Forum artHighlights From the Forum

May 7 through 13, 2000

Subject: Re: Island Communications
Date: 5/7/00
From: Hue Miller

Note: Forwarded for your general interest. Feel free to use all, any, or none of it as you choose. Mr. MacKinnon has given permission for me to forward this as i see appropriate. --Hue Miller

From: Colin MacKinnon
To: Hue Miller
Subject: Re: Islands radio question
Date: Saturday, May 06, 2000 1:25 AM

Hello, Hue,

Sorry for the delay in responding -- I've been in hospital with a broken leg after falling off a ladder and had to have a complete hip replacement.

You pose some interesting questions.

1. If the island was under British or Australian control it would have had English or more likely, Australian wireless equipment. Amalgamated Wireless Australasia (AWA) was formed in 1914 as an amalgamation of Marconi and Telefunken interests in Australia. After WW1 it became 51% owned by the Australian govt. and was given monopoly responsibility for all wireless communications around the Australian/British Pacific colonies. I'm not sure how much area this covered because India also had some responsibility further north. British Marconi would have been the supplier of equipment outside the AWA area of responsibility.

2. If AWA was responsible the radio equipment would most likely have been the precursor of the AWA 2B and 3B etc sets which were used sa coastwatch sets. It is important to remember that individual radio types did not suddenly appear, they were usually an evolution from existing sets over a period of time. Around the 1935 - onwards era the receivers were standard 5 valve domestic sets. Later, circa 1937, dual wave sets were introduced to take advantage of short wave propagation. Transmitters were British style, simple (even pathetically obsolete!) and developed for inter-island communications, govt. departments, eg. police, councils, outback offices etc. They used 2A3 valves etc until around 1940 when AWA introduced the 807 as a final output, with maybe 50 watts out.

3. The power supply was most likely batteries, with a petrol charger. Even in 1937, 240 volt power was tenuous at best and most outback and colonial electricity was generated in-house with 32 volt petrol generators. Some Australian farms still used 32 volts till well into the 1950's. It was very common practice for the wireless equipment to be run from 6 volt batteries with a vibrator power converter. Because they used battery valves, the consumption was not all that bad. I have also seen a pedal generator being demonstrated by an island native circa 1937, but suspect this was for portable use.

4. Note that I said 6 volt batteries. They did not use 12 volt supplies till much later when 6 volt filament valves came in. They would have had a number of 2 volt or 6 volt cells in series/parallel with a petrol charger or float charger to maintain charge. Because of the importance of communications, they would probably have some sort of back up in case of primary failure, ie an extra set of batteries. The battery cells would have been industrial grade and expected to have several years life (not like today's vehicle batteries, guaranteed to fail one day after the 12 month's warranty period!) Such batteries were very expensive so would have been carefully maintained by the operator. They would not have been discarded until absolutely stuffed! AWA was known to be "cheap" so they would have wanted to get the maximum value out of them. It is most unlikely that a passing ship would swap batteries or provide charging facilities -- too prone to catastrophe. The ship would have brought in adequate petrol and oil.

5. A warning light could be powered from the battery supply and would be more convenient and efficient than a flame. It would be interesting to know what the voltage was for the light bulb that was found. If it had a thick filament it was possibly 32 volt.

6. I've just remembered something. AWA did not sell receivers/transmitters to the islands, plantations etc. They rented them at an exorbitant fee. However they had a govt. backed monopoly and control of the wireless patents so could dictate what they liked. They probably provided a rented radio setup and employed an AWA operator for the installation on Gardner Island. When WW2 commenced many plantation owners had to flee leaving the radios behind or smashing them so the Japs couldn't use them. AWA then issued bills for the lost rental and loss of the equipment and threatened legal action against the poor planters! Nice company.

In conclusion I don't have confirmed data on Gardner Island and all the above is based on general knowledge of the era and practices. I hope it is helpful.

Subject: Island Communications
Date: 5/9/00
From: Tom King

Mr. MacKinnon's data certainly help put things in context. I don't recall seeing anything that looked like generator parts around the wireless station, but the place had been pretty well cleaned out, and we've certainly found plenty of petrol drums all over the place. But there are several sources for these, too. The main thing I see in Mr. MacKinnon's report is confirmation that wireless communications were quite fragile.

LTM (who's fragile but communicative)
Tom King

From Ric

Petrol drums? What petrol drums? There are steel drums (or what's left of them) all over the place and we found some drums down near the old Loran station that said "JP4" on the side but those are almost certainly from the 1975 USAF helicopter visit. I know of no drums that are known to have once contained gasoline.

Subject: Timelines
Date 5/9/00
From: Margot Still

Has anyone ever taken the evidence collected up to this date and placed it on a timeline? Sometimes you see interesting things when you do that, as well as think of questions that never occurred to you before now. It is a slow and tedious process, but in some cases can be very productive.

Also, in looking again at the Lambrecht Photo [which can be seen at Lambrecht Photo -- Ed.], has it ever occurred to anyone that maybe the N arrow might be indicating something other than direction? I don't know what it might be, but the thought crossed my mind.

LTM, (fresh from the Derby with other GRITS, who know it is the place to see and be seen)
MSTILL #2332

From Ric

Timelines R Us. I've done dozens, and you're right, they can be very revealing. I can't see that we've ever tried to put everything we've learned on one timeline but the one linked to the Bones Chronology on the website is pretty good. You can go directly to it at Bones Time Line.

Is the erroneous north arrow on the Lambrecht Photo something other than an erroneous north arrow? Worth thinking about. Both the arrow and the "N" are hand drawn. If it's not some bozo making an assumption about the orientation of the photo, what else could it mean?

Subject: Manuals
Date: 5/9/00
From: Hue Miller

Cam Warren asked:

>You said "Manuals for the WE aircraft radios exist . . . ." Where??
>All I've seen are some reprints of a page or two.

--Time for me to put up or shut up. I've put out inquiries re the early, 2-number WECo aircraft radio. Any specific models?

>But, most important "Bendix manuals are plentiful . . . ."

--Well, I sort of misspoke here. The WW2 era Bendix manuals are plentiful. RDF-1 I have put out inquiries on. The ONLY RDF-1 nomenclature I have ever encountered is seen in the Squadron Signal book, "TBD Devastator In Action". A factory photo of the radio-gunner position, before equipment was installed, has positions labled, and there is one position marked "RDF-1". No one I know personally, has ever seen a "RDF-1", and in fact all the TBD's we are aware of actually used a Navy type DU df-adaptor. This was a little tuner box about 6x6 inches by about 5 inches tall, topped by a fat, circular loop antenna about 12" tall. This thing sat right inside the plane and you can see it just ahead of the radio gunner's head, totally inside the canopy, in photos of such planes as SB2C. The tuner part tuned the loop from 200 kcs thru 1600 kcs and then fed the output right to the antenna connection on the ship's communication receiver. On the COM receiver, you tuned in the station you needed to df on (this using the ship's wire antenna), then switched from COM to DF, tuned the adaptor for best signal with the same station, then rotated the loop for a null on that station. The null of course points to the station, or 180 degrees away from it.

I can get a copy of the DU manual, which will also apply to the DW, if requested, and you think it would somehow help this investigation.

I don't think this thing would work inside a metal enclosed cockpit with only a few windows i.e. the 10E location. There was another version of the same adaptor, type DW, used on larger patrol craft, that had a longer neck or stem between the tuning unit and the loop, a stem of about 3 ft., so the adaptor could sit on the radio shelf, and the neck extended up thru the hull with the actual loop outside. However, photos of AE's plane don't seem to show any external loop, right?

I am wondering if the RDF-1 (Navy) is the same as the RDF-1 (re Bendix and 10E) and if this nomenclature was a prototype nomenclature for what became the Navy type DU. Could this have been the origin of the supposed "secret" or "classified" status of the RDF-1, its military origin? Otherwise, there's absolutely nothing in its technology so radical or original as to justify any "classified" status. Technical details of the military radio equipment of the time, were routinely rated "restricted" even when commercial models of the same class of equipment were freely available on the market.

> be thrilled and delighted to learn of a source, especially for the
>RDF-1 and RDF-2. The National Archives people indicate
>(verbally) that such material is "still classified" -- they think.

I think we can safely assume the mystery Bendix RDF-1 df adaptor had to be pretty similar in design to the Navy DU or DW. If you don't see a visible loop antenna how this equipment could have been working on AE's 10E is a mystery to me. The belly wire antenna that was possibly scraped off could only df - position with the A-N type radio-range airfield beacon stations, but were there any in the Pacific at this early date, I doubt it, and anyway that system does not require any adaptor or loop. As for any CLASSIFIED status still applying to such historic, lowtech stuff, that indicates incompetence.

>The successor to Bendix, Allied Signal, says they have NO
>historic Bendix material.

--Yes, i found that out myself years back. That's the rule rather than the exception.

From Ric

>However, photos of AE's plane don't seem to show any external loop, right?


Subject: Statistics
Date: 5/9/00
From: Mike Muenich

There is a point in "connecting" the cables, if not to AE's aircraft, to a circa 1937 use. I don't know if the subject of statistics has ever been discussed on the forum, but I am sure that a person/university schooled in the subject to draw some interesting conclusions based upon a statistical anaylsis of the artifacts found or discussed to date. While any one of the artifacts is not a "smoking gun", all of them, taken together with some form of statistical anaylsis, may "prove" the theory to a statistical probability. Tying the cables to the Electra, even if not exclusively, increases the statistical probability that the Electra was on or near the island.

From Ric

We've talked about that but so far no one has come up with a candidate with the right expertise who would be willing to take on the job.

Subject: Lambrecht Photo
Date: 5/10/00
From: Margot Still

The "N" and arrow bother me very much. I find it hard to believe such an obvious error could be made and cannot help but wonder if we're missing something right on the end of our nose. It keeps coming up in my dreams, in odd situations, which usually means I'm missing something obvious.


From Ric

It's worth remembering that we don't really know who took the Lambrecht Photo except that it was one of the six people who were in the air over Gardner that day. It's a poor quality photo and maybe not an "official" U.S. Navy photo at all. More likely, somebody happened to have a personal camera along and snapped a photo and the Navy decided it would like to have a copy. It's not hard for me to believe that somebody just wanted to be helpful by putting a north arrow on the print but screwed up the orientation.

By way of comparison, a very similar photo from almost the same perspective was taken by the Brits in December 1938. That photo has several hand-drawn arrows on it, but they point downward toward specific geographical features such as the main lagoon passage and the shipwreck.

Subject: Survivors' Camp
Date: 5/10/00
From: Mike Muenich

Has the survivors' camp of the crew of the S.S. Norwich City ever been located? If so, where is it in relation the the vessel itself? Has there been a detailed site examination if located? Is one planned for IIIIP? I note the reference in Vol. 15, p.55 to the photo of the New Zealand survey team depicting the site in "disarray" as opposed the Capt. Hamer's reference that "all provisions, etc. were placed in the shelter", seeming to indicate some care to protect them for future use.

If located near the grounded vessel it would also be near, a presumbably visable, to the Electra (TIGHAR hypothesis 2), if it were visible to the survey crew approximately one year later. If used by AE and Noonan (placed in disarray), then abandoned upon Noonan's death and AE's departure to other points on the Island (TIGHAR hypothesis 5) there may well be items from the Electra that were originally salvaged, then abandoned on AE's departure, either because she couldn't use or couldn't transport everything.

Has there been any analysis/enhancement of the 1938 survey crew's photo to "look" for such objects? Material salvaged by Noonan/Earhart would be a likely source of salvage for the new settlers and easily found in 1938 and no longer present. It's also possible that "goodies" remain that the settlers felt were of little value and left.

From Ric

All excellent points. No, we not have located the Norwich City survivors' camp. There were, in fact, three temporary campsites along that shoreline just off the bow of the ship.

  1. The December 1929 shipwreck survivors' campsite
  2. The October 1937 campsite of the Maude/Bevington expedition
  3. The December 1938 -- February 1939 New Zealand survey campsite

Unfortunately, that shoreline gets pounded by major weather events that may or may not have reached far enough inland to wipe out signs of a camp. We know where the New Zealanders camped but that site is close enough to the shore so that it probably got overwashed repeatedly. Farther inland there was a lot of clearing and planting activity in the latter part of the colonial era (1949-1963), so that's a problem. As you suggest, a close look at the 1938 aerial photo is warranted to see if we can spot anything that might be a campsite, but since we know that it was back under the trees, it's a long shot.

Some really focussed on-the-ground work during Niku IIII seems worthwhile for the reasons you mention.


Subject: Re: Lambrecht Photo
Date: 5/11/00
From: Randy Jacobson

A possible clue to the Lambrecht photo arrow and the reason it was taken was that the map of the island showed a much different configuration than what was actually there. My suspicion, and it is only that, was that it was taken as evidence for the Navy Hydrographic Office so that their maps could be updated or at least marked as probable error in size/shape. As for the N arrow, it must have been marked after the picture was taken (time for development - - duh!) and perhaps the annotator had forgotten actual course of the plane at the time of the picture, and just guesstimated. In fact, the N arrow could have been added months if not years later.

Subject: Sad Story of Confusion
Date: 5/12/00
From: Hue Miller

I have been rereading the radio logs at "logjam.html" site and the more I read, the more moved I am by how sad a story of confusion this is.

AE's Bendix, RDF adaptor apparently included an innovation included in the U.S. Navy's 'next generation' of df-adaptors ( series 'DU' ) : HF (shortwave) coverage. Unfortunately, she was under the impression this equipment was standard, including USCG ships. She had tried it out unsuccessfully at Lae.

William Donzelli tells me he read some Navy text stating that the HF-df feature of this later appearing model adaptor (DU), was found simply not to work, and was dropped in later production of this model. So all those RDF efforts were simply a waste of precious attention and time. I also wonder if this innovative feature was somehow linked with the talk about the 10E's RDF equipment being secret or classified.

AE could have homed successfully on Itasca, using the same RDF, but the Itasca would have had to transmit on the conventional DF bands- 200 kcs to 1600 or so. The ship certainly had equipment to do this, as all seagoing ships had equipment covering at least 400 -- 500 kcs with a few hundred watts power. If AE were to send df signals to the Itasca, on the other hand, she would have needed that trailing antenna to be able to use the lower frequency.

I wonder: if AE had all along been unaware that Itasca could not send voice on 7500, did she simply not hear the toneless rushing pulses of cw til she was quite close and the signals were stronger, quite strong? What I am wondering is, expecting voice on 7500, did she fail to have the receiver switched to CW on the CW/VOICE switch? Out a few hundred miles, with cabin noise, and electrical noise from the 10E engine, and atmospheric noise, it could be difficult to hear the the cw signals unless the receiver, via this switch, was set to reproduce them as sounds with an audio pitch. (The receiver is usually tuned so the "CW note" is somewhere in the range 500 -- 1000 cycles. ) BTW, the conventional wisdom was that CW was "10 times as effective" as voice, so IF the propagation & skip path allowed, you would certainly think the Itasca's 7500 kcs cw signals would have gone the distance, at least of a few hundred miles.

Also, I do not agree that AE at the last switching to 6210 was a fatal mistake. 20:00 hours is still early enough that this "day" frequency is still viable, and since you do not know the location of the aircraft, you do not know if the "skip zone" of either frequency favors or disfavors communication.

I am thinking that all along, there should have been more knob-twisting to arrive at the best frequency. I am also a little puzzled as to why a wide divergence in frequencies used by the 2 parties, over most of the flight: I would think the best one would be the best one both ways. Also, it kinda surprises me the USCG cutter didn't have equipment to specifically talk to aircraft -- if the Itasca's voice equipment topped out in the 6000 kcs band, that sounds like it was the usual medium wave ship voice radio, usable about 1600 to 6000 and some kcs. But this was 1937, still pretty early in the communications game.

The radio log and commentary are at Logjam. More "information" is also in an article in Insight magazine which summarizes the theories, including the far-out "Japanese capture" one, and the focuses of the different search organizations.

DE KA7LXY K (Hue Miller, who may be all wet)

From Ric

If, indeed, the Navy was modifying the "new" Bendix RDF adaptor for HF use (but it didn't really work), this could clear up the confusion about whole 7500 kcs mess. Suppose it was one of those units that Earhart received. That could be the source of Joe Gurr's comment that a "radio" arrived for installation in the Earhart plane in a box marked "U.S. Navy." That could also be why Earhart, in good faith, believed that she would be able to home on a 7500 kcs signal.

Earhart's switch to 6210 was not made in the early evening as you seem to suggest. It was just after 20:13 GCT which was 08:43 local time.

The Insight magazine article, by the way, is full of the usual inaccuracies and distortions of the TIGHAR story.

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