Forum artHighlights From the Forum

October 11 through 18, 1998

Subject: Back to the Gilberts?
Date: 10.12.98, 1:47 am
From: Vern Klein

>>From Amanda
>>Hey, look at me! I’m reading the minds of dead people!

Amanda... We know that Remote Viewing operates outside of both Time and Space. I can sit here at this computer and read what was in Amelia’s mind as easily as if I had been in the cockpit with her on that fateful morning of July 2, 1937. Actually, that’s a pretty safe assertion to make! [grin]

There was a quote attributed to Amelia (probably an unreliable source) to the effect that, when asked what they would do if they couldn't find Howland Island, she replied, “We’ll just turn back to the Gilbert Islands.”

I sense (by remote viewing, of course) that Amelia was rather bull-headed once she latched onto an idea. She might have insisted on retracing their course back to the Gilberts despite Fred’s argument that the Phoenix Islands were a lot closer, and right on their supposed Line of Position. Could they have made it that far??

So, if Ed Dames does actually go out to the Gilberts, and if he does find a piece of the Electra, I think we DO have a conspiracy/coverup on our hands! We'll know he DID have prior knowledge and NOT obtained from remote viewing!

I wonder if Dames has, or ever had, any connection with the intelligence community as he claims? I don’t feel it’s even worth the trouble to check out!

From Ric

I agree, but you bring up something else that I think is worth checking out.

Earhart’s declared intention to turn back to the Gilbert Islands if she couldn’t find Howland supposedly comes from her friend Eugene Vidal.

Doris Rich (Amelia Earhart – A Biography) says: “Her plan, he (Vidal) said, was to hunt for Howland Island until she had four hours of fuel left, and then, if she had not located it, to turn back to the Gilbert Islands and land on a beach.” (page 273)

Rich says that this comes from “Box 19, page 97” in the “Vidal Collection 6013, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming.” Let’s find out what that source actually says.

AE’s alleged statement is interesting. With four hours of gas at 130 kts (the Electra’s best economical cruising speed) she can cover 520 nm in still air. That could, in theory, get her to 5 of the 16 Gilbert Islands (Nikunau, Beru, Onotoa, Tamana or Arorae). The closest, Nikunau, is 450 nm from Howland. She can do that in 3 hours and 46 minutes and if her navigation is not dead on (having started from someplace where she doesn’t know where she is because she hasn’t found Howland) she has all of 14 minutes to find Nikunau. For any of the other four atolls the tolerance is much tighter.

This is a dumb plan, especially given the proximity of three closer alternative islands (Baker at 40 nm, McKean at 290 nm and Gardner at 350 nm) all close to a single, easily discernable navigational line (the 157 degree Line of Position).

(Incidentally, Dames’ wreck site is a hundred miles beyond where Earhart could have theoretically gone.)

The alleged comment may, however, provide some clue as to how much fuel Earhart planned to have in reserve after flying to and looking for Howland. We need to find out when it was that Earhart supposedly said this (it must have been between the first and second attempts) and when it was that Vidal recalled that she had said it. As far as I know, Earhart was on the West Coast the whole time between the two attempts until she flew to Miami. I wonder where Vidal was? I wonder if this is a recollection by Eugene’s son Gore (whose other well-publicized memories of his father’s involvement in the Earhart disappearance are ludicrous).

With such a specific reference we may be able to get an archivist at U. of W. to pull the document, photocopy and fax it. Any TIGHAR member out there want the job? Let me know before you do anything so that we don’t have a whole bunch of people stepping on each others' toes and annoying the archivist.


Subject: Important New Information
Date: 10.13.98
From: Ric Gillespie

In a report dated April 4, 1941, Dr. D.W. Hoodless – Principal of the Central Medical School in Suva, Fiji – recorded measurements he made of the bones found on Gardner Island in 1940 and expressed his opinion that the remains were those of a stocky, muscular male of European or mixed-race descent between the ages of 45 and 55 who stood about 5 feet 5.5 inches in height. Apparently based upon this evaluation, British authorities dismissed the original speculation by the bones' discoverer, Colonial Officer Gerald B. Gallagher, that the remains might be those of Amelia Earhart.

The bone measurements taken by Dr. Hoodless have now been evaluated by two prominent forensic anthropologists using data and technology far superior to anything available in 1941. Karin R. Burns Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Richard L. Jantz, of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville have independently examined the available data and are in general agreement about what conclusions can be drawn. Drs. Burns and Jantz are presently collaborating with TIGHAR’s Senior Archaeologist Thomas F. King, Ph.D. (and me) on a paper to be released concurrent with the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association to be held in Philadelphia December 6-12, 1998.

Dr. Jantz has approved the following preliminary announcement of his findings to the TIGHAR membership and the forum.

I have had a look at the information provided by Dr. Hoodless. It has limitations because it is so incomplete. Although six long bones are present, he presents information on only three. Same for the cranium, only four measurements. We have no way of judging the reliability of the data he does present; the measurements all seem reasonable. There are two possible problems concerning orbit breadth and tibia length. Both can be measured in a couple of ways, and we don’t know how it was done. If we assume they were done in the same as our current data base, then we can make the following inferences:

Sex: cranial dimensions classify as female, using Fordisc (the first interactive computer program for the classification of unknown adult crania according to race and sex using any combination of standard cranial measurements.) and assuming the skull is a person of European ancestry. Unfortunately the certainty is very low; the female/male probability is ca. .65/.35. That is assuming orbit breadth was taken the way Fordisc assumes it was. If not, it could be a couple of mm. greater. Those two mm. change the classification to male, male/female probabilities are .53/.47

Ancestry – Comparing the skull measurements to several European, Polynesian and Micronesian populations, it is most similar to Norse females, but can’t be excluded from any population. The Fordisc analysis indicates the skull is more likely European than Polynesian.

Stature – Dr. Hoodless got estimates varying rather widely, depending upon which bone. Using a modern reference sample I get the following:

66.6 in.
68.1 in.
66.1 in.
68.0 in.
67.6 in.
68.4 in.

The estimates do not vary greatly, certainly not to the extent of Dr. Hoodless’. If the bones are female, the best estimate is ca. 5′6″ to 5′7″, if male about an inch more. Since the tibia falls into line with the other variables, chances are it was measured in the same way we are doing it. The height estimates agree well with what Earhart’s stature was thought to be. These estimates have confidence intervals that range from ca. 64″ to 70″. That seems to exclude her navigator, whom I believe you told me was 6′ or more.

It is possible to address the question more directly by turning it around and asking, what bone lengths would be expected from a women of Earhart’s height? Ric communicated to me earlier that she gave her height as 5′8″, but thinks she might have exaggerated it. Below I give the regression predictions of bone length from stature for a women of 5′8″ and 5′7″:

5′8″ (172.72cm)
Humerus Observed length
  Predicted length
322.4 +/-10.95
318.4 +/-10.95
Radius Observed length
  Predicted length
238.0 +/-9.67
236.7 +/-9.67
Tibia Observed length
  Predicted length
377.9 +/-14.25
373.4 +/-14.25

The above results clearly show that Nikumaroro bones fit Amelia Earhart's stature extremely well. The observed lengths all fall within one standard deviation of the estimates. For the humerus and tibia, the departures are trivial.

What I believe you can say about these remains based on the information at hand is:

(1) More likely female than male
(2) More likely white than Polynesian or other Pacific Islander
(3) About 5′6-7″ in height

That is about where I think we are on the what the bones – as presented to us by Dr. Hoodless – can say. Obviously we cannot conclude that these bones are the remains of Amelia Earhart, in the sense of a positive identification. But the bones are consistent with what we know of her, and there is nothing I can see that would exclude her.

If the actual remains are located and can be studied, obviously much more could be said.

From Ric

In response to this new information we want to send a research team to England next month to try to find more official British correspondence which may tell us what became of the bones. We also want to investigate the chance that the bones themselves were sent to England. The need for this trip is urgent for two reasons:

  1. We want to have as much information as possible in time for the release of the paper in December.
  2. The archives of the Western Pacific High Commission (the most likely repository for more correspondence about the bones) are now kept at Hanslope, England but are scheduled to be “returned to the Pacific” after the first of the year.

The team we want to send will consist of me, Kenton Spading 1382CE, and Kristin Tague 0905CE. Both Kenton and Kristin have distinguished themselves as team leaders on TIGHAR expeditions to Nikumaroro and as Earhart Project archival researchers. It was Kenton who found the Hoodless Report earlier this year and Kris, an archival researcher by trade, has been chasing the bones ever since the discovery of the Gallagher papers last year.

We’ll depart the U.S. on Sunday, November 15 and return on Sunday November 22nd.

But in order to do this very important research trip we need funding. Airfares to Britain are very low right now, but so are TIGHAR’s coffers. The trip will cost approximately $1,200 per team member. To help defray these costs – and to augment the team – we’ll accept up to three sponsor/team members who are willing to come along and contribute $1,000 each, over and above their own expenses. We’ll also greatly appreciate any other contributions forum subscribers are willing to make.

This is how it’s done folks. Hard work, good science, patience, absolute determination, and the support of people like you. We've said it before and it’s truer than ever – the people will find Amelia.

If you want to apply for a spot as a sponsor/team member please email me or phone me at (302) 994-4410. If you want to help support the research trip please send your check – payable to TIGHAR – or credit card info to:

2812 Fawkes Drive
Wilmington, DE 19808

Or you can call in your credit card info to:
phone – (302) 994-4410
fax – (302) 994-7945

Love to mother,

Subject: Bones
Date: 10/14/98
From: Dan Postellon

Intriguing information, but low probability. I would guess that with 95% certainty, you could say that the bones were either male or female, with an adult height between 5 foot 2 inches and 5 foot 10 inches, race unclear, but likely to be European. This covers a lot of ground. (Maybe 95% of Tighar members?) I don't think that you will convince anyone without the actual bones and more measurements, and maybe not even then. I would still trust DNA analysis over osteology when attempting to determine the sex of bones this recent.


From Ric

I wasn’t aware that sex could be determined by DNA – but you missed the point Dan. My posting was not entitled “Proof At Last!” It was called “Important New Information.” Those who are waiting to be convinced will continue to wait, and even if we find the bones and do the DNA testing there will be still those who are not convinced. Remember – OJ walked.

We’re still engaged in the search for the truth – formulating hypotheses and testing them by looking for clues that we might be right or we might be wrong. The particular hypothesis under examination in this case is the notion that the castaway whose bones were found on Gardner Island in 1939/40, and were examined and measured in Fiji in 1941, were those of either Fred Noonan or Amelia Earhart.

The news that the identification of the bones in 1941 as being those of a “short, stocky, muscular...male” is not supported by the information presented in the Hoodless Report is significant. It means that any dismissal of their importance by British authorities based upon that identification was unwarranted.

The fact that modern forensic techniques and technology describe the castaway of Gardner Island in terms which match very well with what we know about Amelia Earhart is a new and important clue that our hypothesis may be correct and is worth vigorous continued testing.

Let me present this from a different perspective.

There are two ways to find things:

A. On purpose – that is, by diligent and carefully reasoned searching.
B. By accident – that is, by accident.

Most important historical discoveries are made by accident – the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Ice Man, etc. The archival file which confirmed that human remains were found on Gardner was found by accident. (Whether or not it was an important historical discovery remains to be seen.) The Hoodless Report, on the other hand, was the result of a dogged search prompted by that happy accident. Likewise, this new information about the likely nature of the hapless individual who died on Gardner Island is the product of intentional, scientific research. Ironically, the way we came upon this information tends to obscure its significance.

Let’s suppose for a moment that this same information came to light, not in the context of a determined search for Amelia Earhart, but perhaps as the result of some general re-evaluation of forensic practices of the 1940s. As a stand-alone piece of information, the modern re-evaluation of the Gardner Island bone measurements would probably be sufficient to prompt widespread speculation that the castaway was Amelia Earhart and launch a search for the bones. For us, of course, it does not stand alone but drops neatly into place as part of a large and nearly complete puzzle.

Love to mother,

Subject: Sextant box
Date: 10.15.98, 9:15 am
From: Joel Dunlap

This is probably a ridiculous idea. Has anyone ever compared the hand written numbers on the Ludolph box with FN’s hand writing where he may have written numbers? But would it really matter if he had written those numbers? Except, they are similar to the numbers on the Niku box. Just an idea and a thought.

Joel Dunlap

From Ric

The only thing ridiculous about that idea is that nobody thought of it until now. Thanks Joel. I’ll do a comparison and report back.

Subject: Bubble sextants/octants
Date: 10.15.98
From: Ric Gillespie

TIGHAR member Peter Ifland 2058 is an authority on sextants. I asked him when bubble instruments first became available. His response:

The earliest reference to a bubble sextant that was specifically designed for aircraft use was in the 1890’s. It was an adaptation of a land based bubble system and was used for balloon position finding.

The first aircraft bubble sextant that looked something like today’s aircraft sextants was by a French instrument maker, Fave, and featured the use of a dome shaped bubble chamber, rather than a tube like a carpenter’s level.

By the early 1920s aircraft bubble sextants were readily available from The National Bureau of Standards design in the US and from Hughes in England. These instruments, that were designed specifically for aircraft use and which made sea-going sextants obsolete for use in the air, were in broad scale use by 1930. PanAm would have used these designs as their primary star sight instrument by that time.

Hope this helps.

My new book, Taking the Stars – Celestial Navigation from Argonauts to Astronauts has just hit the streets. The ninth chapter deals exclusively with instruments for aircraft navigation and, in all modesty, is an uniquely complete and richly illustrated treatment of the subject. I’ll send you a flyer.

Please note my new e-mail address:

Best regards. Peter

If anyone is interested, I’m sure Peter wouldn’t object to email inquiries about his book.


Subject: Back to the Gilberts?
Date: 10.15.98
From: Hugh Graham

Vern Klein wrote:

> I sense (by remote viewing, of course) that Amelia was rather bull-headed
> once she latched onto an idea. She might have insisted on retracing their
> course back to the Gilberts despite Fred’s argument that the Phoenix
>Islands were a lot closer, and right on their supposed Line of Position.

I am of the same opinion, but I hope I am wrong. HAGraham 2201.

From Ric

Well, I don’t know where you guys get the idea that AE was prone to disregard Noonan’s navigational advice but if it comes from the incident related in Last Flight where, upon reaching the coast of Africa, she supposedly insisted on turning left when Fred said turn right, you’re on shaky ground. The charts from that flight and Noonan’s own account in his letter to Pallette indicate that the posthumous editor of Last Flight got that story just as wrong as he did the bit about the parachutes in Darwin. Randy Jacobson has done a detailed analysis of the South Atlantic crossing based upon the original charts with Noonan’s handwritten notations in the Purdue Special Collection. It’s a fascinating navigational story but there is no indication of a dispute in the cockpit. What Fred says to Pallette in his letter of June 9th is:

“ add to our woes, the African coast was enveloped in thick haze, rendering objects invisible at distances over a half mile, when we made the landfall. And our radio was out of order – it would be, in such a jam. However, with our usual good luck, if not good guidance, we barged through okay.”

It is always tempting to speculate about the effect of possible tension between AE and FN, but there’s simply no real evidence that there WAS any. They seem to have conducted themselves as friends and professionals, each having a great deal of respect for the other’s skill and commitment. Of course, from that day until this, some have approached the failure of the Lae/Howland flight with the sexist assumption that the little lady somehow acted irrationally, but that has more to do with the speculator’s agenda than with any historical evidence.

Love to mother,

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