Forum artHighlights From the Forum

July 23 through 29, 2000

Subject: Tarpaper
Date: 7/24/00
From: Christian D.

What I find the most puzzling about a ROLL of tar paper, is that it would have been left behind.... At first glance, it should be a very valuable item to the islanders!?!?

Although it doesn't look like it is in much use nowadays... Thatch is still much used,so might have been preferred at the time. I guess tar paper needs very expensive support, like planks! Black paper would have been extremely hot too.... And not too good for rain water collection...

I'm still intrigued that it was the only valuable item left --- or forgotten, when everybody left in 1963...

By the way: I too am quite interested by Tom's paper re PISS and Gallaghar.


Christian D.

From Ric

It is not the case that the small unused roll of tarpaper at the Seven site was the "only valuable item left --- or forgotten, when everybody left in 1963..."

Lots of stuff --- steel cable, creosoted poles, etc., etc. was left up in the village. What is odd is that tarpaper --- specificaly tarpaper with green shingle material on one side -- is not something we see around the village or anywhere else on the island.

From Christian D:

Just thinking: the North American way of building houses with "matchsticks and nails" is quite specific to this locale. I don't remember seeing too much of it when I was growing up in Europe...

Do we know for a fact that it was in use in that British Colony at the time? Sawn lumber might have been too valuable to use to support tarpaper, when Gilbertese were so skilled with thatch...

If I had to bet 2 cents, I'd vote for an origin at the Loran station...

Just a thought...

Christian D.

PS: if I remember correctly from last year, there is pretty well NO SCRAPS of tarpaper to be found around the Seven, which to me seems to indicate that no tarpaper covered building was ever erected there. If it had been, there should be lots of papered rotting boards left on the ground. AND: if the building had been salvaged, it would be very strange that a CLEAN (not punctured with nails) roll of paper would have been overlooked! Could the boards themselves have been salvaged, without a multitude of tarpaper bits littering the place?

Or: may be there WAS a building, but it was never covered with paper, and that darn roll is just a misleading useless cue... Some Coastie's project, at another time, which was never built? We have to remember that the Seven was a real nice access to that beach, and must have been in use ( at least on and off ) for a quarter of a century, by different groups of people.

Subject: Re: Pery-Johnston
Date: 7/24/00
From: Ross Devitt


Janice (the source of the Info on the Australian Pery-Johnstons),
Denise (In Brisbane who contacted Rachael at the same time as I did),
and The Forum,

I followed up on Janice's info on Karen Pery-Johnston.

Karen is in Canada at the moment. I spoke to Rachael, her sister. John Eric Pery-Johnston was their Grandfather and died 17 years ago. His widow is in her 90's, and though I think Rachael may ask her some questions I don't know how her (the grandmother's) memory is --- we'll see what Rachael decides. Rachael Pery-Johnston is a charming person and we had a delightful chat in which I tried to briefly explain TIGHAR and the objects of the organisation and the story of the bones. (Me? Briefly?? lol)

I spoke to Rachael as she was getting ready to visit her father (John Eric Pery-Johnston's son). He was born in 1944, and lived over there (Fiji) until 1954. So he probably won't know much about the bones. However, Rachael is also going to check for journals, diaries, letters etc.

I have invited her to join the forum, and visit the web site, as the subject seems to interest her --- especially as the family may have been involved in the mystery to some extent.

Anyway, that's all the news for now. Denise (from Brisbane) may have more to add.


Subject: Re: Smithsonian's Electra
Date: 7/24/00
From: Hugh Graham

Monty Fowler wrote:

> With the Smithsonian's mania
> for accuracy, this otherwise fine model was missing numerous small
> details, mainly antennas, antenna wires and pitot tubes, but most
> noticeable was the lack of the large areas of orange trim that we know
> AE's Electra had on the final flight.

-----I believe this Electra is in fact the single pressurized XC-35 research aircraft which was powered by Pratt&Whitney R1340 Turbo-supercharged engines, rather than just Supercharged R1340's as on AE's L10E. This Electra was possibly the first Turbo to fly and was used by the US army to experience high-altitude flying with these features, which may explain the lack of pitot tubes and antennae.

LTM(who is pressurized also)
HAG 2201.

From Ric

I think Monty is talking about the little model of NR16020 that is displayed "downtown" as part of the main Earhart exhibit. It's simply a poor model. The XC-35 (last time I saw it) is in storage at the Garber Facility (aka Silver Hill), dust-covered, tucked back in a corner with the wings removed.

Subject: Re: Tarpaper
Date: 7/24/00
From: Bill Carter

Is it possible that the tarpaper is a leftover from the Loran station? This roll seems more like an item that the coasties would regard as having no value and simply discard. It's also a building material more typically associated with western construction as opposed to thatch. Given that there appears to be only one roll (if it really is the only one on the island and I have no reason to doubt that it is) one roll probably isn't enough to cover the roof of a structure such as a house. Ric, did you collect a sample or unroll the tarpaper? Perhaps it has markings on the back side or a manufacturers name that would help to identify its origin and age.

Bill Carter

From Ric

I can't say that it's the only roll on the island. We haven't seen any up in the village. There could be tons of the stuff at the Loran station. It's so grown up to scaevola down here that we've never really explored the area in any detail.

Most of the Coast Guard buildings were quonset huts with metal roofs but there were also some frame additions that could have used this kind of stuff as roofing material. The roll we found at the Seven site measures three feet long and the roll is now squashed flat, about one foot across. If I had to guess, I'd say that there might be as many as a dozen "layers", so that would be a sheet 12 feet by 3 feet. Like you say, not enough to roof a house. Maybe enough for a little shelter. I didn't pick it up but I would guess that the roll probably weighs fifty pounds anyway -- not something you'd tote around for the fun of it. I remember looking for, but not seeing, any markings on the back. I did not collect a sample.

What's it doing there? All of the other "construction" materials at the site (copper screening, the water tank, the sheet of asbestos) are fairly common in the village. It's hard not to think that the tarpaper is not also from there. I agree that it's a western material and that may be why it was not salvaged. If the Coasties had built a "beach house" over there I have to think that we would have heard about it before now.


Subject: 7500 kHz ADF non-result at 19hr:33 into the flight
Date: 7/25/00
From: Angelo Campanella

After some more reflection on the status quo existing at the time she was near the Itasca and trying localize via the ADF, I pose the following question:

Was the ADF working electrically, but the polarization of the 7500 wave arriving at her aircraft inadequate to the task of signifying the direction of the Itasca? Some radio physics:

For very low radio frequencies or long waves (e.g 500 kilohertz where most of the customs, practices and capabilities of ADF were previously established), the electrical polarization is customarily vertical (vertical antenna wires) and correspondingly the magnetic wave polarization, being at right angles to the electric wave, is horizontal. It is this horizontal magnetic wave polarization feature that is relied upon to effect the renowned "null". When the plane of a DF loop is set perpendiular to that magnetic polarization, all the magnetic field passes through the loop area and a maximum of radio signal is heard. When the plane of that loop is set to be parallel to that polarized wave, no signal is to be heard, i.e. a "null" occurs.

At intermediate distances, where the "ground wave" weakens and the effect of the ionosphere is not great, the wave will maintain its vertical electric polarization/horizonal magnetic polarization. At long distances day or nigt, it may become weakened and be accompanied by some noise, but its polarization remains relatively pure, and DF results are still useful.

At higher frequencies or shorter waves, and especially above about 1500 kilohertz (i.e. above the AM broadcast band), interaction with the ionosphere after sunrise can be substantial, causing phase of the wave reflected from the ionosphere ("sky wave") to be shifted, and whose polarization may be more complex, possibly elliptical or even circular. Furthermore, a practical antenna that emits a wave of pure polarization is more difficult to construct on board ship, so that the likelihood of a purely vertical electric and horizontal magnetic wave having been emitted by the Itasca that July 1-2 1937 day is questionable in my opinion. The Itasca broadcast wave quality appears to not have been tested to be proved of good horizontal magnetic polarization (i.e. free of elliptical components).

The likelihood that a wave of pure horizontal magnetic polarization (required to be able to create a null with an RDF look on a distant aircraft) had arrived at the Electra at its contact distance at the 19:33Z moment is and was remote. That is, Itasca 7500 kHz antenna non-verticality plus the mixture of sky plus ground waves that arrived at the contact distance (probably 40+-20 miles at that moment) made the expected ADF reception scenario to be what actually happened; "unable to get a minimum" (a minimum is the next best thing to a null, if a null is not possible). Thus, it is conceivable that Amelia never had a chance to localize at the distance she and Fred placed themselves from the Itasca that day with the 7500 kHz apparatus chosen for the flight, even given that it all worked perfectly.

Has any one researched this radio physics conundrum to determine whether the facts are as I have postulated them?

Angelo Campanella

From Ric

As Cam Warren delights in pointing out, my radio expertise is roughly on a par with that of the late Ms. Earhart's so I'll have to leave it to others to answer your question.

Subject: Re: Tarpaper
Date: 7/25/00
From: Mike Muenich

The more I follow the discussion on the "tarpaper" the more I think it ain't. What you seem to be descriping is roll roofing material, I believe it comes in 24" and 30" rolls, what you most recently referred to as "long", has a granular material, the same as the wearing surface on shingles, on one face and an asphalt impregnated fiber which appears on the other face when unrolled. Roll roofing is commonly used on barns and other buildings because it installs so much faster that individual shingles. Tarpaper is sometimes placed underneath, but not always, depends on local building codes if any. Doubt that Niku has or had a building inspector, and the coasties certainly didn't. Still doesn't account for the coasties dragging it to the "7" site though, one roll isn't enough to do much and it is heavy. One roll might cover a small shelter for one person, Galagher, but where would it have come from? If it came from the British, I would think you would have found lots of remants in the Village, it doesn't deteriorate much. If it came from the Coasties, you should find remants at their site.

From Ric

You're right. We've apparently been using the wrong term. Forget "tarpaper." "Roll roofing" it is.

Subject: Re: Tarpaper
Date: 7/25/00
From: William Webster-Garman

Ric wrote:

>there were also some [Coastie] frame additions that could have used this
>kind of stuff as roofing material

The US Military put up a lot of "quick and spartan" wood frame construction during that war. Does anybody know if they commonly used pre-shingled green tar paper (by the trainload)?

On the other hand, most of the other artifacts in the vicinity of the "seven" site seem associated with the village: It seems a little more likely that it came from there.

Do the copper screening and sheet of asbestos look like they were ever part of something, or do they appear to never have been used?

william 2243

From Ric

The copper screening was just a few scraps and the sheet of asbestos looked like a broken piece. There was also one shard from a broken porcelain plate but not the rest of the plate. The whole place had the appearance of having been not quite completely cleaned out of whatever was once there.

Subject: Re: Tarpaper
Date: 7/26/00
From: Richard Lund

What you call "tarpaper"sounds more like rolled roofing material. I was a roofer for about eight years and used quite a bit of the stuff. Especially on flat roofs or ones with low angles. Now an interesting thing is usually we would require more than one to cover an average size building. I put it to the forum that it's highly probable that some group (Gallagher or the Coast Guard) had more than one roll of the material and failed to take it with them when they left the area. This may seem an obvious oversight to leave some thing quite this large at the site but maybe they didn't feel like or have enough room in their equipment to take on the extra weight of the material. I can remember leaving materials behind on jobsites for like reasons, like it was to hot to handle after being in the sun all day or we thought we would return to the jobsite to get it later and then just never got back to it, possibly the same thing here. It is also nicknamed the "poor man's shingle"as it is generally cheaper to install then regular roof shingles.

As to why it was there to begin with, well is it possible that they were intending to build a site there and thought better of it? Due to the fact that it was on the ocean side of the island? Also does anyone know if the LORAN station was always intended to be placed on the end of the island? If it wasn't then was the "seven site" a possible location for it? This too could be the reason why the material was there--- they failed to take it when they retrieved any other supplies. That is if it were a possible site for the LORAN station.

Hope this helps.

ltm(not a member yet, but I did mail the cheque today)
richard lund

From Ric

Thanks Richard. As far as we know, the Loran site was always intended for the southeast tip.

Subject: Evidence at the Seven Site
Date: 7/26/00
From: Charles Lim

So far from what I've read from the last few days worth of e-mails, it seems that there are many artifacts that have been discussed to somehow raise the possibility that some kind of structure stood near the '7'.

The lightbulb, the ceramic bit, the tarpaper and maybe even the button, are all items we associate with some kind of dwelling being there.

How certain is everyone that there was something there and is there the possibility that more evidence lies beneath the surface? If the items found near the site are anything to go by, what is the probability that this is indeed true?

The increasing inability to explain the presence of certain items at certain places could just be a co-incidence, maybe??

Charles Lim

From Ric

You raise an interesting and rather basic point. When we find a number of artifacts in one location, how do we judge whether they are likely to be the result of one or several events? Obviously, if they are inconsistent in time association (a pocket calculator, a cannon ball, and a prehistoric pot sherd all found at the same site) we conclude that a variety of activities over time have left a variety of artifacts at the site.

At the Seven site we have (so far) artifactual evidence of two categories of activity:

  • the installation, and apparent later removal, of rudimentary infrastructure originating from the colonial settlement (tank, screening, asbestos).
  • the discharge of a firearm by a Coast Guardsman (carbine shell casing).

We also have other artifacts which we can not, with certainty, assign to a particular source (button, porcelain plate fragment, empty food can, metal barrel, roll of roofing material).

Because the evidence, both anecdotal and artifactual, of Coast Guard activity at the site indicates casual contact while exploring and plinking at birds; and the evidence of colonial activity, both documentary and artifactual, indicates construction and residence at the site, it would seem logical to assign the more ambiguous but infrastructure-related artifacts to the latter source.

Of course, we also suspect a third activity at the site --- the survival, death, and discovery of a castaway --- but we do not yet have artifactual evidence to support that suspicion UNLESS it turns out that the stain on the button was caused by contact with decomposing human flesh. That jury is still out.


Subject: The role of the roll
Date: 7/26/00
From: Bob Sherman

Worth nothing more than, FYI ... The std. roll roofing from well before WW II and still available, is "90 lb. Roll Roofing" also known as '90 lb. sq.' A roll was 36" wide and 34 feet long. It covered 100 sq. ft. [a 'square' to a roofer] , and weighed 90 lbs. [34' x 3' = 102 sq.' that allowed for overlap]. Inside the roll were one or two cans of tar, similar to a can of peas or corn, to tar the edges under the overlap. Roofs were seldom 34 feet in any dimension, hence partial rolls on a job were common; even prof. roofers would cut approx. length strips, roll up & tote to the roof; easier than 90 lbs. on the shoulder.

In the '30's I watched many a roll on a shoulder carried up extension ladders to the roofs of a second story house, and on our own, I helped tar the edges & nail it down. The depression years were do-it-yourself times.


From Ric

Hold the phone. You say, "Inside the roll were one or two cans of tar, similar to a can of peas or corn, to tar the edges under the overlap."

Very near the roll of material we found an empty can that we took to be a food can. It was roughly the size and shape of a can of car wax (about 4.5 inches in diameter x maybe 2 inches tall). It was the only can around and we thought it was a bit odd. I'm wondering now if it was a can of tar. The photo we have shows some kind of black material in the bottom of the can. We can certainly learn more when we return.

Try this. In the early days of the colony, before the coconut plantings had matured, thatch was a rare commodity (we have reference to thatch being imported from Hull and Sydney where there were already established coconut plantations). For the structure at the Seven site (whatever its size and purpose) it was decided to use roll roofing. What remains at the site is the unused portion of a standard roll and the empty tar can. By the time the site was salvaged for useful material (sometime after Laxton's visit in 1949) thatch was plentiful and the partial roll of roofing, like the rusty tank, was not worth recovering.


Subject: Re: Evidence at the Seven Site
Date: 7/26/00
From: Charles Lim

Thanks for your reply. I can see your point clearly. Evidence located at or near a particular site all relate to events which put them there. In the case of the castaway though, we have anecdotal evidence of the event but no physical (bones etc,)evidence of it.

You could put some items that cannot be clearly explained into one or more scenarios (generally speaking) that could explain their existance at the site.

Doing the reverse, finding evidence to corroborate a theory or a piece of written evidence, isn't so easy. I say this because it is a kind of catch 22 situation. If someone says 'an arrow killed the king' and then later wrote about it, how do we find the arrow or the wound on the king if there isn't a trace of it left years later to prove it?

If the seven site is indeed the area which the castaway perished, we would be looking for a very tiny piece of evidence that was left behind or something else that no-one has yet discovered to date. The stain on the button could be the ticket that proves the castaway theory, but it definately needs much more corroboration.

Charles Lim

Subject: Re: Tarpaper
Date: 7/26/00
From: Mike Muenich

From what I read this morning, it appears that the forum has further defined the amount of rolled roofing per roll, i.e. 100 square feet, as well as other information such a weight. Is the recovered or discovered a full roll or a remnant. If a remnant, approximately how many linear feet are in the roll? Going out on a short limb, I will speculate that the "missing" footage was used in the village, the coast guard station, or Gallagher's "shelter" at the 7 site, since I cannot conceive of any other use. Assuming that it was Gallagher"s "shelter", (limb gets longer) , you could approximate the size of such a structure by calculating the square root of the "missing" square footage to determine the dimensions of the building.

On the other hand, since the colonists removed everything that wasn't tied down when they left, and if natural roofing material (thatch) was hard to come by originally, I find it hard to believe they would abandon the remaining roofing when they were done building the "shelter"--seems they would have taken it back to the village for further use. Unless, by the time the "shelter" was built, thatch was available and this was reverse "salvage" from the village (the colonists preferring the cooler thatch to the hotter roofing) thus using it for Gallagher's "temporary shelter" becoming a judicious use of material no longer wanted or used in the village and avoiding the use of precious thatch for something that was to be temporary anyway. The coasties on the other hand, given the huge amounts of wasted material of all sorts during the war, would have little incentive to "salvage" the remnant, thus leaving it at the site. This of course begs the issue of why the coasties would have dragged it to the 7 site in the first instance. I think we are going in circles until further investigation can be done on "site."

Subject: Tar Can?
Date: 7/26/00
From: Bob Sherman

'Similar to a can of peas or corn' was not a clear statement. Although it bothered me a bit, I did send it. Bad me. Try Campbells soup. That is a better match. The cans were 'plain tin' [actually probably steel] with no label, about 4-5" tall & maybe 2.5" in dia. I suspect that they bought a batch of cans of some standard size for economy reasons. And I'm not sure that all mfgrs of roofing used the same size can. I think there was a 'kraft paper' label pasted on each end of the roll to keep the cans inside. Also I recall complaints of only one can in some rolls.

One would use a screwdriver to punch a hole near the rim, and then pour the tar out in a small stream just in from the edge of the previous strip laid, before before overlapping the next strip. When the soon to be ubiquitious 'beer can opener' became popular, every roofer had one just for the tar cans.


From Ric

The entire lid of this can seems to have been cut off using a manual can opener (like the ones on many pocket knives).

Subject: Can vs. Corrosion
Date: 7/27/00
From: David Osgood

The subject of the "tar can" at the seven site might be more significant than I first thought. I live about a half mile from the Pacific Ocean, and there is no way a ferrous can would remain intact in my yard for 60 years. The accelerated corrosion due to the salty air is quite substantial and I can imagine at the seven site it would be worse, because the increased temperature and humidity when compared to mid-coast California. Amongst some engine parts I left in my back yard a couple of years ago, I recently discovered a standard "soup can" I used as a temporary container for some push rods. After two years of being exposed to the elements, the can and push rods had heavy corrosion. So, I would give a can on Niku a relatively short life span --- 5 years max.

This would mean that the "tar can" may have been deposited at the seven site much later than is the current thinking. Therefore, there might be an undocumented visit to the site, and the assumed timeframe, and possible origin(s) of the artifacts need a revision. What kind of documentation is there for visits to Niku after 1963, and especially within 10 years of the discovery of the "tar can?"

Dave Osgood

From Ric

Interesting point. We have no hard data on how long a ferrous can could survive on Niku. We do see lots of steel barrels/drums that presumably date from the early years of the colony and are now reduced to little more than flakes of rust on the ground.

There were a couple of visits to the island in the early '70s by naturalists and the newly formed government of Kiribati did a survey of the island in 1978. TIGHAR's first expedition to Niku was in 1989, then we returned in 1991. We found the can in 1996. Those are the known visits and none of them includes a known visit to the Seven site.




Date: 7/27/00
From: Ross Devitt

The common colonial use for that kind of mesh (if it a flat piece) is usually insect screening on buildings --- usually sleeping rooms. It is commonly called "fly screen" but mostly used to protect against mosquitoes.

Another common use for it was covering a frame on a stand or hung somewhere to keep flies rats and insects off food - particularly meat.

One note here of course is that in the tropics you don't keep meat without a refrigerator unless it is salted. Of course once it is salted, you keep it....... In a screened enclosure.

Another obvious one is that on Gardner, if there were mosquitoes (or sandflies or other annoying pests) Gallagher would most likely have used a Mossie net over his bed. I'll accept that he may have screened windows at night, but cloth mosquito netting was easier to cart around the world than rolls of metal mesh. Having said that.... ????

The stuff used to be made from woven copper wire, sometimes a wire that looked more like brass. These days it seems to be made from nylon over glass cord.

If the holes are big enough it just might have been appropriated for use as a sieve...



Re: Roll Roofing

Date: 7/27/00
From: Richard Lund

Just called my father who used to do construction work when he was younger. He too can recall the use of this material. However he does not recall the cans of tar inside them. He didn't start construction work till around 1950. Perhaps this practice was discontinued by that time.

An interesting thing he did mention though is that the rolled roofing came in various thickness to correspond with years---i.e.5 years, 1/8 inch; 10 years, 1/4 inch; 20 years, 1/2 inch (the fractions may not be exact, dad is quite old remember). The same technique is used today to describe roofing materials. Not sure if this was true in the time frame we are looking at in our quest.

Ric do you have the dimensions of the roll at the "seven site?" I can't find them on the TIGHAR website. My line of thought here is that if we could determine what thickness the Coast Guard used during this time frame it might help determine if it was they who left it at the site. Would documentation exist about the supplies the Coast Guard used at the loran site? Would it be this detailed to include the thickness of such material? Would Gallagher use the same thickness and do we have anyway to determine if they had any of this material in their supplies? Again I didn't find much regarding this information on the TIGHAR website, but it might exist in his journals or some other documentation others would have access to. Would this line of thought be worth pursuing or am I grasping for the proverbial straw?

As an interesting side note, my father vaguely remembers the reports of Amelia's disappearance and my grandfather actually kept a few newspaper articles on the subject. They were lost years ago though when he moved from the U.S. to Canada. It was funny to hear him talk about it, I never before now thought about all the major events he lived through such as this. Makes a good point to all to appreciate our folks a little more though and makes me a little bit prouder to be a part of the search for A.E. and F.N.

LTM(within a week or two I'll have the number)
Richard Lund

From Ric

At this point we have no evidence that the Coast Guard on Gardner used "roll roofing" at all and we've come across no supply records other than the manifests of what was brought in aboard PBYs (which did not include construction supplies).


Second Skeleton

Date: 7/28/00
From: Dave Bush

Ross Devitt writes:

>The original story does mention two skeletons I believe, though the
>documented evidence only discusses "part" of one

Which brings up an interesting point. If they found two skeletons, why are bones only listed for one? Did they decide that one was most likely female and thus most likely AE, so they only sent in the one? Or was the story of the second one only anecdotal, with no actual skeletal remains? Or did they bury the other remains and just not bother to dig them up? If they did find two, why didn't they send in the other bones? If they buried the "other" skeleton, where did they bury it?

Dave Bush

From Ric

It's not at all clear how the anecdotal accounts of two skeletons got started or what happened to the other one if, indeed, there were two. What DOES seem quite clear is that IF there was a second skeleton, Gallagher was never aware of it.


Re: Evidence at the Seven Site

Date: 7/28/00
From: Marty Moleski

> From Ross Devitt
> The largest pieces of definitive evidence are still several quite large
> bones somewhere in the bush.... Unless they were later found and
> discarded (after the powers that be decided the original ones were junk)

The Kilts story associates Gallagher's death with the islanders throwing a bag of bones overboard. It seems conceivable to me that these bones could have been a later find. One hopes not.

Marty Moleski, SJ

From Ric

We've often struggled with that part of the Kilts story. So much of what he related -- bizarre as it once sounded -- has proven to be fairly correct, but the bit about bones in a gunny sack being thrown overboard is still at odds with anything we know happened.

Generally speaking, throwing bones in the ocean is not a Gilbertese thing, but it's not too hard to imagine a line of reasoning that went something like:

"So after Kela (Gallagher) died we found more bones. Last time this happened we buried what we found and Kela later made us dig it up -- and look what happened! This time we're taking no chances. These bones are going where no one will ever dig them up."



Re: 7500 kHz ADF non-result at 19hr:33 into the flight

Date: 7/28/00
From: Bob Brandenburg

Angelo Campanella writes:

> The likelihood that a wave of pure horizontal magnetic polarization
> (required to be able to create a null with an RDF look on a distant
> aircraft) had arrived at the Electra at its contact distance at the 19:33Z
> moment is and was remote. That is, Itasca 7500 kHz antenna non-verticality
> plus the mixture of sky plus ground waves that arrived at the contact
> distance (probably 40+-20 miles at that moment) made the expected ADF
> reception scenario to be what actually happened; "unable to get a minimum"
> (a minimum is the next best thing to a null, if a null is not possible).
> Thus, it is conceivable that Amelia never had a chance to localize at the
> distance she and Fred placed themselves from the Itasca that day with the
> 7500 kHz apparatus chosen for the flight, even given that it all worked
> perfectly.
> Has any one researched this radio physics conundrum to determine whether
> the facts are as I have postulated them?

I'll try to answer Angelo's question. It took me a while to dig out my files - - virtually everything in the house has been stashed in preparation for complete recarpeting of the old homestead in a few days.

We don't know much about the antennas aboard Itasca. Available photographs of the Lake Class show that there are no vertical whip antennas. There are what appear to be vertical wire antennas suspended from at least two points on the forward mast stay wires, but those also could be feeders for sloping long wire segments (at about 60-degree slope) integrated into the fore stays. If there were vertical wires, then the radiated field was vertically polarized. If sloping wires, then the radiated field was somewhere between vertical and horizontal.

But in either case, the polarization of the wave front arriving at NR16020 was almost certainly dominated by a horizontal Electrostatic field (and a vertical magnetic field), thus preventing a minimum or null, even if the DF system was operating properly.

Assuming that Noonan was able to determine time of arrival at the 337/157 degree LOP through Howland Island, but not his position along the LOP, then we have that NR16020 reached the LOP at 1912Z, when AE said "We must be on you but cannot see you".

Randy Jacobson's Monte Carlo simulation analysis, based on known and estimated flight wind data, shows that the Electra's most likely position at 1912Z was approximately 65 nautical miles (nmi) to the right of the intended track, which would give a closest point of approach (CPA) to Howland of about 65 nmi. My computer simulation analysis based on reported signal strength, and skywave propagation physics, yields an estimated maximum CPA of 80 nmi, which independently corroborates Randy's result, within the accuracy of the available input data.

Given that AE/FN arrived at the LOP at 1912Z and immediately turned toward Gardner Island, and assuming a ground speed of 130 knots, they would have been approximately 108 nmi from Howland (and the Itasca) at 1933Z. For that time and distance, the skywave arrival angle at 7500 KHz was approximately 70 degrees. Hence the signal arriving at the Electra was propagated via a Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) path, and the magnetic field component had a large vertical orientation, rendering it virtually impossible for AE to get a minimum or a null on the signal, even of her DF system was working. Multipath effects in the downcoming signal would have further complicated things by making any apparent minumum wander or swing in bearing.

The likelihood of a significant ground wave component in the Itasca's signal is minimal, both because of the distance involved, and because of radiated power limitation. We don't know what the radiated power was, or even the transmitter power delivered to the antenna, but we do know from a message sent during pre-flight communications planning, that Itasca was skeptical about using 7500 KHz as a DF signal because of a known power limitation, expressed as a short range capability.

Bob Brandenburg, #2286


Re: small screen

Date: 7/28/00
From: Ross Devitt

Ric writes:

> Way too big for that. we're talking about strips that are a couple inches
> wide by several inches long.

Now THAT might tell us something. If I am making up a flyscreen for a window (made several recently), guess what I am left with after the job?

That's right, pieces a couple of inches wide by the length of the frame that have been trimmed from around the edge of the frame....

Of course this doesn't say that's what it is --- but the technique is the same whether nylon/glass mesh or wire mesh is used --- you attach the stuff to the frame, cut off the excess, then nail on the beading.

The difference is that when cutting the nylon mesh one tends to cut the full length of excess off. When working with the metal screen you tend to cut it part way along, then cut that piece off before continuing because it doesn't just hang there out of the way like the modern stuff. The cut edges keep coming back to attack your fingers, hence the bits a couple of inches wide and several inches long...

Once again --- overt speculation, but based on using the stuff.

However... Were they making a window screen? or perhaps trimming the mesh to fit a smaller frame? maybe a sieve? To look for bits of bone.......

I would imagine if you were making a sieve you'd just fold the wire over the outside of the frame and nail it on that way, but even so, there would probably be bits needing to be trimmed off.

Th" WOMBAT (who just happens to be screening more windows this week to keep mossies out...)

From Ric

Sounds good to me.


Did a Flood at the 7-Site Kill the Reef?

Date: 7/29/00
From: Kenton Spading

A recent posting on the forum and a conversation I had with a Niku team member have caused me to take another look at the 7-site photos posted on the Web. Flood waters from the lagoon may have overflowed the seven site, picked up silt and sediment and in turn killed the reef.

A summary of my thoughts and some alternative theories follow:

1. Someone (I offer my thanks to that person) posted on the Forum the observation that portions of a reef can be killed by silt or sediment (dirt/sand) washing out over a reef from the land. This is an attractive explanation for the dead reef area offshore from the 7-site. But, at first I was bothered by this theory because I could not come up with a source for the sediment which would be subject to a burst of energy with enough duration to carry the amount of sediment needed to kill the reef. That is a long way of saying that I did not feel a large wave(s) from the ocean side could carry the amount of sediment off the beach necessary to kill the reef.

2. But then John Clauss (who has been on all the Niku trips and has seen more of the island than any other TIGHAR) mentioned to me that he observed an area of the island where water from the lagoon had flowed overland and back out into the water overflowing the sides of a bowl. The area he observed is down by the Coast Guard Loran site (not too far from the 7 site).

Let's examine these two ideas/thoughts together as alternative speculative theories that may help explain some of what we are seeing at the 7 site.

First, you might ask..."How can water from the lagoon escape overland and get back into the ocean?" Answer.....A large storm could, in theory, cause the water level in the lagoon to get high enough to overflow the portion of the land surrounding the lagoon. When storms hit the island from the west or northwest the wind and wave action causes water to flow into the lagoon through Taitiman passage.

Indeed, the 1997 NIKU 3 team observed the lagoon filling up during a storm. The water level rose a foot or so and flooded some portions of the island. A larger, longer duration storm, with higher winds (and maybe high tides) could pack the lagoon full of water to the point where the water would have no where to go but back out through one of the passages or......overland and back out into the ocean. It is a function of not only the volume of water in the lagoon but also what is called "Wave Runup". With Wave Runup (or Seiche effect) the water level along the shore (lets say the lagoon side of the 7 site) will become much higher than the rest of the lagoon as the wind piles the water up on that side. In effect the entire surface of the lagoon will slope uphill toward that shore due to the wind. As the volume of water in the lagoon increases eventually the water could spill overland to the ocean. In fact the spot where the water overflows to the ocean does not even have to be the lowest piece of land; it is simply the spot that is attacked the hardest by the wind. My office does wind and wave runup studies routinely on lakes and reservoirs to determine how high to build shoreline structures etc. etc.. I could go into a more detailed explanation of why the area near the 7 site in particular is a prime candidate for high wave runup but I would risk boring you with details about fetch lengths, shallow waves, deep waves and other sleeper subjects. If you want the dirty details, email me off forum. But...If you understand fetch lengths, see the first 7 site color photo on the web. You will see that a fetch line, when the lagoon level is high and some of the land near the inlet in flooded, could be drawn from the 7 site all the way back out for miles into the ocean (the fetch is HUGE!!).

In any case....I am proposing that water from the lagoon may (and very likely does), at times, overflow at or very near the 7 site and go back out into the ocean. This could explain some of things we are seeing in the 7 site photos on the We b site and explain the dead reef area. The reef is killed as water from the lagoon carries lots of sediment and sand from the land/beach out over the reef.

So let's look at the Web photos to see if any of this theory could make sense (see Seven Site). I will reference the 4 sets of photos as....Colorado 1937, Leander 1938, Pelican 1939 and Navy 1941.

The Colorado 1937 photos do not show much other than a suspicious looking jog in the lagoon shoreline on the left center of the photos. You can see this "bump" in the shoreline in the Leander photos just below the words "Lagoon Shore" You could speculate that this is an eroded inlet area (see the Leander photos) for the lagoon overland flow path to the ocean (very speculative based on these photos alone).

The Leander 1938 photos show a discolored area under the water extending from out in the lagoon toward the lagoon shoreline of the 7 site (a flow path?). There also appears to be bare ground in line with this extending from the lagoon shore over to the ocean. If indeed this is an overland flow path you would expect the area of the path to be covered with sparse vegetation that is not as thick as the surrounding area and thus more prone to the effects of drought (or recurring high water).

I won't say anything about the Pelican 1939 photos as the resolution (at least on my computer) makes it hard to even speculate about the area in question.

If indeed the Navy 1941 photos show human activity, why are they working at what I propose is a lagoon overflow site (albeit at the 7 site)? I speculate that if you are going to build a house for Gallagher on the tradewind side of the island, the overflow/7 site is the ideal place. The large 1940 storm that Gallagaher reported has come and gone and potentially overflowed the lagoon and helped clear a path from the lagoon to the ocean at the 7 site. There is less vegetation to clear in this area and there is easy access to both the lagoon and ocean. The house could be built on the higher ground next to the overflow path (next to a dry river bed so to speak).

Last but not least...the Navy 1941 photos show a discoloration of the reef area directly in line with what I propose is the overflow area. So, you could speculate that the photos show:

1. A discoloration on the lagoon shore side (see Leander 1938) which may be a flow path for lagoon water when it heads overland to the ocean (it could also just be a variation in the water depth or coral formation).

2. An area extending from the lagoon to the ocean that has sparse vegetation which could indicate the area has been affected by flood waters (e.g. vegetation and soils ravaged by sea water) (also see Leander 1938).

3. A discoloration of the reef on the ocean side directly in line with a large missing patch of beach front vegetation. This could indicate that water has flowed from the lagoon...over the land and out into the ocean (carrying silt which has killed the reef).

SUMMARY: I offer the above theory as something that might help explain some of what we see at the 7 site and the dead reef area. It certainly does not eliminate it from being the bones/castaway site.

Most of the current TIGHAR theory can fit within this framework. If indeed it is an overflow site, the artifacts that where found there could have been carried in by the flood waters.

Kenton Spading

From Ric

A couple of observations:

As I understand it, the coral on the reef-flat is already dead and so can not be "killed". The discoloration (an area of lighter color) we see in the 1941 photo seems most consistent with sand that has washed out onto the flat. The real question is the source of the water that washed it there. Is it backwash from ocean waves or is it overwash from the lagoon?

I agree that it is likely that portions of the shoreline southeast of the 7 site have been overwashed from the lagoon side during "westerly" gales. Evidence of that includes:

  • the absence of large trees in that area
  • the presence of two small "lakes"
  • the observation by the divers on the 1989 expedition that the coral on the reef slope (not the flat) just offshore that area is dead.

I do not think that overwash occurs in the 7 site area. Evidence includes:

  • the apparent presence of a "safety-valve" area just southeast of there (see above).
  • the relatively high elevation of the ridge that runs through the site.
  • the pattern of the artifacts found at the site.
  • the fact that a place that was known to be prone to overwash would be about the last place you'd want to build a house.



Re: Second skeleton

Date: 7/29/00
From: Phil Tanner

Something I haven't quite grasped -- when Gallagher set off for Fiji did he consider the search for bones complete, or did he think he might be asked to make even greater efforts on his return?

Phil Tanner, 2276

From Ric

Well, in the absence of a clear statement that "I now consider the search to be complete" anything we say has to speculative. Let us, therefore, speculate.

I think the chronology is instructive:

September 1940--- Gallagher arrives, hears about the buried skull, goes and finds most of the bones and artifacts and makes his intial report to his superiors on the 23rd.

October 1940 --- Much discussion between Gallagher and his superiors about what was found and the its possible significance, culiminating on the 26th with Gallagher being ordered to conduct an organized search.

November 1940 --- No message traffic at all from Gallagher. Later reports make it clear that weather turned bad around mid-November.

December 1940 ---No message traffic from Gallagher. Later reports say that the radio transmitter on Gardner failed around the 20th. On the 27th Gallagher writes a letter that will accompany the bones and artifacts when they are shipped to Fiji. It might be concluded that he considered the search to be completed at this time.

January 1941 --- The bones and artifacts are finally put aboard ship for Fiji on the 28th.

February 1941 --- Isaac commandeers the bones in Tarawa and, on the 11th, notifies Gallagher that they are those of an elderly Polynesian male.

March 1941 --- Ship with bones and artifacts aboard finally reaches Fiji on the 22nd.

April 1941 --- Hoodless examines bones and judges them to be those of a short, stocky European male.

May 1941 --- No activity.

June 1941 --- Gallagher leaves Gardner for Fiji on or about the 12th.

July 1941 --- In Fiji, Gallagher writes a note to file expressing his opinion that the castaway must have been an "unfortunate native castaway."

Based upon the above , my opinion is that Gallagher considered the search to be concluded by the time the he wrote the transmittal letter on December 27, 1940 and that Isaac's dismissal of the bones in February 1941 discouraged any further investigation except to satisfy his own curiosity.



Re: Small screen

Date: 7/29/00
From: Mark Cameron

During my short lived (and sadly unsuccessful) career as a home remodeler, there were many times when it was necessary to re-screen windows. The strips that were left over after trimming were much the same in size as those found on Niku. I think WOMBAT is on to something there.

LTM (who wishes she had brought mosquito netting with her)
Mark Cameron #2301

From Ric

Yes, I think this makes a whole lot of sense:

  • Gallagher gets his orders to conduct an organized search.
  • He doesn't trust the laborers so he makes arrangements to live on-site.
  • The roll roofing and the screen strips are left-overs from the construction of a small "house." A water distiller is brought down from the village and erected where we see it in the 1941 photo.
  • Everything is left there when the search is concluded (except perhaps the metal stand upon which the distilling tank is mounted. The tank itself remained.)
  • In 1944 wandering Coasties stumbled across the tank but never saw the house.
  • Laxton is shown the house in 1949.
  • Sometime between then and the abandonment of the colony in 1963, somebody dismantles and removes the house.

Works for me.


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