Forum artHighlights From the Forum

August 6 through 12, 2000

Subject: Re: To wander or not to wander
Date: 8/7/00
From: Janice Brown

Actually, Ric, your statement also makes sense from a historical perspective.

Earlier in the round the world trip, specifically when first sighting the coast of Africa, Amelia states in her diary, "My navigator indicated that we should turn south. Had we done so, a half hour would have brought us to Dakar. But a "left turn" seemed to me in order and after fifty miles of flying along the coast we found ourselves at St. Louis, Senegal. Once arrived at the airport it was wiser to sit down than retrace our track over a strange country with the sudden darkness of the tropics imminent. The elapsed time across, by the way, was thirteen hours and twelve minutes." (Last Flight, p. 79). There is a sample note that Noonan sent up to A.E. that afternoon crossing the South Atlantic just before they sighted the African coast stating: 3:36 change to 36 degrees. Estimate 79 miles to Dakar. At the bottom is her (A.E.'s) pencil notation, "What put us north?"

Ultimately this diary entry by A.E. has no direct impact on the actual *data* known about the Lae/Howland trip, but it possibly would been an additional influence on her decision to believe that she might be *north* of her intended destination of Howland Island, and she would of course have headed south.

From Ric

The strange thing about the whole story of Earhart disregarding Noonan's advice and turning the wrong way at the African coast is that the marks and notations on the actual chart Noonan was using (now on file at Purdue) tell a rather different tale. Randy Jacobson was able to reconstruct the navigational situation which arose at the end of the flight and it appears that flight's termination at St. Louis rather than Dakar was the result of a rational decision based upon their slightly off-course location, the poor visiblity, and the impending darkness. Noonan certainly made no mention of any disagreement with Earhart in his letter to Gene Pallette. Why Earhart described the incident the way she did in her report to the Herald Tribune (later repeated and embellished in Last Flight) is a bit of a mystery. Amelia Earhart did not always tell the truth to the press when describing her adventures. This appears to be one of those times.


Subject: Re: Seven site
Date: 8/7/00
From: Kerry Tiller

> From Ric
> If you mean the fund-raising for Niku IIIII, yes, the fun begins.

Uh, shouldn't that be "Niku V"?

LTM (who still has a sun dial)
Kerry Tiller #2350

From Ric

Actually I had one to many "I"s in there. Should be Niku IIII, even though it will be our sixth trip to Nikumaroro and our seventh trip to the Phoenix Group. Confusing? Yes. Here's why it is the way it is.

1989 --- We originally called our first expedition to Nikumaroro simply "The Earhart Project Expedition." We had no idea there would be any more.

1991 --- This was "The Return to Nikumaroro" (surely our last hurrah). We were going to either confirm or deny the hypothesis, but instead we found that we were unable to accomplish some of our goals (find the mysterious "water collection device" described by Coast Guard veterans) but we did discover some enticing new clues (the shoe parts and the section of airplane skin), all of which made it clear we would need to come back. So, when we got home we immediately started planning and raising money for "Niku III" (which, by default, made the previous two expeditions Niku I and Niku II). So far, so good.

1996 --- Raising money for a third trip turned out to be really difficult and we had to postpone several times. During that long hiatus we really buckled down and did more original source research with the help of new friends like Randy Jacobson and Kenton Spading (and many others). Through forensic imaging (by Photek) of early aerial photography, we were able to confirm that there were man-made objects and signs of human activity at the location we now call the Seven site. It appeared that we at last knew where to look for the fabled "water collection device" which seemed to us very likely to be part an Earhart/Noonan survival camp. In light of the intense controversy generated by the press coverage that followed Niku II, we decided to try to put together a very small, quick "black" expedition specifically to find "the water collection device," meanwhile continuing the fund-raising and preparations for Niku III. A sponsor was found and the "black" expedition departed with no fanfare in February 1996. We had a very small team and only four days on the island but we found our objective and were very disappointed to learn that it was a tank that obviously had been brought down from the village. Before we left we did some poking about back at the village and came up with the pieces of plexiglas and the radio cables as consolation prizes. But what were we to call this expedition? We couldn't very well go home and tell everybody we had just done Niku III without telling anyone, so it became Niku III Preliminary or "Niku IIIP."

1997 --- Our "consolation prizes" from Niku IIIP helped generate new interest and funding that enabled us to finally launch Niku III in March of 1997. We had gotten away with sailing in the middle of cyclone season the year before with no problem. This time we compensated by getting tagged by not one, but two, tropical cyclones (same as "hurricanes" in the Atlantic and "typhoons" in the North Pacific). Damn near killed us. The work on the island turned up nothing much of interest for a lot of hard work under horrible conditions, but the diversion into Funafuti on the way home (because of the storm) and the subsequent stranding of nine of us there for six days, led to the fortuitous gathering of the first anecdotal accounts of airplane wreckage seen on Niku.

1998 --- While we were still trying to corroborate the new anecdotal information that came out of Niku III, Bruce Yoho's account of the Kanton Engine came to light and seemed worthy of another small, quick expedition to check it out. Because the destination was Kanton, where there was a serviceable runway, it was possible (just barely) to use an airplane instead of a boat to get there. We called that trip "The Kanton Mission" and it doesn't figure in the numbering of the trips to Nikumaroro.

1999 --- Once more, a close examination of aerial photos revealed the presence of what might be aircraft wreckage just where the Funafuti anecdotes had described it. There seemed to be a reasonable chance that there might be conclusive aircraft wreckage on the Nutiran shoreline so it looked like we needed another "Preliminary" expedition to check out that possibility. By this time we also had the documentation about the bones that were last seen in Fiji, so we mounted an ambitious double-barreled effort that put one team on Niku searching for airplane wreckage ("Niku IIIIP") and another team in Fiji searching for bones ("The Fiji Bone Search"). Both searches were carried out with great energy and both searches achieved only negative results, but --- as often happens --- in looking for one thing we found something else. The Fiji Bone Search turned up Emily Sikuli and Otiria O'Brian whose surprising anecdotal accounts of airplane wreckage on the reef in the early days of the colony have led to a new hypothesis about where we should look for airplane wreckage.

2001 --- So that's why our sixth trip to the island will be Niku IIII. But why is it Niku IIII instead of Niku IV? It's not that we don't quite grasp the Roman Numeral system (really, it's not). It's purely a marketing ploy. On the Niku IIII logo the four "I"s are represented as slashes as if made by the claws of a tiger (TIGHAR). Maybe it "works," maybe it doesn't, but we're sorta stuck with it.


Subject: Re: Radio Log/ Notations
Date: 8/7/00
From: Ross Devitt

Ric writes:

> I think you're confusing the Smithsonian with the National Archives (same
> town, different outfits),
>I don't recall any allegation that the logs were given to the Smithsonian.

In reply to which --- The post follows, with the relevant sentence marked "*****":

Ron Bright wrote:

>I think Janet Whitney asked about the addition of margin notes, notations,
>etc. on the orginal log that you intend to post.
>Interestingly, Leo Bellarts Jr. gave me a copy of his Dad's log that he
>asserts is the real orginal. When you compare that log with the log used on
>Elgen Long's book (cover photo) there are some significant differences in the
>underlining; specifically re the time of 0741 concerning the "...we must be
>on you but cannot see U but gas is running low been unable to reach you by
>radio we are flying at a 1000 feet".
>Maybe there are several "orginal" logs made from the first copy?? As you
>point out my log also clearly shows "circling" typed over another
>word, probably "drifting". ***** Leo Bellart Jr told me he gave his father's
>log to the Smithsonian and made copies for himself. *****

From Ric're right (again). I wonder if Leo Jr. misspoke. In any event, what do appear to be the original logs are in the National Archives (where they belong).

Subject: Re: DQ/IQ perspective
Date: 8/7/00
From: Ross Devitt

Frank Westlake wrote:

> I wouldn't make the suggestion to everyone, although it would be nice if
> everyone had read the web site, but in Ms Whitney's case I thought it a
> good idea.

Guilty here too! I posted happily to the forum for a couple of months before realising I was stripping the hide from already rotting horses. The catch with the web site is that there is no apparent link to the bulletins section (is that deliberate?) which condenses a heck of a lot of the hard data into readable viewable form.

As side issue, although a radio news item saying TIGHAR had "located the wreckage of Amelia Earhart's plane and her bones" was the reason for my finding the TIGHAR site, I now view the forum as an interesting Anthropological and Archaeological exercise.

Regardless of whether Amelia landed on Niku or not, it is a fascinating research which has perhaps inadvertently added volumes to the known history of Kiribati. The P.I.S.S. settlement on Gardner would have been quietly forgotten otherwise.

So whether it is information about Amelia and Fred, or whether it is learning about the history of the pacific the reading is stimulating.


From Ric

No apparent link to the bulletins section? Right there on the main Earhart Project page where it says "Current Research" there's a link called "Research Bulletins."

Although the forum may be an interesting Anthropological and Archaeological exercise, the point of the exercise is to discover what happened to Earhart and Noonan.

Subject: Re: Earhart's Radios
Date: 8/7/00
From: Vern Klein

I promise not to continue this off-topic subject on the forum.

Since Janet seems to have lost her receiving antenna on take off, I doubt you'll get any response from her. You may be interested to know that what she describes may be stretching '30s technology a bit, but not very much.

In the '30s and '40s it was a fun thing to try to "work the world" with a one-tube transmitter, CW of course, and a very simple antenna. You would probably try to do this on the 10-meter band during a solar max -- as in 1937, incidently. It was even more fun to also use a one-tube, regenerative receiver. It took patience and some skill, but those things were as sensitive and possibly as selective as the garden variety ham receivers available today. They're just not nearly as nice and easy to use. I built my first one in about 1938 and listened to hams and other short-wave stuff from all over the world. Of course, all of those were running more than a half-watt!

Subject: Original originals
Date: 8/7/00
From: Russ Matthews

I'm a little confused by the controversy over this issue. The documents I studied from the Leo Bellarts collection at the National Archives in December, 1991 had all the appearance of being the so called "original originals." The paper was heavy and turning yellowish-brown with holes running down the left side -- as if it had once been held in a three-ring binder. It was my impression that Bellarts had simply removed these pages from the primary radio log and kept them for himself. Have you ever had the opportunity to handle these documents personaly or are you relying on the Xerox copies I made at the time?

LTM (a true original),

From Ric

Thank you for that. I've never seen them in the flesh but have always relied on the photocopies made by you and Randy Jacobson. Sounds like there's little doubt that the documents at the National Archives are the original originals. However, for photocopies to exist that have different underlinings than the "originals," the markings that are now on the originals had to have been made AFTER photocopies were made of the unmarked originals.

Subject: circling, listening, drifting, etc.
Date: 8/7/00
From: Dave Porter

Am I missing something here? I thought the original reason for the uncertainty regarding drifting, listening, circling, or whatever in Leo Bellart's log was because Bellarts himself WASN'T SURE WHAT HE HEARD, as witnessed by the strikeover and word change in the original. (if it is indeed the "original" original) If that's the case, no amount of computer number crunching or data quality management or anything else is going to tell us for sure what AE really said. Now, maybe you could get Shirley MacLaine to channel AE for you, and you could ask her...(I hope everybody on THIS forum understands that last sentence as a joke.)

To Skeet Gifford-- That paragraph you posted was actually in a real corporate manual somewhere? If so, it really is a shame that tarring and feathering has gone out of fashion. For anyone who remembers the movie "The Princess Bride" the phrase "so I can clearly not choose the glass in front of me" should come to mind.

Love to Mother, who thinks that parameters and paradigms are part of the metric system.

Dave Porter, 2288

Subject: The overwash question
Date: 8/7/00
From: Dennis McGee

Correct me if I'm wrong -- DUH! -- but hasn't TIGHAR's previous research pretty much cleared up the issue regarding "overwash" at the 7 site?

My understanding is:

1. There may have been an overwash at the 7 site some time in Niku's past, which killed coral and gave the site its distinctive shape.

2. The 7 site may be the locale where a "castaway" died prior to 1940 and where skeletal remains were later found by Gallaghar et al.

3. If number 2 is true, evidence (water tank, drinking cups, holes in the ground etc.) of Gallaghar's continued search of this site was found by TIGHAR in 1994.

4. Because the evidence from 1940 was found in 1994, in all probability there has been no overwash at the site since at least 1940.

5. If number 4 is true, why give a rat's patoot about overwashes and what killed the coral in that area?

6. If number 5 is true, why don't we leave that area of investigation to a future generation of marine biologists/environmentalists?

LTM, who is sure to be corrected
Dennis O. McGee #0149EC

From Ric

It was 1996, not 1994. I think Number 4 is almost certainly true BUT what if the site was overwashed BETWEEN the time the castaway died and the Gallagher's arrival on the scene? Might THAT help explain why the skeleton was scattered and why he didn't find more than he did? I don't think so. I can't see an overwash scattering the skeleton and removing items like clothing but leaving the sextant box, the campfire and the dead birds intact.

If the putative overwash occurred before the castaway died I don't see that it has any bearing on our investigation.

Subject: Naming Nikus I -- IIII
Date: 8/7/00
From: Dennis McGee

Whazzup with this Niku eye, eye-eye, eye-eye-eye and a pee and whatever, you know? Roman numerals? Well, DUH!

I mean, maybe you should take a clue from the computer people and name your trips Niku 1.0, 2.0, 2.1 (this being a subordinate of 2.0), 3.0, etc. Therefore the new numbering for the many trips to Nikumaroro and the various associated side journeys would be:

  • Niku 1.0 is The Earhart Project Expedition
  • Niku 2.0 is The Return to Nikumaroro
  • Niku 3.0 is Niku IIIP
  • Niku 3.1 is Niku III
  • Niku 3.2 is The Kanton Mission
  • Niku 3.3 is The Fiji Bone Search
  • Niku 4.0 is the upcoming Niku IIII

Not only does this method show the true relation of each trip to each other trip, it also keeps things in date order. But most important of all it is way cool looking and proves that TIGHAR is a rad, edgy crew doing the extreme stuff and not a bunch of geezers drooling over typewriters as they play with a dead language and sip prune juice.

LTM, veni, vedi, vici
Dennis O. McGee #0149EC

From Ric

Hey, I'm the guy who didn't know who Cameron Diaz is.

Subject: Re: Radio log/Notations
Date: 8/7/00
From: Ron Bright

I meant National Archives not the Smithsonian and Leo Jr released them (after photocopying) in 1975; he gave me a photocopy of his "orginal."

Leo Jr recalled that there were two logs. One typed by Bellarts Sr., Galten and Thompson on a single typewriter and a second log was typed by O'hara. The Ohara log has the "½ hour left" which Leo Bellarts Sr disputed. Leo Sr's log had the "circling" typed over another word and recorded "half hour left". Time used was local Howland on the log which I think was ½ different from GMT.

Leo Jr attributed the circling v. drifting (or whatever) to Senior's "two fingered" typing method, but concedes "drifting" may have been the first word typed; but the subsequent carbons under the originals should reflect more accurately what was first written. A carbon was used in Leo Sr., typewriter but I have no idea how many carbons were made. Leo Jr. claimed that Capt Thompson told Senior to take the first orginal, not the carbon, and put it in Senior's safe aboard the Itasca as copies were "disappearing"!!

Ron Bright (keeper of a log)

From Ric

I think you mispoke yourself again. Bellart's log does not say "half hour left." It says "but gas is running low."

There's little doubt about "drifting" being the original word. It's easy to pick out.

So, did Leo put the original in Thompson's safe as ordered? If so, it's interesting that it never emerged as part of the official record. Is the copy in the National Archives then a carbon? That seems unlikely because of the erasure of "drifting." If the document in the National Archives is, in fact, not a carbon and if it got there via Leo Bellarts, then the Chief Radioman disobeyed the orders of his commanding officer (bless his heart).

Subject: Re: The overwash question
Date: 8/7/00
From: Tom King

Dennis, I don't understand what you mean by:

>1. There may have been an overwash at the 7 site some time in
>Niku's past, which killed coral and gave the site its distinctive shape.

The overwash question came up in connection with efforts to account for funny patterning on the reef flat offshore from the Seven Site. We've pretty much established that this patterning doesn't reflect coralcide, and that the most likely cause is siltation, whether from overwash or just a whole lot of rain, probably after the time the site was cleared and hence could erode. It's also been suggested (and I think it's a good suggestion) that slashing and burning vegetation along the shore, with the detritus washed out onto the flat, could have caused or contributed to the patterning.

In any event, lotsa rain OR an overwash could have happened after the castaway died, and after or during Gallagher's search; it just has to not wash everything away, and that's entirely possible. We're not talking about a catastrophic event here; just a lot of flowing water maybe a couple of inches deep. It could rearrange stuff, but wouldn't very likely wash it all away.

But your overall implication is on target; we've probably flayed this horse enough. Maybe there was overwash, maybe there was a big rain; we need to go take a good hard look.

Tom King

Subject: Re: Radio log/Notations
Date: 8/8/00
From: Ron Bright

Sorry, Bellarts log does say "gas running low" not ½ hour. I misspoke.

I reviewed my interview with Leo Jr. The way I understand it, Capt Thompson told Leo Sr. to put the original (top) typed log in his (Leo Jrs) safe aboard ship and a carbon copy of the log was given to Cdr Thompson as the "orginal." No notations or underling, etc. Leo Sr then kept the orginal typed log in his possession until Leo Jr inherited it in 1974, and then later donated to the National Archives. The donated log should not have any holes punched in the margin and should be free of any underlining, etc. It is my understanding that Leo Sr. gave a copy of this log to Long in 1973. Thus we may see various underlinings on the various photocopies. I have no idea how many carbons were used and whether there was any reproduction methods available for more copies. My log is annotated with underlines, ticks in the margin.

Drifting v. circling, in my opinion, means a lot to the AE mystery.

Ron Bright

From Ric

That all makes sense except that the Bellarts log in the National Archives DOES have ticks in the margin and underlinings as well as live signatures at watch changes. The copies I have of the "smoothed" logs have no such markings.

I don't think that the "circling" thing is a big deal. I think she said "listening" but regardless --- I can't see that anybody did anything different because that one word was misunderstood.

Subject: Lambrecht's View
Date: 8/8/00
From: Kenton Spading

Randy Jacobson recently wrote in regards to the photo of Gardner taken by the Colorado airmen:

>I've tried to address the question of the Lambrecht
>photo on the forum several times, and will try again.
>This was a photo of opportunity, and was
>taken, in my humble opinion, because the available
>charts of Gardner were so fallacious that some sort of
>document of the true shape/size of Gardner was needed to
>convince non-first hand observers of this fact.

Ric responded:

>Bottom line: he makes a pretty
>good case. The route back from Carondelet does take the flight near the spot
>where the photo was taken and the high altitude does suggest that the point
>of the photo was to show the whole island rather than some suspicios feature
>on the ground. (Good Lord. Did I just agree with Jacobson?)

I, like Randy, am getting tired of this point being continually missed on the Forum. When is the next round of agonizing going to begin over whether or not this photo shows Earhart's camp followed by Randy once again bringing everyone back to earth? This issue cries for a FAQ on the web which should also point out that it is not necessarily a photo taken by Lambrecht's plane (we do not know which plane took it). The basic FAQ facts could be pulled from the recent postings on these issues.

How about a new FAQ Ric?

Kenton Spading

From Ric

We can do that. (We HAVE the technology.)

Subject: Underlining
Date: 8/8/00
From: Dennis McGee

Ric wrote:

>However, for photocopies to exist that have different
>underlining than the "originals", the markings that are now on the originals
>had to have been made AFTER photocopies were made of the unmarked >originals.

So, I read this to mean that someone got to the originals in the National Archives and defaced them by underlining portions of the logs AFTER Russ and Randy photocopied them. If that is correct it would seems to be a fairly easy job of narrowing down a list of culprits by reviewing the logs of who had access to the documents after Russ and Randy. Who tells the National Archives about this?

LTM, who abhors the growing lack of civility she witnesses daily
Dennis O. McGee, #0149EC

From Ric

No. All of the copies Russ and Randy took have markings on them (apparently the same markings that are on the copy Ron got from Leo Jr.). That indicates to me that Leo Jr's recollection is not quite correct and the originals were marked up BEFORE they went to Washington.


Niku--the next expedition

Date: 8/8/00
From: Doug Brutlag

You mentioned recently that the challenge of raising the $$$ for the next Niku has begun. I assume you are looking for corporate sponsors. Is there any particular critiera you are looking for in a sponsor besides cash for the cause or equipment needed?

Doug Brutlag #2335

From Ric

We're an equal-opportunity beneficiary. We'll take anybody's money, with just a few exceptions:

  • It has been TIGHAR's long-standing policy to accept no sponsorship from companies associated with the tobacco, alcohol, or the gambling industry.
  • We're happy to do product endorsements and participate in advertising but we're going to keep it in good taste (for example: we would not cover the expedition team's clothing in logos like NASCAR drivers).
  • We're happy to accept equipment to use, provided we actually need it.

Other than that, we're open for business.



Date: 8/9/00
From: Ric Gillespie

Tom King has received the following reply from Karen Pery-Johnston:

Sorry for the delay in replying to your letter but I have been overseas recently. I am able to confirm that I am related to Eric Pery-Johnston, in fact I am his grand daughter ( he's my father's father) and we are the only Pery-Johnston family in the world as this surname was made up by Eric. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1980 in Auckland, New Zealand and therefore I don't believe our family would be able to help you answer the bone question!! Eric is survived by his wife, Edith who now lives in Australia but she has advanced dementia (she's 90). My father was 6 at the time that they lived in Fiji and therefore has no knowledge of this information. In fact we have received a number of other letters seeking information recently on the same topic. Anyway, I'll confirm with my father that we don't have any of this information at our hands.

Sorry I wasn't able to help any further, good luck with your endeavours.

Karen Pery-Johnston

Tom has replied with a request that she look into the possibility of surviving papers.



Re: Karen Pery-Johnston

Date: 8/10/00
From: Kenton Spading

Karen Pery-Johnston wrote:

>Eric is survived by his wife, Edith who now lives in Australia
>but she has advanced dementia (she's 90).

It is a good thing we did not take that statement too seriously in Funafuti. This condition does not necessarily disqualify her from providing information. These conditions can sometimes bring back very old memories (or leave them intact) while at the same time short term memory is fragile.

Kenton Spading

From Ric

Yes. We were told that Pulekai Songivalu, who lived on Funafuti, had been the schoolmaster on Nikumaroro in the late 1950s but he was now "senile." We asked that we be permitted to speak with him anyway. We found him sharp and lucid. He did not repeat himself or lose the thread of the conversation (as is typical in dementia patients). When he did not remember something or simply did not know the answer to a question, he said so. We even tried unsuccessfully to trip him up a couple of times. He turned out to be an excellent interviewee.


On topic Thunderjets

Date: 8/10/00
From: Marty Moleski

> From Dave Porter
> ... The Thunder Jet was the Republic
> F-84, one of several "thunder" aircraft from Republic which include ...

Dave left off the F84H "Thunderscreech," surely one of the most endearing of the breed. Relevance to forum: the prop on the F84H was designed to go supersonic. The noise generated was apparently unendurable for the ground crew.

Both Amelia and Fred would have been subjected to extraordinary noise generated by the prop tips swinging inches away from their cockpit. Even though they were used to the effect, the difficulty of communication with each other and over the radio may be a contributing factor in their loss.

Somewhat relevant questions: I believe that TIGHAR reports that Amelia would stuff her ears with cotton to deal with the noise of the props. Would she pull the cotton out of her ears on the hour and half-hour to make/receive radio calls? Or was the volume on her headset loud enough to penetrate the cotton? (Linda Finch is quoted as saying that the prop noise defeated modern Automatic Noise Reduction headsets.)

Second question: The search planes that left Hawaii and the Colorado (the Lambrecht trio) seem to have launched rapidly and without any fear of getting lost. Did they rely on radio direction-finding to navigate? How did the Navy navigation techniques differ from those used by E&N? Lower wavelength? Different kind of DF antenna? Just better equipment and training?

Third question: Part of a recent thread dealt with the proper antenna to use to generate the polarized wave-form. Had the Itasca ever supported direction-finding before this flight? Would the Coast Guard crew have been current on the best theories of frequencies and techniques to use?

A useless opinion (won't direct any search efforts): Seems to me, with the blessing of hindsight, that Earhart should have spent another couple of days making sure that her DF equipment was working correctly. The test flight in which she could not establish a null seems to me to be a direct foreshadowing of what happened on the morning of July 2nd.

Marty (#2359)

From Ric

Excellent questions.

I don't know if AE removed her cotton to listen for radio messages, but I would doubt it. I've used earplugs in loud airplanes and not removed them to listen to the radio (both speaker and headset). Voice seems to cut through even while the plugs help block the lower frequency engine/prop noise.

Not sure how the Colorado planes navigated. There may be clues in Lambrecht's report.

I'm not aware of Itasca ever supporting airborne DF before, although the ship had its own loop antenna and its personnel should have been familiar with DF in general.

I agree that Earhart's decision to depart Lae without a positive check on her DF was rash and, ultimately, fatal. It was also classic what-the-hell-let's-go-for-it Amelia behavior.



Shipboard DF

Date: 8/11/00
From: Marty Moleski

Ric wrote:

> I'm not aware of Itasca ever supporting airborne DF before, although the
> ship had its own loop antenna and its personnel should have been
> familiar with DF in general.

Was the ship's loop onboard because ships used radio direction-finding, too? If so, I guess [believe, imagine, suppose] the Coast Guard crew should have had some familiarity with the technology.


From Ric

Yes. It's my understanding that ships used radio direction finding.


Navigation by Lambrecht

Date: 8/11/00
From: Randy Jacobson

There is no indication in the records that Lambrecht's plane had radios, or that they used them for navigation. From what I can discern from the records is that they probably navigated by DR, compass, and time of flight. They could also visually sight the Colorado from a distance of 35 miles. My father was second in command on the Yamamoto Mission in WWII, and they did all their navigation by dead reckoning, hitting the right place at the right time after approx. 3 hours flight, including major course changes. This was pretty much standard practice back then. The Lexington planes, or at least some of them (flight squadron leaders??) did have RDF capability, or I should say the Lexington was able to RDF upon them, but no indication of frequencies used. There are liner notes in the official Earhart Search Report that demonstrate various angles taken during the search flights at specific times.

From Ric

"...they probably navigated by DR, compass, and time of flight." That's sorta what DR is.

In this day and age it's hard for us to imagine how ancillary radios were once considered to be. I ferried an airplane a thousand miles in a day, through some pretty nasty weather, without a radio of any description aboard (and that was in 1979). It's not a big deal, but you have to work at it. The Yamamoto mission, on the other hand, was an amazing feat.


Amelia's flight plan/contingency plans?

Date: 8/12/00
From: Ron Bright

When Amelia missed Howland after radioing her line of position, there are some who insist she had a specific contingency plan rather than an ad hoc decision to fly towards the Phoenix Is in search of an atoll. For instance, in Loomis' book The Final Story, he writes that Amelia had told her friends Eugene Vidal and William Miller before the flight, "If we don't pick up Howland, I'll try to fly back into the Gilberts ... (and) choose an island that has fresh water." Loomis believed they were some 170 miles north of Howland based on Paul Rafford Jr's plot and thus instead of flying to the Gilberts they headed toward the Marshalls.

My question, and probably beaten to death before, is Amelia's quote accurate? She simply could have changed her mind because of her position to fly south to Gardner. Loomis quotes Amelia but doesn't furnish a citation or source. Vidal and Miller must have been interviewed early on and made some comments. As I understand from prior forum postings, Amelia did not make any such statement and did not discuss any contingency plans.

Ron Bright

From Ric

We've looked, without success, for the source of the story that AE made that comment to Vidal. Neither Chater nor Collopy mention any contingency plan and, as we've discussed ad nauseum on this forum, turning back to the Gilberts would be a desperate gamble compared to running down the LOP.


Re: New research bulletin up

Date: 8/12/00
From: Chris Kennedy

Actually, I think that both pitot tubes might be visible in the picture, and we should not conclude they are not. If you look above the tube which appears to be bent downward, there is a broad, blurred white area up to the fuselage. This blurred area could actually be the two tubes, with the blurring effect caused by any number of factors (the angle/light/ film/speed of the plane etc.). Even though the picture was taken looking towards the port side of the plane, the starboard tube stands out because it is bent down, with the forward projection of the port tube being obscured by and within the blurring effect. I noticed that the wire attached low down on the starboard extension to the pitot tube. This would cause greater leverage on the tube and make it easier to bend the entire structure back. One thing it would seem to be fairly straightforward to do is to double check the measurements as to where the features should appear along the fuselage (tubes, masts etc.) and verify that we are seeing/not seeing the features (I bet Ric has already done this). Also, it looks to me like the fuselage immediately above the tubes is especially rounded, and thus, perhaps, shadows/light would fall on this area differently than it would under the wings (especially considering the length of the tubes and the fact that we don't know exact angle of sun/angle of plane and photographer to each other, etc.), so we need to be careful about reaching conclusions as to what the overhead sun would/not reveal based upon shadows caused by the wings. Finally, if available, it would be interesting to compare other take- off pictures of the Electra with this one, to see how they compare when concentrating on the pitot tube area/angles.

This is a pretty amazing piece of research. First, it begins with an old story long before the days of photoanalysis. Then there is the fact that the plane had all sorts of communications problems. Then photoanalysis fails to show the antenna where it should be (but that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't there). Further photoanalysis then appears to show the exact type of damage to the plane that one would expect if the antenna was being pulled off. Yet, because there were two tubes, the plane has a redundancy built in to allow it to proceed on the flight notwithstanding the damage (and, it appears that pitot tubes didn't work for all sorts of reasons, therefore not alarming the crew that some unusual problem had developed). The only thing I can add is that if they knew the antenna was connected to the starboard tube, that the tube was connected to the starboard airspeend indicator and the starboard indicator was not working, they might have suspected a connection between the an inoperative indicator and a lost antenna----but, this assumes a lot and appears to be very much an unrealistic, hindsight type of observation. At a minimum, it appears that TIGHAR has put together a pretty convincing case on this point.

--Chris Kennedy

From Ric

>...double check the measurements as to where the features should appear
>along the fuselage (tubes, masts etc.) and verify that we are seeing/
>not seeing the features (I bet Ric has already done this).



Re: Lambrecht's navigation

Date: 8/12/00
From: Don Neumann

The Lambrecht led flight was probably never more than a little over100 miles from their ship (USS Colorado) at any given time & they were probably well briefed on the ship's position/speed & course while they were aloft, as at least one of the planes would have had some radio contact with the ship, (likely 'key' than voice) which could have served to direct them back to the ship, after their mission was completed.

The most interesting observation, however, is that they were able find each of the scattered Phoenix Island landfalls (even though these respective islands were probably no more accurately 'charted' for them than was Howland for AE/FN) directly, with no reported difficulties & no DF or any other type of radio bearing from the islands & probably no more than a rudimentary compasses in their respective planes to guide them!

Don Neumann


Re: New research bulletin up

Date: 8/12/00
From: Randy Jacobson

If the forward pitot tube was bent, would that have caused erroneous airspeed indication, relative to the other one? If so, which pitot tube would AE and FN would believe? Does this add to the uncertainty of their reports?

From Ric

My sense is that damage of that magnitude would make the bent pitot system inoperative, but even if it was still working it shouldn't be hard at all for Earhart to figure out which one is accurate. For the takeoff she's going to be looking at the instrument in front of her and probably wouldn't even glance over to the copilot's side unless she suspected that her own airspeed indicator was wrong. She knows that the tail should come up at roughly such and such an airspeed and that by the time she has reached such and such a speed the airplane should feel ready to fly. In this case, my guess is that she's not paying much attention to the airspeed indicator at all but, rather, is fully occupied in keeping the damn thing pointed straight and "listening" to what the airplane is telling her through the seat of her pants and the feel of the yoke and rudders. When it feels right she horses back on the yoke and hauls the beast off the ground a little too agressively. She quickly corrects, lowering the nose a tad and letting the airplane stagger along in "ground effect" as it builds speed. Next she'll get the gear up and that will reduce drag and let the airplane accelerate to the point where, eventually, it can actually start to climb. Perhaps only then will she really notice what the airpseed indicators are telling her. If one is saying 100 mph or thereabouts, that's probably about right. If the other is saying 60 mph she knows it's screwed up because the airplane can't do what it's doing at that speed.


Electra's T/R Antenna

Date: 8/12/00
From: Janet Whitney

According to the Western Electric schematics for the Model 13 transmitter and Model 20 receiver, transmit / receive switching to a common T/R antenna was done by an electric relay keyed by a push-to-talk switch on the pilot's microphone.

The length for an efficient 3105, 6210, and 7500 KC Marconi T/R aircraft antenna would have been 40-80 feet.

It seems to us that the dorsal antenna was an auxiliary antenna of some sort. We wonder why, with all the Electra Model 10s that were flying in 1937, the purpose or purposes of the dorsal antenna or antennae weren't discovered long ago.

We looked hard at the non-enlarged photo of the Electra's take-off (the plane may have been moving 60 mph at the instant the photo was taken.) We can barely discern the landing gear struts, much less anything else under the plane.

Janet Whitney


Lost Antenna II

Date: 8/12/00
From: Cam Warren

A reasonable analysis, and congratulations to the forensic photo boys! I'd certainly agree one pitot tube appears damaged. And if the belly antenna was attached to it, the missing antenna theory would be conclusively proven. AND quite possibly, bogus air speed readings would result. (But probably NOT loss of communications, as I've consistently maintained).

BUT confound it, in typical "Amelia Mystery" fashion it now results in a NEW mystery. Why (apparently) the PORT tube? Unless, if the starboard tube was violently pulled off - a likely event - it MIGHT have snagged the port one on the way. In which case AE/FN were in deep doodoo and the eventual daylight dead reckoning dead wrong. (Mystery solved??)

But then there is the Lae hangar photo that shows a incomplete view of the Electra's underside, with NO visible wire OR mast. (Admittedly, it MIGHT have been removed for servicing, but that seems unlikely.) Yet another can't-prove-a-negative!

Further thought - even if AE did hear a nasty noise on take off, she probably was so glad to finally get airborne that turning back wasn't even an option.

Cam Warren

From Ric

I'm not sure which Lae hangar photo you're talking about but I have at least two that show the belly masts.

I don't think there is sufficient resolution in the photo to determine WHICH pitot we're seeing but there seems to be little doubt that the one we're seeing has suffered significant damage and could not give accurate airpseed readings.

Could Earhart and Noonan have navigated the airplane as well as they did (almost perfectly) for more than 2,500 miles without a reasonably accurate airspeed indicator? Their power/fuel management program did not rely on an accurate airspeed indicator, and their groundspeed was certainly not determined by the airspeed indicator. When you stop and think about it, (unless you're talking about large aircraft) the only time you rely on the airspeed indicator is during the approach and landing phase and, even then, it's not absolutely necessary if you know your airplane.


Pitot alignment

Date: 8/12/00
From: Andrew McKenna

Very interesting on the pitot tube photo.

Maybe it is just me, but the angles are sufficiently different to make me think that there may be an element of perspective involved. Just to double check this, is there another photo of the L-10 taken on take off that we can compare to?

Andrew McKenna

From Ric

There's an excellent air-to-air photo of the aircraft in flight with the gear down, taken near Bandoeng, Java. All of the antennas, including the belly masts, are clearly visible as is one of the pitots. The airplane is in the same attitude as during takeoff. The pitot orientation is just as it should be --- aligned with the aircraft's longitudinal axis.



Date: 8/12/00
From: Mike Everette

A recent posting by Janet Whitney mentioned that there was no radar antenna visible in a period photo of USCGC Itasca.

While this is a bit off topic, let's look at some historical timelines.

Shipboard radar was not in use in 1937, beyond perhaps the early experimental stages, and even then it would likely have operated at some low frequency. The British Radiolocation system used in the Battle of Britain was around 30 MHz. Very low resolution, but just enough to give them the deadly edge. The early search sets used by the US Army, such as the SCR-268, 270 and 271 (I believe the ones at Pearl Harbor, and in the Philippines in 1941, were 268s) operated around 157-187 MHz. The US Navy search radars such as the SG, used in big ships like carriers and battleships, also operated in this range.

The point of this is that the antennas were huge, not the "dish" or radome style. They often resembled huge bedsprings.

High frequency radar in 1942-43 meant around 500 MHz. This stuff (Navy ASB series) went into antisubmarine a/c like PBYs, TBFs, SBDs, and PB4Y/B-24 Liberators.

The first microwave radars operated around 2.5 GHz, maybe 3 GHz. (aka "S-Band") These were developed for both search (ASV, air-to-surface vessel) and blind bombing (BTO, bombing thru overcast). Some B-17s and B-24s in the ETO carried this stuff (often called flak-magnets because the German gun director radars could "see" it and range off the signals, or so our guys thought... not without reason); but the B-29 force was the first large scale application of microwave radar.

The next step up was X-band, around 9.4 GHz.

With higher frequencies you get (a) smaller antennas and (b) better resolution because the targets are a larger relationship to the radar signal wavelength (very simplified explanation).

Navy gun-director radars aboard ship used microwave radar as soon as it became available... the stuff was more reliable aboard ship than in a/c, and it used big heavy equipment (range computers etc, using vacuum tubes and servos rather than ICs) which required BIG airplanes to carry them.

Many Navy ships did not get radar until 1942 or 1943, some not until 1944. Even though, many old-salt Navy skippers did not like it, because it meant they were taking "direction" from enlisted men who manned the radars, and this (to the skippers) detracted from their command status. This bullheadedness cost us some ships, especially early in the war... like Guadalcanal in 1942.

LTM (whose resolution is always sharp)
Mike E.
Historian, Radio Communications Specialist (incl. Avionics and Radar)


Pitot Tubes

Date: 8/12/00
From: Birch Matthews

As you probably know, the pitot is usually configured to measure stagnation (impact pressure) as well as static pressure. (Static pressure ports do not have to be on the tube itself, however). The stagnation pressure orifice entrance is located at the forward edge of the pitot tube, while static pressure orifice(s) are located along the barrel of the pitot tube.

Do any of the photographs of Amelia's 10E in your files show the pitot details? In other words, might one be able to observe one or more orifices in the barrel of the tube? If so, that would confirm that she was using a "pitot-static" arrangement.

Forum readers who have speculated on how a bent pitot tube would alter air speed measurement might be interested in reports available from the NACA Digital Library. Reference to my old (1954) fluid mechanics text by Vennard suggests that reliable measurements can be had at angles as great as 45 degrees. The author cites a 1951 NACA Tech Note 2530, "Wind Tunnel Investigation of Six Shielded Total Pressure Tubes at High Angles of Attack," by W.R. Russell, et al. I hasten to add that I have not downloaded this report as yet so don't know if it is truly applicable to the situation with Amelia's airplane.

On the other hand as one Forum member indicated, airplanes fly at various angles of attack and yaw. Certainly the pitot is not precisely aligned with the direction of flight at all times. I suspect, without doing an analysis, that the instrument is not that sensitive to alignment. If the stagnation pressure port is misaligned, so also must be the static pressure port(s). Aircraft velocity = [2/rho x (P1-P2)]^0.5 where rho is the air density, P1 is stagnation pressure and P2 is the static pressure. So the indicated air speed Amelia was reading in the cockpit was based upon the square root of a pressure difference.

I suspect a sensitivity analysis will indicate the amount of error introduced by the misaligned pitot tube, and that it will not be as large as one might intuitively suspect.

Best regards,
Birch Matthews

From Ric

Perhaps we'll find that a bent-back pitot tube works just fine, but the point is that the tube rather obviously got bent by something and it's difficult to image what would do the bending other than the event we already strongly suspected.

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