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Author Topic: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939  (Read 24206 times)

John Kada

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The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« on: August 05, 2012, 12:58:48 AM »


That the partial skeleton of a castaway found by Gardner’s first colonists might be the remains of Amelia Earhart has for good reason been the subject of much discussion on this forum. At present however it is not certain that the castaway was in fact Earhart. If not Earhart, the other possibilities are that the castaway was Fred Noonan (although as I recall the bone measurements suggest this is unlikely), an unlucky survivor of the Norwich City wreck, or some other poor soul who wound up stranded on Gardner.

It is this third possibility that I would like forum members to consider. I did a bit of poking around on the internet looking for information about ships or boats that might have been lost in the general vicinity of Gardner in the 20 or so years (see note below) before the castaway’s remains were found and came up with nothing. But given the impressively detailed information dug up by forum contributors about all matters of subjects pertaining to the Niku hypothesis I am wondering if some Forum reader out there might have better luck (or more skill) than I did identifying missing ships or boats from which the castaway could have come from. I note that commercial shipping did ply the waters near Gardner in this period -- besides the Norwich City, there was the Lincoln Ellsworth and the Trongate, for instance. Perhaps large ships other than the Norwich city went missing? Information about small sailing vessels lost at sea in this area would probably be even less likely to have been recorded, but all the same maybe such information is out there somewhere...

This is probably a long shot but given how important a part of the puzzle the castaway’s remains are I think it would be interesting to know about any lost boats or ships that the castaway might plausibly have come from.

I'm not sure if this is the best place to post this query, but I'm sure one of our super-efficient moderators will quickly move it if necessary.
-----
Note: The sextant box found with the castaway’s remains is thought to be an US Navy sextant that was ‘excessed’ after WWI; if this is true than the castaway could have arrived Gardner no more than ~20 year before his/her remains were discovered
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Mark Pearce

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2012, 08:53:53 AM »

John,

You might find this report from 1936 interesting if you haven't seen it already-

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/48160590

The Advertiser, Adelaide July 11, 1936

"Marooned on Pacific Island"

"Smoke signals and man seen from passing ship…"

"SYDNEY, July 10.  Smoke signals from an uninhabited island in the Pacific and the figure of a man racing along the beach have convinced members of the crew of the freighter Port Darwin, which reached Sydney today, that a castaway is marooned there."

"The Port Darwin was passing Moto Oa Island about 300 miles from Tahiti when the smoke signals were seen. The vessel passed about three miles from Motu Oa, but the sea was too rough to permit a boat to be lowered. Through their telescopes the ship's officers saw a man running up and down the beach."

"Captain Hudson, master of the freighter, sent a radio message to Tahiti informing the authorities that a man was on the island. The receipt of the message was acknowledged, and it likely that a schooner would be sent from Tahiti to investigate."

======================

Look over search results for "missing ship" on-
 
http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/result?q=missing+ship&s=0

« Last Edit: August 05, 2012, 09:31:16 AM by Mark Pearce »
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2012, 10:31:30 AM »

Perhaps large ships other than the Norwich city went missing? Information about small sailing vessels lost at sea in this area would probably be even less likely to have been recorded, but all the same maybe such information is out there somewhere...

I don't want to discourage anyone who finds this an interesting topic to do some research and report their findings here, but it seems to me to be a daunting task with little likelihood of determining the identity of the castaway, one way or another.

There are only two logical possibilities:

1. If the bones belonged to AE or FN, no list of lost boats would be relevant.  The fact that some definite number of souls were lost prior to 1940 in the Pacific from shipwrecks would not preclude two more being added from the loss of the Electra.

2. If the bones belonged to some other victim of misfortune or foul play, no list of missing persons is going to identify the person.  There will always be the possibility that the castaway came from a loss that did not get recorded in materials now available to us.  Without having the bones to test for DNA, there would be no way to associate them with any known victims.

Proving negatives is notoriously difficult.  In the abstract, I can agree with the thought that it would be nice to show that there could be no source for the bones found in 1940 other than the missing aircraft.  That would provide very strong evidence in favor of the Niku hypothesis.  But to come to that conclusion, one would have to be certain that all missing passengers and crew and all lost vessels were accounted for--but, by hypothesis, we are talking about missing persons.  The reason we all them "missing persons" is that we don't know where they died.  So too, with "ships lost at sea."  With some, of course, "lost" merely means "sunk or shipwrecked," but with others, "lost" means "were sunk or shipwrecked in an unknown location."  It seems to me that there is at least one major news story every year about the survival of people drifting in small boats.  I don't see any way to do such an excellent search of all available records that it would be possible to conclude, "No one else could have reached Niku by accident; it had to be AE or FN whose bones were found there."
LTM,

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John Kada

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2012, 05:56:41 PM »

Marty,

I agree with your comment that  proving a negative is very difficult and I didn't intend to suggest that it would be possible to prove that the castaway was from some other lost vessel if one (or more) could be identified. I just  mean to suggest that for the sake of fully exploring the possible alternative explanations for the origin of Gallagher's castaway it would be worth knowing about any other vessels lost in the area over the relevant time frame.

Perhaps this isn't a perfect analogy, but think about the aluminum artifacts found on Niku. The fact that Tighar researchers did due diligence and determined that  aircraft accidents did occur in the Phoenix Islands during WWII  provides useful context to interpreting aluminum artifacts found on Niku. If we didn't know for a fact that such accidents occurred, we might still be prudent and consider the possibility that such accidents occurred and were the source of that Aluminum, but knowing for sure that those accidents occurred does help (me, at least...) to easily place that evidence in proper context.

So, I do think that if someone out there can easily identify other lost vessels, that would be helpful information (Mark Pearce thanks for your comment--I haven't yet checked out the link you provided...)
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Mark Pearce

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2012, 12:48:15 AM »


"...for the sake of fully exploring the possible alternative explanations for the origin of Gallagher's castaway it would be worth knowing about any other vessels lost in the area over the relevant time frame."


Maybe Mr. Corrie [see below] and his four female companions eventually came ashore on Gardner Island after they disappeared in 1915, and the last surivor became Gallagher's castaway.  Could one of the ladies have had a freckle cream jar with her?
 
========================   


The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 25 February, 1916, page 4

MISSING TRADER.

"Captain J R Handley of the steamer Germania, which arrived from the Gilberts, Nauru, and Solomon Islands yesterday, reported that no news had been received of the trader Mr. Corrie, who disappeared while on a voyage from Maiana to Tarawa in May last, and that it was generally believed throughout the group that he was dead.

"Mr. Corrie, together with his wife, two daughters, and the wife of another trader named Milne, left Maiana for the Government station at Tarawa in May last. The journey was one of about 17 miles, and was being made in a 26 ft sailing boat. The party was never heard of again.

"Captain Handley said that there was a possibility that Mr. Corrie might have been blown out to sea, and might have made for the two Phoenix Islands, which are about 220 miles away. With his long experience he would know the locality of these Islands, and it was possible that he might have made for one of them when he found that he could not reach his destination."
« Last Edit: August 06, 2012, 12:54:13 AM by Mark Pearce »
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Mark Pearce

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2012, 10:00:07 AM »

I've come across an intriguing 'account' published in the 'Auckland Star' on October 10, 1924 [page 9].

The story describes the discovery of a “…dilapidated shack… ” that “...told of a probable castaway…” found on Gardner Island by an exploring party in or around the year 1924.

I’ve never seen this bit of information discussed here before.  Is it entirely new? 

Here are short excerpts from the original story- which clearly suggests finding evidence of castaways was not unusual in this region of the Pacific. 
-----------------------------------------------------------

"The Phoenix Group"

"Isolated Pacific Islands"

“Somewhere about six hundred miles to the nor’west of the mandated islands of Samoa are the low-lying coral islands of the Phoenix Group…  Gardner is the most southerly island, and as our ship nosed up to the anchorage, she was greeted by swarms of sharks…  The island, unlike other coral islands of the Pacific, was heavily wooded by tall and stately trees, the timber of which, when polished, closely resembles mahogany.  A dilapidated shack told of a probable castaway…”

[The story goes on to tell of another interesting  discovery on Canton or Mary Island,]

“…The timbers, winch and rusted steel mast of a one time stately ship lay on the beach, and the bleached remains of a human skeleton, housed in an old shack a few yards further inshore, told the tragic story of the unwary mariner.  We buried the remains and mounted a crude cross over the mound."

"So ended our wonderful cruise amongst those wondrous reef-bound Pacific coral islands… all clothed just as nature made them, and marred only by the grim tragedies of those whose ships strayed shoreward.”

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&cl=search&d=AS19241010.2.101&srpos=26&e=--1900---1938--50--1----2gardner+island--

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john a delsing

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2012, 10:51:17 AM »

Mark,
     Very interesting,,,,,   thanks.
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Chris Johnson

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2012, 11:36:10 AM »

Mark,

not seen this before
Quote
The story describes the discovery of a “…dilapidated shack… ” that “...told of a probable castaway…” found on Gardner Island by an exploring party in or around the year 1924.
but would suggest they may have seen one of the Arundle building and associated it with a casterway?

Now what exactly defines a Shack?
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Mark Pearce

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2012, 12:24:05 PM »

Mark,

not seen this before
Quote
The story describes the discovery of a “…dilapidated shack… ” that “...told of a probable castaway…” found on Gardner Island by an exploring party in or around the year 1924.
but would suggest they may have seen one of the Arundle building and associated it with a casterway?

Now what exactly defines a Shack?

Weren’t the Arundel buildings built close together and didn’t they have corrugated roofs? The writer of this 1924 story seems to have been a critical observer and knew something about the area's history.  In describing Hull and Sydney islands, the writer says- “both Islands are partially cultivated and much of their native crudeness has disappeared,” and about Enderbury  Island- “...the island had once been worked for guano, and tumble down houses still stood…”

The writer seems to have had the ability to recognize the difference between “tumble down houses” and a potential castaway’s “shack.”

I'd think that "...tumble down houses..." would have also described the Arundle buildings rather nicely.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2012, 12:32:57 PM by Mark Pearce »
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Chris Johnson

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2012, 12:38:12 PM »

Mark,

begs the question where was this shack as the NC survivors make no mention of it;

  • washed away
  • somewhere on the island such as the 7 site where it is beleived that the crew didn't venture
  • mistaken for Arundle era building

I ask what constitutes a 'shack' to stimulated discussion on shacks vs other structures.

Good point ref the Arundle feature.

As I type i wounder if the Arundle workers may have made crude shacks to shelter in from bad weather?
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Mark Pearce

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2012, 01:27:52 PM »

Here is another interesting story about castaways on Gardner Island.
 
Could Gallagher's Castaway have been the '...last to die...', described below?  Makes for a rather intriguing scenario I'd say.
 
-----------------------------------------------------------------

Auckland Star, December 2, 1929, page 7

Aucklander’s Memories

“Gardner Island is well known to Captain William Ross, Auckland’s veteran mariner, who was ashore there 30 years ago, when he landed Mr. George Ellis, of Auckland, so that a survey might be made with view to establishing a coconut plantation…"

“…Many vessels were wrecked on Gardner Island in the old days, the survivors dying lonely deaths.  Captain Ross found mounds above the graves of sailors when he visited the island 30 years ago, but the skeleton of the last to die was nowhere seen.  Over the whole island there is that brooding spirit of desolation which only uninhabited places have….”

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&cl=search&d=AS19291202.2.50&srpos=8&e=-------50--1----0%22gardner+island%22+wreck--

« Last Edit: August 07, 2012, 01:38:01 PM by Mark Pearce »
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Chris Johnson

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2012, 01:39:02 PM »

Shame we don't have any names or date.

British registered ships could be trace via Lloyds of London, what about US and empire (ANZAC/Canadian)?
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john a delsing

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2012, 04:11:34 PM »

Mark,
    Many members are convinced that the castaway of the seven site has to be Amelia.  To me ( and others ) there are many other possible scenarios that much better explain most, if not all the ‘mysteries’ at the seven site.
The Earth is Full
 
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John Kada

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2012, 05:03:08 PM »

Mark,

You dug up a lot of interesting information!

I can add a little information regarding your first post. A post on geneology research web site (http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php/topic,343495.10.html) from someone looking for information the missing Mr. Corrie seems to indicate that he and his passengers were never seen again (alive, at least...).

Chris--there seem to be several possible Lloyd's sources: Lloyd's Loss and Casualty Books; Lloyd's Weekly Shipping Index; and Lloyd's Weekly Casualty Reports and maybe Lloyd's Register Wreck Returns. That Lloyd sure was a busy guy... ;)

There is also Hocking's Dictionary of Disasters at Sea, 1842-1962.

I doubt any of these sources would have much about the loss of small boats such as Mr. Corrie's.

John A Delsing-- I don't want to start a long argument on this string, but I feel obligated to point out that we don't even know for sure if the Seven Site is where the Castaway's remains were found. There certainly is suggestive evidence, but if pressed I believe I could even find a remark by Marty cautioning against being too sure about this. I don't think it is a bad idea to make a reasonable effort to flesh out reasonable alternatives.

-----
added comment for John A: I now realize I misunderstood the drift of your comment, so as Emily Litella used to say, never mind...

« Last Edit: August 07, 2012, 07:31:21 PM by John Kada »
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Malcolm McKay

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Re: The castaway -- ships and boats lost between ~1919-1939
« Reply #14 on: August 07, 2012, 06:18:37 PM »

I have thought for some time that the Arundel Settlement area seems to be the least known in the documentation assembled here. The reported fact that the building remains were still noticeable into the period of the Earhart flight suggests that if she had landed on the island this would be the place to look for either her remains or Noonan's. But after all we really have no idea if indeed they landed on the island let alone if they survived, as to who was the last survivor (we only have Betty's contentious notebook for that imagery). It seems to me that the idea that Earhart became the last survivor is just a romantic idea that is conjured up to fit the heroine image. It might well have been Noonan - just a matter of faith rather than fact.

Also there could be any number of castaways or lost island fishermen, washed out to sea, who could have finished up on Gardner to die lonely deaths from thirst. The fact that the skeleton Gallagher sent to be identified is missing just confuses rather than helps the situation, Islander, Earhart or a stray European we simply don't know. Islanders would have the local knowledge to be able to make use of the available food resources but the ever present problem of poor water supplies is the big problem. Islander losses at sea would probably be written off at the time with no adequate search facilities available as just plain natural events. Far too many loose ends and hypotheticals so far.
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