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Author Topic: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?  (Read 47482 times)

John Ousterhout

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What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« on: December 19, 2011, 10:12:09 PM »

I believe it is safe to assume that Fred Noonan had a Sextant or Octant on the last flight.  Some folks think he had two, but the actual evidence of a second one on the Earhart flight is not well supported.
Harry Manning loaned FN a US Navy Pioneer Bubble Octant, #12-36, in a letter (edit: actually a note, see reply #2 below) dated March 20, 1937.  (http://tighar.org/wiki/File:Noonan_Octant_Receipt.jpg) It may be the one used on the last flight.
Gary LaPook posted pictures of Harry Manning with a Bausch & Lomb model A-6 octant, showing it to AE (Gary - do you know the dates of the photos?).  It may be the one used on the last flight.
Helen Day, a friend of Fred's, noted that he had in his posession an octant box (Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages? Reply #132, in which GL references "East To The Dawn", by Susan Butler).  It may be the one used on the last flight, and may be one of the ones mentioned above.
FN loaned a sextant to W. A. Kluthe, "...who at that time was studying navigation under Mr. Noonan in preparing for service in the Pacific Division of Pan American Airways, for use in practice praticle [sic] navigation." (TIGHAR TRACKS,Vol. 14, No. 1).  It was NOT the one on the last flight - it's at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.
Some folks go out on a limb and suggest that a second sextant on the Lockheed was the source for the box that was reported by Gallagher on Gardner in 1940.  This may be backward reasoning, assuming the presence of a second sextant to explain the box reported by Gallagher that proves AE must have landed on Gardner.  Forward reasoning would begin with what is known of the boxes on board the Lockheed, and trying to match them to the box reported by Gallagher.  After all, we KNOW that Fred had an Octant or Sextant with some kind of protective box, but we don't know what sort of box it was.
A separate thread is working to identify what Sextant was assigned to the box reported by Gallagher, so let's let that approach work its way through.  It might converge on what I'm proposing here, or might not.
The 1930's was a time during which Aircraft Sextants/Octants rapidly evolved, from modified open-frame "marine" sextants, to completely enclosed hand-held machines.  Their cases, or "boxes", also evolved during this time, from a low-profile "flat" box, typical of all previous marine sextant cases, to tall-profile skinny boxes, now generally associated with anything called an aircraft "Octant".  There was a transition period in the early-to-mid 1930's when Octants used low-profile boxes.  Such a box might be likely to be identified as a "sextant" box in Gallagher's report.
Let's explore what we can about the known and presumed sextants, octants and boxes used by Fred and likely to be on the flight and/or on Gardner island.  This approach might rule out Gallagher's box as belonging to the Earhart flight.
Cheers,
JohnO
 
« Last Edit: December 21, 2011, 06:36:58 PM by John Ousterhout »
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John Ousterhout

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2011, 10:27:36 PM »

BTW, a "sextant" has a scale that is 60 degrees wide, making it able to measure angles up to 120 degrees due to the arrangement of the mirrors (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sextant).  An "octant" is just a short sextant, with a scale that is just 45 degrees wide, able to measure angles up to 90 degrees, since that's all that aircraft needed (see http://tighar.org/wiki/File:Moffettsext.jpg for a marine example).  Later versions of aircraft instruments don't resemble traditional open frame marine sextants or octants. The first enclosed Octants appeared about 1931, so the 1937 flight is rather late to be using an open frame Octant.
See also http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/navigation/maker.cfm?makerid=35 for examples of both kinds of instruments, as well as some information about their history.
Cheers,
JohnO
 
« Last Edit: December 20, 2011, 08:16:56 AM by John Ousterhout »
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Gary LaPook

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2011, 09:54:42 PM »

I believe it is safe to assume that Fred Noonan had a Sextant or Octant on the last flight.  Some folks think he had two, but the actual evidence of a second one on the Earhart flight is not well supported.
Harry Manning loaned FN a US Navy Pioneer Bubble Octant, #12-36, in a letter dated March 20, 1937.  (http://tighar.org/wiki/File:Noonan_Octant_Receipt.jpg) It may be the one used on the last flight.
Gary LaPook posted pictures of Harry Manning with a Bosch & Lomb model A-6 octant, showing it to AE (Gary - do you know the dates of the photos?).  It may be the one used on the last flight.
Helen Day, a friend of Fred's, noted that he had in his posession an octant box (Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages? Reply #132, in which GL references "East To The Dawn", by Susan Butler).  It may be the one used on the last flight, and may be one of the ones mentioned above.
FN loaned a sextant to W. A. Kluthe, "...who at that time was studying navigation under Mr. Noonan in preparing for service in the Pacific Division of Pan American Airways, for use in practice praticle [sic] navigation." (TIGHAR TRACKS,Vol. 14, No. 1).  It was NOT the one on the last flight - it's at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.
Some folks go out on a limb and suggest that a second sextant on the Lockheed was the source for the box that was reported by Gallagher on Gardner in 1940.  This may be backward reasoning, assuming the presence of a second sextant to explain the box reported by Gallagher that proves AE must have landed on Gardner.  Forward reasoning would begin with what is known of the boxes on board the Lockheed, and trying to match them to the box reported by Gallagher.  After all, we KNOW that Fred had an Octant or Sextant with some kind of protective box, but we don't know what sort of box it was.
A separate thread is working to identify what Sextant was assigned to the box reported by Gallagher, so let's let that approach work its way through.  It might converge on what I'm proposing here, or might not.
The 1930's was a time during which Aircraft Sextants/Octants rapidly evolved, from modified open-frame "marine" sextants, to completely enclosed hand-held machines.  Their cases, or "boxes", also evolved during this time, from a low-profile "flat" box, typical of all previous marine sextant cases, to tall-profile skinny boxes, now generally associated with anything called an aircraft "Octant".  There was a transition period in the early-to-mid 1930's when Octants used low-profile boxes.  Such a box might be likely to be identified as a "sextant" box in Gallagher's report.
Let's explore what we can about the known and presumed sextants, octants and boxes used by Fred and likely to be on the flight and/or on Gardner island.  This approach might rule out Gallagher's box as belonging to the Earhart flight.
It wasn't a letter, it was just a hand written note written on a "Matson Line" note pad on the ship while Manning and Noonan were still returning to the mainland.

After looking at the instruments at the Smithsonian site, it appears that the octant loaned was the 12th Pioneer octant manufactured in 1936.
 If you want a lot of information about sextants, I recommend that you buy the book written by my friend Bill Morris available here: http://sextantbook.com/
gl
« Last Edit: December 20, 2011, 10:00:20 PM by Gary LaPook »
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Gary LaPook

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2011, 12:07:55 AM »

I believe it is safe to assume that Fred Noonan had a Sextant or Octant on the last flight.  Some folks think he had two, but the actual evidence of a second one on the Earhart flight is not well supported.
Harry Manning loaned FN a US Navy Pioneer Bubble Octant, #12-36, in a letter dated March 20, 1937.  (http://tighar.org/wiki/File:Noonan_Octant_Receipt.jpg) It may be the one used on the last flight.
Gary LaPook posted pictures of Harry Manning with a Bosch & Lomb model A-6 octant, showing it to AE (Gary - do you know the dates of the photos?).  It may be the one used on the last flight.
Helen Day, a friend of Fred's, noted that he had in his posession an octant box (Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages? Reply #132, in which GL references "East To The Dawn", by Susan Butler).  It may be the one used on the last flight, and may be one of the ones mentioned above.
FN loaned a sextant to W. A. Kluthe, "...who at that time was studying navigation under Mr. Noonan in preparing for service in the Pacific Division of Pan American Airways, for use in practice praticle [sic] navigation." (TIGHAR TRACKS,Vol. 14, No. 1).  It was NOT the one on the last flight - it's at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.
Some folks go out on a limb and suggest that a second sextant on the Lockheed was the source for the box that was reported by Gallagher on Gardner in 1940.  This may be backward reasoning, assuming the presence of a second sextant to explain the box reported by Gallagher that proves AE must have landed on Gardner.  Forward reasoning would begin with what is known of the boxes on board the Lockheed, and trying to match them to the box reported by Gallagher.  After all, we KNOW that Fred had an Octant or Sextant with some kind of protective box, but we don't know what sort of box it was.
A separate thread is working to identify what Sextant was assigned to the box reported by Gallagher, so let's let that approach work its way through.  It might converge on what I'm proposing here, or might not.
The 1930's was a time during which Aircraft Sextants/Octants rapidly evolved, from modified open-frame "marine" sextants, to completely enclosed hand-held machines.  Their cases, or "boxes", also evolved during this time, from a low-profile "flat" box, typical of all previous marine sextant cases, to tall-profile skinny boxes, now generally associated with anything called an aircraft "Octant".  There was a transition period in the early-to-mid 1930's when Octants used low-profile boxes.  Such a box might be likely to be identified as a "sextant" box in Gallagher's report.
Let's explore what we can about the known and presumed sextants, octants and boxes used by Fred and likely to be on the flight and/or on Gardner island.  This approach might rule out Gallagher's box as belonging to the Earhart flight.
The Pioneer octant was developed in 1931 and I know it was used by Lindbergh in 1933 and it is the only bubble octant discussed in Dutton, 1934 ed. The photo of Lindbergh's octant shows that it had reached its final form and is virtually indistinguishable from the later models, Mk III, A-5 and A-7. The shape of the octant determines the shape of the box and the box for the Pioneer bubble octant looks nothing like a box for a marine sextant. The boxes for other types of aircraft octants are more like a normal sextant box. I have attached three photos of the Pioneer box which is quite distinctive. The shape of this box is determined by the shape of the octant. The internal supports fit only one kind of octant. (The big screw stored in the upper right of the photo is actually put through a hole in the bottom of the box and screws into the bottom of the octant to hole it very securely for shipping.) Gatty would have recognized this box instantly.
gl
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Gary LaPook

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2011, 12:14:41 AM »

[
The Pioneer octant was developed in 1931 and I know it was used by Lindbergh in 1933 and it is the only bubble octant discussed in Dutton, 1934 ed. The photo of Lindbergh's octant shows that it had reached its final form and is virtually indistinguishable from the later models, Mk III, A-5 and A-7. The shape of the octant determines the shape of the box and the box for the Pioneer bubble octant looks nothing like a box for a marine sextant. The boxes for other types of aircraft octants are more like a normal sextant box. I have attached three photos of the Pioneer box which is quite distinctive. The shape of this box is determined by the shape of the octant. The internal supports fit only one kind of octant. (The big screw stored in the upper right of the photo is actually put through a hole in the bottom of the box and screws into the bottom of the octant to hole it very securely for shipping.) Gatty would have recognized this box instantly.
gl
I have attached three photos of the A-10 octant box which you can see is more like a marine sextant box. Again, you can see that the inside of the box is designed to accommodate only one type of octant.
gl

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Gary LaPook

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2011, 12:20:00 AM »



I have attached three photos of the A-10 octant box which you can see is more like a marine sextant box. Again, you can see that the inside of the box is designed to accommodate only one type of octant.
gl

I have attached two photos of Kollsman perisopic octant box and you can see the inside is adapted to only hold this type of instrument securely.
gl
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John Ousterhout

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2011, 06:45:17 AM »

Thanks, Gary, those are exactly the kinds of photos we need.  Does one of them show the box used for an early 1936 Pioneer Octant?  Also, do you have a similar photo of a Bosch & Lomb octant box of the sort that would have held the instrument in the photo of Harry Manning and AE you provided on the other thread (I'll provide a link for future reference when I have time)?
What I'm attempting to do is to define the sextant box that might reasonably have been on board the Electra.  A good argument has been made that FN would not have rationally left it behind if he abandoned the aircraft.  Obviously a sextant box could survive a few years on Gardner, as evidenced by the one reported by Gallagher, so where is the one that Fred might have left, if he had been there?

p.s. your Kollsman appears to be identical to mine.
Cheers,
JohnO
 
« Last Edit: December 21, 2011, 06:46:56 AM by John Ousterhout »
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John Ousterhout

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2011, 06:52:10 PM »

gl sez: "The Pioneer octant was developed in 1931 and I know it was used by Lindbergh in 1933 and it is the only bubble octant discussed in Dutton, 1934 ed. The photo of Lindbergh's octant shows that it had reached its final form and is virtually indistinguishable from the later models, Mk III, A-5 and A-7. The shape of the octant determines the shape of the box and the box for the Pioneer bubble octant looks nothing like a box for a marine sextant. The boxes for other types of aircraft octants are more like a normal sextant box"
According to the Smithsonian site, the Pioneer octant was offered commercially in 1931, having been patented in 1929.  The enclosed form had been established by other manufacturers as early as 1922(!), and there were some even earlier experiments with enclosed designs.
I ran across a description of navigation in the early trans-Pacific Clippers in which the navigator used a sextant (or octant) shooting through an open hatch.  This allowed a more traditional open-frame sextant, since it didn't need to work through a near vertical window.  Enclosing the navigator's space in a bubble, or even just a transparent cover over the hatch, must have been a giant step forward.
If Fred brought an "other types of aircraft octant", then it might have been kept in a box "more like a normal sextant box".  I think we can narrow the variety of likely sextants he brought to just two - a Bausch & Lomb A6 of roughly 1936 vintage, and a "Pioneer, #12-36".  I'd like to identify the boxes those two instruments were likely to have been kept in.  I'm still looking through web pages, and I suspect Gary is too.  Everyone else is encouraged to do the same.  A free pizza to the first one to find a photo!
Also according to the Smithsonian web site, the "#12-36" refers to the 12th sextant accepted by the Navy in 1936, which we only assume to be the 12th one they made (probably a pretty safe assumption).
I've received no news from the Naval Observatory historian yet.  I'll post news as soon as any appears.
Cheers,
JohnO
 
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John Ousterhout

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2011, 07:39:44 PM »

Below is mentioned a Perdue source of the photo that GL posted elsewhere, which showed AE and Harry Manning holding a sextant, by the tail of the Lockheed.  The sextant appears to be a Bausch & Lomb A-6 or A-8 (differences are subtle), which would be appropriate for 1937.

"Date:         Thu, 9 Aug 2007 18:12:56
From:         Ross Devitt
Subject:      About that sextant
 
In the Purdue collection at the link below (hope it works) is a
picture with the description "Amelia Earhart and Captain Harry
Manning standing near the tail of Earhart's plane and examining a
piece of equipment, ca. 1937".
 
http://earchives.lib.purdue.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=3D/=20
earhart&CISOPTR=3D271&CISOBOX=3D1&REC=3D2"

Cheers,
JohnO
 
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Gary LaPook

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2011, 08:40:15 PM »

Below is mentioned a Perdue source of the photo that GL posted elsewhere, which showed AE and Harry Manning holding a sextant, by the tail of the Lockheed.  The sextant appears to be a Bausch & Lomb A-6 or A-8 (differences are subtle), which would be appropriate for 1937.

"Date:         Thu, 9 Aug 2007 18:12:56
From:         Ross Devitt
Subject:      About that sextant
 
In the Purdue collection at the link below (hope it works) is a
picture with the description "Amelia Earhart and Captain Harry
Manning standing near the tail of Earhart's plane and examining a
piece of equipment, ca. 1937".
 
http://earchives.lib.purdue.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=3D/=20
earhart&CISOPTR=3D271&CISOBOX=3D1&REC=3D2"
That link didn't work, try this one.

I see where you are going with this John, excellent "thinking outside the box."   ;D
Here is the link to the other photo of Manning with the Bausch & Lomb octant.

Here is a link to the Bausch & Lomb in its box.

I have attached the image of the B&L in its box. (How do I get my pizza?) The box looks like a normal sextant box, but only externally. The internal structures of every sextant box is designed to hold only one specific type of sextant in place against jolts and jars and against any kind of damage. To the uninitiated, these boxes may all look alike but to anybody who had seen a B&L in its box, the box would be recognized without any trouble. So the problem with where you were going with this John, is named Harold Gatty. Getting a B&L box by Gatty would be like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster. Gatty was obviously familiar with the B&L, and he examined the box found on Gardner and would have recognized a B&L box. He said it was not a box for a modern type of sextant.
An obvious tip off in the B&L box is the holder for two batteries (looks like "C" or " D" cells) and the holder for two spare bulbs between the batteries since batteries were not normally used in marine sextants but are common in octants to illuminate the bubble for night time observations. This is an obvious feature in the A-10 box photo that I posted earlier too.
gl
« Last Edit: December 22, 2011, 02:20:09 AM by Gary LaPook »
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John Ousterhout

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2011, 08:54:46 AM »

gl sez "...So the problem with where you were going with this John, is named Harold Gatty. Getting a B&L box by Gatty would be like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster. Gatty was obviously familiar with the B&L..."

Gary - this is useful information.  I'm inclined to agree that it seems highly unlikely that Gatty wouldn't recognize a B&L box as being for a "modern" sextant.  However, I don't have any background on Harold Gatty, so I don't know that it would be "obviously familiar" to him.  Can you provide some support for the assumption?

btw, I'm not trying to "prove" that the box reported by Gallagher was a B&L or Pioneer. We can analyze artifacts found (or reported to have been found) on Niku, to see if they came from the last flight, or we can look at the items known to be on the flight and look to see if any of them ended up on Niku.

We know of one definite crash on Gardner that would have been expected to carry an old style marine sextant - the Norwich City.  We also hypothesize a later aircraft wreck on the island that would likely have carried a much more modern style sextant in a box of obviously different style. We find a report by someone finding an old style marine sextant box, which would have been contemporaneous with the Norwich City wreck, found on a part of the island far from the mostly likely aircraft landing spot, and also far from the ship wreck.  Why would a reasonable person assume the box was associated with the aircraft, and not the ship?  TIGHAR is seeking that answer, but the argument that connects the box to the aircraft is a bit convoluted at present.  Tracking down the NO numbers is one testable approach.  Identifying the box carried on the aircraft is another, since it would be the most likely one to turn up on the island, if the aircraft landed there. So is tracking down the NO numbers on the two known instruments in Fred's posession around the time of the flight.  If we find nothing to link Fred's instruments to the box found on Niku, then the most likely source for the box is not the aircraft.
Cheers,
JohnO
 
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Gary LaPook

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2011, 10:39:09 AM »

gl sez "...So the problem with where you were going with this John, is named Harold Gatty. Getting a B&L box by Gatty would be like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster. Gatty was obviously familiar with the B&L..."

Gary - this is useful information.  I'm inclined to agree that it seems highly unlikely that Gatty wouldn't recognize a B&L box as being for a "modern" sextant.  However, I don't have any background on Harold Gatty, so I don't know that it would be "obviously familiar" to him.  Can you provide some support for the assumption?

btw, I'm not trying to "prove" that the box reported by Gallagher was a B&L or Pioneer. We can analyze artifacts found (or reported to have been found) on Niku, to see if they came from the last flight, or we can look at the items known to be on the flight and look to see if any of them ended up on Niku.

We know of one definite crash on Gardner that would have been expected to carry an old style marine sextant - the Norwich City.  We also hypothesize a later aircraft wreck on the island that would likely have carried a much more modern style sextant in a box of obviously different style. We find a report by someone finding an old style marine sextant box, which would have been contemporaneous with the Norwich City wreck, found on a part of the island far from the mostly likely aircraft landing spot, and also far from the ship wreck.  Why would a reasonable person assume the box was associated with the aircraft, and not the ship?  TIGHAR is seeking that answer, but the argument that connects the box to the aircraft is a bit convoluted at present.  Tracking down the NO numbers is one testable approach.  Identifying the box carried on the aircraft is another, since it would be the most likely one to turn up on the island, if the aircraft landed there. So is tracking down the NO numbers on the two known instruments in Fred's posession around the time of the flight.  If we find nothing to link Fred's instruments to the box found on Niku, then the most likely source for the box is not the aircraft.
I thought everybody knew of Harold Gatty. Here is one link, you can find many more on Google. ( BTW, this article had Weems' name wrong, it is Philip van Horn Weems.)
See this post too. https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,525.msg7622.html#msg7622

gl
« Last Edit: December 22, 2011, 10:44:27 AM by Gary LaPook »
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John Ousterhout

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2011, 11:58:45 AM »

Excellant links Gary.  I'm convinced that Gatty recognize even subtle differences in sextant boxes of the period, possibly to the extent of recognizing a box as being likely to have belonged to Fred.
I think it still worth determining what Fred's sextant was, and its box, but the chance that it was the box reported by Gallagher would seem to be vanishingly small.

The implication is that the Niku sextant box was almost certainly not from the Earhart flight, and may not even have been from the Norwich City.  This would mean that the site 7 castaways were from some 3rd source.

Comments are envited.
Cheers,
JohnO
 
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2011, 03:13:00 PM »

... possibly to the extent of recognizing a box as being likely to have belonged to Fred. ...

Noonan's name appears nowhere in the bones file.

When the doctor identified the bones as being from a "European or half-European male," no one in the office seems to have said, "So they could be Fred Noonan's bones."

So I think it is stretching the evidence to say that Gatty could have said anything about the likelihood of the box having belonged to Fred Noonan. 

According to Ron Gatty, his father knew both Earhart and Noonan.  If he said something like, "Fred would not be carrying a box like that," it didn't make it into the bones file.
LTM,

           Marty
           TIGHAR #2359A
 
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richie conroy

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Re: What was Fred's Sextant and its box?
« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2011, 05:36:03 PM »

so what it is it were looking, Bausch & Lomb A6 or Pioneer, #12-36" or both
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