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Author Topic: Navigating to Gardner Island  (Read 35436 times)

Bruce W Badgrow

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Navigating to Gardner Island
« on: August 04, 2014, 02:44:20 PM »

When Amelia Earhart failed to get a radio bearing on the Coast Guard Cutter Itasca, Fred Noonan would have known that his chances of finding Howland Island were about nil. Noonan would have then gone to plan B. When planning a long flight any navigator would have an alternate landing place in mind. There were two groups of islands that Noonan would have considered, the Gilbert Islands to the west and the Phoenix Islands to the south southeast. Because their fuel was getting low, he would most likely have selected the Phoenix Islands which were closer. I believe that Noonan would have selected Gardner Island to fly to. This island was 353 miles distant and it was the nearest island that was bigger then Howland Island. Noonan would have also noted that, because of the position of the sun, he could navigate to this island with a good degree of a accuracy. I believe they found Gardner Island quite easily. Gardner Island was nearly 3 times as big as Howland Island and in 1937 it was mostly covered with tall trees. This would have made the island much more visible from a distance than Howland Island was.

Bruce W Badgrow

 
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JNev

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2014, 04:23:14 PM »

Be careful about "would have" here, Bruce - we can't know that, but in fact you have just fairly summarized what so many of us believe to be a more than fair case of what "might have" happened.
- Jeff Neville

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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2014, 05:01:55 PM »

Personally, I don't think Noonan ever navigated to Gardner Island. I think he was always looking for Howland and stumbled upon Gardner by accident.  If it were otherwise he should have known it was Gardner when he saw it but the content of the post-loss radio messages strongly suggests that Earhart did not know the name of the island she was on.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2014, 06:40:01 PM by Ric Gillespie »
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JNev

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2014, 06:18:05 PM »

Personally, I don't think Noonan ever navigated to Gardner Island. I think he was always looking for Howland and stumbled upon Gardner by accident.  If it were otherwise he should have known it was Gardner he saw it but the content of the post-loss radio messages strongly suggests that Earhart did not know the name of the island she was on.

I guess I got a bit ambiguous in my reply above, but I tend to think that is how it would (ouch, there's that word again...) have happened myself.

Maybe that's why I've never had a problem with the "you can't find a particular island (Gardner) if you don't know where you are starting from" argument - and to clarify, never had a problem with the possibility of finding Gardner this way (accidentally).  Sorry - realized I had once again spoken rather ambiguously.
- Jeff Neville

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« Last Edit: August 04, 2014, 07:08:17 PM by Jeffrey Neville »
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Monty Fowler

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2014, 06:29:11 PM »

Maybe that's why I've never had a problem with the "you can't find a particular island (Gardner) if you don't know where you are starting from" argument.

Now, now, Mr. Neville, sir, you're making things wayyyyyyy more complicated than they need to be. All you have to remember is The Navigator's Golden Rule: "Wherever you go, there you are."

I know, my bad.

LTM, who gets tries not to get annoyed when he loses himself,
Monty Fowler, TIGHAR No. 2189 ECSP
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JNev

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2014, 07:07:50 PM »

See above, clarified - never believed being lost would prevent stumbling onto Gardner was my point.
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Ted G Campbell

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2014, 08:27:53 PM »

Way no radio message saying thier heading to a different island?  They knew they were in contact with the Itasca - multiple A's.
Ted Campbell
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JNev

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2014, 08:31:35 PM »

Way no radio message saying thier heading to a different island?  They knew they were in contact with the Itasca - multiple A's.
Ted Campbell

Last call did say "on the line 337 - 157" - which coincides with the early sun-derived LOP, and logical for cutting north-northwest to look for the island, thence south-south-easterly if not found to north (at least as many see it, including myself).

I think we're largely saying that we believe they weren't deliberately headed to another island, but may have found Gardner quite accidentally if the flight did progress to SSE per above.
- Jeff Neville

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Randy Conrad

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2014, 11:10:14 PM »

Ric...I may be wrong on this...but wasn't Amelia on Howland Island at one time before the world flight! Reason, I ask is I remember a picture of Amelia, Fred, and Paul Mantz standing next to a tree looking into the ocean!
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Greg Daspit

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2014, 11:18:55 PM »

Ric...I may be wrong on this...but wasn't Amelia on Howland Island at one time before the world flight! Reason, I ask is I remember a picture of Amelia, Fred, and Paul Mantz standing next to a tree looking into the ocean!
Is it this one taken with Putnam? That one was in Miami per the Purdue notation
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« Last Edit: August 04, 2014, 11:37:10 PM by Greg Daspit »
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Kent Beuchert

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2014, 02:02:17 PM »

Quote
Personally, I don't think Noonan ever navigated to Gardner Island. I think he was always looking for Howland and stumbled upon Gardner by accident.  If it were otherwise he should have known it was Gardner when he saw it but the content of the post-loss radio messages strongly suggests that Earhart did not know the name of the island she was on.
    Searching for Howland along the cited line does not logically preclude also searching also for Gardiner
(actually any Phoenix island) - you can do both (in point of fact Noonan was doing both) at the same time  -  "I'll take whichever island I find first" and post-loss signals as a basis for theory presupposes evidence not acknowledged as fact, at least not by general consensus. Personally, I find it hard to believe that Noonan didn't recognize that they had come upon a member of the Phoenix chain, even if he couldn't specifically identify it as Gardiner, although my guess is that he could have managed that. So I would anticipate any transmission for help would  include, among other things, either the word Gardiner or Phoenix.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2014, 04:20:57 PM »

So I would anticipate any transmission for help would  include, among other things, either the word Gardiner or Phoenix.

So would I.  But none of the post-loss messages, credible or not, contains anything that sounds like Gardner or Phoenix or any other island name.
Like you, I have a hard time believing that Noonan, if functioning, could not figure out where they were. I do not have a hard time believing that Amelia could not figure out where she was.  Therefore, it seems to me that Noonan was not functioning.  Betty's transcription and the lack of any evidence of Noonan's presence at the Seven Site seem to support that conclusion. I think Fred was in Bad shape early on and didn't survive for long.
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Steve Lyle Gunderson

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2014, 10:08:45 PM »

I've had a nagging thought for sometime, so I thought I'd share it and add to the conjecture.
I read Amelia's 'Last Flight' on the Oceania web site and a comment she made in Part 6, July 1 struck me. She said "We commandeered a truck from the manager of the hotel and with Fred at the wheel, because the native driver was ill with fever, we set out along a dirt road."
These days we know that door knobs, grocery carts, Steering wheels and a variety of surfaces can be sources of colds, flu and other infections.
As a contributing factor if Fred contracted a serious illness from the steering wheel of the commandeered truck, couple that with injuries suffered in the landing, the extreme temperatures and the stress of survival it's no wonder he was behaving badly after a couple of days. Whether or not he was sick enough to have his navigational skills affected during the flight would only be a guess.
Steve G
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JNev

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2014, 04:22:03 AM »

Interesting thought, Steve.  It's a world of variables due to the simplest things, and the flight from Lae to Howland may as well have been a moonshot in terms of needing heads-up humans aboard.  Think of the trouble NASA went to to avoid problems like that with astronauts (and it didn't always work, even then - Apollo 13 included a very ill crew-member, not 'causal', but certainly adding risk to the 3 member crew).
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Nathan Leaf

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Re: Navigating to Gardner Island
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2014, 07:14:32 PM »

Way no radio message saying thier heading to a different island?  They knew they were in contact with the Itasca - multiple A's.
Ted Campbell

Yes, if only there had been a couple more in-flight radio messages which included "continuing on the line 157" with ever-weakening signals than the last known transmission, the Niku hypothesis would not have so many detractors.  In fact, Earhart and Noonan might have been rescued with a much more concerted search effort in the Phoenix group.  I can only speculate why such signals were not sent, or received as the case may be ... I don't know.

That notwithstanding, my inclination is to believe Noonan knew it was Gardner when they found it.

With a star fix at some time before sunrise, and the LOP established at sunrise, I believe Noonan had a very good idea where they were and the course, time and distance required to reach Howland.  Earhart's ability to hold that course while she fiddled with the radio for the balance of the flight to the Howland area would be critical to arrive on station, and I believe her course discipline suffered under these conditions (what the hell ... we will have Itasca to help guide us in...) along with the fatigue factor associated with such a long flight. They missed by a little, they knew they were close, but they simply could not see Howland when they arrived in the area and searched along their LOP, first to the NNW, then to the SSE.  And this is a contingency I believe Noonan considered and had planned for prior to arriving in the area.

So I believe Plan B was enacted when "bingo" fuel was reached after searching along the LOP near Howland.  This plan was to fly a SSE heading to the Phoenix Islands, knowing Baker was en route along that heading and that if they happened upon Baker, it would be a relatively easy navigational turnaround to get back to Howland with fuel to spare for another brief search.  But they did not see Baker (I assume due to the same challenges in surface visibility as at Howland), and continued until they did see a much larger Gardner in the distance, more or less where Noonan expected it to be.

The post-loss radio signals deemed credible are either brief, or incomplete, or both.  Betty herself acknowledges she didn't start writing down what she was hearing for some time after she was hearing it, and even then she confirmed she did not record every word she heard.  So it is entirely plausible, if not likely, that Earhart did mention Gardner and/or Phoenix, and it simply was not heard or recorded, or both.

As to why more in-flight signals were not heard after Plan B went in to effect, there are dozens of speculative possibilities.  Maybe Amelia became exasperated at the onset of Plan B and while abandoning the Howland area, she switched to incorrect frequencies, did not double-check frequency? or began a debate with Noonan about the merits of Plan B as they began their flight away from Howland and was hoping they would soon see Baker, at which point she would broadcast again?  Then not seeing Baker, she became even more exasperated and questioned Noonan about their navigational conundrum before trying to broadcast again, then saw an island in the distance, flew towards it ... oops, not an island ... then finally saw Gardner and made a pre-landing broadcast that was not picked up?  or she saw fuel was extremely low so she prioritized the identification of a landing site and execution of the landing sequence, and never made a pre-landing broadcast?  I don't know. 

But I do believe Noonan had a Plan B, that plan involved the Phoenix Islands, and he made Amelia follow it to the letter.
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« Last Edit: October 18, 2014, 10:33:36 PM by Nathan Leaf »
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