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Author Topic: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat  (Read 7341 times)

John Kada

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The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« on: April 08, 2012, 12:38:46 AM »

According to page 21 of the Bushnell Survey of Gardner Island (2nd quarter), three lifeboats from the Norwich City were observed during the Bushnell’s visit to survey the island in November-December 1939. In a post on another thread (which I cannot find at the moment)  Ric pointed out that the Norwich City was equipped with four lifeboats, and he asked (perhaps somewhat mischievously) what happened to that fourth lifeboat.

But  according to the Ameliapedia page on the Norwich City, Captain Hamer’s and First Officer Thomas’s Board of Trade Inquiry accounts of the Norwich City accident only two lifeboats left the Norwich City on the night of the accident.

One lifeboat, located on the port side aft of the funnel, was torn away a big wave while being positioned for possible deployment; Captain Hamer, who was nearby, was lost from the ship when this wave struck, but he luckily washed up on Gardner. After the loss of Captain Hamer the rest of the ship’s crew boarded a starboard lifeboat aft of the funnel, but this boat quickly capsized once in the water, resulting in the loss of 11 of the ship's 35 men.  Hamer says that while awaiting rescue the surviving crewmen dragged two lifeboats, presumably these same two lifeboats, to a point “well clear of the tide”. Neither Hamer or Thomas mention any other lifeboats reaching terra firma in the several days before 24 men of the Norwich City were rescued by the Trongate.

So, how to explain the third lifeboat seen on Gardner by the Bushnell survey party? I’ll leave it to others to consider some of the other possibilities, but here let me consider here that the third lifeboat might have been removed from the Norwich City by the New Zealand survey party that visited Gardner in 1938, and then left where it was seen by the Bushnell team. We know from M.H. Hay’s journal that the N.Z. Survey team tied up to the wreck of the Norwich City and used it as a landing point for supplies that then were manhauled over the reef to the island. We even have a photo of small boats of the N.Z. survey team off the bow of the Norwich City.  Perhaps the New Zealand survey team saw the two remaining lifeboats on the N.C., and tried to use one of them to ferry supplies to the island over the reef at high tide. The Bushnell crew tried to use one of their whaleboats to do this but it was treacherous going--their whaleboat got holed on the second run over the reef—so maybe the kiwis figured rather than risking one of their own small boats they’d try using one of the remaining Norwich City lifeboats. But Hay makes no mention of Norwich City lifeboats, nor does the account of E.W. Lee another N.Z. survey team member. Lee goes on at some length about the difficulties encountered hauling supplies across the reef, so one might think Lee would have mentioned any attempt to use the Norwich City lifeboats, even if those attempts didn’t work out (e.g. the lifeboat was not very watertight, or was too hard to handle, and was left on the island when the people trying to use it gave up on it).

If I haven't poured enough cold water on the N.Z. hypothesis, also consider that a good deal of the Norwich city was consumed by fire the night it ran aground—see the Position Report provided to the Board of Trade Inquiry; would the two unused lifeboats, which were forward of the funnel survived this fire?

I don’t have a satisfactory answer to the mystery of the third lifeboat. Maybe the Bushnell report just got the facts wrong, and there was no third lifeboat. The puzzle of the third lifeboat remains unsolved, by me at least.

« Last Edit: April 08, 2012, 01:27:32 AM by John Kada »
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Chris Johnson

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2012, 01:43:39 AM »

The NC had 2 large lifeboats and 2 boats that you would use in port to ferry people and goods from shore to ship.

 This has been discussed in depth in another thread. http://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,331.0.html
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John Kada

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2012, 09:11:59 PM »

Thank you for pointing out that thread, Chris.

Reading the Board of Trade Inquiry accounts, I had wondered why, given the heavy seas on the the port side, the  aft port lifeboat was being prepared for possible use when there were two lifeboats available on the more protected, starboard side. But I see now that the forward boats were in fact utility boats, not lifeboats.

None of the posts point to any firm evidence about how a third boat made it to Gardener, however (nor did I in my first post, of course). It certainly is possible that a third boat was removed from the Norwich City the night it hit the reef, but the accounts of Captain Hamer or First Officer Thomas only mentions the two boats his men pulled "well clear of the tide". If a third boat came off the ship that night, or after many months/years on the wreck of the Norwich City, it then was washed in over the reef and beached itself (not pulled well clear of the tide) and thus managed to avoid being smashed to bits until the Bushnell party came along to see it. Certainly that could all happen, but if so then that is one lucky little boat!

It occurs to me that looking for the two Norwich City lifeboats would be an interesting forensic imaging project, if there is money to pay for it. The location they were left by Hamer's men is well known, and several photos of this part of the island were taken from airplanes between 1938 and 1942. Can the Norwich City's boats be seen in these photos with the aid of forensic imaging? The reason it might be worth trying to answer this question is that this exercise would provide a test of the capabilities of the forensic imaging methods available to Tighar: we know where the two boats should be--can forensic imaging in fact bring them to light?...


 

« Last Edit: April 08, 2012, 10:16:51 PM by John Kada »
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2012, 10:25:20 PM »

... it might be worth trying to answer this question is that this execrcise would provide a test of the capabilities of the forensic imaging methods available to Tighar; we know where the two boats should be--can forensic imaging in fact bring them to light?...

Niku had a colony for 25 years.  The colonists were all over the territory on that side of the island. 

"Ethnohistory of Nikumaroro."

The route from the Loran station to the village would have run near all of the likely spots for the Norwich City survivor camps and/or caches.

TIGHAR has been up and down that side of the island several times.  A book has been written about tantalizing findings on that side of the island.

I'm moderately confident that Jeff Glickman has looked at all of the available aerial photography more than once over the years.

I know that there is some skepticism here on the Forum about the value of skepticism, but my own view is that it seems unlikely that the remains, if any, of the Norwich City campsites won't be found by aerial inspection and may not even be findable by a more rigorous search on land.  My guess is that our lead archeologist would rather continue work at the Seven Site, all things being equal.
LTM,

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John Kada

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2012, 10:50:11 PM »

Marty,

I wasn't suggesting that the aerial images be examined for signs of Norwich City camps; instead I was suggesting that it might be a good test of Tighar's forensic imaging resources, to see if one specific site, the one where this picture was taken, could be identified by examination of air photos taken between '38 and '42. This photo is presumably one of the two boats Hamer's men pulled above the high tide mark. As I recall, the sign visible in this picture was erected by the N.Z. search party, and the location where the photo was taken is well known, i.e. close to the shoreline near the wreck of the Norwich City. Would forensic imaging analysis of the January 1942 air photo, for example, reveal two lifeboats at the expected location? That was what I was trying to get at. As I mentioned above, the reason it might be worth go to the trouble and expense of such an exercise would be to test the capabilities of Tighar's forensic imaging resources. 
« Last Edit: April 08, 2012, 11:08:34 PM by John Kada »
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2012, 07:10:00 AM »

... I was suggesting that it might be a good test of Tighar's forensic imaging resources, to see if one specific site, the one where this picture was taken, could be identified by examination of air photos taken between '38 and '42. This photo is presumably one of the two boats Hamer's men pulled above the high tide mark. As I recall, the sign visible in this picture was erected by the N.Z. search party, and the location where the photo was taken is well known, i.e. close to the shoreline near the wreck of the Norwich City. Would forensic imaging analysis of the January 1942 air photo, for example, reveal two lifeboats at the expected location? That was what I was trying to get at. As I mentioned above, the reason it might be worth go to the trouble and expense of such an exercise would be to test the capabilities of Tighar's forensic imaging resources.

In 2001, TIGHAR offered folks the chance to purchase high-res versions of images used in its "Forensic Imaging Project II."  The offer is still there, so you may want to take advantage of it before the price gets adjusted for inflation.

That same page suggests that it cost TIGHAR about $7,000 to have Jeff Glickman do a professional analysis of the images.  I suppose that a fresh search of the same data, looking for lifeboats, might cost less. 

My guess is that if you want to pay for the test, Jeff would be happy to see what he can see.  Here is the Photek website.

You can talk with Jeff and TIGHAR management directly at the Symposium in June.
LTM,

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John Kada

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2012, 10:43:53 PM »


In 2001, TIGHAR offered folks the chance to purchase high-res versions of images used in its "Forensic Imaging Project II."  The offer is still there, so you may want to take advantage of it before the price gets adjusted for inflation.


Hmmn, if Uncle Sam is nice to me this year I just might do so, Marty. But I'm afraid the extend of my forensic imaging capabilities will to pore over the photos with a really big magnifying glass ;D

All the samey, perhaps a magnifying glass and hi-res versions of those air photos would be all one would need to spot the two lifeboats we know Hamer's men dragged clear of the tide. And maybe even spot the 'lucky' little ship's boat that the Bushnell party saw, that I've been nattering on about  ;)

« Last Edit: April 10, 2012, 11:02:49 PM by John Kada »
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Heath Smith

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2012, 03:53:37 AM »


Marty,

Is there a level of membership or donation level that would give you access to the entire digital archive of TIGHAR? Thanks.
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2012, 06:28:39 AM »

Is there a level of membership or donation level that would give you access to the entire digital archive of TIGHAR?

Not yet.  The "digital archive," such as it is, is under development at TIGHAR Central when time and funds allow. 

Everything not yet digitized is in filing cabinets and Ric's mind.

My own wild guess is that there won't be a whole lot of progress in digitizing things over the next few months.  TIGHAR has the Symposium in June, the KoK expedition in July, and a school of archeology in August.  I wouldn't be surprised if an issue of TIGHAR Tracks came out this spring, too.  That's a lot for a bare-bones operation (pun intended; you may laugh now).
LTM,

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John Kada

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2012, 01:37:53 AM »

A couple of other comments/questions about the Bushnell papers:

The first quarter of the Bushnell papers includes two photos of the wreck of the Norwich. These would seem to be the ‘Kodak pictures taken from the Bushnell, at a distance of about 1000 yards” referred farther on in the Bushnell papers. The quality of the reproduction of these two photos is so poor that I can’t make anything out in either photo, but I’m wondering if it would be worth perhaps it would be worth obtaining better copies of the original prints from the National Archives. Might Nessie be lurking somewhere in one of these photos?

The third quarter of the Bushnell papers mentions that 5 man-days of tidal observations were made during the Bushnell visit in 1939 (this was apparently 1 man making observations for 5 days).  If Bob Brandenburg's model reconstruction of tides on Gardner (http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Forum/FAQs/tide.htm) didn’t use the Bushnell Party’s tidal observation data then I wonder if perhaps the Bushnell data, if it is available, would be of any value in testing those model results. I know that tidal data obtained during a Tighar expedition went into the modeling effort, so perhaps the Bushnell data isn’t needed. I'd be curious what someone familiar with the tide modeling work thinks...

The first quarter of the Bushnell papers mentions that an astronomical pier, “a truncated pyramid of concrete” was placed at 4° 40’ 18.85” S 174° 32’ 27.71” W.  This location is stated to be “on the Lagoon side, just east of the village”, however, if you put those coordinates into Google Maps they correspond to a point on the ocean side of the island to the west of the village. The location Google Maps gives looks like it might be one of locations marked as a small circle, denoting a 'triangulation station' in a small map in the Bushnell papers.  Obviously, knowing the correct location of this marker is not very important but I’m guessing that if that astronomical pier still is still where the Bushnell party placed it, it won’t be found at the coordinates given above.

While knowing where the astronomical pier is simply a matter of curiousity, knowing the locations of the Bushnell Party’s triangulation stations, three of which were 80 foot tall steel towers, might actually be worthwhile. The Bushnell surveyors may have left artifacts behind at these locations, and we wouldn't want a future Tighar expedition (e.g. a reconnaissance of the north shore of the island for possible castaway sites) to mistake Bushnell artifacts for castaway artifacts. I've seen somewhere on the Tighar site a nice map of Gardner that was made using data from the Bushnell survey, but cannot find that map right now. As I recall that map showed the locations of the triangulation stations. But perhaps there is even more exact information about the location of these triangulation stations somewhere, maybe in the same place that the tidal observations made by Bushnell team are located.

---------
note: I am not suggesting above that the Bushnell party left 80 foot towers behind at three spots as artifacts, merely that while assembling and then disassembling these towers (or while working at other triangulation stations) they may have left behind zippers, bottles, etc.




« Last Edit: April 16, 2012, 01:56:14 AM by John Kada »
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2012, 10:27:14 AM »

While knowing where the astronomical pier is simply a matter of curiousity, knowing the locations of the Bushnell Party’s triangulation stations, three of which were 80 foot tall steel towers, might actually be worthwhile.

From Bushnell papers, part II:

LTM,

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Monty Fowler

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2012, 12:33:58 PM »

"Everything not yet digitized is in filing cabinets and Ric's mind."

I'm not sure my "all hazards" insurance covers voyages to places like that.

LTM, whose filing cabinets are quite scary enough, thank you very much,
Monty Fowler, TIGHAR No. 2189 CER

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John Kada

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2012, 07:57:00 PM »

Marty, I wanted to include the map you posted (which I did mention in my post...) but at the late hour I was working I was too groggy to figure out how to do so. I also wanted to compare that map to the location that Google Maps gives for astronomical pier. Now that I know how to attach images (forgive me Marty, I was groggy, very groggy, last night), I'm attaching the Google Maps image for comparison to the Bushnell papers map posted above.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the coordinates of the astronomical pier look like they might coincide with a triangulation station that was west of the village on the ocean side of the island, yet the Bushnell papers state that the astronomical pier was placed east of the village, on the lagoon side.

So here we have an error in what is reported in the Bushnell papers. I started this topic pointing out the discrepancy between the Bushnell’s report of three boats ashore and the accounts of the wreck of the Norwich City, which only mention two boats ashore, so l’Affaire pier astronomicale (pardon my French...) suggests an answer to the Mystere des trois bateaux: i.e. that facts got miscommunicated to the writer (or typist?) of the Bushnell papers. This is all a long way to go on a decidedly non-essential subject, but I kind of enjoyed mulling it over all the same. Not that I even ended up with a definitive answer to anything.

One last point: I am sure that in the past I’ve seen on the Tighar web site a more detailed map of Gardner Island derived from Bushnell survey than the map from in the 2nd quarter of the Bushnell papers. I wonder if it is still available somewhere on the Tighar site, or if at least anyone else remembers seeing that map—it was a good map.
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Bruce Thomas

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2012, 10:39:28 PM »

One last point: I am sure that in the past I’ve seen on the Tighar web site a more detailed map of Gardner Island derived from Bushnell survey than the map from in the 2nd quarter of the Bushnell papers. I wonder if it is still available somewhere on the Tighar site, or if at least anyone else remembers seeing that map—it was a good map.

John, the closest thing I could find in the way of a map that matches your description is this one.  It appears in the Ameliapedia article about Aukaraime South.
LTM,

Bruce
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« Last Edit: April 17, 2012, 06:22:13 AM by Bruce Thomas »
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Andrew M McKenna

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Re: The Mystery of the Third Lifeboat
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2012, 09:36:35 AM »

John Kada says
"The first quarter of the Bushnell papers mentions that an astronomical pier, “a truncated pyramid of concrete” was placed at 4° 40’ 18.85” S 174° 32’ 27.71” W.  This location is stated to be “on the Lagoon side, just east of the village”, however, if you put those coordinates into Google Maps they correspond to a point on the ocean side of the island to the west of the village. "

There is a Bushnell Survey marker, as described, east of the village (well, actually south of the village) on the lagoon side, right near what we call Club Fred - the beach where we staged the Naiad in the lagoon.

I have hand held GPS coordinates from two different units as follows from 2001

S 4 40.354    W 174 32.263 - Skeet Gifford
S 4 40.347   W 174 32.265 - Andrew McKenna

Looking at Google Earth, the location is approximately

S 4°40'20.7" by W 174°32'15.7"  or

S 4 40.345 by W 174 32.262 

depending upon how you like your coordinates

The discrepancy with the Bushnell survey coordinates may be the datum that Google Earth uses vs what the Bushnell was using.

Somewhere I've got a photo of it.

Andrew
« Last Edit: April 17, 2012, 11:22:09 AM by Andrew M McKenna »
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