Earhart Project Research Bulletin #19
11/29/99
Forensic Imaging Project
 

Update, 11/25/01

Subsequent analysis by Photek established that the “dash-dot” object in the 1937 Bevington photo was shipwreck debris and not aircraft wreckage.

 
The historical photographs shown below are being examined by Photek, Inc. of Hood River, Oregon in an attempt to determine whether the objects visible on the reef in the early photos are, in fact, airplane wreckage as reported by former residents of Nikumaroro (see the Research Bulletin “The Carpenter’s Daughter”). If the reports can be affirmed with photographic evidence, the implications for the Earhart investigation can hardly be overstated. Earhart’s Electra is the ONLY aircraft missing in the Central Pacific prior to World War Two.

In each case it is essential that we acquire the most original version of the photograph available for Photek to work with. Since the first posting of these photos (see the Research Bulletin “Forensic Imaging Project”) we have acquired better versions of several photos and include them here.

Photo #1

Bevington Photo of Norwich City.Eric R. Bevington, personal collection. Used by permission.

This photo was taken by British Colonial Service Cadet Officer Eric Bevington in October 1937. It appears to show debris of some kind on the reef in the same location where former island resident Emily Sikuli described wreckage which she was told was from an airplane.

Status:Photek has done a preliminary analysis of the negative of the copy photo we made in 1991 from Mr. Bevington's original print. (See Preliminary Forensic Imaging) The original negative has been lost and the original print has since been given, with the rest of Mr. Bevington’s collection, to the Rhodes Library at Oxford University. The university has declined to let us borrow the original print and we’re presently trying to work out a way to get a very high resolution scan of it. Photek’s work with the copy negative has yielded very promising results and there's an execllent chance that access to the original print could reveal much more detail.

Photo #2

Kiwi aerial photo of NC.New Zealand Archive ABFX W3639

This photo was taken in December 1938 by a Supermarine Walrus aircraft launched from the cruiser HMS Leander as part of the New Zealand Pacific Aviation Survey Expedition’s visit to Gardner Island. The expedition’s small chartered ship Yanawai can be seen offshore near the wreck of the S.S. Norwich City. The material visible in Photo #1 is not apparent in this photo but the tide is high and the wreckage was said to visible only at low tide. There are techniques for looking below the surface of shallow water which Photek will be using on this photograph to see if anything is there.

Status: Working with a copy negative acquired from the New Zealand Archive, Photek has confirmed that the object(s) present in the 1937 Bevington photo (see above) are also present in this photo but are submerged in the tidal water standing on the reef flat. This is consistent with anecdotal allegations that the aircraft wreckage was only visible at low tide.

F12/700 print, F12/121 general. Used by permission.

Photo #3

Kiwi ground photo of NC.Wigram Air Force Museum, NZ collection. Used by permission.

This is a snapshot taken by the New Zealand survey party sometime between December 1, 1938 and February 5, 1939. All we have at this time is a 500 dpi JPEG scan of the original print which is in a scrapbook of photos at the Wigram Air Force Museum in New Zealand. Even so, this photo, taken looking north out through a hole in the hull of the Norwich City, seems to show the same two objects that appear in the 1937 Bevington photo (Photo #1) although they may be partially submerged.

Status: We have only recently received this JPEG image (all we had previously was a photocopy) and Photek has not yet had time to look at it. The museum has declined to allow us to borrow the original print but weĠre hoping to get a higher resolution scan and a copy negative.

Photo #4

USNavy mapping photo.U.S. Navy photo. U.S. National Archives.

This is part of an aerial mosaic of the island that was made by a U.S. Navy floatplane (probably a Grumman J2F Duck) launched from the seaplane tender USS Pelican on April 30, 1939. The resolution in the photo is not great but at least it’s a direct overhead view of the area in question.

Status: We need to order a copy negative of this photo from the U.S. National Archives.

Photo #5

1941 USN photo of NC. New Zealand National Archive AIR 118 64/47c Print 412A. Used by permission.

This photo was taken in June 1941 when at least four US Navy PBYs visited Gardner and took various photos. This is a detail from a shot that shows the village and the western shoreline of the island. As is apparent from comparison to earlier photos, storm activity has broken off the stern of the S.S. Norwich City and debris has been scattered shoreward over the reef. At first we were shocked to see what looks like an intact airplane on the reef just beyond the shipwreck and, after thinking about it, we suspect that’s exactly what it is. We think that it’s one of the other PBYs making a low pass over the shipwreck. There's nothing obvious in the spot where debris appears in the earlier photos but, in the wake of the sort of event that would cause the sort of damage we see to the shipwreck, that is hardly surprising.

Status: Photek is using a copy negative recently obtained from the New Zealand Archive in attempting to identify the airplane shaped object on the reef.

Photo #6

USN photo of NC. New Zealand National Archive AIR 118 64/47c Print 411B. Used by permission.

This is another photo taken from a U.S. Navy PBY in June 1941 and shows an almost perfect view of the area we’re interested in.

Status: Photek now has a copy negative of this photo which we recently received from the New Zealand Archive.

Photo #7

1942 USAAC photo of NC.U.S. Army Air Corps photo, USAF Historical Center, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Used by permission.

This is a U.S. Army Air Corps photo taken in January 1942. It’s another excellent view of the area in question and should help us track the distribution of wreckage and perhaps figure out where we should be looking for the material that was on the reef before the storm.

Status: A TIGHAR volunteer recently took a copy photo of this image which is in the USAF Historical Center collection at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. We have forwarded it on to Photek.

Photo #8

1943 CG photo of NC.Jack Shea personal collection. Used by permission.

This photo was taken from a U.S. Coast Guard PBY in 1943 or 1944 and should be helpful in tracking the wreckage distribution pattern.

Status:We have a print made from the original negative which has been sent to Photek.

Photo #9

1953 mapping survey photo of NC.New Zealand Archive photo ABFX W3639 F12/700 F12/191. Used by permission.

This photo was taken in May 1953 as apart of a mapping survey of the island and should be helpful in tracking the wreckage distribution pattern.

Status: Photek now has a copy negative of this photo which we recently received from the New Zealand Archive.

Photo#10

1953 mapping survey photo 2.New Zealand Archive photo ABFX W3639 F12/5 F527. Used by permission.

This photo is also from the May 1953 mapping survey and should be useful for comparison to the 1939 overhead photo (Photo #4)

Status: Photek now has a copy negative of this photo which we recently received from the New Zealand Archive.

This Forensic Imaging Project will cost TIGHAR about $7,000. If you’d like to contribute with a donation of $100 or more we’ll send you an 8 x 10 print of the most revealing image the project produces (whatever that may prove to be). For a contribution of $200 or more we’ll provide internet access to high resolution scans of all ten of the images shown above as they become available so that you can do your own analysis.

If you’re interested in contributing just drop us an email.

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