Advanced search  
Pages: [1] 2   Go Down

Author Topic: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton  (Read 19609 times)

Tony

  • Guest
1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« on: April 27, 2011, 11:10:11 PM »

I'm wondering if anyone was aware that an expedition of "eclipse" watchers where on Canton "Kanton" during the month of June 1937?

Heres a link to the "National Library of Australia" archives of "The Sydney Morning Herald" newspaper article dated 9th June 1937 and "Wikipedia" on the eclipse that year.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/17389503?searchTerm=Phoenix%20Islands&searchLimits=

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_eclipse_of_June_8,_1937

Interestingly they had been there several weeks before the event and sort of begs the question were any still around for a while after?...seen as transport would have been at a more leisurely rate back then.

The article also mentions the somewhat secretive nature of HMS Leith's pacific deployments.

Not sure it contributes anything but it makes you relies that there was more "traffic" in these "isolated area's" then you would suppose.

Cheers Tony   
Logged

Ric Gillespie

  • Executive Director
  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 5333
  • "Do not try. Do or do not. There is no try" Yoda
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2011, 05:23:41 AM »

Not sure it contributes anything but it makes you relies that there was more "traffic" in these "isolated area's" then you would suppose.  

Depends on how much you suppose.  The eclipse parties departed Canton long before Earhart was in the neighborhood.  See The Battle of Canton Island in Randy Jacobson's paper The American Equatorial and Phoenix Islands.
Logged

Kevin Weeks

  • TIGHAR member
  • *
  • Posts: 191
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2011, 06:14:24 AM »

that visit wasn't so much "traffic" as strategic. by 1937 the united states and great britain could see the writing on the wall regarding conflict in japan and asia. canton was a strategic position that NEEDED to be held as it could house a rather large airfield.
Logged

Chuck Creigh

  • T1
  • *
  • Posts: 6
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2011, 07:02:38 AM »

Hmmm... Interesting. Don’t know if you noticed but the article right below the one referred to (about the eclipse) talks about a native swimming out to the ship from “Gardner Island”. Which of course is Nikumaroro Island. It does not say the date but Gardner Island should have been uninhabited around June of 1937 (unless AE and FN landed there a month later). The article could of course be in error, wrong island, wrong date, etc. I’m not the best speller or always use the best grammar myself, but if those would be requirements for that Gardner article to equate to accuracy, that article might be suspect… But interesting anyway. Here is the text right below the “eclipse text” you have the link to, which says it is the Sydney Morning Herald dated June 8, 1937.

-Chuck

GARDNER ISLAND ANNEXED.

The manner in which the Phoenix Group was annexed is not without interest. When Captain Gibson, in command of H.M.s. Cura- coa, arrived off Gardner Island he found that the natives already regarded themselves ai subjects of Queen Victoria. The naval ofUcer found, owing to heavy seas breaking on the reef, that it was Impossible to land. He had departed from Sydney on a mysterious voya»e similar to that undertaken recently by H.MS Leith. However, a native of the island swam off to the wnrshlp, and he informed Captain Gibson that Sir John B. Thurstan, well known as High Commissioner in the Western Pacific had already annexed the group, nnd leased Gardner Island to Arundel and Company st a rental of £ 25 per annum. Consequently, tin native Inhabitant.-, considered themselvei British subjects. Nevertheless, Captain Gib. son solemnly read a deed of protection to tin visitor, and presented him with a Union Jack, following which the native swam ashore with the tidings. "But not without difficulty," says a record of the historic proceeding in tfij Mitchell Library. "Of course, there is ona short time in the year when Gardner Island can be approached in safely, and it is dunn? such season that the copra is shipped, but there Í3 no opening In the reef at all,"
Logged

Ric Gillespie

  • Executive Director
  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 5333
  • "Do not try. Do or do not. There is no try" Yoda
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2011, 07:26:47 AM »

Hmmm... Interesting. Don’t know if you noticed but the article right below the one referred to (about the eclipse) talks about a native swimming out to the ship from “Gardner Island”. Which of course is Nikumaroro Island. It does not say the date but Gardner Island should have been uninhabited around June of 1937

As indeed it was.  The visit by HMS Curacao was in 1892 during the two-year period when John T. Arundel had a work party of Niue islanders there planting coconuts.
Logged

Ric Gillespie

  • Executive Director
  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 5333
  • "Do not try. Do or do not. There is no try" Yoda
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2011, 08:33:15 AM »

that visit wasn't so much "traffic" as strategic. by 1937 the united states and great britain could see the writing on the wall regarding conflict in japan and asia. canton was a strategic position that NEEDED to be held as it could house a rather large airfield.

That's a common misconception. There is a natural tendency to see everything that happened in the Pacific in the mid-to-late 1930s as a precursor to Pearl Harbor - but that's a mistake. True, U.S. and British strategic planning included contingencies that contemplated a possible war with Japan but that does not explain U.S./British competition for ownership of Canton. That was not about war.  That was about money.

The U.S. and Great Britain were competitors for the embryonic transoceanic airline market. Pan Am's CEO, Juan Trippe, had been frustrated in his efforts to open the lucrative North Atlantic routes.  His big Sikorsky flying boats could do the job but the Brits had refused to grant landing rights in Newfoundland and Northern Ireland. The U.S was willing to grant reciprocal landing rights but the Brits didn't have an airplane that could carry sufficient payload to make money on the long-haul routes.  In 1935, Trippe turned to the Pacific where he could land his boats in U.S.-owned sheltered water in Hawaii, Midway, and Wake, and get landing rights in U.S.-dominated Manila.  By 1937, Pan Am was flying mail and scheduled passenger service across the northern Pacific.  The next big prize was service to "the Antipodes" (New Zealand and Australia). Anticipating aeronautical advancements that would allow land planes to fly transoceanic routes, the U.S. Bureau of Air Commerce had finagled the annexation of lagoon-less Jarvis, Howland and Baker islands hoping to eventually construct an airfield that would serve as a mid-Pacific refueling point - but for the moment the flying boat was king. Islands on the Hawaii/New Zealand route are scarce.  Islands with landable lagoons are rarer.  Suddenly the previously worthless Phoenix Group was golden. Canton, Sydney, Hull and Gardner all have big lagoons so the Brits took great pains to make sure the islands were properly placarded as the property of His Majesty. Canton was the best of the lot, so when the British eclipse party arrived in June 1937 to find a U.S. Navy ship there and the stars and stripes flying over the island, the guano hit the fan.  British concern over reinforcing their claim of sovereignty to the Phoenix Group was the principal motivating factor in the establishment of the Phoenix Island Settlement Scheme and the colonization of Gardner, Sydney and Hull.

Ultimately, in 1939, the two countries agreed to share Canton and Pan Am began landing Boeing 314s in the lagoon.  That same year, with war clouds gathering in Europe and tensions rising in Asia, the U.S. decided it needed to know more about the islands of the south central Pacific and sent USS Bushnell on a mapping survey. By early 1941 the diplomatic situation with Japan had deteriorated to the point that the islands were the focus of strategic concern.  The Army started building an airfield on Canton in January and in June a squadron of Navy PBYs was sent down from Hawaii to fly photo missions over the Phoenix Group.

Logged

Kevin Weeks

  • TIGHAR member
  • *
  • Posts: 191
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2011, 08:51:41 AM »

ric, I was thinking more along the lines of the chinese and japanese conflict at the time not pearl harbor. I can imagine the united states wanting to increase their presence in the pacific during that period. I don't see the united states pushing british ownership rights for pan am.....
Logged

Ric Gillespie

  • Executive Director
  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 5333
  • "Do not try. Do or do not. There is no try" Yoda
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2011, 10:33:11 AM »

ric, I was thinking more along the lines of the chinese and japanese conflict at the time not pearl harbor. I can imagine the united states wanting to increase their presence in the pacific during that period. I don't see the united states pushing british ownership rights for pan am.....

If you want to make the case that there was a "strategic" aspect to the National Geographic Society eclipse expedition to Canton in June 1937 you'll need to produce some documentation.  What you can imagine the United states doing is not relevant.
Logged

Tony

  • Guest
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2011, 05:37:17 PM »

Hmmm... Interesting. Don’t know if you noticed but the article right below the one referred to (about the eclipse) talks about a native swimming out to the ship from “Gardner Island”. Which of course is Nikumaroro Island. It does not say the date but Gardner Island should have been uninhabited around June of 1937 (unless AE and FN landed there a month later). The article could of course be in error, wrong island, wrong date, etc. I’m not the best speller or always use the best grammar myself, but if those would be requirements for that Gardner article to equate to accuracy, that article might be suspect… But interesting anyway. Here is the text right below the “eclipse text” you have the link to, which says it is the Sydney Morning Herald dated June 8, 1937.

-Chuck

GARDNER ISLAND ANNEXED.

The manner in which the Phoenix Group was annexed is not without interest. When Captain Gibson, in command of H.M.s. Cura- coa, arrived off Gardner Island he found that the natives already regarded themselves ai subjects of Queen Victoria. The naval ofUcer found, owing to heavy seas breaking on the reef, that it was Impossible to land. He had departed from Sydney on a mysterious voya»e similar to that undertaken recently by H.MS Leith. However, a native of the island swam off to the wnrshlp, and he informed Captain Gibson that Sir John B. Thurstan, well known as High Commissioner in the Western Pacific had already annexed the group, nnd leased Gardner Island to Arundel and Company st a rental of £ 25 per annum. Consequently, tin native Inhabitant.-, considered themselvei British subjects. Nevertheless, Captain Gib. son solemnly read a deed of protection to tin visitor, and presented him with a Union Jack, following which the native swam ashore with the tidings. "But not without difficulty," says a record of the historic proceeding in tfij Mitchell Library. "Of course, there is ona short time in the year when Gardner Island can be approached in safely, and it is dunn? such season that the copra is shipped, but there Í3 no opening In the reef at all,"


I was caught out by that too for a bit until I realized they were talking of an earlier time (The Queen Victoria reference.) gave it away.
Logged

Tony

  • Guest
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2011, 05:43:23 PM »

Not sure it contributes anything but it makes you relies that there was more "traffic" in these "isolated area's" then you would suppose.  

Depends on how much you suppose.  The eclipse parties departed Canton long before Earhart was in the neighborhood.  See The Battle of Canton Island in Randy Jacobson's paper The American Equatorial and Phoenix Islands.

Thanks for the link Ric...its a fascinating mystery and I have been following "Tighar" for some years now.
Logged

Tony

  • Guest
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2011, 05:49:08 PM »

ric, I was thinking more along the lines of the chinese and japanese conflict at the time not pearl harbor. I can imagine the united states wanting to increase their presence in the pacific during that period. I don't see the united states pushing british ownership rights for pan am.....

Yes the "Geo-political" machinations going on in the background is an intruding story in itself.

If you skip back through the headlines in the preceding days to that particular article the "China/Japan" conflict features regularly and some mention of the political unrest going on in Europe.
Logged

Chuck Creigh

  • T1
  • *
  • Posts: 6
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2011, 02:03:38 AM »

As indeed it was.  The visit by HMS Curacao was in 1892 during the two-year period when John T. Arundel had a work party of Niue islanders there planting coconuts.

As part of a coconut planting work party, the guy in 1892 who swam out from Gardner Island to meet the ship must have been awful glad to see the ship. Or perhaps his only mode of transportation. Even so, from the readings here it seems the surf was a bit of a risk even in the best of conditions. Not to mention the sharks. One who is part of a coconut planting group might after some months/years feel a bit like a castaway. Cabin fever of sorts? Hard to imagine considering the swim though.

-Chuck
Logged

Sheila Shigley

  • TIGHAR member
  • *
  • Posts: 133
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2011, 03:23:09 PM »

The official title of the expedition was "National Geographic Society-United States Navy Eclipse Expedition" according to the Navy Department Library, which [edited for brevity] writes:

On 8 June 1937 a US Navy detachment commanded by Captain Julius F. Hellweg, USN (Ret.), participating in the 16-man National Geographic Society-United States Navy Eclipse Expedition at Canton Island in the Phoenix Islands, made an observation of a total eclipse of the sun.

The seaplane tender USS Avocet, commanded by Lieutenant Thomas Binney Williamson, USN, was assigned to this expedition, embarking [6 May 1937].

After soundings at Enderbury Island revealed no good anchorage there, Avocet proceeded thence to Canton, arriving the same day, 13 May. Joined by the British sloop HMS Wellington on 26 May, with men from a New Zealand expedition embarked, Avocet observed the total eclipse of the sun at 0836 on 8 June 1937.

Sailing for Pearl Harbor on the afternoon of 9 June, the ship arrived at her destination on the 16th, disembarking her distinguished passengers upon arrival.





The Avocet and Wellington reportedly fired one shot each across each others' bows in a squabble for the best anchorage to view the eclipse.

During this time [date?] the American party officially claimed Canton for the nation [can eclipse enthusiasts do that?].

It was the USS Avocet that fueled the Lexington to search for AE:

Shortly after noon on 8 July 1937, Avocet arrived at Lahaina Roads, the deep-water anchorage off the island of Maui, and moored to the port side of the aircraft carrier Lexington (C V-2). She commenced issuing gasoline to the carrier at 1300 and completed the task at 2015; Lexington soon sailed to carry out an extensive, but in the end unsuccessful, search for the missing aviatrix.

Four weeks later, the Brits reasserted their claim to Canton Island and by 31 Aug 1937 established two radio operators (hopefully supplied with lots of fresh water, since Canton reportedly has none) there.

Logged

Ric Gillespie

  • Executive Director
  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 5333
  • "Do not try. Do or do not. There is no try" Yoda
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2011, 05:34:09 PM »


It was the USS Avocet that fueled the Lexington to search for AE:

Shortly after noon on 8 July 1937, Avocet arrived at Lahaina Roads, the deep-water anchorage off the island of Maui, and moored to the port side of the aircraft carrier Lexington (C V-2). She commenced issuing gasoline to the carrier at 1300 and completed the task at 2015; Lexington soon sailed to carry out an extensive, but in the end unsuccessful, search for the missing aviatrix.

The gasoline Avocet issued to the carrier was avgas for the airplanes.
Logged

Sheila Shigley

  • TIGHAR member
  • *
  • Posts: 133
Re: 1937 Solar Eclipse on Canton
« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2011, 11:58:09 PM »

Oh...thank you Ric...so Avocet wasn't refueling Lexington at all, correct, just giving her aircraft fuel?
Logged
Pages: [1] 2   Go Up
 

Copyright 2018 by TIGHAR, a non-profit foundation. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be reproduced by xerographic, photographic, digital or any other means for any purpose. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be stored in a retrieval system, copied, transmitted or transferred in any form or by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, digital, photographic, magnetic or otherwise, for any purpose without the express, written permission of TIGHAR. All rights reserved.

Contact us at: info@tighar.org • Phone: 610-467-1937 • Membership formwebmaster@tighar.org

Powered by MySQL SMF 2.0.15 | SMF © 2017, Simple Machines Powered by PHP