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Author Topic: Bushnell Sextant Box  (Read 5838 times)

Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #15 on: November 02, 2018, 01:39:03 AM »

When the Naval Observatory calibrated a sextant, they pasted a paper certificate to the inside of the box lid.  The certificate listed both the maker's number and the N.O. number of the sextant serviced. 

It would be more accurate to say that most of the certificates had places where both numbers could be included.

It is not the case that both numbers are given on every certificate.

I say this from memory, which is fallible.

I did not keep a personal collection of every certificate that I've read over these eight (8!) years.

I didn't think that it would make any difference. 

Quote
I don't think we have a case where the N.O. certificate doesn't match the numbers stenciled and stamped on the box.  I think any swapping around of boxes happened after the sextant left the navy inventory.

I think there might be a few cases like that, but, again, I don't have a handy way of checking the records other than re-reading the 33 pages in the sextant thread.

More importantly, I don't see a plausible path for the separated box to get into Fred's hands and then get lost on an island that the Bushnell visits two years or so after Fred's death. 

Based on our data, I don't think we can say with certitude that sextant 3500/1542 was definitely in the box with those numbers, but it does seem to me to be the very highest probability that both the instrument and the box were in the possession of the Navy around the time that AE and FN died. 

I need some coffee.  I want some oatmeal or eggs or something to go with it.  And there is an email problem that needs resolution.  I should do something after that to earn my room and board here at the Biblical Institute.  I will browse through the list first--there could be clues there in the remarks if there are any mismatches between certificates and box numbers.  BUT I don't think that will help to get the box from the Navy to Fred in time for it to be flown to Niku to be found by the Bushnell two years later, if you know what I mean.

Must. Drink. Coffee.
LTM,

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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #16 on: November 02, 2018, 04:00:14 AM »

Must. Drink. Coffee.

"The patient is sitting up and taking nourishment."

Two mugs of ingested, along with solid foods of various kinds and quantities.

Brandis 4193   
N.O. 4161   
Inspected 1919-04-02

Pictures show 4193 stamped on arc and inked on the box. N.O. 4161 also on arc, according to the text. Maker's number 5317 on the inspection certificate. So there is quite a discrepancy!   Wrong Box.

OK, Aristotle says, "One swallow does not a summer make."

And other sources say, "The argument from authority is the weakest possible argument."

I say that arguments that say "other sources say" is the weakest possible version of the argument from authority.

But we do have one (1) instance in which there is a discrepancy between the collimation certificate and the numbers on the box.

This means that in at least one (1) instance, the mixup happened while an instrument was still in service.

Stuff happens.  How often it happened back in the 1930s is anybody's guess.  But I don't think it is the least bit likely that the box for a sextant known to have been assigned to the Bushnell circa 1939 was with AE and FN in 1937.

There is no physical law that would prevent that sequence of events from happening (box switched; box goes to Fred; sextant stays with Bushnell; box gets flown to Niku and used by castaway in 1937; Bushnell visits the island in 1939).  Strange things do happen.  Even if the Bushnell brought the box, it is strange that it got left behind.  But that seems to be a vastly better hypothesis than supposing that Fred might have brought the box to the island.
LTM,

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« Last Edit: November 02, 2018, 04:23:20 AM by Martin X. Moleski, SJ »
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Bill Mangus

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #17 on: November 02, 2018, 07:28:05 AM »

I asked a neighbor of mine, a retired Navy O-6 aviator (Vietnam, A-7's) and former commanding officer of an ammunition supply ship and the carrier USS Constellation about the possibilities of a sextant not getting back into it's mated box.  Here's what he said:

 
"If I were a betting man, (which I am) I would say in the following order, is/are the cause of mismatches.
1.    Happened after the older instruments were sold as surplus as they became outdated.
2.    The only one who cared whether they matched or not was/is a twitchy civil servant bean counter in a green eye shade.
3.    Lack of due care and diligence in putting a sextant back in the correct box after us.
 
I think you are on a trail that can never be proven.  Just surmised.
Cheers"

Doesn't add much but does open the door to Fred having the box just a bit.

Bill Mangus
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #18 on: November 02, 2018, 08:22:07 AM »

There is no physical law that would prevent that sequence of events from happening (box switched; box goes to Fred; sextant stays with Bushnell; box gets flown to Niku and used by castaway in 1937; Bushnell visits the island in 1939).  Strange things do happen.  Even if the Bushnell brought the box, it is strange that it got left behind.  But that seems to be a vastly better hypothesis than supposing that Fred might have brought the box to the island.

Thanks Marty.  This reminds me of the JapCap response to the Jaluit photo being shown to have come from a book published in 1935. "Yeah, but a photo taken in 1937 could have later been added to the book." 

One can always speculate that events for which there is no evidence may have occurred.  Such speculation is meaningless unless supporting documentation is found.  That said, speculation can inspire research that proves, or disproves, the hypothesis.
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Kevin Weeks

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #19 on: November 02, 2018, 11:12:01 AM »

I understand we had a scent found on the 7 spot, but given the box being removed from the equation of the bones, does it still make sense that this is a "castaway" site?? I'm just trying to go back through and revisit things that were old arguments based upon combined evidence. My memory says that at one point an argument for the 7 site was access to the lagoon for food and better access to star sitings for the sextant.

given the ability of both the norwich city castaways and the kiwis to find food on the northwest corner, do we have another reason they would have made the trek to the 7 site without the added incentive of the sextant??
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Don White

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #20 on: November 02, 2018, 11:27:10 AM »

I think the provenance of the sextant box is sufficiently clear to eliminate it as a clue to the Earhart disappearance.

There is no evidence that the castaway ever possessed the box. There are two logic chains that are not reversible:

If the castaway had the box, then the castaway was not Noonan or Earhart.
But if the castaway was not Noonan or Earhart, this does not prove the castaway had the box.

If the castaway was Noonan or Earhart, then the castaway did not have the box.
But if the castaway did not have the box, this does not prove the castaway was Noonan or Earhart.

It is as far as I can see impossible to prove whether the castaway had possession of the box.
In the absence of the bones themselves, it can't be 100% proven if it was or wasn't one of our missing persons.
Even finding some other identifiable Earhart or Noonan DNA on site won't settle the question of whether the bones were remains of some other unknown missing person.
Even the possibility of an unknown missing person can't be ruled out -- the British obviously concluded that it was -- as there might not be an official report of everyone who went out in a boat and didn't come back.

However, given what we do know, the likely story is that the bones are Earhart's, and the box was left there in 1939 by someone who didn't notice the bones. It's not that unlikely that someone could fail to notice the bones nearby. Bodies have been found in close proximity to human activity, undiscovered for some time, in patches of woods or underbrush.

As no record has been found of the bones' destruction, they may still exist somewhere. Given all the searching for them that has already been done, it seems unlikely that they will be found, but it's still possible. I was about to say it also seems unlikely there is a findable record of their disposal (it also having been extensively looked for), but what started this discussion (the Bushnell sextant records) demonstrates that there may be other archival material awaiting discovery.

Don
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Kevin Weeks

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #21 on: November 02, 2018, 11:39:29 AM »

I would have to agree with that statement 100% Don.

I do remember there being many spots that Ric initially thought as plausible locations for the bones being found. at this point He's fairly focused on the 7 site.

my reading of the gallagher reports combined with the kiwi's survey makes me question the location based upon trees. ren trees are found throughout the island. kanawa appears to be much less common.

the sextant is making me go back and evaluate a lot of data.
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Bill Mangus

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #22 on: November 02, 2018, 11:46:29 AM »

 "It's not that unlikely that someone could fail to notice the bones nearby. Bodies have been found in close proximity to human activity, undiscovered for some time, in patches of woods or underbrush".

This clued me into something I think we may all be somewhat guilty of doing (including yours truly until just a moment ago), namely transferring our views of the cleared, clean pristine-looking Seven Site we've seen in the photographs from the expeditions to what any visitors, including the work party and GBG, would have seen when they were there in the period 1937-40.  They would not have been the same setting.

It would not have been a cleared, clean site.  There would have been all manner of debris scattered around, covering anything that had been there more than a season.  Bones and other artifacts would have been partially or completely covered and it's perhaps only sheer luck the skull was found at all.  Imagine GBG clearing and searching the site in Dec 1940.  By himself.  In the rain and wind.  I think coming away with even a partial skeleton is quite an accomplishment. 

Given this I think it would be pretty easy for any casual visitor to the area, not searching for anything, to have walked right on by without a second thought. 

Just a thought. . . Ric, do you have any pictures of the Seven Site taken before any clearing had begun?

(Might be better to move this to the "Perspective" thread.)
Bill Mangus
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« Last Edit: November 02, 2018, 11:51:33 AM by Bill Mangus »
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Kevin Weeks

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #23 on: November 02, 2018, 12:09:54 PM »

he has before, after and 1938 images of the 7 site/campsite in the perspectives thread
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Bill Mangus

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #24 on: November 02, 2018, 12:11:31 PM »

Yes, but not on-the-ground pictures of what someone walking through would have likely seen.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #25 on: November 02, 2018, 12:50:32 PM »

I understand we had a scent found on the 7 spot, but given the box being removed from the equation of the bones, does it still make sense that this is a "castaway" site??

If the bones were found at the site were not those of a castaway, whose were they?

My memory says that at one point an argument for the 7 site was access to the lagoon for food and better access to star sitings for the sextant.

Easy access to both the ocean reef and the lagoon, yes, but what would be the point of taking star sitings from the campsite?  Only the box was found and it looked like it had been most recently used only a "receptacle."  We never thought the castaway had the sextant at the site.

given the ability of both the norwich city castaways and the kiwis to find food on the northwest corner, do we have another reason they would have made the trek to the 7 site without the added incentive of the sextant??

What food did the Norwich City survivors and the Kiwis find at the northwest end of the island?
As far as I know, both groups only had food and water that was brought to the island.
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Kevin Weeks

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #26 on: November 02, 2018, 01:44:00 PM »

do we have 100% proof that the 7 site is the location of the bones Gallagher references.

determining where they were exactly was my understanding. they needed to view from the eastern shoreline for the best sitings of both the horizon and the stars. once that was done, what need would they have for the sextant?

I would have to go back to find the exact verbiage, but the survivors had managed to gather sufficient supplies from the overturned lifeboats to survive long enough to be rescued, but did note that there were plenty of easily caught wild birds, land crabs and coconuts.
"Thomas also documents the existance of large birds that were easily caught, and surmised that between these edible birds, crabs and coconuts, one would be unlikely to starve on the island. "

the kiwis supplemented their supplies with turtles, turtle eggs and lobsters that they wrote about.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #27 on: November 02, 2018, 01:47:18 PM »

I think the provenance of the sextant box is sufficiently clear to eliminate it as a clue to the Earhart disappearance.

Agreed

There is no evidence that the castaway ever possessed the box. There are two logic chains that are not reversible:

If the castaway had the box, then the castaway was not Noonan or Earhart.
But if the castaway was not Noonan or Earhart, this does not prove the castaway had the box.

Agreed

If the castaway was Noonan or Earhart, then the castaway did not have the box.
But if the castaway did not have the box, this does not prove the castaway was Noonan or Earhart.

Agreed

It is as far as I can see impossible to prove whether the castaway had possession of the box.
In the absence of the bones themselves, it can't be 100% proven if it was or wasn't one of our missing persons.

Agreed.

Even finding some other identifiable Earhart or Noonan DNA on site won't settle the question of whether the bones were remains of some other unknown missing person.

Wait a minute.  If we found a bone at the site from which Earhart's or Noonan's DNA could be extracted, the only way the bones found by Gallagher could be from an unknown missing person would be if Earhart or Noonan happened to die on the same obscure spot where an unknown missing person died.

Even the possibility of an unknown missing person can't be ruled out -- the British obviously concluded that it was -- as there might not be an official report of everyone who went out in a boat and didn't come back.

One can always speculate that events for which there is no evidence may have occurred.  Such speculation is meaningless unless supporting documentation is found.


However, given what we do know, the likely story is that the bones are Earhart's, and the box was left there in 1939 by someone who didn't notice the bones.

Only if the box was left there by a laborer who was part of the kanawa-cutting.  Before the skull was found, the site was simply too obscure to argue that somebody just happened to be wandering through.   

It's not that unlikely that someone could fail to notice the bones nearby. Bodies have been found in close proximity to human activity, undiscovered for some time, in patches of woods or underbrush.

Agreed.

As no record has been found of the bones' destruction, they may still exist somewhere. Given all the searching for them that has already been done, it seems unlikely that they will be found, but it's still possible. I was about to say it also seems unlikely there is a findable record of their disposal (it also having been extensively looked for), but what started this discussion (the Bushnell sextant records) demonstrates that there may be other archival material awaiting discovery.

Always a possibility
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Kevin Weeks

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #28 on: November 02, 2018, 02:02:14 PM »


Only if the box was left there by a laborer who was part of the kanawa-cutting.  Before the skull was found, the site was simply too obscure to argue that somebody just happened to be wandering through.   

I don't understand why you insist that the entire island was never walked through?? it looks like the bushnell survey had a secondary survey point very close to the 7 site on the beach and lagoon side?? it seems to me over the years people have set foot on every spot in that place....especially since the 7 site was much less overgrown then

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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Bushnell Sextant Box
« Reply #29 on: November 02, 2018, 02:23:54 PM »

I don't understand why you insist that the entire island was never walked through?? it looks like the bushnell survey had a secondary survey point very close to the 7 site on the beach and lagoon side?? it seems to me over the years people have set foot on every spot in that place....especially since the 7 site was much less overgrown then

The closest Bushnell secondary survey point is a mile from the Seven Site.  That's not "very close."
Prior to the discovery of the bones and box in September 1940 the only people known to have been on the island were:
• The 24 Norwich City survivors, whose movements are well documented.
• The New Zealand Survey party who certainly did not "walk through every part of the island."
• The Bushnell Survey party - ditto
• The initial Gilbertese laborers who were probably attracted to the site by the kanawa trees and one of whom probably left the box at the site.
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