Forum artHighlights From the Forum

May 14 through 20, 2000

Subject: Drums (fuel or otherwise)
Date: 5/16/00
From: John Buontempo

3:00 AM. Mother's Day. Can't sleep. Got up. Overcame addiction to coffee. Can't overcome this addiction to search for AE/FN! I dunno! Gotta get a life somehow, somewhere!

[Note from Ric; I'll answer John's questions as we go along.]

Has the Ameriki site been thoroughly investigated?

Ric: No. Like any area that was once cleared, the entire Loran site is now an almost impenetrable tangle of scaevola. We've only nibbled at the edges and made a couple of forays farther in.

What was found there?

Ric: A scattering of junk. Pipes, a toilet, old Coke bottles, etc.

Are the Quonset huts still there?

Ric: Don't know. Should be.

How about a generator site for the Loran station and power for the rest of the site? I'll be willing to bet that the generator that powered the site was not your local hardware store, Briggs & Stratton powered, portable type.

Ric: I agree. It was probably a beast. We don't know if it's still there or not.

What did the Coasties do with all the equipment when the station was dismantled?

Ric: Supposedly, most of it was stored in the quonset huts. There was a brief article in Pacific Islands Monthly sometime in the mid-1950s entitled "Valuable Radio Equipment Rusts On Gardner Island" lamenting how the Americans abandoned much of the Loran equipment (which was probably by then obsolete and, like so much other WWII equipment, not worth retrieving).

What did the drums contain and what were the contents used for?

Ric: I'm not sure which drums you're referring to. We see the very rusted remnants of many steel drums around the village. we presume that they were mostly used for water collection and storage, but we don't know for sure where they came from.

I guess what I'm getting at is if the Coasties had vehicles on Niku, did they do any exploring or sightseeing on the island during their off-duty (?) hours -- particularly, around the Norwich City and the reef flat nearby? Could they have possibly found any debris of NR16020 or any signs of AE or FN and just didn't care or say anything?

Ric: According to the guys who were there, exploring and sightseeing were extremely limited. The commanding officer was concerned about "fraternization" with the locals and restricted his men to the immediate area of the station. Social trips to the village were organized and supervised. In fact, when I talked to the unit's CO (Charles Sopko, who now lives in Georgia) he was adamant that there was no shipwreck at Gardner. None of the veterans of the unit with whom we have spoken has any recollection of ever hearing stories about bones or airplane parts, much less finding any themselves. A few of them did, however, describe seeing an odd abandoned "water collection device" ( a tank with a tarp rigged over it to collect water). It was that story that eventually led us to the "Seven" site.

Subject: Search Sites
Date: 5/16/00
From: Dave Bush

On the website you evaluated different locations as to their similarity to Gallaghers "descriptions" as to where the bones were found. I realize that trying to tie any single one down is difficult, but I did have a comment on this one:

"By no stretch of the imagination is Kanawa Point on the south east corner (Point 2 above) or the south east shore of Nikumaroro (Point 6 above). Also, Kanawa Point was never planted to coconuts (see Point 8 above) and is within one mile, not two, of the nearest stand of coconut trees that were present in 1941 (see Point 10 above)."

As to the planting -- if they had found the body and artifacts here, would they have been likely to deem it "unacceptable" ground for digging, clearing and planting? The point is between two plantings and seem to have been "overlooked". There could be other reasons why they didn't plant here, but since it is so close to the village, it seems unlikely (to me). I can see someone being off on distances by as much as a mile if they aren't adept at figuring distance. Also, distances can be misleading in the jungle.

Blue Skies,
Dave Bush #2200

From Ric

Yes. Those are possible reasons in favor of Kanawa Point. We just don't know if the discovery of bones might make an area taboo. We do know that there is a ghost story associated with Kanawa Point. That is where Koata's wife supposedly saw Nei Managanibuka and we suspect that it's the place known as "Niurabo" which is sacred to Nei Manganibuka. That might also be the reason the area was not planted.

Subject: Re: Drums (fuel or otherwise)
Date 5/17/00
From: Hue Miller

>[From] Ric: Supposedly, most of it was stored in the quonset huts. There was a
>brief article in Pacific Islands Monthly sometime in the mid-1950s entitled
>"Valuable Radio Equipment Rusts On Gardner Island" lamenting how the
>Americans abandoned much of the Loran equipment (which was probably
>by then obsolete and, like so much other WWII equipment, not worth

Uncle Sam in general, and most notoriously, his military, has its own way of reckoning value, and a lot of usable equipment, even factory-new, has gone into the drink as "expended in use". Some WW2 electronic equipment was used into the 1960s (early part of Viet Nam war) and even 1970s (some navigation beacon transmitters and comm gear at small airports.)

>[From] Ric: According to the guys who were there, exploring and
>sightseeing were extremely limited. The commanding officer was concerned
>about "fraternization" with the locals and restricted his men to the
>immediate area of the station. Social trips to the village were
>organized and supervised.

There probably was a point to keeping GIs away from island people. And on a small island, the only way to do this was, I suppose, make most of the island, and not just the village, off limits. I had imagined this would have been a pretty interesting duty station, and moderate fun (at least for a while). But from what I've just learned, it now seems more like a prison sentence.

Hue Miller

From Ric

As a matter of fact, the inmates of Unit 92 actually called the island "The Rock." We've only met one veteran, Ernest Zehms, who claims to have done any significant amount of exploring around the island. The others describe days of boredom and lethargy.

Subject: Reineck Article
Date: 5/18/00
From: Ric Gillespie

I've read the latest article by Rollin Reineck which appears in the current issue of Air Classics magazine and offer my observations and comments below. For those who may not know, Rollin Reineck is a retired USAF colonel who has become one of the most prolific of the Earhart conspiracy theorists. Since 1993 his primary soapbox has been a "warbird" and WWII aviation enthusiast magazine called Air Classics. By my count, this latest is the eighth feature article he has written for the magazine, all of which beat the same drum: Earhart was a spy who was captured by the Japanese.

Of course, the big problem with the Japanese capture scenario has always been the utter lack of evidence that it happened. The entire legend has been built around a selective compilation of unsubstantiated stories, imaginative out-of-context interpretations of contemporaneous reports, and the peculiar paranoia that pervades the logic process of the clinical conspiracy theorist. This latest offering by Mr. Reineck, most of which is devoted to a re-hash of the traditional parade of researchers and eyewitnesses, also claims to present contemporaneous documentary evidence to support a key assumption in the captured-by-the-Japanese hypothesis -- that Earhart and Noonan turned northwest (337 degrees) on the line of position after failing to find Howland Island, and ended up in the Japanese-administered Marshall Islands. In fact, the title of the article is "Can't find Howland. We're turning north."

Oddly, Reineck begins his piece by quoting the final message heard by Itasca as:

KHAQQ to Itasca. (3105) We are on a line 157/337. Will repeat this on 6210. Wait. (6210) We are running on XX3 line. Listening on 62/0 kcs.

Reineck says, "This is the message that is reported in the radio logs of the Itasca." But that's not true. The original log entry looks like this:


Correctly translated, the message says:

KHAQQ to Itasca. We are on the line 157 337. Will repeat message. We will repeat this on 6210 kilocycles. Wait.

Then there is an operator's notation that the message was heard on 3105 kilocycles in voice (A3) at maximum strength (S5). The last part of the message is an addendum crowded onto the page and appears to indicate that another transmission from Earhart was heard after the operator thought she was finished. He is uncertain of its content but thinks she said, "We are running on north and south line."

Where Reineck got the "XX3" bit is a mystery and he seems to be under the impression that it was heard on 6210 kcs when, in fact, Itasca never heard anything on that frequency. The "Listening on 62/0 kcs" we can write off to Air Classics' famous talent for typos, but for a supposedly experienced Earhart researcher to make such fundamental errors in representing basic and crucial information does not bode well for the rest of the article.

Reineck then announces that the messages recorded in the Itasca's log "do not reflect the messages that were heard on Howland Island by Army officers Lt. Daniel Cooper and Lt. Henry Lau. It has been DOCUMENTED (emphasis in the original) that these two Army officers heard Earhart say she was turning north."

And where is this startling revelation documented? Reineck says it's in an inter-office memo written by a Col. H.H. Richards who was Air Liaison Officer in Australia and addressed to the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence at the War Department. Reineck does not provide a date for the memo but quotes it as saying:

Attached letter from a man in Australia alleges that the Earhart plane was shot down by the Japanese. It is definitely known that this is not the case. Miss Earhart was heard on her radio by Army personnel stationed at Howland Island and, judging from the strength of the radio signal, she passed quite close to the island -- some 50 miles or less. Shortly thereafter she stated that she was turning north and they continued to hear her at intervals, her signals becoming fainter each time received until she finally stated that she was out of gas. That was the last heard from her.

It is, of course, not difficult for a dedicated conspiracy buff to accept that all of the offical reports of events on Howland and aboard Itasca were falsified to cover up the certain knowledge that Earhart had turned north. Perhaps sending the Colorado to search the LOP southeast of Howland was part of the cover-up, or maybe the Army did not tell the Navy what it knew. Reineck certainly has no trouble assuming that Henry Lau, who is listed in all the paperwork as a Department of Interior employee, is secretly an Army lieutenant, and that somehow he and Lt. Cooper are hearing Earhart's fading messages on some unknown radio on Howland Island when, in fact, the Itasca's deck log and Cooper's report agree that Cooper was back aboard the Itasca at 10 a.m. Any good conspracy buff can explain all that away as part of the cover up and Reineck does say, "There is presumptive evidence (what the heck is presumptive evidence?) that the captain of the Itasca, anchored off Howland Island, also heard her, as he got under-way shortly after 10:00 a.m. to search the ocean in the northern sectors from Howland Island as the most likely area to look for her." (Psst, Rolly. Itasca wasn't anchored.)

What presents a problem for Mr. Reineck is that the same document that exposes the cover-up also confirms that it is "definitely known" that Earhart was not shot down by the Japanese and that she ran out of gas. If you're going to accept the document as the revealed truth, you can't pick and choose what part you want to accept.

Of course, a more plausible explanation might be that Col. Richards doesn't know what the heck he's talking about -- any more than Mr. Reineck does.


Subject: Last Transmission
Date: 5/19/00
From: Mike Muenich

Have just read your recent post about Mr. Reineck, which contains the actual language as logged on the Itasca. I think this is the first time I have seen the full content of the actual log. I have disregarded most of the material about Reineck, but the parenthetical at the end of the log caught my attention. "We are running on N ES S line". You translate this as "We are running on north and south line". I agree with your translation of N equals North and S equals South, this would appear to be standard compass interpretation or shorthand using cardinal points of the compass, but does ES equal "and"? You have printed the message in all caps, is it so in the log? Cardinal points of the compass are generally in upper case, thus I have no trouble with N and S being North and South, but if in fact the middle letters are ES, and not mis-printed in post, I have trouble making ES into "and". SE would be Southeast, could ES be East of South as a surveyor would call a bearing? For example, to show the direction of a leg on a survey, a surveyor might call a heading of 157 degrees as South, 23 degrees East, meaning to rotate the called bearing 23 degrees east of the cardinal point, in this case, south. I admit this would be the first time I have seen this done counter-clockwise. The ES must have meant something to the radio operator, but I question whether or not it meant "and."

From Ric

The log is in all caps. ES is standard radio shorthand for "and."

Subject: Coup in Fiji
Date: 5/19/00
From: Ric Gillespie

Several forum subscribers have noted late breaking news of a coup in Fiji. This is of intense interest to us not only because Fiji has been our staging area and embarkation point for most of our expeditions to Nikumaroro, but because our on-going research into the eventual fate of the bones is centered in Fiji.

Here's what the Associated Press is saying:

Fiji Prime Minister Taken Hostage
copyright The Associated Press

SUVA, Fiji (AP) --- After months of simmering ethnic tensions in Fiji, seven masked, armed men stormed parliament today and took the prime minister and his entire Cabinet hostage, saying they had seized power in the island nation.

The gunmen fired at least two shots from AK-47 rifles inside parliament before locking up Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, his Cabinet ministers and lawmakers of the ruling coalition in the legislature's upper chamber. No injuries were reported among the estimated 50 hostages.

Chaudhry is Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister and his year-old administration the first to be dominated by Indo-Fijians, a fact that has angered some indigenous Fijians.

Fiji is a Pacific Ocean island group about 2,250 miles northeast of Sydney, Australia.

George Speight, who described himself as the coup leader, said he had seized power on behalf of all ethnic Fijians. He appointed an opposition lawmaker as interim prime minister in Chaudhry's place and suspended the constitution.

Late today, he claimed all ethnic Fijian parties supported his move and said he had the backing of the Fijian military, local media reported.

His claim could not immediately be verified and the military could not be reached for comment.

Mobs of youths rampaged through the streets of Suva after the coup, burning and looting shops, while up to 5,000 people gathered outside parliament chanting and cheering in support of the attack. Happy truck drivers played reggae music.

Smoke hung over the downtown area as dozens of stores -- which are predominantly owned by ethnic Indians -- went up in flames.

Police imposed a curfew late today and troops fanned out across the city to protect private property. There was no indication the soldiers were moving to end the hostage standoff.

Speight said the ethnic Fijian-dominated armed forces "are passive but remain at the beck and call and the control of the civilian government that is in place at this time that is headed by myself.''

He also said Chaudhry and his supporters were safe.

President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara declared a state of emergency and appealed to the hostage-takers to release the lawmakers. He also urged the army and police to restore the rule of law.

"I regret to say what is happening today is not in accordance with the constitution and is therefore unlawful,'' Ratu Mara said.

The failure of Fiji's police and army to try to put down the revolt led to fears that the rebels may have widespread backing from native Fijians.

But one analyst said Speight had little support.

"He is a person who is, I think, politically naive, personally ambitious and eager for some limelight,'' said Pacific analyst Professor Brij Lal of the Australian National University.

"I don't think he represents any constituency except a group of disgruntled Fijians.''

Speight, the son of an opposition lawmaker, released a statement saying he had taken control of Fiji, a local news Web site reported.

"Through these actions I am asserting ownership, am asserting control and I am asserting executive power over Fiji. We have revoked the constitution and have set that aside,'' Speight said, adding that the coup leaders had also revoked the powers of the president.

Tension has been building for months in Fiji between ethnic Indians, who make up about 44 percent of the nation's 813,000 people, and the Fijians, who account for 51 percent.

The turmoil came on the first anniversary of the election of Chaudhry, who Fijian nationalists have accused of promoting pro-Indian policies.

Criticism centers mainly on attempts by Chaudhry to persuade Fijian landowners to renew expiring leases on farmland held by thousands of ethnic Indian tenants who are the core of his political support.

Both Australia and New Zealand called for the immediate release of the hostages and a return to the rule of law.

"I'm horrified that such an act should be carried out against a democratically elected leader,'' said Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who was on a visit to South Korea.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff urged Fijians not to support the power grab.

"The use of armed force to attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government is utterly unacceptable to New Zealand and other members of the international community,'' he said.

The U.S. Embassy in Suva echoed that, saying: "The consequences of any unconstitutional seizure of power would be very substantial.''

Speaking from Fiji, Australian David Pitt, finance manager with the Air Fiji airline, said some foreigners were preparing to leave the country.

Sitiveni Rabuka, a former army colonel who led two coups in 1987, visited parliament and pleaded with the gunmen to surrender, but they refused. Rabuka, who held power for 12 years after the coups, was accompanied by senior army and police officials.

He did manage to secure the release of speaker Apenisa Kurisiqila, the local news website reported. Rabuka left parliament and headed for talks with Ratu Mara late today. He did not comment on conditions inside parliament.

On the Net:

Fiji government:

Fiji online news service:

Subject: The Iceman
Date: 5/19/00
From: Skeet Gifford

Having read an earlier book about the 5,300 year old mummy found in the Alps almost a decade ago and having seen the TV documentary, I was none the less intrigued by a new book on the subject, Iceman, by Brenda Fowler, Random House, 2000, ISBN 0-679-43167-5. The bibliography alone is worth the price of the book.

The link to TIGHAR and its mission is that Ms Fowler does a disturbingly thorough job of documenting desecration of the site. While early mistakes are clearly the result of ignorance, some of the most grievous loss was suffered AFTER it was known that it was a unique and exceptionally valuable find.

Given human nature, is it not remarkable that ANY artifact survives intact?

LTM, who never saw a museum she didn't like.
Skeet Gifford

Subject: Codebooks, Wombats, and Coups
Date: 5/20/00
From: Kristin Tague

One late comment and one marginally on topic comment:

When I was going through the classified telegram and savings gram traffic from Sir Harry Luke's office during WWII there were regular references to code books being received and earlier versions being destroyed. I'll recheck and see if there is anything about Gallagher or other remote staff having regular copies of code books coming in. If so that could mean that Gallagher's communications were in code. You and Kent probably have a better idea than I , but I imagine that the majority of telegram messages from Gardener were sent to Fiji conducting regular business.

I wanted you to know that the official unofficial name of our "VIP" lounge here at The Research Libraries Group is the Wombat Lounge. It began when the President brought back a Wombat from an Australia trip and everyone that has gone after has brought a different wombat home. About 8 Wombats now but very tasteful with leather sofas and Persian carpet. Let me know if anyone whose nickname is Wombat might be in need of an official headquarters.

Re: the coup in Fiji. No saying if the coup will stand at this point -- it depends largely on whether the army and police take a stand on either side. Tom King and I have been chatting about this over the last couple of weeks because we could see tensions escalating. There was a coup in 1987 that re-established the primacy of indigenous Fijians and negated the existing constitution. After long years of talks a new constitution was put in to place about two years ago and elections held. The Fijians didn't consolidate their vote and an "Indian" government was elected. In the first year of holding office the government began to tinker with all the hot buttons ; reducing the power of the President (who is mandated to be Fijian), changing the infrastructure that protects Fijian land rights and opposing the Great Council of chiefs. The bottom line is that it is too bad the constitution and open elections didn't have much of a chance to get established before these major issues got stirred up. Once they did the result was pretty predictable. The final outcome of course is yet to be seen.

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