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Author Topic: So, where are we? Where is SHE???  (Read 16018 times)

JNev

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So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« on: August 06, 2014, 09:05:38 AM »

When in the course of aviation events...

Nearly 4 score years ago we lost someone not to be forgotten.  Here we search.

And there we or others search.

Why is it that humans can't let a lost aviator be forgotten?

Sorry to wax on so, but at times this whole thing really makes me wonder.  Just what is it about Earhart that drives us so hard to keep looking.  Consider the hours spent looking at stories and information, talking about same, postulating this or that scenario and how likely or important it is, or isn't.  Why?

Who has the answers?  It seems we largely have two major 'camps', if you will - 'crashed n sank' and 'landed at Niku (Gardner)'; additionally we have others - 'Marshall Islands' adherents, various conspiracy buffs and similar, and one or two far-out 'crashed in East New Britain' kinds of thought that may as well involve Earhart on the moon when you consider the reciprocal-course range involved (she HAD to have gotten fairly close to the Itasca, right?  No fuel to go that far back).

How weighty are the things TIGHAR has amassed in all her years of visiting Niku in your mind?  Of all the searchers, TIGHAR is, so far as I can tell, the only one that possesses physical things that might relate to Earhart.  I admit, "might".

Others are equally as convinced TIGHAR is wrong - that these things and her theory be nothing but mist; others tend to think they have a corner on the reality of this whole thing.  How likely is that?  It's a big ocean - granted; viscerally at least that does suggest a high likelihood (damn statistics) of a water landing, lost at sea. 

But is 'loss at sea' such a fair assumption?  What does an able navigator with even a marginally-able transoceanic pilot do if faced with the prospect of failing to make planned landfall?  Does he drive the search until the fuel is gone, or does he drive toward a better prospect of alternate landfall?  A landplane running low on fuel over water is a serious prospect that is worthy of the clearest thought and action an experienced navigator can produce - that I believe.  So what does the reasonable person see as that navigator's intent at that point?

And we know the Electra should have actually had a couple or so hours of fuel remaining (if we can trust the charts on that data) when thought to have been in the Howland vicinity.

So I write here - not as an 'alternate theory' because I'm not pushing that, but as an aside to the daily grind of focusing on things-TIGHAR as we typically pursue them; an aside because of the non-search-essential prospect of simply wondering what others think about 'why' we do this, and 'how' they see the bigger 'find Amelia' bubble that we live in.

To extend my own notions - I first and foremost would just love to know the real answer, whatever it is.  That means I am not necessarily limited to what TIGHAR considers; that said, I'm more TIGHAR adherent than not - despite the many challenges I think it is based on a reasonable hypothesis.  That does not mean that I would be overly-surprised if another fate were somehow discovered: it is a large ocean on the face of a big and strange world, after all.

But we have one major concern that went out and mowed the lawn around Howland where she 'just had to be' - and got nothing.  We've seen hypothetical 'must have navigated thus, would have searched thus' to no end as well.  So far, we know a lot of ocean floor that bears nothing.

And you know the TIGHAR story if you've been reading here - lots of tantalizing details fished out and fleshed out as best people can - some of them very compelling, but short of clear proof.

How do you see it, the 'reasonable reader'?  Where are we?  Just curious (and feeling philosophical).
- Jeff Neville

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Nathan Leaf

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2014, 10:17:22 AM »

I'm a believer that most human actions are driven by fear.  Insurance, investing, searching for airplanes...

I think a big part of "our" persistence in finding the Electra lies in our intrinsic fear of the two words: "unknown fate".

One can make the argument that this fear alone explains the existence and prolific spread of the world's major religions.  We simply need to explain the end, to become more at ease with our own ultimate and unknown fates.

Take Titanic ... here we actually knew what happened before we knew exactly where she was on the bottom of the Atlantic, her "fate" along with 1500 unfortunate souls was "known".  But not entirely ... we had conflicting reports of exactly how she struck the iceberg and how she sank, and we wanted a better explanation of "the end".  We had to find her, if for no other reason then to invalidate our fear that something that large cannot be simply swallowed by our physical environment and disappear.

As for the various Earhart hypotheses, I myself am drawn to TIGHAR's thinking through my own simulated experience.

As silly as it sounds, I have over 2000 hours of simulator flight time over this very region of the Earth, the vast Pacific Ocean, in WW2-era aircraft as a member of two different virtual online "squadrons" of simulator pilots ... one Japanese, one American. 

In the American squadron, we spent hours mastering the dead reckoning and other navigational techniques used by carrier and heavy bomber pilots throughout the war, flying scout, combat, search-and-rescue and long ferry missions across the theater.  And we flew as though our lives depended on it, to honor those whose lives really did.

It did not take long for us to figure out that flying in the Pacific *always* required a backup to the main flight plan.  And after learning that painful lesson a few different ways, we never left the carrier deck or the airstrip without a clear backup plan that every pilot making the flight understood to the last detail.  This backup plan invariably included an alternative landfall wherever possible, and even if we were trying to find a moving carrier with no suitable airstrip nearby, the backup plan always involved (if applicable) finding a charted reef or tiny piece of land or even distant shoreline so we could establish our location, calculate wind drift based on the flight so far, and compute the current and future location of the carrier and adjust the flight plan.  And this backup plan ALWAYS involved an account for fuel "bingo" ... the point at which you had enough fuel to return to "base" and thus had to decide whether to abandon the primary flight plan and go to backup.

Bottom line - we were mere simulator pilots with absolutely nothing on the line except our pride, and we always had a plan for alternative landfall.

And had we ever decided to simulate Earhart's leg from Lae to Howland (the longest simulation we ever did was an abridged version of the Doolittle raid involving 13 hours of flight from Hornet departure to airstrips in China), the alternative flight plan, had we not found Howland, would have absolutely, certainly involved a departure from that area at fuel "bingo" to the SSE to try and find Baker (for a position fix) or other islands of the Phoenix Group.

Does that mean Earhart and Noonan made it to Gardner?  No, for all we know they could have missed Baker to the West, failed to spot Gardner or McKean, run out fuel and ditched at sea ... very very far from Howland AND relatively distant from Gardner.  But given that the evidence suggests they were very close if not on top of Howland at the time of Earhart's last transmission, which also corresponds to a reasonable calculation for fuel "bingo"  to reach Gardner/McKean, I think the heading called for in Noonan's backup plan would have taken them very close to Gardner, and have to assume Baker was obscured from view en route similarly to Howland.

Simulated experience and probability tell me TIGHAR is on the right track.
TIGHAR No. 4538R
 
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JNev

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2014, 10:48:25 AM »

Fear of "unknown fate" is compelling, Nathan, thanks for that insight.  I take it with some tribal sense of "there but for the grace of God go I" as I think about it.  No, I don't care to disappear - don't for human life to be swallowed by an impersonal world.

Your simulator experience tells me a great deal.  It certainly fits my thought that able navigators don't give up easily.  It also fits the idea of a continuance of the flight along the 157 heading, believed to have run thru Howland (and near shining Gardner).

Thanks for your thoughtful reply!
- Jeff Neville

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Greg Daspit

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2014, 10:53:57 AM »

What keeps me interested is the logic and strong evidence used to support the Niku Hypothesis. If proven, it would be a very interesting story of two famous people surviving for a time as castaways while the rest of the world thought they were lost at sea. It’s not just finding the plane, it’s the story that finding the plane leads to. It’s history.
I find the work done here to be very educational regardless if the hypothesis is proven. The history of the colonist, the pacific, aviation, coral islands, island culture, etc. etc. I could go on and on. It really is hard to put into words of how the process is also interesting and appreciated. The manner in which TIGHAR is doing this by allowing others to follow along and participate is just such a positive thing.
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Nathan Leaf

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2014, 12:09:58 PM »

Your simulator experience tells me a great deal.  It certainly fits my thought that able navigators don't give up easily.  It also fits the idea of a continuance of the flight along the 157 heading, believed to have run thru Howland (and near shining Gardner).

Navigators tend not only to be persistent, but typically disciplined, computational and calculating.   If A, then B. If other than A, then C.  Explore conditions for the deviation from A prior to the event to maximize objectivity in the decision-making process.

Even if they knew they were close, even after picking up Itasca's morse signals, even if they thought the ADF would eventually work for them, even if the allure of spending 2-3 more hours searching an area they *knew* was the right area seemed like the safest course of action, I believe it is certain that Noonan had a backup plan. 

I believe he would have constructed this backup plan around a series of "If other than A, then C" considerations, including inherent error in last known celestial fix, inherent error in course flown/compass accuracy/wind direction and strength from last fix, local weather obscuring island/Itasca, malfunctioning radio and ADF equipment, and several others.  Some kind of search pattern would have been provisioned in his backup plan, but with a time limit determined strictly by the calculated "bingo" fuel point ... at that point, I believe he would have turned to Amelia (or passed her a note) saying: 

"That's it. Time for Plan B.  Turn on (or continue on) 157 until we spot an island."
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JNev

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2014, 12:15:14 PM »

What keeps me interested is the logic and strong evidence used to support the Niku Hypothesis. If proven, it would be a very interesting story of two famous people surviving for a time as castaways while the rest of the world thought they were lost at sea. It’s not just finding the plane, it’s the story that finding the plane leads to. It’s history.
I find the work done here to be very educational regardless if the hypothesis is proven. The history of the colonist, the pacific, aviation, coral islands, island culture, etc. etc. I could go on and on. It really is hard to put into words of how the process is also interesting and appreciated. The manner in which TIGHAR is doing this by allowing others to follow along and participate is just such a positive thing.

I'm with you, cool.
- Jeff Neville

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Monty Fowler

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2014, 12:18:41 PM »

It’s not just finding the plane, it’s the story that finding the plane leads to. It’s history.

Exactly right. This sentence has been missing its period for more than 77 years. It's time to complete it.

LTM,
Monty Fowler, TIGHAR No. 2189 ECSP
Ex-TIGHAR member No. 2189 E C R SP, 1998-2016
 
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JNev

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2014, 12:31:03 PM »

Your simulator experience tells me a great deal.  It certainly fits my thought that able navigators don't give up easily.  It also fits the idea of a continuance of the flight along the 157 heading, believed to have run thru Howland (and near shining Gardner).

Navigators tend not only to be persistent, but typically disciplined, computational and calculating.   If A, then B. If other than A, then C.  Explore conditions for the deviation from A prior to the event to maximize objectivity in the decision-making process.

Even if they knew they were close, even after picking up Itasca's morse signals, even if they thought the ADF would eventually work for them, even if the allure of spending 2-3 more hours searching an area they *knew* was the right area seemed like the safest course of action, I believe it is certain that Noonan had a backup plan. 

I believe he would have constructed this backup plan around a series of "If other than A, then C" considerations, including inherent error in last known celestial fix, inherent error in course flown/compass accuracy/wind direction and strength from last fix, local weather obscuring island/Itasca, malfunctioning radio and ADF equipment, and several others.  Some kind of search pattern would have been provisioned in his backup plan, but with a time limit determined strictly by the calculated "bingo" fuel point ... at that point, I believe he would have turned to Amelia (or passed her a note) saying: 

"That's it. Time for Plan B.  Turn on (or continue on) 157 until we spot an island."

I tend to agree, Nathan.  By what I can understand of the art of navigation at the time (and even now, although the tools are much better) is that one never quits navigating - including using alternate outs, anymore than a decent pilot ever quits flying the plane.

To me that sensibly includes flying to where they think the primary target is, and then a reasonable search (to bingo point as you've defined), thence to an alternate - even if that means a general area of possible landfall (as in not knowing quite where one is, one would head to an area where landfall would be more probable).

In this case, it seems to fit the apparent loitering for a time in an area that the flyers thought was near Howland, thence flying on the LOP as Earhart put it.

I am reminded of the distinctions this very day between "flying the LOP" some time after it would have shifted, and the more likely prospect of flying a heading along what had earlier been understood to be the LOP (it shifts as does the sun): that means, with a tip to another fine navigator, that "you can't fly THE LOP from Howland area down to Gardner because it would shft and take you away"; but you CAN fly from an area where you had understood yourself to be along a LOP and hold a heading that relates to that former LOP - and a heading that happens to take you near Gardner island.

Throw in some Easterly winds (drifting you West) and perhaps being a bit further South than intended, and Gardner isn't so far, and perhaps not so hard to suddenly spot even if some miles to the West of the flown path.

Just thoughts - and some reasons why Niku keeps me piqued as well.  I respect those who disagree - and I don't claim to be a better navigator than many of them, but it makes sense to me as an aviator.

So that's kind of "where I am" - now "where is SHE???"  ;)
- Jeff Neville

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JNev

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2014, 07:46:50 AM »

Back to the big tent / multi-ringed greatest aviation show on earth -

What of "TECTIC" (The Earhart Conspiracy Theory Industrial Complex) and how do we fit, or not fit into that?

In the more strict sense, a Niku ending is not really a conspiracy theory at all.  Add a variant - Hooven's view and you approach it (TIGHAR's never agreed with Hooven's exact idea that I am aware of).

Look at some of the other theories about and some touch on it - or depend on it (conspiracy); others eschew it entirely.

If you rise above the tent and the smell of camel and elephant dung therein, you get a good view of what I'm talking about: look at the clammering in this 'industry'.  Front row seats are promised all over the place. 

Consider too that TIGHAR may be one of the most hotly debated / contested practitioners.  Why is that?  Are others afraid of being beaten to the punch?  How can they be?  He who emerges from the true lost tomb with the grail in-hand 'wins' - but no one does until then.

Just thinkin' a bit about this whole big ol' search, how long it has gone on and all the passionate ideas out there.  Apparently all because no one can stand the thought of being lost, fate unknown - even when it is someone else.
- Jeff Neville

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John Ousterhout

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2014, 08:08:14 AM »

Amelia's story also has lots of clues, but no clear answer.  People seek patterns, and find them, even when there isn't one.  There seems to be a common urge to try to put the clues together in different ways in hopes of finally finding a pattern that fits perfectly.
Imagine grabbing a handful of pieces from a puzzle, and leave them on a table.  How many people passing by could resist trying to find pieces that fit together? 
Cheers,
JohnO
 
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Lauren Palmer

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2014, 10:27:19 AM »

I agree with all of the above comments.  All the world loves a mystery!  But more than that, I think it's also the pathos that will keep the saga famous:  She probably survived a crash landing on Niku, but her messages were ignored until too late.  A pilot sees evidence of human presence soon after, but all involved decide not to bother about it. Her probable body was found many decades ago, but the British decided not to notify the USA or her family, and it is now lost.  The later natives on the island reported also airplane wreckage and made use of it, but it took so long for that news to get out ...........  So many errors/bad luck/bad timing/wrong choices/etc.
I'm hoping that even after we find and recover the plane, we have the resources to look for Fred.  If we find the plane, money will come.

Lauren, who just read about the pilot and his plane dredged up off the coast of New Zealand, in a fishing net.
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Bruce Thomas

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2014, 01:55:14 PM »

Lauren, who just read about the pilot and his plane dredged up off the coast of New Zealand, in a fishing net.

Here's one news story out there for those interested.
LTM,

Bruce
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JNev

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2014, 02:08:42 PM »

Lauren, who just read about the pilot and his plane dredged up off the coast of New Zealand, in a fishing net.

Here's one news story out there for those interested.

That's a sad story, I'm sorry for that family.

The Pacific is full of mysterious and sad stories in its own way.
- Jeff Neville

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Kent Beuchert

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2014, 03:56:34 PM »

I agree with those who explain the desire to learn Amelia's fate as both an ambition to
complete a missing page from the historical record, as well as the love of solving an
important mystery, even when logic would dictate that there is no mystery to be solved
(i.e. the JFK assassination, the Lindbergh kidnapping). Everyone agrees thata mystery
exists with respect to Amelia's disappearance.  I would never include fear as a motive or
explanation for  much except selling stocks and running from physical danger. And even then
the motive may not be fear but simply logic.
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JNev

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Re: So, where are we? Where is SHE???
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2014, 04:50:21 PM »

Interesting, Kent - thanks for that perspective.

I guess it's just always been a mystery to me why I myself have this inborn urge to 'know what happened' in these cases.  Can't articulate it as well as so many of you have, and it seems there can be different personal motives. 
- Jeff Neville

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