Forum artHighlights From the Forum

November 12 through 18, 2000

(click on the number to go directly to that message)
1 Betty hears Earhart? Ron Bright
2 The Navy in the 30s Bob Brandenburg
3 The Colorado Lookout Herman de Wulf
4 Signs of Recent Habitation Kenton Spading
5 Marie Misheard? Mike Zuschlag
6 Minutia re: "habitation" Dennis McGee
7 Batteries? Dennis McGee
8 Gardner Island Store & Australia Kenton Spading
9 Re: Gardner Island Store Tom King
10 A talk with Mr. Monsees Ric Gillespie
11 Re: Gardner Island Store Tom King
12 Re: A talk with Mr. Monsees Cam Warren
13 Silvertone --- Not Ric Gillespie

Message: 1
Subject: Betty Hears Earhart?
Date: 11/13/00
From: Ron Bright

I may be the lone standout, but I don’t see enough credible, reliable evidence to support your definitive conclusion that the notation of  "{S 09′ 165 E (?)}" appearing in Betty’s notebook confirms conclusively that it came from Earhart.

By Betty’s own recollection, the "S 3 09′ 165E ?" entry is a corrected or revised version of the original number "South 391065 E or Z " appearing on her normal line entry. This revision, she thought, might be what she heard, that is it was her "surest" recollection and thus she added it in the margin with a question mark.

I see that the revised entry appears on a severe slant above the line in a quite different format (minutes (’) are added and a space between the numbers indicates a rather professional, latitude/longitude position. If the revised number were an immediate correction as she re-thought it, it seems to me that it would more than likely appear on the same line. Was that second entry written contemporaneously? What did she recall? Did her dad help her reconstruct that number?

Thus Betty did not really know which number sequence was correct and took a second stab at it with the second entry. Thus this one single entry of an admittedly dubious reconstructed number, that may or may not have been correctly recorded, is just not enough evidence to conclusively establish a real post loss transmission from Earhart. Whatever the reasons were for her lack of certainty, static, fading, etc., the fact also remains that the first entry may be correct and that goes nowhere.

Certainly we also must take into account Betty’s state of mind and the circumstances of that intercept and how she recorded them. A teenager, aware of AE’s flight, suddenly hears "Earhart" calling, an excited father who runs next door, a mom who "recognizes" AE’s voice, intermittent signals, etc.; it is no wonder her accuracy may be off and less reliable than say a professional ham. All of these factors suggest an extreme caution in accepting this as a accurate document.

Other explanations may be plausible .The US airways were full of hams listening and attempting to contact AE. The ham network may be more of research tool than we think in explaining post loss messages, for instance the W4OK, KGMB, notes appearing in the notebook. (I’d like to look at the logs of W6BGH,W6ALJ, W6CU, and W6CQK, all amateur stations on the west coast, assigned to "monitor" AE.)

Following up on the lack of significant position information heard by Betty, I must second Pat Gaston’s opinion when he again reminds us that Amelia would have been absolutely out of her mind not to have broadcast some kind of approximate position during the three hours of Betty’s intermittent, but relatively good intercept. If AE could transmit various numbers, names, SOS, etc., she must be regarded as competent.

It’s also interesting to look at the numerical rearrangement of the first notation: South 391065 Z or E : the South 391 becomes S 3 09’ and the last three digits 065 become 165 E. How does Betty explain the rather dramatic difference between say 391 (phonetic) changing to 309. "Nine" doesn’t sound like "0" (zero); and "0"(zero) doesn’t sound like "l".

Amelia knows damn well about where she is . AE had a compass, a world class navigator, who was then healthy and doing his best to navigate and find a position before crashing.

AE, if she safely reached land, knew that her life depended on transmitting a "meaningful" position. If indeed she fortuitously grabbed one of Noonan’s navigator notes that had the midpoint coordinates on it, (pure speculation) and transmitted it, she would certainly clarify that position in her next three hours of transmissions. "That’s the Ontario position". (I believe the most likely note she had re position was the one she radioed Lae: 4 33’ S 159 06 E, a note that Noonan would have handed her.) It’s nonsense she just started the broadcast with a position, then omitted it for the next crucial 2-3 hours.

Other entries in her notebook damage the credibility of Betty’s journal as a record of a genuine Earhart transmissions. Example of mind-numbing transmissions: look at the stream of numbers immediately following the so called midway coordinate--- "fig 8-3 30 500 Z, "3E ;mj3b", and "z 38z-13 8983638". It’s inconceivable that AE would not have followed a genuine position report of any kind with that sequence of meaningless, mumbo jumbo numbers. (Unless she wanted to give GP her PIN number, or the sponsor was MJB coffee!)

Betty never hears any of AE’s routine, normal radio protocol transmissions such as "Itasca," (her lifeline and only point of contact in 20 hours) "KHAQQ," "latitude" "longitude" or any word associated with radio problems or bearings, or missing Howland, etc. She may have been in exigent circumstances, but she was mentally alert and physically able to operate a radio for some three hours.

One of the most glaring omissions in the Betty notebook is Betty’s failure or negligence to put a date or some relevant time marker on the notebook pages, or within weeks of the intercept. A teenager’s behavior, maybe, but why didn’t mom and dad add a date. The intercept of the century and no one in the family writes down what date.

In sum it is too late to get an accurate reconstruction of her 1937 memory or the entries and thus I find it difficult to depend basically on this single entry to "prove" the "smoking gun" authenticity claim. It may have been written contemporaneously but the analysis of that ambiguous entry comes far to late for me to place all my bets on. (I wonder why Betty’s family waited some 33 years before contacting Goerner in 1970).

And technically, forum, short wave experts and experts that I have talked to, say it is virtually impossible (one said "impossible") for a Florida daylight reception of 3205 or 6210 between 3-6pm from 50 watt transmitter near Howland. Nighttime maybe. I don’t think we can depend on the one in a million shot to support without qualification the theory Betty received real signals from AE. Some radio guy has got to stick his neck out and give a best most probable chance of her receiving Earhart.

How do we then account for the "S 09′ and 165 E" position, if it were authentic and correctly recorded by Betty. The great question, if the premise is true.

Although all the facts aren’t in yet, my guess is that Betty mistakenly interpolated the first numbers she heard, South 391065 Z or E" to the second entry S 3 09′ 165E .That first meaningless number suddenly becomes how a navigator would write a real lat/long position. Since Ontario was moving and no one knew exactly the lat/long, I would guess more of a sheer coincidence. Other signals of W40K and KGMB are heard. How do we explain that unless other short wave signals were coming through on Betty’s set and mixed in with other traffic.

These are some of the issues, and like TIGHAR’s claim, are admittedly subjective interpretations of that data. I urge the forum, ham experts, radio experts, to continue to more closely examine the notebook.

Ron Bright

From Ric

I assure you that we will continue to examine the notebook. If my conclusion is correct, further research should further confirm its correctness. If my conclusion is premature and unfounded, as you say, then further research should show that. I’ve been wrong before. One reason I’m willing to state my conclusions as soon as I feel I have enough information to reach a conclusion is that it prompts attacks like yours. If I’m right, I should be able to answer your concerns. That doesn’t mean I will be able to convince you -- that’s a different issue -- but I should be able to lay out reasonable answers to the challenges you raise.

First, you apparently have not read the postings very carefully. You’re still under the impression that the transmissions continued for three hours when, in fact, it is now quite clear that they spanned approximately an hour and three quarters.

You are apparently not aware of, or reject, Bob Brandenburg’s in-depth examination of the radio propagation question and prefer the casual judgments of "experts" who have not subjected themselves to peer review on the forum.

You also characterize the coordinates in brackets as a "revision" although I have explained that Betty is adamant that the coordinates in brackets are NOT a later interpretation of the numbers recorded earlier but a separate record of another enunciation of the same information -- so all of your speculation about how that entry came to be written is contrary to Betty’s anecdotal recollection of how it came about. As it turns out, Betty herself has been puzzling over those two entries ever since the interview and she called me last night to explain what she thinks happened.

As you know, the initial entry reads, " South 391065 Z or E". Betty thinks (and yes, this is 63 years later) that in her haste she transposed the numbers. " I tend to do that if I’m in a hurry", she said. The second time she heard it, the numbers were clearer and she was more careful.

Your argument is internally inconsistent. You caution that "... it is no wonder her accuracy may be off and less reliable than say a professional ham. All of these factors suggest an extreme caution in accepting this as a accurate document" and then you say, "Other entries in her notebook damage the credibility of Betty’s journal as a record of a genuine Earhart transmissions. Example of mind-numbing transmissions: look at the stream of numbers immediately following the so called midway coordinate-- ‘fig 8-3 30 500 Z, 3E ;mj3b’, and ‘z 38z-13 8983638’." You question my conclusion that this is a genuine, if imperfectly heard, communication by proclaiming that "Amelia knows damn well about where she is." It seems that your real objection to Betty’s notebook is that it portrays an Amelia Earhart who does not fit your image of the woman. You’re very sure that "She may have been in exigent circumstances, but she was mentally alert and physically able to operate a radio for some three hours."

Your all-knowing "would have" approach is further revealed in your opinion that: " One of the most glaring omissions in the Betty notebook is Betty’s failure or negligence to put a date or some relevant time marker on the notebook pages, or within weeks of the intercept. A teenager’s behavior, maybe, but why didn’t mom and dad add a date. The intercept of the century and no one in the family writes down what date."

Intercept of the century? It may come as a shock to you that the disappearance of Amelia Earhart was a news story of only passing interest to most people in 1937. Who are you to decide what someone would do in a context you don’t begin to understand?

You wonder "... why Betty’s family waited some 33 years before contacting Goerner in 1970." She didn’t. In 1941, while working as a telephone operator who regularly put through long distance calls to government offices, Betty used that ability to contact someone in an official capacity in Washington (she now can’t recall who) and told them all about hearing Amelia’s distress calls. The person said he would look into it and get back to her, but he never did. How many attempts to get someone to pay attention to her would satisfy you?

You say that "Other explanations may be plausible" but you don’t offer any. I agree, in principle. I just haven’t been able to come up with any. I would love to hear an alternative hypothesis that explains what Betty heard.


Message: 2
Subject: The Navy in the 30s
Date: 11/13/00
From: Bob Brandenburg

Mike Holt wrote:

> I read somewhere that it was the mid-30s when Annapolis was given
> a lot more attention that it had received in the past, after
> recognition of inabilities on the part of a large number of
> graduates...

In the period before WW2, the education and training environment in the Navy emphasized meticulous execution of orders, with no embellishments based on initiative. The slightest misstep could result in failure to be promoted. The predictable result of this atmosphere was a generation of officers who recoiled from the idea of exercising initiative, preferring to let their superiors take the risks.

This situation so alarmed Admiral Earnest J. King, then Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, that he issued a letter on 21 January 1941, which outlined his philosophy of command. Here are just a few pertinent quotes:

I have been concerned for many years over the increasing tendency -- now grown almost to "standard practice" -- of flag officers and other group commanders to issue orders and instructions in which their subordinates are told "how" as well as "what" to do to such an extent and in such detail that the "Custom of the Service" has virtually become the antithesis of that essential element of command --- "initiative of the subordinate."

"We are preparing for -- and are now close to -- those active operations (commonly called war) which require the utilization of the full powers and capabilities of every officer in command status. There will be neither time nor opportunity to do more than prescribe the several tasks of the several subordinates (to say "what", perhaps "when" and "where", and usually, for their intelligent cooperation, "why"); leaving to them -- expecting and requiring of them -- the capacity to perform the assigned tasks (to do the "how").

If subordinates are deprived -- as they now are -- of that training and experience which will enable them to act "on their own" -- if they do not know, by constant practice, how to exercise "initiative of the subordinate" -- if they are reluctant (afraid) to act because they are accustomed to detailed orders and instructions -- if they are not habituated to think, to judge, to decide and act for themselves in their several echelons of command -- we shall be in sorry case when the time of "active operations" arrives."

The reasons for the current state of affairs - how did we get this way? -- are many but among them are four which need mention; first, the "anxiety" of seniors that everything in their commands shall be conducted so correctly and go so smoothly, that none may comment unfavorably; Second, those energetic activities of staffs which lead to infringement of (not to say interference with) the functions for which the lower echelons exist; third, the consequent "anxiety" of subordinates lest their exercise of initiative, even in their legitimate spheres, should result in their doing something which may prejudice their selection for promotion; fourth, the habit on the one hand and the expectation on the other of "nursing" and "being nursed" which lead respectively to that violation of command principles known as "orders to obey orders" and to that admission of incapacity of confusion evidenced by "request instructions."

The conditions so eloquently described by Admiral King also illustrate the very state of affairs that some on the forum have intuited in their musings about why a more aggressive search of the Phoenix Islands wasn’t carried out, either by the Navy or by the Coast Guard.

Bob, #2286

From Ric


Message: 3
Subject: The Colorado Lookout
Date: 11/13/00
From: Herman de Wulf

Ric wrote:

> "The best indication of the attitude of the ship’s company, however,
> might be the headline of the ship’s newspaper the Colorado Lookout

Who was the editor of the ship’s newspaper ? If Captain Friedell supervised this or if he was the one who decided on that headline then that was indeed a clear indication that he did not take the search for AE seriously. If somebody of the crew was responsible as an editor he may just have described the situation : "The cruise is off, fellows. Now we’ve got serious work to do."

LTM (who always wonders if what the papers say is true)

From Ric

The editor-in-chief of the Colorado Lookout was Ensign C.S. Foster, Jr. I don’t know if the captain had to approve the headline and content, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

The content of the ship’s newspaper leaves little doubt about the attitude toward the cruise and the search. We’ll put it up on the TIGHAR website as a document.

Message: 4
Subject: Signs of Recent Habitation, Details
Date: 11/115/00
From: Kenton Spading

The Forum recently revisited the issue of what did Lambrecht see? Did he report it to his commander?... and ... Why wasn’t more attention paid to the fact that Lambrecht said he saw "recent signs of habitation" on Gardner? Ric posed some excellent questions related to this. We can only speculate on what was discussed during Lambrecht’s debriefing on July 9th. I offer the following information to the Forum in order to provide some context within which to ponder the Lambrecht question: Why no land search?

To answer the Lambrecht question we first need to ask ourselves: could there have been anything on the island that may have looked like "recent signs of habitation"? One answer is.....yes, Earhart and Noonan could have been there. But there are also other possibilities. Lets take a closer look.

Reports of various people seeing signs of previous habitation on Gardner/Nikumaroro Island are discussed below. Let’s examine what other visitors saw and what they reported both contemporaneously and during later interviews or correspondence. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of visitors to the island nor is it meant to exclude what Lambrecht saw as being Earhart related. It is meant to provide the interested reader with a full menu of items from which to draw conclusions about what Lambrecht may have observed on Gardner/Niku and thus speculate as to why a land search was not conducted.

Reference number key:

  1. Niku Source Book, TIGHAR Archive.
  2. TIGHAR Tracks, March 12, 1992, Volume 8, Number 1/2.
  3. Tom King’s personal files and email messages to Kenton Spading (and others).
  4. Kenton Spading’s field notes and pictures from Niku III and various email messages to TIGHAR members and the Forum.
  5. TIGHAR Tracks, June 15, 1993, Volume 9, Number 2.
1 John T. Arundel’s Project
1891 Arundel obtained a coconut (copra) license for Gardner/Niku Island from the British government on Feb. 1, 1891. A group of natives were left on the island that year (some were reported to have arrived prior to 1891). Apparently the project was abandoned sometime in 1892. This project resulted in the construction of buildings with galvanized steel roofs and a large water tank all of which were later observed and described by the Norwich City wreck survivors (see below). Later, in October 1937 Harry Maude reported 111 coconut bearing trees on Gardner/Niku gone to riot from the Arundel period.
Ref: 1, Tab #3, Doc. #15.
2 His Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Curacoa
1892 When HMS Curacoa visited the Gardner/Niku on May 28, 1892, 20 Niue natives (under the command of an Englishman) were working on the Arundel coconut project. The British made a point of placing a Union Jack flag on the island as they were very concerned about documenting their claim to the island. We can speculate that, given the manpower and materials on the island, and with the possible knowledge that Arundel was preparing to leave later in 1892, that they may have constructed some sort of a permanent concrete marker or monument to hold the flag. They probably did not just stick it in a tree.
Ref: 1, Tab #3, Doc. #15.
3 Norwich City Wreck

Mr. J. Thomas was a survivor of the S.S. Norwich City which ran aground on Gardner in November 1929. Mr. Thomas states in a hand written note, (original spelling and grammar left intact): "Near the palms we found two disused galvanized roofed huts and a large water tank which were in a state [of] collapse, but which indicated to us that the island had at one time been inhabited most probably with a view of growing coconuts...". The huts and water tank Mr. Thomas refers to were undoubtedly left behind by the aforementioned John T. Arundel group. In addition, the Norwich City crew left behind two life boats and a substantial stack of provisions covered with a tarp. All of the above was in the vicinity of the wreck, a landmark which Lambrecht would have undoubtedly been drawn to.

As an aside, in 1989, TIGHAR team members John Clauss and Veryl Fenlason photographed some very dilapidated wooden framing along the northwest shore of the island just north of the shipwreck. Upon reflection, these buildings probably dated from the Arundel period as opposed to the British 1938-1963 habitation of the island. TIGHAR also found the 1940 era British-built wood-framed co-op store in 1989 in a relatively intact state (although "disused" state). This suggests that Arundel’s buildings and water tank may have survived fairly intact until Lambrecht’s overflight in 1937 (only 8 years after Mr. Thomas observed them).

Ref: 1, Tab No. 3, Doc. No. 14.
4 HMS Leith

HMS Leith visited Niku on February 15, 1937 just long enough to erect a flagpole and placard proclaiming the island to be the property of His Majesty the King. Earhart disappeared and Lambrecht flew over the island, of course, roughly 5 months later. Someone had certainly visited the island "recently" in 1937.

Ref: 1, Sec 2, Item 2.
5 Colorado Search Planes

The following are some quotes from Lambrecht’s report. I hesitate to even list them here as it is difficult to absorb Lambrecht’s writing style, and therefore the overall theme of the report, without reading the entire thing. At this point I am going to assume that the serious readers will carefully read the entire report on the TIGHAR web site in order to place the selected quotes in their proper context. Lt. John O. Lambrecht (and crew) reported, in part, the following after the flight over Gardner Island on July 9, 1937. [quotes below listed in the order that they appear]

Enderbury, although a bit larger, was much the same as Phoenix. Here and there were what appeared to be oases with a few surrounding palm trees... no signs of habitation were evident and an inspection did not disclose the object of our search...

M’Kean did not require more than a perfunctory examination to ascertain that the missing plane had not landed here, and one circle of the island proved that it was uninhabited except for myriads of birds. Signs of previous habitation remained and the walls of several old buildings apparently of some sort of adobe construction, were still standing.

Here [Gardner] signs of recent habitation were clearly visible but repeated circling and zooming failed to elicit any answering wave from possible inhabitants and it was finally taken for granted that none were there.

There [Sydney] were signs of recent habitation and small shacks could be seen among the groves of coconut palms, but repeated zooms failed to arouse any answering wave and the planes headed northeast for Phoenix Island.

During an interview with Mr. Lambrecht in 1972 regarding what he observed on Gardner he stated that he saw "markers." The "marker" Lambrecht remembers could have been a concrete monument/marker claiming British ownership from either the 1892 or the very recent 1937 British visit or something from Arundel or the Norwich City camp.

Ref: 5, p. 6.
6 Eric Bevington and Harry Maude


British subjects Harry Maude and Eric Bevington visited the island in October of 1937 to conduct a survey as part of a colonial resettlement project. Mr. Bevington stated in his diary that he saw "signs of previous habitation" on the island. During an interview in 1992 he stated that (as best he could recall) "it wasn’t much ... like someone had bivouacked for the night" He indicated (without knowing where TIGHAR had been) that the place was near the area where TIGHAR found the shoe artifact in 1991 (SE part of the island). Eric, however, could have easily seen something from the Arundel period or any of the later visitors.

Dr. Tom King (TIGHAR member) corresponded with Mr. Maude. He asked him about the "signs of previous habitation" that Eric mentions in his diary. Maude remembered it as being [a] "pile of sand." During the 1997 Niku III expedition, TIGHAR found relatively large piles of sand/coral on the SE end of the island near the shoe artifact site in the area indicated by Bevington. It looked like a Babai pit or an abortive well from either the British or Arundel periods. We don’t have evidence that the Arundel group was in this area but we no evidence that they weren’t and a search for well water could take you anywhere.

Ref: 2, pp. 6&7; 3; 4.

Wrap Up Thoughts:

Anecdotes aside, a lot of the information was recorded contemporaneously. I will say up front that Lambrecht could have seen Earhart related habitation. I will also say the I am offering some speculative thoughts here. My goal is to get people thinking about the issue which could lead us to a better hypothesis.

We do not know what Lambrecht told his commander and fellow shipmates when Asked "What do you mean by "recent signs of habitation"? However, it is not too hard to imagine that he told them he saw:

  1. the flag or pole left behind by the British only 5 months earlier or
  2. the life boats and stack of provisions left behind by the Norwich City crew or
  3. the corrugated steel roofs of the huts or the water tank or other debris left behind by the Arundel group earlier and noted by the Norwich City crew in 1929 or
  4. some or all of the above
The Arundel huts are less likely as he mentions huts on Sydney but not on Gardner (although see the artist story below).

We can speculate that Lambrecht told his commander: "We checked out the island as best as we could. Repeated circling and zooming failed to elicit any answering wave. We tried hard to get the attention of anyone who might have been there. We saw no signs of an airplane and, in my opinion, what we saw was not related to the lost fliers."

The key words here for the commander were probably "no signs of an airplane." The Colorado was sent to the Phoenix group on the strength of the post-lost signals/bearings. And the commander was told the plane must be on land to broadcast. No airplane, no problem, let’s move on. I am not prepared to fault the commander for this decision. It is much too easy in hindsight and from the comfort of our homes to do that.

Lambrecht’s description of what he saw on Gardner and Sydney as "signs of RECENT habitation" may be an attempt to contrast them to the obviously much older "stone" ruins he had just seen at McKean Island. Indeed, in my speculative opinion, his report can easily be interpreted that way. Thus he uses the word "recent."

Whatever Lambrecht saw, it obviously was not a smoking camp fire, clothes hung out to dry or footprints in the sand. Clearly, he and in turn his commander, would have acted on that type of evidence. On the other hand, after seeing some old huts or life boats etc.. and getting no response from repeated zooming, it would not be worth the risk to life and limb to put a landing party ashore. Getting a landing party on to and off of the island is a very dangerous affair.

There is an additional piece of very speculative evidence that suggests Lambrecht saw but did not mention Arundel’s huts. A Colorado crew member (Ric: can you help me out with the details on this??) took notes as the ship visited the various islands. He had some artistic talent and as such drew pictures to accompanied his notes. For Hull he drew a canoe and people...and of course Lambrecht landed there and was visited by the locals in a canoe. For Gardner he drew a picture of native huts/houses (if I remember right, he drew huts for Sydney as well...Ric??).

I hope this discussion sheds more light on the subject.

Love To Mother
Kenton Spading 1382CE

From Ric

Kenton, thank you for that excellent compilation and review. The Colorado crew member you mention, Yeoman Wayne Jordan, was an enlisted man who worked for the "Colorado Press" the ship’s onboard news service for the crew. I’ve looked for the file and can’t put my hands on it right now (damn!). As I recall, he drew huts on Hull and he did draw a couple of little huts on Gardner but when I asked him why he couldn’t remember where that information had come from. I can’t recall for sure whether there were huts on Sydney or not. I do remember that I asked him if he worked with or knew the people in the Aviation Section and he said, "No." Gotta locate that file.

In addition to the rather fancy Colorado Lookout published at the end of the cruise, there was a daily news sheet distributed to the crew. Earlier this year we were fortunate to receive several original copies of these news sheets from a man who had them from his grandfather, a retired Coast Guardsman. The copies we have cover the dates July 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11, 1937. Unfortunately, the one day that is missing, July 10, is the issue that described the previous day’s search operations over McKean, Gardner, Carondelet Reef , and Hull (aargh!). I can only speculate that that particular day is missing because it was the most interesting day of the search, with Lambrecht landing in the lagoon at Hull. Excerpts from the news sheet for July 11th provide some hint as to how detailed these onboard news reports were: "The Earhart Search" by Special correspondent to Colorado Press.

Yesterday the Press contained a chart of the area covered 9 July and the prospective flight of forenoon 10 July." [I wonder if this is the sketch we got from Jordan?] The prospective flight was carried out and in the afternoon Canton island was covered by a flight. Yesterday was a day of hope. Five islands were to be covered and if the Earhart plane had succeeded in reaching any one it was reasonable to assume the fliers were safe. As island after island was covered and the reports came in from the planes that no sign of human life existed on the islands, hope faded and finally when Canton Island, the last of the Phoenix Group, was searched without success the situation became dismally dark. ...

Sydney was the only island (searched on the 10th) which showed any sign of recent habitation and in appearance was much the same as Gardner Island. It was dotted with groves of coconut palms and had the inevitable lagoon, large enough for a seaplane to make a safe landing. ...

In digging for Wayne Jordan’s file I also came upon Lambrecht’s written responses to questions from Fred Goerner. Some excerpts from these are also interesting:

It (the O3U-3) was an open cockpit biplane. The only navigational instruments were a magnetic compass, an airspeed meter, and a turn-and-bank indicator. As I remember we normally cruised at 90 knots indicated airspeed. No voice radio - just Morse code transmitter and receiver with a trailing antenna. ...

Goerner asked, "Was any aerial photography of the Phoenix group accomplished during the search?"

Lambrecht replied, " None officially. We had no photographic equipment. However, I seem to remember that some of the observers (the guys in the rear seats) had personal cameras and did get some pictures of some of the islands. I do not have any copies."

Lambrecht also wrote, "I showed my letter [he’s talking about his article for the Bureau of Aeronautics Newsletter that we call "the Lambrecht report"] to Captain Friedell and upon reading it he said he was going to use it in his official report." In fact, Friedell’s official report directly contradicts Lambrecht’s letter with regard to signs of habitation seen on Gardner.

Nowhere in four pages of answers does Lambrecht say anything about seeing "markers" on Gardner. That allegation comes solely from Goerner in a letter to me. In other words, we have to take Goerner’s word for it that Lambrecht ever said it.

I’m aware of nothing that indicates that the cache of supplies left behind by the rescuers of the Norwich City survivors was covered by a tarp. It would seem to make sense to do that but is it references somewhere?

I have to disagree with your statement that, "Whatever Lambrecht saw, it obviously was not a smoking camp fire, clothes hung out to dry or footprints in the sand. Clearly, he and in turn his commander, would have acted on that type of evidence."

That’s a guess based purely upon your own opinion. We don’t know what Lambrecht or Friedell "would have" considered worthy of further investigation. We do know that seeing people on the ground was sufficient to cause Lambrecht to take the risky step of chancing a landing in the lagoon at Hull. The only real clue we have as to what he saw on Gardner is his use of the word "recent." What qualified as "signs of recent habitation"?

The only other time he uses that phrase is in describing Sydney Island: "There were signs of recent habitation and small shacks could be seen among the groves of coconut palms, but repeated zooms failed to arouse any answering wave and the planes headed northeast for Phoenix Island ...". (We know that Jones on Hull had recently removed his laborers from Sydney.)

It would seem from this that whatever a "sign of recent habitation is to Lambrecht, it is not a hut or small shack. The only other thing we know of that the aerial searchers saw on Sydney were "letters scooped in Sidney [sic] beach spelling dozens Polynesian words including kele fassau molei seen from air ...". (Assoc. Press report filed July 10 from Itasca.) Marks in the beach sand clearly must be "recent" because the next big storm will obliterate them. It would seem, therefore, that what Lambrecht meant by signs of recent habitation in his description of Sydney Island was marks in the beach sand. It is also clear that those marks were not sufficient evidence to prompt a ground search of Sydney.

I submit that an excellent case can be made that what Lambrecht saw at Gardner were marks in the beach sand that he attributed to human activity.


Message: 5
Subject: Marie Misheard?
Date: 11/15/00
From: M. Zuschlag

One approach we could take to trying to understand the content of Betty’s notebook is to focus on the repeated items, the rationale being whoever made the transmission, if they repeat something over the course of 1:45 hours, then it must important to them.

Some repeated items make sense in the context of a distress call, whether real or hoax (e.g., calls for help, repeatedly identifying oneself, references to hearing or being heard). Then we have "NY" which is apparently Betty’s abbreviation for "New York City." Jim McClure has suggested that what was actually transmitted was "Norwich City," and it makes sense that AE would repeatedly say this since, other than "help us," clues to their location would be the most important thing to communicate.

Then there’s "Marie." A delirious Noonan calling out for his wife Mary? It appears in two places, once in intimate proximity with "NY."

Okay, let me first say what a dangerously slippery slope it is to take a line of Betty’s notebook, assume she misheard it, and change it to something consistent with the TIGHAR hypothesis. Now I’m going to do it anyway.

What if AE (and/or FN) didn’t think they were on Gardner? What if she thought they were on Birnie, also a Phoenix island but about 190 miles to the east-northeast? "Birnie" sounds an awful lot like "Marie," and this explains its proximity in the notebook to the possible references to "Norwich City" --it’s the part of the transmission where AE says "you’ll find us at85."

Birnie is at 3°35’S, 171°33’W. I don’t see those exact numbers in Betty’s notebook, but the one closest to the latitude, the coordinate easiest to determine, is on page 53: "3 30 500 Z" (here I go, assuming Betty misheard again). It appears to be after the now-smoking "309 165," as if it were "Oops, I meant to read this slip of paper."

In general, I see a lot of "3"s --22 out of the total of 58 digits on all notebook pages, excluding the times Betty wrote at the top. The binomial probability of getting that many or more of an arbitrary digit if these were randomly generated numbers is about 1 in 6.5 million (fives are not over represented). Whatever numbers were intended, 3s appeared to have figured prominently, possibly due to the sender transmitting the same number repeatedly over the 1:45 hours.

It’s been asked, "If this is AE’s distress call, why doesn’t she give her location?" Maybe the answer is, she thought she was.

Pushing it too far? Allow me the honor to punch the first set of holes:

  1. Betty recorded "Marie" several times. Would she really have misheard it all those times?
  2. How could AE and (especially) FN even think they were on Birnie? It’s nearly 200 nm off the LOP (BTW, it wouldn’t, by any chance, be 158 miles off the LOP?).
  3. There is not one "7" among all the digits recorded (p<.05, BTW), suggesting they weren’t even trying to send longitude (for either Niku or Birnie). What is really the chance they wouldn’t at least have a reasonable guess on that?
  4. So what’s your point? This certainly can’t be regarded as occult information. How does this help us authenticate the notebook, or advance the search in general?
Commence fire. Assuming it’s even worth the bullets.

M Zuschlag

From Ric

I can’t fault the logic but I do have a hard time seeing "Birnie" being consistently misheard as "Marie." If we’re going to lose a "B" I prefer to lose the one in "Mary Bea." Also, Betty says that Marie was said by Fred. If Fred is contributing useful information it’s not consistent with the rest of the scene described in the notes.

Message: 6
Subject: Minutia re: "habitation"
Date: 11/16/00
From: Dennis McGee


What a queer word to pop up in the writings of three different authors, Lambrecht, Bevington, and the "Special correspondent to Colorado Press." I assume Lambrecht and Bevington were college graduates so the nuances of the word of habitation (vs. "lived at", "somebody there," "stayed" etc) were clear. As for the "Special correspondent," who knows. However, my limited experience with shipboard newsletters is that a (very!) junior officer (the editor) oversees a small band of enlisted guys to write, lay out and print it. There is nothing to prevent the Special correspondent from also being the editor.

The unusual thing is that the newsletter uses nearly the same wording and phraseology as did Lambrecht.

Lambrecht said: "Here [Gardner] signs of recent habitation were clearly visible but repeated circling and zooming failed to elicit any answering wave from possible inhabitants and it was finally taken for granted that none were there...."

The Special Correspondent said: ""Sydney was the only island (searched on the 10th) which showed any sign of recent habitation and in appearance was much the same as Gardner Island."

The difference is in past vs. present tense: "signs of recent habitation" and "sign of recent habitation."

The Special Correspondent used his phrase on July 11, 2 days after the overflight of Gardner. When was the Lambrecht report written? If it is dated July 12 or later then it appears the newsletter editor must have talked to Lambrecht for details of his flight prior to Lambrecht writing his report. Not that any of this is a big deal, it is just that the phrase "signs of . . .habitation" keep popping up. It’s starting to get on my nerves.

LTM, a former editor
Dennis O. McGee #0149EC

From Ric

Lambrecht’s article for the BuAer newsletter was dated 16 July 1937. The ship’s news sheet issued on the 12th is, therefore, the earliest occurrence of the use of the term "signs of recent habitation" unless, of course, it also appeared in the news sheet of July 10th (the one we don’t have) in describing what was seen on Gardner.

Bevington, by the way, said "signs of previous habitation."



Subject: Batteries?
Date: 11/16/00
From: Dennis McGee

Harry Poole said:

>There were two sets of Aircraft Storage Batteries located on the
>Electra, a main set of batteries in a well under the center section and
>an auxiliary set in the rear cabin.

How far aft was the auxiliary battery set? Is it far enough aft to keep it dry if water outside is "knee deep"?

Harry also said:

>Fred and Amelia may have realized that they could transmit even
>after the first set of batteries had drained down by
>replacing the auxiliary battery set with the main battery set, and that
>realization may have been several days later.

How does one access the main battery storage area? Is it accessible from the cabin? (I can’t see either of them wading through knee deep water carrying a battery -- one slip, and zzzzzzt!)

LTM, who has been aft herself
Dennis O. McGee #0149EC

From Ric

I should have corrected Harry’s terminology before but I missed the error. The Lockheed 10 did not have battery "sets". The plane normally came equipped with one battery which was mounted in the belly on the centerline just forward of the main beam. In other words, get out of the pilot’s seat, turn around, go through the doorway into the cabin, stop, look down, the battery is under the floor right there -- except you can’t get to it. To service the battery you go under the airplane, undue a couple of fasteners, and the battery drops down on a tray suspended by a couple of bungee cords. Knee deep water around the airplane would not come anywhere near the main battery.

The second battery in NR16020 was mounted along the starboard cabin wall (that’s the right hand side of the airplane Den) opposite the cabin door. Knee deep water around the airplane would not come close to that battery either. Knee deep water in the aft cabin of the airplane, however, would be over the top of that battery (but would still not threaten the main battery, assuming the airplane was in the three point attitude).

Message: 8
Subject: Gardner Island Store and Australia
Date: 11/16/00
From: Kenton Spading

I need some help from our friends in Australia or perhaps someone else who has some time to search either the Web or other sources.

One of the files that Ric and I retrieved from the WPHC files in Hanslope Park, England contains an inventory of items in the COOP store on Gardner/Niku for the year ending Dec. 31, 1940 (an inventory done by our famous Mr. Gallagher).

The inventory contains a line item for 10 pairs of shoes. I am trying to investigate this as a candidate for the shoes found by TIGHAR in 1991. The inventory for the store was supplied by an Australian company that is listed in the file as: Messrs. On Chong & Co. (Pty) Ltd.

I have a couple of questions in regards to this that I hope someone can help me with.

  1. Does this company still exist in Australia and do they have old catalogs we can look at?
  2. If not, is there a library, historical society or archive somewhere that would have a copy of their catalog for the 1930’s, 1940’s or other? (1939 or 40 would be nice!)
A catalog might show pictures of the goods and maybe prices. The total cost of 10 pairs is listed as 1. 9. 2 which I am assuming means 1 pound, 9 shillings and 2 pence? However, the file indicates that there were problems with pricing the goods as no prices were provided when the goods were delivered. They had to guess at what the items were worth (as well as a some other complicating factors I won’t go into here).

In general, what can we find out about this company and the goods they were supplying to Gardner/Niku Island??

Kenton Spading (who knows the Forum Aussies can crack this one)

From Ric

There may be an easier way to crack this one.

Do you really suppose that when the heels wore out on the shoes sold in the Gardner Co-Op Store the island residents could take them down to the Gardner Shoe Repair Shop and get American-made Cat’s Paw replacement heels? Let’s say they could. If we can make the assumption that each of the 10 pairs of shoes listed in the inventory were equal in value, we should be able to get a feel for the wholesale price of a single pair. As I’m sure we all know, there were 20 shillings in a pound and 12 pence in a shilling. The lot was valued at 1 pound, 9 shillings, tuppence or the equivalent of 350 (old) pence. Ergo, each shoe was valued at 35 pence or 2 shillings 11 pence. I’m not sure what the exchange rate was in 1940 but in 1944 (according to my father) a pound was worth about US$5. It looks, therefore, like the wholesale price of a pair of shoes in the Gardner Co-Op store was ballpark .75 cents. Figure a standard 100 percent markup and you have a pair of shoes that sold for about a buck fifty.

The shoe we found was judged to have been a woman’s blucher-style oxford with brass shoelace eyelets. I wonder how much a shoe like that sold for in 1940? Going by the published consumer price indexes prices in 1940 were generally 14 percent of what they were in 1983. If we guess that a pair of shoes like that sold for, say, $50 in 1983 then the 1940 price should have been around $7 (but I’d bet shoes tended to be proportionally more expensive then due to modern advances in materials and automation). In any event, $1.50 sounds awfully low and more in keeping with a very basic, cheap shoe intended for "native" laborers rather than the relatively high end shoe whose remains we found.


Message: 9
Subject: Re: Gardner Island Store
Date: 11/17/00
From: Tom King

That’s a good argument, Ric, and some ingenious research, though it will still be interesting to see if any of our down under colleagues can track down some more direct data.

Another question about the shoes is, why did the store even stock them? Since people in Micronesian villages don’t routinely use shoes even today, why would the store have found it useful to stock them? Knowing this might give us a clue as to what kinds of shoes they were. Could Eric Bevington shed some light on this?

LTM (who’s stepping out)
Tom King

From Ric

Good question, and asking Eric is probably a good idea. Thinking back to our own experience and amazement watching our Kiribati Kolleagues stroll around barefoot on the island, I recall that when we needed to work in areas of coral rubble rather than out on the beach or back in the forested areas, they really wanted shoes on. That, of course, presents some problems because their naturally beefy build and years of going barefoot result in feet that are width E to the 10th power.

It could be that the shoes at the store were work shoes for the land clearers who worked down at Aukeraime where the going can be pretty tough. In any event, the characteristic width of the Gilbertese foot is another big reason that the rather narrow shoe sole that we found (roughly a B width) is probably not from the store.


Message: 10
Subject: A talk with Mr. Monsees
Date: 11/17/00
From: Ric Gillespie

On July 9, 1937 the NY Herald Tribune reported that Mr. Arthur Monsees, an amateur radio operator in San Francisco had heard what he took to be Amelia Earhart on 6250 Kcs. The message was:


The words "SOS", "East", "Howland", and "hurry" also occur in Betty’s notes.

The words "can’t hold" occur in the 281 message.

Mike Everette did the research and found that there is an Arthur M. Monsees who currently holds HAM callsign W4BK living in St. Petersburg, Florida (of all places). Mike alerted me this morning and I just got off the phone with Mr Monsees. He is 86 years old, has been a ham since 1932, lived in San Francisco in 1937, and heard a transmission that he thought might be Amelia Earhart which he reported to the Coast Guard. Bingo.

Unfortunately Mr. Monsees does not have any logs or notes from that period and does not now remember much about the event, but he was able to provide a bit more information than was in the very sketchy 1937 newspaper story.

The message was sent twice and it was in code, not voice. I asked him about the quality of the sender’s "fist" and he said that it was not the best but perfectly readable. He didn’t recall what day it was but he thinks that the time of day was probably around 9 p.m. because that’s when he usually was at his radio. He had a homebuilt receiver that was not calibrated very accurately. His recollection is that the signals he heard were not really in the ham bands. I asked if he recalled the frequency and he guessed that it was something like 7500 Kcs. He did say that shortly after he made his report to the Coast Guard he received a letter from a Ham in Los Angeles saying that he had heard the same transmission. He does not recall the man’s name or have the letter.

Art Monsees is on line and was eager to visit the TIGHAR website as soon as he learned the reason for my questions. I’ll suggest that he join the forum.

What next? I half expect to get a phone call from Paul Mantz.


Message: 11
Subject: Re: Gardner Island Store
Date: 11/17/00
From: Tom King

I’ll bet you’re right; I’d thought about their being for use on the reef, and decided that this didn’t make any sense, but yes, in some of the areas of nastier coral rubble shoes would be desirable even for an I Kiribati or Tuvaluan.

My wife’s Chuukese "father" when she was doing her dissertation research said that he had "feet like ko" -- "ko" being Chuukese for "cow." As I recall, when he came to Saipan for a negotiating session with the government, he just wore flip-flops; his feet were simply too wide for any available shoe.

LTM (whose feet are dainty)
Tom King

Message: 12
Subject: Re: A talk with Mr. Monsees
Date: 11/17/00
From: Cam Warren

Another one of those intriguing messages that initially sound so promising, but fail the acid test. To the best of our cumulative knowledge, AE did NOT have a telegraph key aboard the Electra.

Cam Warren

From Ric

For once I have to agree with you. No key aboard the airplane. Competently sent Morse. And July 8 (if that’s when he heard it) is awfully late.

Message: 13
Subject: Silvertone --- Not
Date: 11/18/00
From: Ric Gillespie

We’ve been doing some more research into just what radio Betty was listening to and, despite her mother’s recollection in 1970, I think we can stop worrying about Sears Silvertones. By far the most contemporaneous clue we have is Betty’s 1942 impression that her father-in-law’s radio in Illinois was "just like" the one back home in Florida -- so much so that the homesick bride took a photo of it. We have that photo. That radio is a Zenith and we know that that particular model only came out in 1941 but we should be looking for an earlier Zenith that looked a whole lot like it.

Zeniths characteristically had black faces on the dial, as opposed to white on most other manufacturer’s sets. Betty definitely recalls a dark dial. When asked about her mother’s recollection, she laughed and said, "Well, you had to know my mother. If the last radio Dad bought was a Sears then every radio was a Sears."

According to Betty, as an employee of the power company, her father was often able to buy new electrical products at a discount before they were available to the general public. They had a "birdcage" refrigerator and a vacuum cleaner before any of their neighbors. Her father was always eager to have the latest technology. So if we find that a good candidate radio model only appeared in, say, 1938 it would not necessarily be disqualified.


Back to Highlights Archive list.

About TIGHAR Join TIGHAR TIGHAR Projects TIGHAR Publications Contract Services


Copyright 2021 by TIGHAR, a non-profit foundation. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be reproduced by xerographic, photographic, digital or any other means for any purpose. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be stored in a retrieval system, copied, transmitted or transferred in any form or by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, digital, photographic, magnetic or otherwise, for any purpose without the express, written permission of TIGHAR. All rights reserved.

Contact us at:  •   Phone: 610.467.1937   •   JOIN NOW