The 1937 Search

The Colorado Search

Background

The battleship USS Colorado was on a NROTC training cruise from the west coast to Honolulu, arriving at Hilo for a two day visit, then on to Lahaina area for gun fire practice, then to be berthed at Pier 2, Honolulu until July 6, 1937. The captain was Wilhelm L. Friedell, and four distinguished guests were aboard, representing their schools for NROTC training: Dr. Marion Luther Brittain, President of Georgia School of Technology, Dr. Lee Paul Sieg, President of University of Washington, Dr. James Washington Bell, Professor Of Money and Banking at Northwestern University, and Dr. Charles Derleth Jr., Dean of the College of Engineering, University of California. While in Hawaii, the Colorado was made available to the Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District, commanded by Adm. Orrin G. Murfin. Sometime before departing, Capt. Friedell met with Murfin and Capt. Kenneth Whiting, Fleet Air Base, Pearl Harbor, among other officers, to discuss the possible path and location of Earhart's plane. There was general consensus that stronger headwinds would have carried Earhart southeast of Howland, and that this area should be searched by the Colorado and its three Vought O3U-3 scout planes.1

Heading South

The Colorado left Honolulu at 1300 July 3, local time (2330 GMT). The original plan was to conduct search operations southeast of Howland by steaming eastward along the equator, covering a 120 nm front with the scout planes. Expectations were that four flights per day could be conducted. During the passage south from Honolulu to Howland Island, new information regarding the radio signals forced a deviation from the plans. Specifically, if the signals were from Earhart, then she had to be on land, and that surely would be from the Phoenix Island group, which was on the LOP provided by Earhart during her last transmission. Since the Phoenix Islands were SE of Howland, this hypothesis made sense given the Colorado's officers previous discussions with COM14. Finally, in response to an amateur radio report stating that Earhart was on a sandbank, it was decided that the Colorado would also search Winslow Reef, SE of Howland.

The Chronology

July 7
0135 COM14 officially put the Colorado in charge of all Navy and Coast Guard vessels involved in the Earhart Search, and the CG San Francisco office suggested that the Colorado search the section 320 to 360° from Howland out to 250nm. However, if the radio signals from the previous night were to be believed, and if what Lockheed stated about only being able to send radio signals on land were true, one could disregard this suggestion,2which the Colorado did.
0225 The Colorado informed COM14 that it intended to refuel Itasca, then would inspect Winslow Reef, the Phoenix Islands, and Carondelet Reef, an underwater reef outside Gardner Island.3
0505 Colorado told Swan to go to 0°N, 175°W at 8 knots speed.4
1005 Navy Radio Wailupe reported that several Hawaiian amateurs had heard a carrier on Earhart's frequencies.5 Itasca and Howland continued to hear snippets of carriers on 3105 kHz as well throughout the night.
1808 The Itasca rendezvoused with the Colorado, and began the refueling process. Various provisions were also brought aboard the Itasca. The refueling continued until 2208 GMT.
2122 The Colorado gave Itasca its search directions: go at 15 knots from 0°20′S, 178°W, searching along a bearing of 157° to 120 miles eastward, allowing for drift.6
July 8
0130 COM14 indicated to CNO his intention of releasing the Colorado from search duties once the Lexington entered the search area.7 There were restrictions on the time NROTC personnel could be away on training. These time restrictions caused a fair amount of consternation between Navy headquarters and COM14 staff.
0203 The Colorado launched its three planes to search for a Reef and Sandbank and Winslow Reef, both poorly located and position doubtful. They returned at 0424 without sighting them. As it was nearing dusk, the Colorado swung a wide berth of these poorly mapped features as it headed south towards the Phoenix Island chain.
1659 George Putnam asked the CNO what was known about Japanese efforts assisting in the search. He suggested that the Japanese search the Gilbert Islands which was in the direction of their mandate.8 Putnam seemed unaware that the Gilberts really belonged to the British, and that the Japanese controlled the Marshall Islands, north of the Gilbert chain.
1824 At dawn local time, the Colorado launched the three planes again for another look for Winslow Reef. The planes returned at 2206, again without seeing anything, despite perfect visibility. The pilots reported they could see at least 35 miles to the ship without any problem.
2100 The CNO requested that the Commander in Chief, US Forces, provide information regarding the miles steamed, barrels of fuel oil consumed, and avgas used.9 This message was apparently in response to criticism in the newspapers and letters to the CNO and the Secretary of the Navy about wasteful expenditures of supplies while searching for civilian airplanes lost in stunting incidents. At the same time, Colorado told the Swan to go to 2°S, 172°W and continue searching along that path.10
2320

Meanwhile, the Colorado launched its planes for the third time, again without results, and the planes returned at 0300 July 9th. Later reconstruction of the flights indicate that the planes did pass over Winslow Reef, but presumably due to tides and sea state were unable to visually pick out the shoal water.11 Two contemporaneous documents describe this search: a report from Lt. John Lambrecht, senior aviator aboard the Colorado, and a letter from Lt. John Short to his father, written during the cruise and mailed following its completion. Lambrecht describes the Winslow searches:

... the planes were catapulted with orders to search to the southward a distance of eighty to ninety miles to locate and inspect a spot marked on the chart as 'Reef & Sandbank'. This, according to the Sailing Directions, was quite possibly Winslow Reef, shown on the chart as being forty-five miles further south. These reefs are close to Howland and Baker Islands and there was a chance that Miss Earhart, finding herself short of fuel, might have chosen a forced landing there. The exact locations of these reefs are not known and, indeed, there seems to be some doubt as to their existence. Several ships have, at various times, reported passing over the Latitude and Longitude of Winslow Reef without encountering any 'Rocks and Shoals', and without even seeing any signs of anything but plain ocean. And that is exactly what the planes found, both on this flight and that of the following morning ... The following morning (Thursday) as the ship steamed south ... the planes searched an areaÉin a second attempt to locate these reefs. This area included by a wide margin their charted and/or reported positions. Search was conducted such that at least one of the planes would certainly have passed any point in the area at a distance of not more than a mile and a half. And in light of the subsequent finding of Carondelet Reef there is no doubt in the minds of the pilots and their observers that had a reef been there it certainly would have been sighted ... Anyhow the Senior Aviator wants to go on record as saying that the mariners (?) who saw and reported these reefs are probably the same ones who are constantly reporting having seen sea serpents!!! Suffice to say that the Colorado's 'some of the Navy's crack pilots' (we suppose the news boys will want to take back that appellation of undoubted distinction now that we didn't succeed in finding Amelia) did not see any reefs, rocks, or shoals in that area, much less any signs of a Lockheed12

John Short had this to say about the Winslow Reef searches:

We ... proceeded on southward, launched the planes about 2:30 [local time] and went out to take a look at the northernmost reef. (We crossed the equator on this hop. It was a good idea only we couldn't find the damn thing. We had a moderate run out, of about 85 miles and I'm reasonably certain that our navigation was fair enough because we hit the ship 'on the nose' on our return. In addition the visibility was excellent with moderate sea and swells. If there was a reef with breakers I don't see how we could have missed it. Wednesday night we stayed in approximately the same area and this morning we launched the planes again and went over the entire area between the unnamed northern reef and Winslow reef with a fine tooth comb without seeing either of them. I wasn't along on that hop but I'm certain that there could be no question of the navigation this time as the navigator had a good 'fix' from his morning star sights and the planes scouted barely out of sight of the ship and would return for a check at the end of each leg. About noon two of us went out again (the third plane had a hole in the main float which wasn't repaired in time) and again passed over the charted position of Winslow reef without seeing it. We continued to search anyway, in order to cover as much of this area as possible. A third flight went out in the late afternoon with the same object. In all we covered better than five thousand square miles just to-day and when I say covered I mean within a range of visibility of not more than two miles which is certainly enough to be sure of spotting a plane or rubber boat13
July 9
0347

The Colorado, after recovering the planes from their futile search for Winslow Reef, proceeded southward towards the Phoenix Islands, and launched its planes to continue the search for Earhart and to ensure that the Colorado would not run aground on the poorly charted reef. The planes searched on a 70 mile front, did not see anything, and returned to the ship by 0500GMT. Lambrecht says:

This covered a large water area where it was thought Miss Earhart might have been forced down. Here again the condition of the weather, the state of the sea and the extremely good visibility made it highly probable that the missing plane would have been found had it been in that area.14
1800

The Colorado informed COM14 that it intended to refuel the Swan on Saturday when it rendezvoused with the Swan near Canton Island. At 1826GMT, the Colorado launched three planes to search for McKean and Gardner Islands and Carondelet Reef. As the Colorado proceeded southward, passing between McKean and Gardner, the crew began its Equatorial Crossing Party,15 an old Naval tradition of transforming pollywogs into shellbacks. This party was delayed for some reason, and did not occur as the ship actually crossed the Equator, but some time later. As the Colorado proceeded, the bridge officers apparently noticed that Gardner did not appear to be as the charts indicated, and begin to take bearings from the bridge of the north and southern tips of the island. 16 These bearings could be used to precisely locate the Colorado as it passed the eastward side of Gardner during this time. A letter from Captain Friedell to the Navy Hydrographic Office reports that the position of McKean is well off the charted position, that a conspicuous wreck lies to the northwestward side of Gardner, and that the size and shape of Gardner are not correct. At 2207GMT, the planes were retrieved aboard the Colorado. Lambrecht reported the search results in his newsletter:

At 0700 Friday morning the planes were catapulted to search M'Kean and Gardner Islands, Carondelet Reef and the intervening sea area. M'Kean Island was visited first and when first sighted was about a half point [~5°] to port, bearing out the statement in Sailing Directions that the island's actual position is somewhat WNW of that shown on the chart. M'Kean did not require more than a perfunctory examination to ascertain that the missing plane had not landed here, and one circle of the island proved that it was uninhabited except for myriads of birds. Signs of previous habitation remained and the walls of several old buildings apparently of some sort of adobe construction, were still standing. M'Kean is perfectly flat and no bigger than one square mile. Its lagoon, like those of several of the smaller islands of the Phoenix Group, is very shallow and almost dry. This island had no vegetation whatsoever.

As in the case of the subsequent search of the rest of the Phoenix Islands one circle at fifty feet around M'Kean aroused the birds to such an extent that further inspection had to be made from an altitudeof at least 400 feet.

From M'Kean the planes proceeded to Gardner Island (sighting the ship to starboard en route) and made an aerial search of this island which proved to be one of the biggest of the group. Gardner is a typical example of your south sea atoll a narrow circular strip of land (about as wide as Coronado's Silver Strand) surrounding a large lagoon. Most of this island is covered with tropical vegetation with, here and there, a grove of coconut palms. Here signs of recent habitation were clearly visible but repeated circling and zooming failed to elicit any answering wave from possible inhabitants and it was finally taken for granted that none were there.

At the western end of the island a tramp steamer (of about 4000 tons) bore mute evidence of unlighted and poorly charted 'Rocks and Shoals'. She lay high and almost dry head onto the coral beach with her back broken in two places.

The lagoon at Gardner looked sufficiently deep and certainly large enough so that a seaplane or even an airboat could have landed or takenoff [sic] in any direction with little if any difficulty. Given a chance, it is believed that Miss Earhart could have landed her plane in this lagoon and swum or waded ashore. In fact, on any of these islands, it is not hard to believe that a forced landing could have been accomplished with no more damage than a good barrier crash or a good wetting.

From Gardner, the planes headed southeast for Carondelet Reef, sighting its occasional breakers a good ten miles away. No part of the reef is above water and, although it could be plainly seen from the air, the water over it must have been at least ten to twenty feet in depth. Finding nothing there the planes returned to the ship.17

John Short also described the morning’s activities:

Well, the search continued as per schedule -- we were catapulted at 7:00 this morning, went directly to McKean I. Thence to Gardner Is., on down to Carondelet Reef and back aboard about 10:45. We found nothing, but this was none the less a very encouraging flight for we at least had the satisfaction of making our landfalls as expected. The navigation checked astonishingly well, infact [sic], and did much to restore our self-confidence. McKean is a barren coral reef about a miles square with absolutely no vegetation except some patches short sparse grass. There were some ruins of old houses and evidences of old guano workings -- millions of birds but no other sign of life. Gardner was very different -- a ring of land surrounding the lagoon about 2 1/2 miles long by about a mile wide. Almost completely covered by short bushy trees including two small groves of coconut palms. There was the wreck of a fairly large steamer -- of about five thousand tons hard up on the beach -- her back broken in two places and covered with red rust, but otherwise fairly intact. Apparently it had been there less than ten years. Carondelet Reef was completely submerged with only occasional breakers -- we estimated the least depth at 15 or 20 feet. We felt right good about finding it at all under these conditions after a run of about 80 miles from Gardner Is. And this confirmed our conviction that Winslow and that other reef either don't exist or are a hell of a long way from their charted position.18

In the official report filed by Capt. Friedell to the Earhart Search Report, he submitted this second hand description:

McKean Island showed unmistakable signs of having at one time been inhabited. On the northwest side of the Island there appeared buildings of the adobe type. No one was seen on either Gardner Island or McKean Island.

McKean Island was such that a plane could have made a safe crash landing either on the beach or in the center of the Island. No dwellings appeared on Gardner or any other sings of inhabitation. A long shallow lagoon extends the entire length of the Island and through most of the width.

A seaplane could land in the lagoon and it is believed that a land plane could make a forced landing there, and the occupants walk ashore. Coral reefs extended out from the shore line for about 150 yards. At Gardner Island a four thousand ton tramp steamer has piled up head on and remains there with her back broken. Groves of Cocoanut [sic] palms grow on the western end and the entire island is covered with tropical vegetation. Myriads of birds cover both islands.

Carondelet Reef was under water but plainly could be seen from the planes at a distance of 10 miles.

This was of interest in regards to the possibility of Winslow Reef existing and the Reef and Sand Bank to the Northwestward of Winslow Reef. If the two existed, it is apparent from the way in which Carondelet Reef was seen, that they are many miles from their charted position.19

Friedell’s report, for the most part, is consistent with the flyer’s contemporaneous accounts. The one notable exception is that Friedell indicates that Gardner shows no signs of inhabitation, whereas Lambrecht states that it does.

It should be noted that a picture of Gardner Island was taken by one of the pilots or observers on the way back to the Colorado at fairly high altitude, but is mismarked as to direction. A copy of this photo was obtained from the New Zealand National Archives, as the original print has not been located. TIGHAR researchers believe that this single photo of the Phoenix Islands taken by the Colorado crew was taken as documentation that the charted layout of the island bore no resemblance to the real island.

2021 The CNO reminded COM14 that the schedule of the Colorado must comply with laws which forbade reserve officers being held longer than six weeks from embarkation, and wished to know how this would affect the Colorado search.20
2207 The Colorado directed Swan to proceed to Canton Island.21
July 10
0024

The Colorado launched its search planes to survey Hull Island.22 At 0423, the planes were recovered and Lambrecht reported the following incident:

At 1430 that afternoon planes were again catapulted and headed some seventy miles to the eastward to search Hull Island. In appearance, Hull is much the same as Gardner, somewhat smaller perhaps, nevertheless, similar in shape and formation, the same lagoon, with the same vegetation and identical groves of coconut palms. The one difference Hull was inhabited.

As the planes approached the island towards its southern end natives could be seen clustered around a large shack erected on high stilts and otherwise fabricated in what appeared to be conventional native fashion. (Page W. Somerset Maugham for further details of construction). When the planes zoomed the beach the the [sic] natives, dressed in their traditional loin clothes, turned out en masse to wave and yell (anyhow they looked as if they were yelling) and to wonder at such strange birds. After a circle of the island, during which other (and smaller) native shacks were noted, the 'village' was again zoomed. This time as many of the natives as possible were on the roof of their 'civic center' and all of them entirely naked waving their loin cloths! It is not known whether this is their especial form of welcome for oceanic flyers, but it was later learned that none of them had ever seen an airplane.

Although the lagoon was spotted with coral reefs that looked from the air to be near or on the surface, an examination disclosed a safe landing area at the southern end closest to the village. The Senior Aviator [Lambrecht] then decided upon landing his plane for the express purpose of making inquiries, and after a preliminary 'dragging', the plane sat down on the calm waters of the lagoon. (This lagoon was subsequently re-named after the Senior Aviator by members of the Second WardÉhydrographers please note). Almost immediately after the landing an outrigger canoe pushed off from the beach with what later proved to be three native boys and the white resident manager.

Writers of south sea island legends to the contrary, it took those natives exactly forty-five minutes to paddle three-quarters of a mile! But the wait supplied the Senior Aviator and his Cadet observer with sufficient time to take stock of their surroundings.

It was noted that the reefs which from the air appeared to be close to the surface were, in reality, at least four to six feet or more deep. A little sailing afforded a chance to pass over several of these and it was finally decided to turn and taxi down wind, closer into the beach, and to the approaching canoe. This we did and when settled down to wait, meantime limbering up the only 'shooting iron' (a Very pistol) which the plane boastedÉjust in case. (The Senior Aviator has probably been reading too many stories of the aforementioned W. Somerset Maugham).

As the canoe came nearer, the reason for its breathtaking speed was readily apparentÉthe natives were using small round poles as paddles! When within hailing distance we received a hearty wave and a cordial 'Cheerio' from the resident manager (Mr. Jones). He was a man of about medium height, deeply tanned, and dressed as may have been expected, in white duck trousers, white shirt and a straw hat, which he removed to wave at us. His appearance let one to believe that his nationality was German, due, no doubt, to his closely cropped hair and rotund face, but his accent proclaimed him British.

We told him we were searching for a plane which we believed may have been forced down somewhere in the Phoenix Islands, that the plane had left Lae, New Guinea for Howland Island a week past and had not heard of since, and we wondered whether he'd seen or heard of it. He replied that he hadn't and added that he possessed a radio receiver but had heard nothing on it. He was ignorant of the flight but evinced quisical [sic] surprise when told it was being made by Amelia Earhart. He then asked where we had come from and was considerably startled when we told him 'Honolulu'. We hastily explained, however, that our ship was some fifty or sixty miles to the westward, awaiting our return.

After informing him that we expected to search the rest of the islands, we took off, rendezvoused with the other planes, and returned to the ship.23

John Short’s description of Hull was:
We catapulted again at 2:00 this afternoon and went out some 90 miles to Hull I. This is very similar to Gardner only it is slightly larger and is inhabited. The population consists of one white man and some 30 or 40 natives who tend the coconut groves -- the principal export being copra. Johnny Lambrecht (our Senior Aviator) landed in the lagoon and talked with the white overseer in hopes that he might have heard or seen the plane in passing. He had not even heard about the flight in the first place -- lucky fellow! We got back to the ship about 5:00 and called it a day.24
According to British Colonial Service Officer Eric R. Bevington, who visited Hull in October of 1937, John William Jones’ need for a replacement transmitter was due to an incident which occurred during the solar eclipse of June 8, 1937. Jones, faced with a work stoppage by his Tokelau laborers working for Burns Philp Co, had told them that he would “black out the sun” by way of punishment. When the eclipse began as threatened, “They watched in utter disbelief: then one panicked, then all panicked. They rushed to the shack where [Jones] was reporting the eclipse on his radio, all tried to get in at once to beg him to restore the sun, and in the melee, vital radio equipment was smashed, and the radio station put out of action.”25

Lt. John Lambrecht did not know it at the time, but he had apparently made a diplomatic faux pas, in direct violation of the Navy Regulations. The following day at 0158 GMT July 12th, the Colorado informed COM14 that in accordance with Navy Regulations 1920, Article 352, Paragraph E, notification should be made that Lt. Lambrecht landed at Hull Island to contact the resident, but did not leave the plane. 26 The Navy Regulation in question states:

Diplomatic and consular officers in charge of legations or consulates shall be notified of the arrival of the ship in port.27
Similarly, the Colorado reported to the Commander in Chief, US Forces, that Lambrecht had flown over the Phoenix Islands, had landed at Hull, and that Fleet Regulations 1119 needed to be invoked.28 Lambrecht’s landing was turned over to the State Department, where it was determined that since the US did not recognize the sovereignty of the British over the Phoenix Islands, the US did not have to notify the British. A citation of the eclipse party on Canton in March was used as precedence.29
0218 The Colorado ordered the Swan to a rendezvous near Canton Island and told it to omit a search of the island.
0608 The Ontario returned to Pago Pago without being enlisted in the search.30
1000 COMDESRON2 sent out three messages at ten minute intervals, in an attempt to separate fact from fiction. The first, directed to Naval Radio Station Tutuila, asked to determine exactly what was delivered to Fred Noonan in terms of weather, and to verify this information with Lae, New Guinea.31 It would take a couple of days to determine this information, due to the vagaries of radio schedules with Lae. The next message was directed to COM14 to find out from the Department of Commerce a descriptive list, including the number, of Earhart’s plane.32 The final message was addressed as well to COM14 to determine whether Earhart’s plane was to the west or east when it passed and if the bearings changed clockwise or counterclockwise.33
1824

The Colorado launched its planes to search Sidney, Phoenix, Enderbury, and Birnie Islands, and recovered the planes at 2147GMT. Lambrecht reports:

On the following morning (Saturday) the unit was ordered to search four of the five remaining islands. Heading southeast from the ship, we soon picked up Sydney but upon dropping down for an inspection of that island could discover nothing which indicated that the missing flyers had landed there. The lagoon was sufficiently large to warrant a safe landing but several circles of the island disclosed no signs of life and a landing would have been useless. There were signs of recent habitation and small shacks could be seen among the groves of coconut palms, but repeated zooms failed to arouse any answering wave and the planes headed northeast for Phoenix Island ... .

Phoenix proved to be nothing but a blemish on an otherwise blue ocean. It was absolutely flat, bare and colorless and a disappointment in that it did not harbor the missing flyers. Its lagoon was nothing more than a shallow stagnant pool of rusty water and the only indication that the island had ever been visited by man was the stone cairn on the east beach. It was not deemed necessary to spend any more time in that vicinity and we departed for Enderbury.

Enderbury, although a bit larger, was much the same as Phoenix. Here and there were what appeared to be oases with a few surrounding palm tree. No signs of habitation were evident and an inspection did not disclose the object of our search.

Likewise, it required merely a cursory examination of Birnie Island (the smallest of the group) to prove that Miss Earhart had not landed here. Birnie, except for its size, might just as well have been another M'Kean and after two or three turns about the island the planes headed west for the ship.34

Short’s description of these activities was more to the point:
Saturday morning we were launched at 7:00 and inspected Sydney, Phoenix, Enderbury and Birnie islands in that order. Sydney was quite similar to Hull Island though somewhat smaller. There was a large coconut grove and some old houses but if there were any inhabitants they kept pretty well hidden [the Tokelou natives, working for Jones, worked both Sydney and Hull, but at this time were entirely on Hull, accounting for the "houses" on Sydney but no inhabitants]. Phoenix Enderbury and Birnie are almost completely barren and inhabited only by a million or two birds. My interest in ornithology was pretty well obscured by my anxiety to avoid too intimate contact with one of our feathered friends as one of those big frigate birds or any of the larger variety of sea gulls can be bad news to a propeller. We consider ourselves very lucky that none of us hit any -- apparently the sentiment was mutual, and they proved very adept at dodging us -- considering what little practice they've had.35
One of the most unusual reports made by the press aboard the Colorado was sent on 0825GMT July 11th, well after the search of these four islands. John Terry of the Associated Press sent in this report:
Fliers confessed hope lost Earhart as Friedell ended Colorado plane search sevening [Sunday evening - this was Terry's shorthand way of stating the date] unless possible final flight Monday. Phoenix astern steaming howlandward where refuel destroyers Monday. Letters scooped in Sidney Beach spelling dozens Polynesian works including KELE FASSAU MOLEI seen from air but pilot said life unsighted discounting possibility were messages relating lost plane.36
These words are indeed native words, but do not make sense together. Correspondence with Dr. Niko Besnier, a Pacific language expert at Yale University, informed to TIGHAR that “kele” is a root word in several Central Pacific languages and means earth or soil. “Fassau” is unknown, and that the double “S” is very unusual. “Molei” appears to be similar to a Tokelau word “mole” meaning nothing left. The words could have been a hoax perpetrated by the Colorado pilots upon the newsmen, but then someone must have known a native language. On the other hand, these words could have been seen by the pilots, but no mention is made of them by either Short or Lambrecht.
2040 COMDESRON2 sent a message to COM14 that it would be extremely advantageous for the Colorado to cover the Phoenix Islands completely so that those islands could be removed from the Lexington plans for search areas.37
2215 COM14 asked the Commandant 11th Naval District in Los Angeles to ask Lockheed about established facts about Earhart’s plane: maximum distance in still air with 1100 gallons of fuel, maximum distance with 53 miles/gallon consumption, air speed at full load and running economical speed, and total fuel capacity.38
2235 COM14 asked CNO to initiate a request for permission to search the Gilbert Islands, if that proved necessary, from British authorities.39
2320 The Swan and Colorado rendezvoused for fueling the Swan just offshore of Canton Island.40 Refueling was completed at 0147GMT on July 11th.
July 11
0200 Japan notified the American Embassy in Tokyo that the Koshu was now in the Marshall Islands, and was helping in the search for Earhart.41
0214

After refueling the Swan, the Colorado launched its planes to search Canton Island, the final island in the Phoenix Island group. The planes were recovered at 0350GMT, and the Colorado began to head towards Howland to rendezvous with the Lexington destroyers for refueling.42 Lambrecht finished his report about the Canton search:

Canton Island, the northernmost of the Phoenix Group, was searched that afternoon. It held the Colorado's only remaining hopes of finding Miss Earhart and her missing navigator. Search here, however, proved as fruitless as that of the other islands and hopes of locating the unfortunate flyers were virtually abandoned ...

Canton proved to be the biggest of the Phoenix group, but showed little difference in appearance from the others. It took approximately fifteen minutes for the planes to make one circle, and although one end was covered by a heavy rain squall, a careful search was made of the island and its lagoon. Vegetation is sparse and not more than half a dozen palm trees exist on the entire island. At the Western end there still remained the shacks and various constructions of the eclipse expedition. The broad blue expanse of the lagoon was broken at regular intervals by transverse coral reefs and, except for these, the water appeared to be fathoms deep. At either end (eastern and western) an area of open water could be found sufficiently large for operations of any size seaplane or air boat. No signs of contemporary habitation were visible.43

Short describes the Canton Island search:

Saturday afternoon we had completed refueling the Swan and made a short flight to look over Canton Island. It is by far the largest of the group but the strip of land surrounding the lagoon is extremely narrow and barren. This was the island used by the recent eclipse expedition -- their shacks and concrete bases for their telescopes were still there, completely deserted, of course, and lending a still more desolate atmosphere to the place.44

While the planes were airborne searching Canton, COMDESRON2 sent a message to Colorado stating that it recommended a rendezvous at 5°50′N, 173°15′W at 1830GMT on July 12th for refueling the destroyers. 45

0330 After receiving a confirmation from the Colorado, COMDESRON2, physically located aboard the Lexington, directed the destroyers to go to that coordinate, and after refueling, prepare to execute search plan number 2 (62 planes) by 1730GMT July 13th.46
0535 The Colorado updated COMDESRON2 about previous searches by Itasca, Swan, and itself, and suggested to them including the Swan and Itasca in its search plans.47
0700 COMDESRON2 informed COM14 of its plans, and added that it would search to the west of Howland after its first search with 42 planes.48
1453 The Commandant of the 12th Naval District informed COM14 that Earhart’s plane was numbered X16020 [sic], a standard Lockheed Electra with two motors and colored dural with orange trim.49 Once again, misinformation is transmitted to the parties concerned, as Earhart's plane is really NR16020.
1705 Information came from the 11th Naval District from Lockheed stating that maximum distance with 1100 gallons is 3600 [statute miles], nominal speed at economical cruising is 150 mph, maximum distance at 53 gallons per hour is 3100 miles, total fuel load possible is 1141 gallons. 50
1820 Paul Mantz sent a telegram to the Commander, Fleet Air Base, Pearl Harbor, stating that the plane is all metal Lockheed twin motor NC16020 [sic] with the leading edge of the wing and stabilizer painted chrome orange, stabilizers are large with twin rudders.51 No one seemed to know the correct aircraft designation number for the plane.
1818 The Coast Guard in San Francisco asked Itasca what time zone the Itasca was using when reporting Earhart's transmissions: 10.5 or 11.5?52 The answer was 10.5.
1819 The CG asked Naval Radio Station Tutuila if it could verify the departure time of Earhart from Lae.53
1959 COM14 told CNO that the Colorado had finished its search and that after refueling the destroyers, it would be released from its duty to search for Earhart.54
2015 COM14 transmitted orders to COMDESRON2 that it was now in charge of the Earhart search, and to take charge of all vessels involved.55
2145 Tutuila responded to the CG message of 1819 with a copy of the message from Vacuum Oil sent from Lae, stating a 0000GMT departure time, and asked who would pay for the charges to conduct further verification of departure times.56
2240 COMDESRON2 ordered Swan and Itasca to continue on their searches as previously assigned until further notice.57
2315

The CG replied to the Tutuila message of 2145 that it would check via commercial circuits.58

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