Gilbertese were reluctant to even talk to him? It is possible that Gallagher was stumbling onto something they already knew well enough, and that they feared they would be ostracized or punished for picking through the wreck.

william 2243

From Ric

As you've already said, we're kind of out on a limb here speculating about who knew what and when and how they reacted, but there's no denying that some odd things were going on and all we can do is try to make sense out of what happened.

Taking a deep breath and delving into this --- So according to your hypothesis, the first settlers find and pilfer the airplane wreck without understanding its significance. Then they somehow learn about the Earhart/Noonan disappearance and become fearful that they'll get in trouble for what they've done. The headman, Koata, puts the wreck off limits and tells everyone to clam up about it.

Fortunately, the comings and goings of various ships and individuals during the early years of the colony on Gardner are very well documented so we can see how well this scenario fits with known events. Crucial to the hypothesis is that the island folk have access to information about the disappearance of Earhart and Noonan AFTER they've had a chance to interact with the wreck in some way that they later regret.

Let's look at a chronology of documented events between the dropping off of the first work party at Gardner in late December 1938 and the arrival of Gallagher in September 1940.

December 20, 1938
RCS Nimanoa arrives with the first 10 man work party. The New Zealand survey team is already on the island. It is conceivable, but not likely, that the workers learned about the disappearance from the Kiwis but that wouldn't fit our speculative scenario because the workers need time to find and loot the wreck and they couldn't exacly do that under the noses of the New Zealanders.

February 5, 1939
The New Zealand survey team leaves. The Gilbertese work force is now alone on the island. It's not entirely clear whether Koata is yet with them.

April 28, 1939
Harry Maude returns aboard RCS Moamoa to drop off the wives and children (12 individuals) of the workers. He also brings Jack Kima Petro, a half Portuguese/half Tokelau construction foreman, with the materials to build a 10,000 gallon water cistern (which still stands). Maude leaves to drop other settlers and supplies at Hull and Sydney. It's still not clear whether Koata is yet in residence on Gardner.

April 30, 1939
The seaplane tender USS Pelican arrives to take aerial photos of Gardner in support of a U.S. Navy survey of Pacific islands being conducted by USS Bushnell (the onshore survey would not be made until November). The log of the Pelican confirms that at "11:20 Mr. Jack Pedro (sic), Foreman of Gardner Island and two natives came aboard." At 12:42 "three natives from Gardner Island came aboard." At 14:05 "two natives left the ship" and at 14:48 "one native left the ship." At 15:13 "Mr. Jack Pedro left the ship." The Pelican then departed. (One native must have left the ship unnoticed.)

Gerald Berger was aboard the Pelican during that cruise and has recently provided us with photos he took at Gardner Island, one of which actually shows Jack Petro coming aboard. All of Mr. Berger's photos were taken aboard ship and the log does not say that anyone from the ship went ashore during the brief stay at Gardner. Mr. Berger, however, does say that the Navy personnel aboard the Pelican were keenly aware that these islands of the Phoenix Group were suspected as being where Earhart may have ended up. He says that at Hull Island about 20 men went ashore, spread out and conducted an improvised search from the landing to the village specifically looking for any sign of the missing plane. There is no mention of any such search in the ship's log and it seems unlikely that any such search took place given what did happen. Moamoa was at Hull when Pelican visited there on April 29th. The Pelican's log shows that, at 08:50 "Mr. J. W. Jones, British administrative official of Hull Island, and Mr. Maud [sic], visiting inspector, came aboard and presented official protest against putting planes over Hull Island." [The photo mission was flown anyway --- bloody Americans.]

Whether or not Mr. Berger's recollections are strictly accurate, it does seem that the Pelican's visit to Gardner provided an opportunity for the island people to learn about the disappearance of the Earhart plane. Whether Koata was there yet is not clear.

June 17, 1939
RCS Nimanoa arrives with more settlers bringing the island population to 58 (16 men, 16 women, 11 boys, and 15 girls). At this time Teng Koata is definitely in residence as Native Magistrate. Petro almost certainly leaves at this time. We know that he is working on Sydney during the last quarter of 1939.

November 28, 1939
USS Bushnell arrives to conduct the onshore survey. This is another theoretical opportunity for the locals to hear about the Earhart/Noonan disappearance and, by now, we know that Koata has been on the island for some months.

December 5, 1939
USS Bushnell departs.

January ?, 1940
Gallagher visits the island briefly, probably aboard RCS Kiakia to drop off the "expert canoe builder" Temou Samuela and his family (including his daughter Segalo --- aka Emily).

May ?, 1940
Gallagher visits the island briefly aboard Nimanoa in May. "Little or nothing to report from Gardner. The great task on the island consists in the steady clearing and planting of the bush. This work appears to be proceeding rather slowly but is being well done."

This seems to be around the time when the skull is first found and buried, but Gallagher doesn't find out about it until he arrives to stay in September.

During the period in question there were two opportunities for the locals to learn about the Earhart/Noonan disappearance from Americans. I'd argue that it is unlikely that Jack Petro knew about the plane wreck on the reef because I just can't see a motive for Jack keeping his mouth shut about it.

Here's a possible scenario:

The plane wreckage on the reef is found between late June and late November, 1939 (after Petro has left and when Koata alone is in charge).

Someone in the Bushnell survey party tells Koata about Earhart. Koata is probably aware that the British are not at all pleased about the Americans surveying His Majesty's islands and he might perceive the presence of an American airplane wreck as a potential threat to British sovereignty and, therefore, the future of the colony. As a speculative motive for silence I like this a lot better than concern that they'll get in trouble for salvaging pieces from the wreck. (For one thing, there must not have been much salvage going on because we must presume Gallagher didn't later notice a lot of airplane parts in use.)

When the skull turns up in April, Koata knows damn well who it is. He has the skull buried and he keeps the bottle. He has no intention of telling Gallagher or anyone else in the British administration about all this. When he leaves in September he takes the bottle with him.

After he's gone, somebody talks. What's the harm in telling "Kela" (Gallagher) a good story about finding a skull and a bottle? Gallagher conducts a search and quickly makes the connection with Earhart. Ooops. Now everyone is scared. Koata said that if anybody found out about the plane we might lose the island. Better shut up --- and they do.

Whether this scenario is true or not is another question, of course!


Subject: Mini-Subs at Pearl Harbor
Date: 3/16/00
From: Tom Robison

[From Ric: Although Tom did not send this as a forum posting I think it is very On Topic in that it is an excellent example of the kind of controversy that can surround conclusions drawn from forensic imaging. I think the bottom line here is that conclusions drawn from forensic imaging --- just as with conclusions drawn from analysis of anecdotes --- must ultimately be verified by "ground truth."]

Ric- FYI, the following letter was posted to the Mahan Naval History list, shortly after the original article about the mini-sub attack appeared in Naval History. It is one man's opinion, of course. A similar letter, much abridged, appeared in the Feb 2000 issue of Naval History Magazine.

I find this letter interesting because it touches on many of the same issues that are discussed every day on the Earhart forum.

Tom #2179

From: Jonathan Parshall
Subject: Japanese Suicide Submarine--Rebuttal

Just got off the phone with John DeVirgilio in Hawaii. John has done extensive work on the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is his belief that this whole notion of an attack by a minisub in the South Loch is utter nonsense, for the following reasons. I am simply relaying these; I am not a Pearl Harbor expert myself. But his reasoning is worth examining.

1) The analysis of the attack is built largely upon photo analysis of a picture taken from a Japanese B5N attack bomber. The instrumentation and photo-analytic work is technically sound enough, but the photo itself is a *3rd generation print* (John believes it came from the U.S. Naval Historical Center) and is therefore of very substandard quality. To John's knowledge there are two first-generation prints of the photo in question. One is in the hands of the Japanese Self-Defense Force Archives in Tokyo. The second is in the hands of a Mr. Hirata Matsumura in Tokyo. Matsumura was the Hiryu torpedo bomber squadron leader (buntaicho) during the attack, and it is believed that his back-seater (a guy named Oku) took the actual photo. But apparently even though John advised the writers of the article to acquire a better photo, they did not. Put simply: garbage in, garbage out. With a crappy print you can see anything you want to see.

3) Oku's job as back seater was to follow his torpedo in with his eyes to ascertain if it hit or not. So he was looking at this very stretch of water. But he saw nothing.

4) The photo allegedly shows torpedo wakes emanating from the submarine. But the Type 97 torpedo these submarines used was a 17.7" diameter miniaturized version of the famous Type 93 Long Lance. And the Long Lance uses pure oxygen as an oxidant, so it is *practically wakeless*. Most torpedos (including the air-dropped ones used by the Japanese torpedo bombers) use air as the oxidant. The wake bubbles you see on the surface are from the inert nitrogen that is released as a byproduct of the combustion cycle. No nitrogen, no wake. It is true that the Type 97 was known to have problems with leaky oxygen flasks, meaning that the minisubs would probably have topped off their torps' flasks with a shot of compressed air before leaving the mother sub. But this 10-20% topping off still isn't going to produce much of a wake, and certainly not enough to see in a grainy photograph taken from whatever altitude.

5) During this portion of the attack, after the initial attack wave of 12-14 planes had made their runs across the South Loch towards Battleship Row, dropped their fish, and roared away, the fish were beginning to strike. All eyes in the harbor, several thousand of them, were drawn to this general piece of water, yet no American eyewitness accounts of a broaching submarine have surfaced (so to speak). This despite the fact that other American eyes would later detect other broaching minisubs, and attack them, with rapidity.

6) The original print of the photo apparently shows a motor launch a hundred feet away from the minisub's alleged position. Again, no eyewitness accounts.

7) Shortly after this photo was taken, a group of Japanese high level bombers came over the area on a level attack run. Most aborted. One of them had a movie camera running during this phase of the attack. It detected nothing.

8) *If* this sub actually made it into the harbor, then where did it end up? At this point in time, after Ward's attack on the sub outside the harbor entrance, the anti-submarine nets are closed, so there's nowhere for it to run. U.S.S. Nevada has yet to get underway and make tracks for the harbor entrance, so there's no one to try sneaking out with. Did it end up on the bottom in the harbor? If so, it should have been found, as Pearl Harbor is dredged *constantly* due to all the deep-draft naval traffic. So where is it? What's the end-game here?

9) All ten minisub torpedoes are accounted for:

"Midget A" was bagged by the U.S.S. Ward, and was apparently located in 850 feet of water in 1988. It is presumable that it still carried its two fish, since 1) Ward does not mention being attacked, and 2) she sank the intruder well before the air raid, and 3) the sub clearly never made it into the Loch to attack Battleship Row.

"Midget B" was known to have been sunk in the harbor by U.S.S. Monaghan, was raised and placed in a landfill in 1942. It was observed to have fired two fish during the fracas, one of which missed U.S.S. Curtiss, and another which hit the shore and exploded.

"Midget C" (Lt. Sakmaki's) was beached (with both torpedoes intact)

"Midget D" was raised in 1960 (with both torpedoes intact) and returned to Japan (I've seen it myself at Eta Jima)

Only "Midget E" has not been found. Yet a midget sub attacked U.S.S. St. Louis at 10:04 with 2 torpedoes, returned fire, and apparently sank it. That's 10 fish accounted for, and none left to shoot at Battleship Row.

In sum, in John's view this whole attack is a myth, supported by poor research technique and faulty logic, and should never have been published. Just though that was worth passing along.

-jon parshall-
Imperial Japanese Navy Homepage

Tom Robison

Subject: Re: Why wasn't Gallagher told?
Date: 3/16/00
From: William Webster-Garman

Ric wrote,

>When the skull turns up in April, Koata knows damn well who it is. He
>has the skull buried and he keeps the bottle. He has no intention of telling
>Gallagher or anyone else in the British administration about all this.
>When he leaves in September he takes the bottle with him.
>After he's gone, somebody talks. What's the harm in telling "Kela" (Gallagher)
>a good story about finding a skull and a bottle? Gallagher conducts a
>search and quickly makes the connection with Earhart. Ooops. Now everyone
>is scared. Koata said that if anybody found out about the plane we might
>lose the island. Better shut up --- and they do.

This is very much what I've been thinking could be a reasonable explanation for why the Gilbertese behaved as they did. It certainly fits the documented record as we understand it.

More difficult and speculative are the specific motives for silence among the group. I like your idea that Koata and the others, with a proprietary interest in one day owning land on the island, made their own (probably needless?) decision to remain silent and avoid the possibility of American claims or interference on the island. I also still believe that fears of being accused of interfering with an important airplane wreck, which, worse, proved fatal for a famous flier whose remains they had also come in contact with, could have been a contributing factor.

To sum up, I am basically convinced that the settlers had knowledge of and interaction with parts of the wreck before Gallagher found the skull. I believe there is compelling evidence that they withheld their knowledge of the wreck from Gallagher, and that it is highly possible that this is because sometime after they began picking through the aircraft debris, they surmised its significance and decided for one or more reasons that it was in their best interest to keep quiet about it.

It's a reasonable scenario that could merit further investigation (for substantiation or elimination) as opportunities arise.

william 2243

From Ric

Thinking about this some more ---

We have two types of island stories --- one type tells about bones being found; the other type tells about airplane parts being found. (It is worth noting that we do NOT have any story that describes an intact airplane.) We have proof that some aspects of the bones-type stories are absolutely true. We do not yet have proof that any aspect of the airplane parts type stories is true. In some cases, the two types of stories are linked and the bones are associated with the airplane parts.

We have lots of versions of the bones-type story but fewer versions of the airplane parts type story. This would suggest that the airplane parts type stories were either less widely known or less acceptable to tell - perhaps both. Our only account of airplane debris seen in what may have been its original location (out on the reef) comes from a woman (Emily Sikuli) who was there very early (1940/41) and was a teenager at the time. All the other accounts are from later in the island's history and are either nonspecific as to location (John Mims 1944/45) or clearly refer to wreckage that has been distributed from its original location (Tapania Taeke and Pulekai Songivalu. 1959/60).

It is also interesting to note what stories were and were not told to Americans:

  • John Mims specifically asked, and was told, about airplane parts in 1944/45 but was not told anything about bones.
  • Floyd Kilts was told all about the bones, including the possible connection to Amelia Earhart, in 1946 but apparently was told nothing about airplane parts.
  • As far as we've been able to tell, none of the Coast Guardsmen who manned the Loran station on the island from July 1944 until December 1945 seem to have heard either story.



Subject: 157
Date: 3/16/00
From: Skeet Gifford

TIGHAR Tracks arrived in the mail yesterday. Well done! The scholarship, logic and media quality is of the highest order. You've come a long way since 1985, baby.

This having been said, I am hesitant to point out two discrepancies on page 51 and 53, respectively. Reference is made to "...a heading of 157 (degrees)."

It is, in fact, a True Course of 157, the value you read when plotting a direct course from Howland to Gardner/Nikumaroro. The Line of Position plotted by Noonan would have been True.

For the forum members who are not pilots, the logic is as follows:

  1. True Course is a straight line plotted on a navigational chart (usually a Lambert Conformal on which a Great Circle is approximated by a straight line) and referenced to True North. The angle is measured as near to the mid-point of leg as possible.
  2. True Heading is True Course corrected for wind. Wind enroute is referenced to True North. Parenthetically, wind on the ground is referenced to Magnetic North, but I digress. While we can only speculate on what wind Noonan used on July 2, 1937, referencing page 15, 7th Edition, 070/20 would be a credible guess.
  3. Magnetic Heading is True Heading modified by local Magnetic Variation. East Variation is subtracted from True Course and West Variation is added. On the first day of flight school, pilots are taught the rhyme, "East is least and West is best." Variation on the Howland-Gardner leg is approximately 11E.

In summary, for an assumed cruising speed of 130 knots true (is any one still awake?):

TRUE COURSE 157 (degrees)
DRIFT 8 (degrees) RIGHT*
VARIATION 11 (degrees) EAST

*this was proudly calculated on a venerable E-6B


From Ric

Correction noted. Thanks. (That's another advantage of a website. You can correct a mistake. Once a magazine is out there, it's out there.)

Subject: US Navy Search Operation
Date: 3/16/00
From: Edgard Engelman

I am new to this forum. I am absolutely not a professional in the aviation field (I'm MD), but am only interested in history and aviation history in particular.

Until now I was only reading the highlights of the forum, and the historical documents.

In fact I enlisted on the forum because I wanted to ask a question that bothered me for some time.

On July 2, 1937 the US Navy received the order to go and search for the lost plane. An easy task! Without much hesitation as I understand, the navy launched one of his brand new PBYs from Pearl to Howland. This is certainly not a routine fly in 1937 by any standard. I quote the following excerpt for Captain Friedell's report.

'In the afternoon of 2 July, Lieutenant Warren W. Harvey, US Navy, in a seaplane took off from Pearl Harbor, T.H., for search in the vicinity of the Howland Island for the Earhart plane.......

At 0700 (3 July?), the Patrol Plane reported her position at Latitude 6 degrees 35' North, Longitude 172 degrees 00' West, that the weather was extremely bad and that it was necessary for her to return to Pearl Harbor.'

As I understand they had to turn back to Pearl.

This was probably a journey almost as long as AE and FN did. The difference is that did not crash. So my questions : how were they navigating, what was the training of these crews and by whom (were the Pan Am's techniques used), how were they supposed to find Howland once they were in the island's vicinity, did they use a DF?

Was this routine for the Navy in 1937?

Why was that attempt not repeated, as of it has succeeded it would have allowed the SAR operation along that famous LOP to begin several days earlier ?

Thank you in advance for any answer.

Edgard Engelman

P.S. Excuse me for my less than perfect English.

From Ric

The decision to send one of the new PBY-1 flying boats to Howland was a bold one. Only 22 examples of the aircraft were on strength at Pearl Harbor (VP-6F and VP-11F) and no one had ever attempted a maximum range, one aircraft search and rescue mission like this before. Itasca could provide radio navigation assistance and there was aviation fuel at Howland (intended for Earhart), but the big worry was the lack of sheltered water. Open-ocean landings in anything but a very calm sea were extremely hazardous and just refueling the airplane at sea from Itasca would be tricky (the PBY-1 was a straight flying boat and could not land on land). Routing the flight via Johnston Island was considered but rejected as impractical.

Navigation was accomplished using the same techniques pioneered by Pan American (dead reckoning and celestial for the enroute portion and DF for the final segment). The airplane had 24 hours' endurance and was equipped with a loop antenna, a dedicated radio operator, a navigator, and relief pilots. Lieutenant "Sid" Harvey was the CO of VP-6F and was considered to be top notch. One of the relief pilots who did much of the flying on that trip was Ensign Page W. Smith, who went on to enjoy a long and distinguished career with Pan American. Page is TIGHAR member 0691. He and I have talked about that flight many times.

As you note, the mission aborted and returned to Pearl Harbor due to extreme weather, arriving back where it started after 24 nonstop hours. No repeat was attempted because, according to Page, the failed attempt scared everybody pretty badly and after the excitement of the moment had abated somewhat, it was decided that it might be very bad for future appropriations to lose one of the new "big boats" in what might be seen as a rash and excessively risky operation. By the time the PBY arrived back at Pearl the Colorado had already been commandeered for the search and was about to head south.

One question that has always bothered me is why the Navy never asked the British cruiser HMS Achilles to help in the search. Achilles was just east of the Phoenix Group enroute from Samoa to Hawaii at the time of the disappearance and was in radio contact with the U.S. Navy to report overhearing possible transmissions from the missing aircraft. On her aft deck was a Supermarine Walrus seaplane. Achilles could have made an aerial and surface search of the Phoenix Group five or six days before Colorado was able to get there. On July 5 the Navy did not hesitate to ask the British merchant ship SS Moorby to help in the search north of Howland. One must wonder if the contested ownership of the Phoenix Group influenced an American decision not to ask for British naval assistance fearing that it would look like an admission that the islands were British territory.


Subject: Re: Why wasn't Gallagher told?
Date: 3/16/00
From: William Webster-Garman

Possible Scenario, very abbreviated... (Hypothesis is marked H, fact is marked Fact), corrections and comments are welcome.

H Earhart and Noonan land on Gardner, which is uninhabited. Aircraft is promptly broken up by surf action near the Norwich City wreck, USN flyovers don't see the debris because of its proximity to the large wreck of the freighter.

H Earhart and/or Noonan survive for some time on the island, possibly using the Norwich City survival cache that we know was left on the island, and they eventually perish there from exposure/injuries.

Fact Gilbertese settlers arrive under British administration. Stories about airplane parts and the bones of a European man and woman begin to circulate among the small group of settlers.

Fact A skull, said to be from those bones, is buried by the settlers.

H News of Earhart reaches isolated Gardner Island (this probably happened before Gallagher appeared on the scene). The settlers become convinced that the bones and airplane parts they've found are Earhart's. For some reason this alarms them: They believe that either American interference with the newly settled island's sovereignty will ensue if it becomes known that Earhart was on the island, or perhaps they fear they could suffer penalties because they've been cutting up pieces of her famous airplane. Or both. Or neither. For whatever reasons, they decide to keep quiet about it.

Fact Their community leader declares the airplane debris off limits, and hangs on to a benedictine bottle that was found with the skull. He later leaves the island with the bottle. Children are told to stay away from the airplane wreckage because there are ghosts there.

H The bottle had been found by the castaway(s) in the supply cache left behind by the Norwich City rescue operation, and they had used it for carrying drinking water.

Fact Gallagher arrives, is told about the skull, does some investigating, retrieves the skull, some other bones, a sextant box, inverting eyepiece, and shoe parts. He quickly comes to the conclusion that these items may be associated with Earhart. The settlers are reluctant to talk to him, and in spite of the fact that they've been finding airplane parts and he's talking about the most famous and sought-after pilot and airplane in the world having possibly been stranded at Gardner, nobody mentions airplane parts to young Gallagher.

Fact Gallagher asks a friend, via telegram, to retrieve the benedictine bottle, which has departed the island, which is accomplished.

Fact Gallagher sends the bones and artifacts (but not the bottle or eyepiece) to his superiors in Fiji. Ultimately, his superiors aren't enthusiastic about pursuing the matter.

Fact Gallagher dies immediately on his return to Gardner. All of the artifacts ultimately disappear: The bones, the box, the shoe parts, the eyepiece, the bottle. We only know they existed because we have read reliable contemporary British correspondence about them. For years after, alternating story fragments persist locally on the island about airplane wreckage, the bones of "European" castaways (a male and female), and the possibility that Earhart died there. Several local objects made from or with airplane parts are observed. The only aircraft known to have gone missing in the vicinity is Earhart's. Some of these objects, dating from the late 30s or early 40s, bear alclad aluminum of the same type used in the manufacture of Earhart's Electra. A 1930s era woman's shoe part and airplane fragments that cannot be eliminated as having been associated with Earhart are found on Gardner half a century later.

It's interesting.

william 2243

From Ric

I'd only quibble with a couple of points.

>Fact Their community leader declares the airplane debris off limits...

That's anecdote.

>Children are told to stay away from the airplane wreckage because there are
>ghosts there.

Also anecdote.

>Gallagher arrives, is told about the skull, does some investigating,
>retrieves the skull, some other bones, a sextant box, inverting eyepiece,
>and shoe parts.

The "inverting eyepiece" was "thrown away by finder." Gallagher apparently never saw it and identified it only via the finder's description.

Picky, picky.


Subject: 6210 instead of 3105
Date: 3/17/00
From: Renaud

I am reading again and again the Itasca's radio log document. There is something about the frequencies I still don't understand: Why Earhart did switch to 6210 kilocycles? Moreover, why Itasca did not try to catch Earhart on that frequency since it was notified on her last heard message ? Maybe Itasca crew was convinced that shortly after 8:43 AM, the plane plunged into the ocean, so they didn't expected any other radio contact with the Electra.

Is there any special interest to switch the frequency from 3105 to 6210?

Okay, you understood it, I am not an expert on radio stuff, But a forum member should be.

LTM (who got the habit to switch her car radio to listen pop music)

From Ric

Earhart had three frequencies available to her - 3105 kcs, 6210 kcs and 500 kcs. Because the propagation properties of 3105 are better during the hours of darkness, she considered this to be her "nighttime" frequency. Conversely, 6210 was her "daytime" frequency. 500 kcs was the international marine emergency frequency but it was morse code only and needed a longer antenna than Earhart had after she elected not to reinstall the trailing wire after the Luke Field accident.

Earhart used 6210 for her reports back to Lae after she took off because that was daytime. She used 3105 to call Itasca during the early morning hours because it was till dark. She continued to try on that frequency even after the sun was up, but had no success. It seems perfectly natural that she would then switch to her "daytime" frequency to see if that would work. Itasca tried to tell her to stay on 3105 but, of course, she couldnt hear them. Itasca then tried repeatedly to pick her up on 6210 but with no success. Their failure to hear anything on 6210 contributed greatly to the conclusion that she had gone down shortly after the 08:43 message and continues to be the underlying justification for the multi-million dollar searches for the airplane on the ocean floor.


Subject: Re: Another eyewitness
Date: 3/3/00
From: Jerry Hamilton

Nice forum, some interesting threads there.

I've read five Amelia Earhart books, enjoyed them all, but have been disappointed in the lack of a nice table detailing her last flight. Something that lists

Departure Location
Depart (date, time)
Arrive (date, time)
Elapsed time
and Distance.

This would include refueling stops (like Tampa on the New Orleans to Miami leg).

With a table of this nature, each "city" is listed twice, once in the Departure Location column, and once in the Destination Column, with the exception, of course, of the starting Oakland airport.

Do you know of such a tabulation? Or can you point me to the details so that I could make one myself?

You might also point out to your non-pilot readers that airport control towers report surface winds magnetic because the runways are numbered relative to magnetic., i.e.., Rwy 24 = 240 deg magnetic heading. (One recognizes a lazy author when they report a plane landing on Rwy 45). Pilots still fly by the compass, with numerous modern peripheral enhancements. When landing or taking off, a pilot needs to know the wind relative to the runway heading. Both are thus reported in magnetic.

Using magnetic headings a pilot can land on Rwy 24 anywhere in the world and know the correct heading by reference to compass alone, without having to convert that back to true heading by addition or subtraction of the magnetic variation. Magnetic variation is the difference between "north" on a compass and true north and it varies as one travels around the earth. In the lower 48 of the U.S., the magnetic variation ranges from -20 deg on the west coast to + 18 deg on the east coast, a pretty significant range.

Thanks very much.

From Ric

Maybe this will help:

Names and political affiliations of destinations shown as of 1937. Distances in statute miles.

  1. Oakland, California, USA, departed May 20, 325 miles to
  2. Burbank, California, USA, arrived May 20, departed May 21, 450 miles to
  3. Tucson, Arizona, USA, arrived May 21 , departed May 22, 1250 miles to
  4. New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, arrived May 22 , departed May 23, 675 miles to
  5. Miami, Florida, USA, arrived May 23 (8 days layover, maintenance), departed June 1, 1033 miles to
    Note: From Oakland to Miami AE and Fred were accompanied by AE's husband, George Palmer Putnam, and her mechanic R.D. "Bo" McKneeley. Repairs following AE's aborted first world flight attempt in March had been completed on May 19 and this was a shakedown flight. It was not until they arived in Miami that the announcement was made that the second world flight attempt had actually begun. In Miami, Pan American Airways mechanics made necessary adjustments, then AE and Fred continued on alone.
  6. San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA, arrived June 1, departed June 2, 750 miles to
  7. Caripito, Venezuela, arrived June 2, departed June 3, 667 miles to
  8. Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana, arrived June 3, departed June 4, 1200 miles to
  9. Fortaleza, Brazil, arrived June 4 (1 day layover, crew rest), departed June 6, 268 miles to
  10. Natal, Brazil, arrived June 6, departed June 7, 1961 miles to
  11. Saint-Louis, French Senegal, arrived June 7 (unscheduled, navigational difficulty), departed June 8, 103 miles to
  12. Dakar, French Senegal, arrived June 8 (1 day layover, maintenance), departed June 10, 1130 miles to
  13. Gao, French West Africa, arrived June 10, departed June 11, 989 miles to
  14. Fort-Lamy, French Equatorial Africa, arrived June 11, departed June 12, 700 miles to
  15. El Fasher, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, arrived June 12, departed June 13, 501 miles to
  16. Khartoum, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, arrived June 13, departed June 13 (refuel only), 450 miles to
  17. Massawa, Italian Eritrea, arrived June 13, departed June 14, 300 miles to
    Note: Confusion about AE's intentions resulted in an erroneous press report that she was overdue at Karachi. It was thought that she would fly non-stop from Massawa to Karachi, but she landed at Assab and stayed overnight instead.
  18. Assab, Italian Eritrea, arrived June 14, departed June 15, 1600 miles to
  19. Karachi, India, arrived June 15 (1 day layover, maintenance), departed June 17, 1390 miles to
    Note: At this point in the flight AE anticipated that she would reach Lae on June 23 or 24, and be home by June 28.
  20. Calcutta, India, arrived June 17, departed June 18, 335 miles to
  21. Akyab, Burma, arrived June 18, departed June 19, 306 miles to
    Note: For the first time in the flight, weather became a serious problem. Originally intending only to refuel at Akyab, heavy rain forced them to abort their attempt to continue. Another attempt to reach Bangkok the next day was cut short by severe weather and a landing was made at Rangoon.
  22. Rangoon, Burma, arrived June 19 (unscheduled, weather), departed June 20, 300 miles to
  23. Bangkok, Siam, arrived June 20, departed June 20 (refuel only), 904 miles to
  24. Singapore, British Crown Colony, arrived June 20, departed June 21, 560 miles to
  25. Bandoeng, Java, Dutch East Indies, arrived June 21 (2 days layover, maintenance), departed June 24, 355 mile to
    Note: Instrument malfunctions were addressed by mechanics of KLM East Indies Airlines. In a telephone conversation with her husband, AE said she still hoped to be home by July 4th.
  26. Soerabaja, Java, Dutch East Indies, arrived June 24 ( unscheduled, maintenance), departed June 25, 355 miles to
    Note: Continued instrument difficulties forced a return to Bandoeng for additional repairs.
  27. Bandoeng, Java, Dutch East Indies, arrived June 25 (1 day layover, unsched, maint.) departed June 27, 1165 miles to
  28. Koepang, Timor, Dutch East Indies, arrived June 27, departed June 28, 500 miles to
  29. Port Darwin, Australia, arrived June 28, departed June 29, 1207 miles to
  30. Lae, Territory of New Guinea, arrived June 29 (2 days layover, weather, time check) departed July 2, 2556 miles to
    Note: This, the longest and most difficult leg of the flight. Arrival in Oakland by the 4th of July was now out of the question and Putnam would do well to get Amelia's planned book World Flight (ultimately to be titled Last Flight) published in time for the Christmas market. Line difficulties delayed Noonan's receipt of vital time checks needed to set his chronometer, and contrary winds prevented the heavily laden takeoff until the morning of July 2. A position report received at Lae later that day indicated that the flight was on course and on schedule. At Howland Island, the next morning, radio messages from the approaching flight placed it within roughly 100 miles, however, AE's attempts to use radio direction finding to locate the tiny island were unsuccessful. At noon the flight was declared overdue and presumed down.
  31. Howland Island, United States Territory, failed to arrive, planned 1900 miles to
  32. Honolulu, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, USA, planned 2410 miles to
  33. Oakland, California, USA

Total miles planned-----28,595

Total miles flown (Oakland to vicinity Howland Island)----24,285

Subject: Re: Why Wasn't Gallagher Told?
Date: 3/17/00
From: Tom King

I for one think folks are getting entirely too twisted into pretzels to account for why the colonists didn't tell Gallagher about the plane. All we have to assume is that I foolishly "led the witness" when I mentioned Koata's name in my interview with Emily, and that the "Onotoa man" who quarantined the wreck site was Koata's successor. If this is the case, then the airplane could have been found after Gallagher left for Fiji, and never reported to Gallagher because Gallagher died upon his return ot the island. The airplane's discovery (perhaps with more bones) could then have merged in Emily's mind with the earlier discovery and the box. As for salvaging pieces of the wreck, if the Funafuti accounts are accurate there must have been pieces of the wreck washing up onto the reef flat for years after the event.

I know, that's no less a "just so" story than the others, but it avoids attributing more or less dark and complicated motives to the colonists.

Tom King

From Ric

The problem is really more complicated than simply "Why wasn't Gallagher told?".

We know that people on the island knew of a possible connection between the bones and the lost American flyer Amelia Earhart (remember that Kilts' statement that the "young Irishman...immediately thought of Amelia Earhart" came from an island informant in 1946) and Gallagher was by no means the only British or American authority figure to whom the airplane wreck could have been reported. Even if, as you suggest, the airplane wreckage was not noticed by the islanders until after both Koata and Galllagher were gone from the island, it had to have been found before Emily left in December 1941. If everyone was preoccupied with Gallagher's death when the Viti was there in September, there should have been plenty of opportunity to report the find to Sir Harry Luke himself when he was there in December. And why not mention it to the Coast Guard during their year and a half on the island?

It's very hard to escape the conclusion that either:

1. All the accounts of airplane wreckage on the reef and in the bush are bogus,


2. At least in the early days of the colony, knowledge of the presence of a wrecked airplane was intentionally withheld from the authorities by the people who knew about it.


Subject: Re: Why wasn't Gallagher told?
Date: 3/17/00
From: Jon Watson, Dean Alexander

Having been a policeman for the last 23 years, you will probably be shocked to know that people do withhold information from the authorities occasionally ... of course as someone else pointed out, we are looking at this from our perspective and values, not those of a pacific islander. Fact is, though, basic motivations are probably pretty consistent. In this case, I am inclined toward the more complex scenario (I pick door number 2), which as we know is contrary to Occam's Razor...

As an aside, I am enjoying the latest TIGHAR Tracks. It's really well done, and it's apparent that a lot of work went into it. Quality --- the TIGHAR watchword.

jon 2266

From Ric

As a policeman you'll probably agree that motive can be the trickiest aspect of a crime to determine (not to suggest that any crime may have been committed in this case). It's just really hard to get into someone else's head. That said, there is no doubt from the offical record that Teng Koata had made a huge personal and emotional investment in the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme. Koata was a formidable individual and was highly respected by the British administration. He had been Native Magistrate (the top man) of his home island of Onotoa and had seen his people impoverished by overpopulation. He had been one of the senior delegates selected to come along with Maude and Bevington in October 1937 to evaluate the islands of the Phoenix Group for possible settlement and he had ultimately agreed to leave his home and come to the most difficult but most promising of the new islands to help launch the settlement scheme that would open a new frontier for the poorest of his people.

Koata's relationship with Gallagher was probably roughly that of a Sergeant Major to a Second Lieutenant. There is no doubt in my mind that he would have been fierce in suppressing anything he may have seen as a threat to the success of the colony, but this is one of those issues that falls into the we'll-never-know category.


From Dean A.

> At least in the early days of the colony, knowledge of the presence of a
> wrecked airplane was intentionally withheld from the authorities by the
> people who knew about it.

I think it could be possible that the colonists had more important things on their minds, namely trying to establish a settlement (survive and prosper) in a somewhat harsh environment. Maybe they didn't think bones or pieces of a wreckage was all that important?

Dean A. #2056

From Ric

Perhaps not, but something we've seen time and again in the Central Pacific is that anything unusual gets talked about. In fact, for a long time that's why everyone pooh-poohed the possibility that Floyd Kilts' story about bones being found on Gardner could be true. Virtually everyone familiar with the Gilbertese culture told us that if it had happened everyone would know about it. We now know that it did happen but not everyone talked about it. Still, the story got out. Likewise with the crash at Sydney Island. We had only a garbled version of the story for years but every attempt to verify it came up dry until Craig Fuller stumbled upon the official report.

The rule in the Pacific seems to be "Where there's fire there's smoke."


Subject: Re: Why Wasn't Gallagher Told?
Date: 3/17/00
From: Tom King


>If everyone was preoccupied with Gallagher's death when the Viti was
>there in September, there should have been plenty of opportunity to report
>the find to Sir Harry Luke himself when he was there in December.

Response: Sir Harry and his party weren't there for long, and he was doubtless a pretty formidable figure in the colonists' eyes, engaged in all kinds of important official actions. Who would have volunteered information about bones and plane wrecks to him, and why? Furthermore, if your much respected administrator has insisted on digging up and sending away bones thought to be associated with this vaguely-understood missing aviatrix, and then been struck down in the prime of life, maybe you think the better part of valour is to stay quiet about further bones discoveries. And, perhaps, dispose of the "new" bones you've found, by tossing them into the sea as reported by Kilts. Kilts' impression of the "natives" as "superstitious as hell" very likely wasn't entirely without foundation, and the business about tossing bones in the sea is the one part of his narrative that hasn't been more or less roughly confirmed; it could well have some basis in truth, too.


>And why not mention it to the Coast Guard during their year and a half
>on the island?

Well, somebody obviously did mention it, to Kilts. Why only to Kilts? Dunno, and of course, dunno for sure whether they DID mention it only to Kilts. But this raises a question for the Loran Station veterans on the Forum. From the logs of the Station it looks like you guys went on liberty to the village for a couple of hours, sometimes most of a day, roughly every other Saturday. Can you give us some sense of what these visits were like? How many of you went? How you got there and back? Who you talked with? What did you talk about? What else (discretely) did you do while there?

LTM (who's superstitious, too)
Tom King

Subject: Native Recollections
Date: 3/17/00
From: Kerry Tiller

Hi, I'm Kerry Tiller and I'm new here. I'm not yet a TIGHAR member (the check's in the mail) and I am a little hesitant to throw in my two yen worth. I have been perusing the web site and following the forum for a while trying to get up to speed. I have a comment and a question. First the comment (this should open me up for attack). I realize it would be great if we had consistent, corroborated, accounts from the Islanders about the plane wreck and bones; but I don't think we should get our shorts in a wad over the apparent inconsistancies and omissions. Harking back to my undergraduate days (early 70's) in the Anthro Dept. at Arizona with Clara Lee Tanner (known for her work on Yap), I would caution us not to be ethnocentric about this. Most basic aspects of human nature are universal, but manifest themselves differently according to an individual's customs, culture, society and traditions. What might seem to be a simple, straight forward matter to us ("do you remember plane wreckage on the island before the war?") could be a much more complex matter to someone with different social conditioning. All societies have oral traditions and lore (Washington chopped down a cherry tree) but "western civilization" has, in modern times, carefully separated such lore from factual history (not always successfully). Most Pacific Island cultures make no attempt at such a distinction.

We are also very hung up on time and chronology. A precise sequence of events is a tool we use to put order and organization into our lives. Not all cultures do this. A conspiracy of silence for fear of retribution by the natives? I would suggest that that is a "western" concept. I suspect we are just dealing with a cultural difference of what's important and what isn't. Why weren't the Coasties (at the LORAN station) told? Well, did they ask? (Or did I miss an account of the Coasties asking and getting a Reserve salute?) At any rate, let's not forget the lesson Fred Goerner missed. He had "eye witness" accounts of 2 American flyers on Saipan before the war etc. etc. And even after he failed to turn up hard evidence, he still believed it. Were Mr. Goerner a scientist instead of a journalist he might have come to another conclusion, namely that his theory was bogus and based on some islanders just "talking story".

OK, 'nuff from me about that. If I haven't used up my allotted space I have a non AE question for Mr. Gillespie. Someplace on the web site I read something about a B-24 crash on Funafuti. When I was on Funafuti in 1988 I took some pictures of airplane wreckage (wing parts. Maybe a Davis wing?) I took to be of WWII vintage just off the path in the semi-jungle (after the road peters out heading north). Could this have been B-24 remains? (Just interested, my father flew B-24s during the war and it would be kind of neat if the stuff I saw was part of a B-24.)

This is fun. Looking forward to meeting you all. I guess, in view of my comment, an LTM is in order...........Kerry

From Ric

Welcome Kerry! I totally agree that we should be careful not to be ethnocentric in trying to assess the actions of the settlers on Nikumaroro but I've also seen this concern get warped into a condescending assumption that only we westerners are capable of actions and motivations that are really quite universal. It's a delicate balance.

I certainly share your views about Mr. Goerner. It's a staple of our methodology that a story is just a story until there is hard evidence. A good story is worth a good search for hard evidence, but if none turns up it's time to let go of the story.

I think we saw the same wing part you saw on Funafuti. (What did you do to get sent to Funafuti?) An old man led us down a trail that ran back into the bush down near the end of the runway and showed us a section of wing that was being used as a roof over a pig pen. From what we could see of it I'm pretty sure it was a B-24 wing.


Subject: Re: Native Recollections
Date: 3/18/00
From: William Webster-Garman

Kerry Tiller wrote:

>A conspiracy of silence for fear of
>retribution by the natives? I would suggest that is a "western"
>concept. I suspect we are just dealing with a cultural difference of what's
>important and what isn't.

This is not a western concept. For what it's worth, I have spent years of my life traveling and living outside of the United States, on 4 continents in 24 countries, including both sides of Asia, and I can testify that human nature is universal. How that nature is expressed can have cultural variations. Communal silence in the face of a perceived threat is hardly limited to European culture, nor are taboos concerning human remains limited to Pacific island cultures. Finally, it is a tenet of the adaptability of human behavior that necessity can override or even knowingly exploit cultural tradition and precedent.

However, the term "native" is very much associated with cultural-centric thinking and is probably best avoided when objectively pondering the Gilbertese settlers on Gardner (who weren't "natives" of Gardner in any case).

william 2243

From Ric

We clearly have two camps evolving in this discussion of the reputed presence of airplane wreckage on Gardner. The central question seems to be - IF there was airplane wreckage known to at least some of the Gilbertese settlers, and specifically to the Native Magistrate (his British title), then WHY was it not brought to the attention of the British, or American, authorities?

What we'll call the "Ockham Camp" seems to be saying:

It's very simple. The Native Magistrate may not have had a chance to talk to the only westerner he felt comfortable talking to and, besides, it's ethnocentric to expect Gilbert islanders to care anything about wrecked airplanes, missing aviators, and international sovereignty disputes.

What we'll call the "Conspiracy Camp" seems to be saying:

The failure of the British or Americans to become aware of airplane wreckage at Gardner (if it was there) in the light of all the fuss about the bones and Amelia Earhart seems very strange unless the silence was intentional. To assume that the islanders would care about Amelia Earhart is ethnocentric. To presume that they would be incapable of perceiving a political threat to their community is racist.

It's worth remembering that the presence of at least one castaway on the island prior to its settlement can be regarded as fact. The presence of airplane wreckage on the island prior to its settlement is still only anecdotal. Perhaps we'd do better to focus on determining whether or not the airplane wreckage was really there before we get too tangled up fighting over why more people didn't know about it.


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