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Author Topic: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream  (Read 381335 times)

Joe Cerniglia

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #540 on: February 23, 2013, 09:42:07 PM »

Thank you Mr Cerniglia for your reply. No doubt you have considered that soil as we have referred to it covers a multitude of things. Fine grained coral mixed with the decayed remnants of bird, fish bones and shells etc. is the soil of the island and that which encourages the growth of the flora of the island. Compounds such as mercuric ones etc. are known to become concentrated in animals at the upper levels of the food chain due to their natural selection of prey that provides the best dietary intake against the effort to harvest these. So if there is naturally occurring mercuric content in the various animals that form the links in that food chain then the higher species in the chain will be ingesting greater concentrations of a compound like a mercuric one. It follows therefore that as these species suffer mortality in some form either as prey or simply dying then when their bones and flesh break down the trace elements and molecular compounds will be deposited in areas around where the decay occurs. Over times there will be a gradual increase in any molecular compounds like mercury compounds in what we call the soil of the island. Mercuric compounds are reasonably stable and could probably associated with minor flooding events or rainfall be transported to and deposited on otherwise mercuric free objects such as glass etc. So while I think that your work on the classification and study of the availability of the various unguent containers that might fit the profile of the glass fragments is first class, I still wonder about the aforementioned natural contamination of these fragments in the environment of Nikumaroro especially as the species on land would appear to represent the top predators in the food chain that leads from the sea to the land. Therefore I would suggest that soil sampling from various localities needs to be addressed - unless it has been done and this form of contamination has been previously ruled out.           
The 2 main arguments that came up, as I recall, were that 1) the level of mercury on such a small surface area of glass would indicate a proportionally large soil contamination, if soil contamination were the culprit. The amount was simply too large to be accounted for by environmental background levels, even had it been found in an urban area.  The amount wasn't extremely high in terms of sheer volume, but it was high when compared to the small surface area tested, only a few square cm.  Had these levels been detected on, say, an equivalent area of a laboratory countertop, Greg has demonstrated it is just large enough that a hazmat team would need to be called in for cleanup.  2) the type of mercury suspected, ammoniated mercury, will adhere to glass, whereas elemental mercury, the type found environmentally, will not.

Now, these are good arguments, and yours are too, Dan.  They account for all the situations I can envision.  But they can't account for situations I may not have envisioned.  Feynman would probably have been in favor of a soil test.  I'm not against it.  It's just that we can more quickly disverify our hypothesis of a mercury-bearing cream having been in the jar if we can find evidence other glass on the site is similarly contaminated.  It's just a matter of taking one step at a time.  Sound reasonable?

Joe Cerniglia
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John Kada

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #541 on: February 23, 2013, 11:43:44 PM »


The 2 main arguments that came up, as I recall, were that 1) the level of mercury on such a small surface area of glass would indicate a proportionally large soil contamination, if soil contamination were the culprit. The amount was simply too large to be accounted for by environmental background levels, even had it been found in an urban area.  The amount wasn't extremely high in terms of sheer volume, but it was high when compared to the small surface area tested, only a few square cm.  Had these levels been detected on, say, an equivalent area of a laboratory countertop, Greg has demonstrated it is just large enough that a hazmat team would need to be called in for cleanup.  2) the type of mercury suspected, ammoniated mercury, will adhere to glass, whereas elemental mercury, the type found environmentally, will not.


Joe, if you don't mind me asking, how much mercury was found by the lab, and how big an area of the jar was tested? The only information I have seen in this post in which you are quoted by Randy Conrad as saying in an email that "Evans Analytical Group in Syracuse, New York has reported today that 3.4 micrograms per liter of mercury was detected from the ointment pot".

Perhaps this is not actually what you said, or what you meant? It's hard for me to understand from the quote, as written, how the measurement was performed or what the measurement results were, so it is hard to see how it was concluded that the amount of mercury present in the jar was unusually high. Can you state the lab results in units of mass per unit area (e.g., micrograms per square cm) ? That might help clear things up, at least for me.

Thanks!
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Dan Kelly

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #542 on: February 24, 2013, 01:02:31 AM »

The amount wasn't extremely high in terms of sheer volume, but it was high when compared to the small surface area tested, only a few square cm.  Had these levels been detected on, say, an equivalent area of a laboratory countertop, Greg has demonstrated it is just large enough that a hazmat team would need to be called in for cleanup.  2) the type of mercury suspected, ammoniated mercury, will adhere to glass, whereas elemental mercury, the type found environmentally, will not.

Now, these are good arguments, and yours are too, Dan.  They account for all the situations I can envision.  But they can't account for situations I may not have envisioned.  Feynman would probably have been in favor of a soil test.  I'm not against it.  It's just that we can more quickly disverify our hypothesis of a mercury-bearing cream having been in the jar if we can find evidence other glass on the site is similarly contaminated.  It's just a matter of taking one step at a time.  Sound reasonable?

Joe Cerniglia
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Thank you Mr Cerniglia for your reply, but that isn't the question. My question was were soil samples taken from the area of the fragment finds and also from scientifically defined random sites on the island to determine exactly what is the average background mercury compound contamination, and for that matter other naturally occurring metallic contaminants, so that the amount found on the glass fragment can be placed within its probability range in the island environment. Only then, I suggest, can TIGHAR begin to define if the glass fragments are those of a vessel which at some time held a skin lotion of some mercury containing kind or contrarily held some other non-mercury based unguent. Please accept that I am not criticising your thorough work on establishing a comparative morphological and historical typology of unguent jars of this kind.   
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Joe Cerniglia

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #543 on: February 24, 2013, 02:08:46 PM »


The 2 main arguments that came up, as I recall, were that 1) the level of mercury on such a small surface area of glass would indicate a proportionally large soil contamination, if soil contamination were the culprit. The amount was simply too large to be accounted for by environmental background levels, even had it been found in an urban area.  The amount wasn't extremely high in terms of sheer volume, but it was high when compared to the small surface area tested, only a few square cm.  Had these levels been detected on, say, an equivalent area of a laboratory countertop, Greg has demonstrated it is just large enough that a hazmat team would need to be called in for cleanup.  2) the type of mercury suspected, ammoniated mercury, will adhere to glass, whereas elemental mercury, the type found environmentally, will not.


Joe, if you don't mind me asking, how much mercury was found by the lab, and how big an area of the jar was tested? The only information I have seen in this post in which you are quoted by Randy Conrad as saying in an email that "Evans Analytical Group in Syracuse, New York has reported today that 3.4 micrograms per liter of mercury was detected from the ointment pot".

Perhaps this is not actually what you said, or what you meant? It's hard for me to understand from the quote, as written, how the measurement was performed or what the measurement results were, so it is hard to see how it was concluded that the amount of mercury present in the jar was unusually high. Can you state the lab results in units of mass per unit area (e.g., micrograms per square cm) ? That might help clear things up, at least for me.

Thanks!

John, the answers to these questions would take a lot of time to produce and comprise at least several pages that I want to write when I present the final findings.  In fact, they would probably be the main idea of the presentation. A high Hg reading is purely based on context.  We haven't yet gathered all the contextual information, in the form of lab controls.  We could decide in the end it wasn't high, but we still think it was.

In the meantime, you've prompted me to review my notes with Greg to double-check things.  Thank you for your patience.

Joe Cerniglia
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« Last Edit: February 24, 2013, 02:18:12 PM by Joe Cerniglia »
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Joe Cerniglia

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #544 on: February 24, 2013, 02:18:42 PM »

The amount wasn't extremely high in terms of sheer volume, but it was high when compared to the small surface area tested, only a few square cm.  Had these levels been detected on, say, an equivalent area of a laboratory countertop, Greg has demonstrated it is just large enough that a hazmat team would need to be called in for cleanup.  2) the type of mercury suspected, ammoniated mercury, will adhere to glass, whereas elemental mercury, the type found environmentally, will not.

Now, these are good arguments, and yours are too, Dan.  They account for all the situations I can envision.  But they can't account for situations I may not have envisioned.  Feynman would probably have been in favor of a soil test.  I'm not against it.  It's just that we can more quickly disverify our hypothesis of a mercury-bearing cream having been in the jar if we can find evidence other glass on the site is similarly contaminated.  It's just a matter of taking one step at a time.  Sound reasonable?

Joe Cerniglia
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Thank you Mr Cerniglia for your reply, but that isn't the question. My question was were soil samples taken from the area of the fragment finds and also from scientifically defined random sites on the island to determine exactly what is the average background mercury compound contamination, and for that matter other naturally occurring metallic contaminants, so that the amount found on the glass fragment can be placed within its probability range in the island environment. Only then, I suggest, can TIGHAR begin to define if the glass fragments are those of a vessel which at some time held a skin lotion of some mercury containing kind or contrarily held some other non-mercury based unguent. Please accept that I am not criticising your thorough work on establishing a comparative morphological and historical typology of unguent jars of this kind.   

Dan, yes, soil samples were taken from the area of the fragment finds, according to Dr. King.  You'd have to ask Mr. Gillespie what other island samples are in TIGHAR's possession.  They wouldn't have been collected with a scientific process in mind because we didn't know we might want to test samples for the purpose of looking at Hg at the time they were collected.  Maybe this is work for a future expedition.

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Andrew M McKenna

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #545 on: February 24, 2013, 04:55:53 PM »

Dan

I think your suggestion that ONLY after eliminating all variables regarding the ambient level of mercury contamination, can TIGHAR claim that the jar glass has an elevated level of mercury due to it's former contents to be somewhat unreasonable.
 
Yes it is true that, in theory, the 7 site might in fact be a toxic waste site contaminated by hazmat team levels of mercury sufficient to infuse the glass of the jar with a similar level of toxicity, but I think the odds are pretty small given what we know about coral atolls, the history of Nikumaroro, and what we know about the products sold in that particular jar.  Coral atolls are not generally known for being repositories of heavy metals without significant external contamination, and the Phoenix islands are about as far away from sources of contamination as one can get.

You cite the concentration of mercury in the food chain as a possible source of contamination.  What exact species of "top predators in the food chain that leads from the sea to the land" are you suggesting contributed to such potential contamination?  Are we talking frigate birds, hermit crabs, coco crabs, tuna, dolphins, sharks, humans?  The top predators in that gang generally don't consistently land themselves at the 7 site in sufficient quantity to provide hazmat team level of contamination.  Keep in mind that we've only found evidence of a countable number of individuals of all species, so it isn't like the place is completely overrun with the remains of mercury laden top predators, there simply isn't that much remaining of any species.

Doing a bit web searching, I do find a study of seabirds with mercury concentration at Midway Island

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969700004964

That indicates contamination levels in the range of 2,000 PPB for frigate birds, and up to 7,000 PPB for red-tailed tropic birds, and near 20,000 PPB for black footed albatross and tops out at 31,900 PPB for the bonin petrel.  I don't think we have either the albatross or the petrel at Nikumaroro, so we can cross those two off the list.  There are studies showing humans who eat dolphin on a regular basis testing out as high as 19 PPM, but I don't think that these levels are high enough to infuse the jar glass with the level of mercury that was found in the lab. 

Can you cite any reference for the concentration of mercury by top predators on uninhabited coral atolls that would result in contamination high enough to infuse glass with 3.4 micrograms of mercury per liter?  Outside of a toxic waste dump, I doubt that the food chain mechanism could achieve such levels.

Joe, can you translate the lab findings of 3.4 micrograms per liter into PPM?  I'm a bit hazy on how to relate the two.

We do have the wings - bones and feathers - from several frigate birds that were found at the 7 site.  Since these are available (I think), it might be worth testing them to determine what the actual level of mercury in them as a substitute for testing of soil samples, but only if the cost is reasonable.

As far as I know, we did not take soil samples with the intent of testing them for mercury.  We didn't know the issue existed at the time we were there, and it only exists because the type of jar we found is known to have been used for a product that contained significant levels of mercury.  Seems to me that the simplest solution is to connect the known jar with the known mercury laden product, but yes that does still have some level of uncertainty.  Completely eliminating all uncertainty is a difficult and expensive proposition, so we have to pursue what we believe is the most effective and reasonable lines of research.  I personally don't think testing the soil samples at the 7 site, and randomly around the island would be a productive line of research given the resources required and the limited ability to pursue this project on site.  You are of course welcome to help fund a trip out there to collect soil samples and test them.   :)

So, while I can certainly be wrong, it is possible that the ambient level of mercury at the 7 site is extraordinarily high, enough so to infuse a piece of glass with hazmat team levels of mercury, I think the odds are incredibly small.

Andrew
« Last Edit: February 24, 2013, 04:59:11 PM by Andrew M McKenna »
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John Kada

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #546 on: February 24, 2013, 05:29:38 PM »


Doing a bit web searching, I do find a study of seabirds with mercury concentration at Midway Island

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969700004964

That indicates contamination levels in the range of 2,000 PPB for frigate birds, and up to 7,000 PPB for red-tailed tropic birds, and near 20,000 PPB for black footed albatross and tops out at 31,900 PPB for the bonin petrel.  I don't think we have either the albatross or the petrel at Nikumaroro, so we can cross those two off the list.  There are studies showing humans who eat dolphin on a regular basis testing out as high as 19 PPM, but I don't think that these levels are high enough to infuse the jar glass with the level of mercury that was found in the lab. 

Can you cite any reference for the concentration of mercury by top predators on uninhabited coral atolls that would result in contamination high enough to infuse glass with 3.4 micrograms of mercury per liter?  Outside of a toxic waste dump, I doubt that the food chain mechanism could achieve such levels.

Joe, can you translate the lab findings of 3.4 micrograms per liter into PPM?  I'm a bit hazy on how to relate the two
.


Andrew, I think 3.4 micrograms per liter works out to 3.4 parts per billion (ppb).
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Dan Kelly

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #547 on: February 24, 2013, 06:43:42 PM »

Dan

I think your suggestion that ONLY after eliminating all variables regarding the ambient level of mercury contamination, can TIGHAR claim that the jar glass has an elevated level of mercury due to it's former contents to be somewhat unreasonable.
 
Yes it is true that, in theory, the 7 site might in fact be a toxic waste site contaminated by hazmat team levels of mercury sufficient to infuse the glass of the jar with a similar level of toxicity, but I think the odds are pretty small given what we know about coral atolls, the history of Nikumaroro, and what we know about the products sold in that particular jar.  Coral atolls are not generally known for being repositories of heavy metals without significant external contamination, and the Phoenix islands are about as far away from sources of contamination as one can get.

You cite the concentration of mercury in the food chain as a possible source of contamination.  What exact species of "top predators in the food chain that leads from the sea to the land" are you suggesting contributed to such potential contamination?  Are we talking frigate birds, hermit crabs, coco crabs, tuna, dolphins, sharks, humans?  The top predators in that gang generally don't consistently land themselves at the 7 site in sufficient quantity to provide hazmat team level of contamination.  Keep in mind that we've only found evidence of a countable number of individuals of all species, so it isn't like the place is completely overrun with the remains of mercury laden top predators, there simply isn't that much remaining of any species. ...
Andrew

Thank you Mr McKenna for your reply. You are probably aware the concept of top predator in the food chain is a relative value given the environment in which the definition is being applied. A goldfish bowl with one goldfish has by its nature a top predator which is the goldfish.  :)  Nikumaroro is basically a bird sanctuary which provides a nesting place for birds whose primary diet is sea food. In the marine environment the food chain, as you also no doubt aware, has many links in its species predation. The marine environment is also such that from the smallest creature consumed through each step there is a steady concentration of heavy metal contaminants until fish are consumed by sea birds which come back to islands like Nikumaroro and feed their young, defecate, die in all manner of ways etc.. Those processes then release some of the contaminants like mercury compounds back into the soil. Mr Kada has asked about the exact levels of this mercury, as I am I Vis-à-vis naturally occurring levels of these substances - the claim about about hazmat levels while sounding suitably dramatic is of little value as we have not defined exactly what is the level of mercury. I am not suggesting that the environment is hazardous at all, I am only suggesting that it is possible that there may be naturally occurring levels of heavy metal contamination.

Most soils have background noise traces of all sorts of elements, and given the sea bird faeces rich environment of Nikumaroro, and the natural concentration of heavy metal contamination characteristic of marine food chains, then I suggest that it is unwise to discount contamination from that source because the hypothetical Earhart/freckle cream/jar link is so enticing. Now Mr Cerniglia has said that samples were taken we would expect that these should have been retained and stored in a pristine way which would allow testing - there is no point in taking them if testing is not in the research program. Then, as I have suggested, this would either confirm or put to rest the idea that the mercury found in the jar fragment residue is of a level that exceeds the background contamination, if any, or is of a level compatible with simple contamination from the environment.

It is quite simple really and creates another means of assessing the freckle cream jar idea. It doesn't confirm, as you and all of us are aware, that the jar was bought to the island by Earhart but it does at the very least confirm the jar's purpose.
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Alan Harris

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #548 on: February 24, 2013, 07:15:57 PM »

. . . the type of jar we found is known to have been used for a product that contained significant levels of mercury. 

This is my personal opinion only (and I will be hooted down for sure):

As Randy Conrad has recently pointed out, and as far as I am aware, there has been no evidence found anywhere that Dr. Berry's Freckle Product was ever sold in clear-glass Hazel-Atlas No. 1995 jars, which is what was found on the island.  Joe Cerniglia should, please, correct me if this is not true.  I of course understand that if the word "type" is taken generally enough to mean "similar size and shape" only, the statement is not untrue; but it still sounds a bit of a stretch to me.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #549 on: February 24, 2013, 08:14:29 PM »

Nikumaroro is basically a bird sanctuary which provides a nesting place for birds whose primary diet is sea food. In the marine environment the food chain, as you also no doubt aware, has many links in its species predation. The marine environment is also such that from the smallest creature consumed through each step there is a steady concentration of heavy metal contaminants until fish are consumed by sea birds which come back to islands like Nikumaroro and feed their young, defecate, die in all manner of ways etc.. Those processes then release some of the contaminants like mercury compounds back into the soil.

Let me get this straight.  You're suggesting that the mercury found on the jar is from bird dung????  We're talking about the broken jar whose pieces were found buried in coral rubble (not guano)???  What gave you the idea that Nikumaroro is basically a bird sanctuary?  Yes, there are plenty of birds there but it's no more a bird sanctuary than it is a crab or shark sanctuary.  There isn't now and there apparently never was a significant guano deposit anywhere on the island - unlike, for example, McKean Island (now THERE'S a bird sanctuary).  I'd wager that the Seven Site has no more bird droppings per square meter than your back yard.

It is, of course, possible that on some day long ago when the jar was sitting on the ground, upright, undamaged, with the lid off, some bird with mercury saturated poop and a Norden bombsight managed to score a direct hit. If that's your hypothesis we could probably help you devise an experiment to test it.

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Dan Kelly

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #550 on: February 24, 2013, 09:00:57 PM »


Let me get this straight.  You're suggesting that the mercury found on the jar is from bird dung????  We're talking about the broken jar whose pieces were found buried in coral rubble (not guano)???  What gave you the idea that Nikumaroro is basically a bird sanctuary?  Yes, there are plenty of birds there but it's no more a bird sanctuary than it is a crab or shark sanctuary.  There isn't now and there apparently never was a significant guano deposit anywhere on the island - unlike, for example, McKean Island (now THERE'S a bird sanctuary).  I'd wager that the Seven Site has no more bird droppings per square meter than your back yard.

It is, of course, possible that on some day long ago when the jar was sitting on the ground, upright, undamaged, with the lid off, some bird with mercury saturated poop and a Norden bombsight managed to score a direct hit. If that's your hypothesis we could probably help you devise an experiment to test it.

Thank you for your prompt reply Mr Gillespie. Well you might care to correct the Wikipedia entry regarding the bird sanctuary. Apparently that says that ...

 "The island is part of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, and as such, has been named an Important Bird Area.".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikumaroro

However that aside. It seems to me that getting a straight answer about the background levels of heavy metal contamination in what passes for soil on the island is an impossibly difficult question for people to answer. Mr Cerniglia tells us that soil samples were taken, now I can think of no reason other than analysis why samples would be taken, unless TIGHAR was considering selling them in little bottles as a fund raiser, so were tests done on the soil and what was the result. I can't find any references to tests in your excellent Ameliapedia but perhaps I have missed them. And if I have have then that's me with egg on my face.  :)

Now I do respectfully submit that Dr Berry's freckle cream relied on mercury to do its advertised job so I would think that finding a mercuric compound on the glass residue of a jar that is suggested by TIGHAR to have arrived with Earhart on the island (bearing in mind her apparent problem with freckles) was a big boost to TIGHAR's quest. And if I am not mistaken from the accounts I have read it still is, but just as one swallow a spring does not make, so too a trace of a mercuric compound does not a freckle cream make unless that trace can be ruled out as coming from heavy metal compounds arriving on the island through the digestive processes of sea birds. And the latter I respectfully suggest can only be ascertained if appropriate random sampling is done. In a reply to my earlier question about this matter Mr Cerniglia mentioned the question asked by an analyst he approached ...  "You are in good company in your suggestion. The lead scientist at the lab has also suggested this as a possible experiment." http://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,261.msg23841.html#msg23841

Therefore the question seems to be a fairly common sense one asked by people who are thinking about the mercury traces on the glass fragment. Personally I see no problem with analysing soil samples to ascertain this data if those samples still exist other than the cost. If they don't then whenever TIGHAR revisits the island perhaps the sampling could be done. It is a sort of belt and braces approach to shore up TIGHAR's argument.         
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #551 on: February 25, 2013, 06:49:17 AM »

Well you might care to correct the Wikipedia entry regarding the bird sanctuary. Apparently that says that ...

 "The island is part of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, and as such, has been named an Important Bird Area.".

To continue in the quibbling spirit of this thread - "an Important Bird Area" is not the same thing as "basically a bird sanctuary."  The Wikipedia entry is a general statement.  Niku is an Important Bird Area because it's part of the PIPA.  My comment is a specific statement - based upon direct observation over periods of several weeks in 1996, 2001, 2007, and 2010 - about bird activity at the site where the buried jar fragments were found.  In my opinion, the notion that the mercury detected on the jar might be attributable to a general saturation of the site with bird droppings is on a par with speculation about a transvestite Coastie being responsible for compact mirror and make-up.  We welcome serious suggestions of alternative hypotheses but this is just harassment.

However that aside. It seems to me that getting a straight answer about the background levels of heavy metal contamination in what passes for soil on the island is an impossibly difficult question for people to answer.

Let me help you with that.  Straight answers are my specialty.
In the process of collecting and bagging artifacts we inevitably end up with detritus in the bottom of the bag. Some of the artifacts collected during Niku VI (2010) - such as the jar - were collected using sterile protocols because we hoped to get "contact DNA."  "Dirt" from the bottom of such bags is the closest thing we have to scientifically collected soil samples.


Now I do respectfully submit that Dr Berry's freckle cream relied on mercury to do its advertised job so I would think that finding a mercuric compound on the glass residue of a jar that is suggested by TIGHAR to have arrived with Earhart on the island (bearing in mind her apparent problem with freckles) was a big boost to TIGHAR's quest.

Another quibble.  TIGHAR has not suggested that the jar arrived with Earhart.  It would be accurate to say, "TIGHAR has suggested that the jar MAY HAVE arrived with Earhart."  That possibility is intriguing to the public and media and that has been a big boost to TIGHAR's quest - as well it should be.  It's not the jar, it's the boost that you seem to have a problem with.

And if I am not mistaken from the accounts I have read it still is, but just as one swallow a spring does not make, so too a trace of a mercuric compound does not a freckle cream make unless that trace can be ruled out as coming from heavy metal compounds arriving on the island through the digestive processes of sea birds. And the latter I respectfully suggest can only be ascertained if appropriate random sampling is done. In a reply to my earlier question about this matter Mr Cerniglia mentioned the question asked by an analyst he approached ...  "You are in good company in your suggestion. The lead scientist at the lab has also suggested this as a possible experiment." http://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,261.msg23841.html#msg23841

Labs are always in favor of doing more tests.  No matter how many tests we do, it will never be more than a possibility that the jar contained freckle cream.  We already have enough information to say that freckle cream is a reasonable possibility. We don't know that Earhart used freckle cream and, unless we find some primary source reference that has not turned up yet, we'll never know.


Therefore the question seems to be a fairly common sense one asked by people who are thinking about the mercury traces on the glass fragment. Personally I see no problem with analysing soil samples to ascertain this data if those samples still exist other than the cost. If they don't then whenever TIGHAR revisits the island perhaps the sampling could be done. It is a sort of belt and braces approach to shore up TIGHAR's argument.         

The investigation of other material recovered from the Seven Site has pointed up a need for soil samples, so that will be one of the tasks for Niku VIII anyway.
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Dan Kelly

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #552 on: February 25, 2013, 04:54:42 PM »

Thank you Mr Gillespie for your reply. I am happy to see that soil samples are a recognised objective for later visits. The general tenor of your post is to downplay the importance of the freckle cream jar (if that is what it is) and its relationship with Earhart claiming, if I read the meaning of your statement correctly, that it is the media that has placed the emphasis on it rather than TIGHAR and it was just a happy chance that this resulted in good publicity for TIGHAR. May I say that is fortuitous indeed.

However as birds are resident on the island and your comments re deposition of any mercuric compounds in their droppings are, as you say "In my opinion, the notion that the mercury detected on the jar might be attributable to a general saturation of the site with bird droppings is on a par with speculation about a transvestite Coastie being responsible for compact mirror and make-up.", simply your own speculations we can agree to differ simply because as it appears no soil analysis has been performed to either confirm or reject natural background mercuric contamination then at the moment there is no firm answer regarding the mercury source.

I apologise if you see harassment in this line of questioning, I simply see it as expanding the data analysis to wring as much from it as possible thus ascertaining if it provides a complete picture or is in need of further expansion. Something you have conceded in stating that "The investigation of other material recovered from the Seven Site has pointed up a need for soil samples, ...". I would hope that these samples would comprise a set taken from locations elsewhere on the island for comparative purposes to properly discern if there are unique features at the Seven Site that may have a bearing on the search or if they are simply part of the normal composition of the island's soil.       
« Last Edit: February 25, 2013, 06:50:25 PM by Dan Kelly »
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Daniel Paul Cotts

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #553 on: February 25, 2013, 10:15:19 PM »

I thought reply #609 in this thread put to bed the idea that environmental contamination was an explanation for the mercury on the jar.
Quote
2) the type of mercury suspected, ammoniated mercury, will adhere to glass, whereas elemental mercury, the type found environmentally, will not.
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John Kada

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Re: Dr. Berry's Freckle Cream
« Reply #554 on: February 25, 2013, 11:33:39 PM »


To continue in the quibbling spirit of this thread - "an Important Bird Area" is not the same thing as "basically a bird sanctuary."  The Wikipedia entry is a general statement.  Niku is an Important Bird Area because it's part of the PIPA.  My comment is a specific statement - based upon direct observation over periods of several weeks in 1996, 2001, 2007, and 2010 - about bird activity at the site where the buried jar fragments were found.  In my opinion, the notion that the mercury detected on the jar might be attributable to a general saturation of the site with bird droppings is on a par with speculation about a transvestite Coastie being responsible for compact mirror and make-up.  We welcome serious suggestions of alternative hypotheses but this is just harassment.


In my opinion, Dan has an interesting idea. As I read it, he is not saying the Hazel-Atlas jar was directly contaminated by guano, but rather he is wondering whether Niku’s ‘soil’ (let’s call it that) may be sufficiently high in mercury content that soil contamination might explain the mercury measurement reported by Joe (via Randy).  Andrew McKenna has pointed out that seabirds can have high levels of mercury in their tissues, and so it seems plausible to me that, as Dan suggests, seabirds have deposited enough mercury on Niku over the centuries to significantly raise Niku’s soil mercury concentrations; this would parallel the environmental cycling of phosphorous, where there have been studies showing that seabirds are major contributors of phosphorous to the soils of some islands and coastal areas. Obviously, the higher the mercury contamination level of the Hazel-Atlas jar, the less likely the possibility that Niku soil plays a role in the mercury measurement results obtained on the Hazel-Atlas jar.

Another thing to consider in interpreting the mercury results of the Niku Hazel-Atlas jar is how it was handled and stored. If people who handled the Niku Hazel-Atlas jar also handled Dr. Berry’s Ointment jars obtained from ebay or from other sources without taking precautions, cross contamination of the Niku jar with mercury from these other jars is a possibility.  By the way, given what we know about the composition of Dr. Berry’s ointment (12% mercury) I would hope all those who handle these freckle cream jars are being careful.

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