Earhart Project Research Bulletin
July 8, 2002
Artifact 2-6-S-45
Secrets of the Knob

The Seven Site is the place on Nikumaroro where Earhart may have lived and died as a castaway. Ironically, the smallest metal artifact recovered from that site during the Niku III expedition (August/September 2001) has been the object of the most intense research and is providing us with a real nail-biter of a drama as we close in on its identification.

When initially found, the artifact was thought to be a small metal cap for a container of some kind. Closer inspection, however, revealed an absence of threading and the presence of damage around the central hole which made it clear that the object had once been attached to a shaft. Knurling around the edges completed the impression that what we have is a knob which originally turned a shaft which, in turn, performed some function on an instrument or device. We were also pleased to see that there are raised symbols cast into the face of the object which, once deciphered, might provide a clue to the identity of the device it was once a part of.

Unfortunately, the figures on the face of the knob were illegible due to “insults” to the surface and a build up of what is probably corrosion product. As a first step in trying to coax the knob into revealing its secrets we recruited the help of the Nondestructive Testing Laboratory at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. The scientists there examined the knob using a Scanning Electron Microscope but the powerful magnification did not make it any easier to read the figures cast into the face. The SEM did, however, determine that the knob was made of lead with a steel reinforcing collar inside. That was surprising. We expected the exterior surface to be brass, aluminum, or even “pot metal” (a cheap alloy), but not lead. The soft lead surface did, at least, explain why the cast figures had been so easily damaged. To make the symbols more legible the Naval Academy lab removed some of the obscuring buildup with ultrasound in plain water. That helped some, but the symbols could still not be reliably deciphered.
We then sent the knob to our old friend Jeff Glickman at Photek Forensic Imaging in Portland, Oregon. Jeff experimented with a variety of techniques and found that the best results were achieved by working with digital photography in the visual spectrum using very precisely controlled lighting and then processing the acquired imagery with highly specialized software. Taking it one symbol at a time, Jeff was able to establish that the inscription on the knob says “PATENTED: NO.” and then a seven digit number. From that we could reasonably conclude that the knob carries a United States utility patent. Deciphering as many of the damaged digits as possible should make it possible to find the correct patent and patent drawings on the U.S. Patent Office.This is on-going research. Every few days we’ll add to this Research Bulletin with new reports from Photek as more numbers are deciphered. We’ll start with a photo which shows the artifact after it was “cleaned” by the Naval Academy lab and the reference numbers assigned to each symbol by Photek.
This is the full text of Jeff’s report on Symbol #1:

This is an analysis of a photomicrograph of symbol #1 on TIGHAR artifact 2-6-S-45, commonly known as “the knob.” The photograph is visually degraded because of the JPEG format which is used to enable email transmission.

This analysis contains 5 copies of the identical image which are separately annotated. Symbol #1 was chosen as the subject of the first photomicrograph because its value is substantively obvious, which makes it a suitable test subject.

Annotated Image #1: Original Image. This is the original unannotated image.

Photo courtesy Jeff Glickman, Photek Imaging.

Annotated Image #2: Obvious Outline Highlighted in Yellow. The yellow overlay highlights the outline of the symbol. “Obvious” means that a distinct change in height is observed in these locations. This is most easily seen dynamically while focusing the microscope, but is also recorded in a 2 dimensional photomicrograph as a change in brightness denoting a portion of the symbol casting a shadow onto the metal beneath.

Photo courtesy Jeff Glickman, Photek Imaging.

Annotated Image #3: Outline Missing Highlighted in Red. The red overlay shows a section of the symbol where the outline is missing. This creates a minor ambiguity in interpreting the symbol. At this point the two candidates derived from Image #2 are “R” and “P”.

Photo courtesy Jeff Glickman, Photek Imaging.

Annotated Image #4: Shadow #1 & Shadow #2. This image shows the last portion of shadow #1 oriented in the vertical direction, and the last portion of shadow #2 oriented in the horizontal direction. Note the width of metal used throughout the symbol. Compare this with the width of the metal located between the two shadows. This width is narrower, and therefore inconsistent with, the width of the metal used throughout the rest of the symbol. This effectively eliminates “R” as a possible value for the symbol. Note: the section of missing outline appears to coincide with either a record of an insult to 2-6-S-45 or a mold line (located diagonally across symbol from upper left to lower right).

Photo courtesy Jeff Glickman, Photek Imaging.

Annotated Image #5: Projection of Last Visible Shadow. The last visible portion of shadow #1 is projected in the direction of its orientation (vertically), and the last visible portion of shadow #2 is projected in the direction of its orientation (horizontal). This effectively demonstrates that the most likely conclusion for Symbol #1 is that it is a “P.”

Photo courtesy Jeff Glickman, Photek Imaging.

Conclusion: TIGHAR artifact 2-6-S-45 symbol #1 has a high likelihood of being a “P.”


Symbols #2 through #11 and Symbol #19 were similarly analyzed with the final results as shown below. In the next installment we’ll begin deciphering the patent number itself.

Photos courtesy Jeff Glickman, Photek Imaging.

P1 A2 T3 E4 N5 T6 E7 D8 :9 N10 O11 .19

Symbols #1-11, 19 Symbol #12 Symbol #13 Symbol #14
Symbol #15 Symbol #16 Symbol #17 Symbol #18

1 Imager: Custom CCD on Celestron Microscope.
Image Power: 40x (4x Objective 10x Eyepiece)
Image: Dzlitem30.tif
Illumination: Mole-Richardson Indirect 30 Degree Down Angle
7

Imager: Custom CCD on Celestron Microscope.
Image Power: 40x (4x Objective 10x Eyepiece)
Image: Dzlitem41.tif. Illumination:

 

2 Imager: Custom CCD on Celestron Microscope.
Image Power: 40x (4x Objective 10x Eyepiece)
Image: Dzlitem31.tif
Illumination: Mole-Richardson Indirect 30 Degree Down Angle
8

Imager: Custom CCD on Celestron Microscope.
Image Power: 40x (4x Objective 10x Eyepiece)
Image: Dzlitem46.tif
Illumination: Mole-Richardson from SSW 10 degree down angle.

3 Imager: Custom CCD on Celestron Microscope.
Image Power: 40x (4x Objective 10x Eyepiece)
Image: Dzlitem33.tif
Illumination: Mole-Richardson Left Side Direct 30 Degree Down Angle
9 Imager: Custom CCD on Celestron Microscope.
Image Power: 40x (4x Objective 10x Eyepiece)
Image: Dzlitem49.tif
Illumination: Mole-Richardson from S 0 degree down angle.
4 Imager: Custom CCD on Celestron Microscope.
Image Power: 40x (4x Objective 10x Eyepiece)
Image: Dzlitem38.tif
Illumination: Mole-Richardson Indirect 30 Degree Down Angle
10 Imager: Custom CCD on Celestron Microscope.
Image Power: 40x (4x Objective 10x Eyepiece)
Image: Dzlitem50.tif
Illumination: Mole-Richardson direct 10 degree down angle.
5 Imager: Custom CCD on Celestron Microscope.
Image Power: 40x (4x Objective 10x Eyepiece)
Image: Dzlitem36.tif, Dzlitem39.tif
Illumination: Mole-Richardson Left Side Direct 30 Degree Down Angle and Below Indirect 30 Degree Down Angle.
11 Imager: Custom CCD on Celestron Microscope.
Image Power: 40x (4x Objective 10x Eyepiece)
Image: Dzlitem51.tif
Illumination: Mole-Richardson direct 10 degree down angle.
6 Imager: Custom CCD on Celestron Microscope.
Image Power: 40x (4x Objective 10x Eyepiece)
Image: Dzlitem37.tif
Illumination: Mole-Richardson Left Side Direct 30 Degree Down Angle
19 Imager: Custom CCD on Celestron Microscope.
Image Power: 40x (4x Objective 10x Eyepiece)
Image: Dzlitem52.tif
Illumination: Mole-Richardson direct 0 degree down angle.

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