Forum artHighlights From the Forum

November 3 through 9, 1998

Subject: New Canton Engine Info
Date: 11.2.98
From: Mike Ruiz

Why run the risk of another trip that most likely will gather minimal evidence at such high cost like the last couple of trips you have taken to Niku? The approximate Canton Engine location is known and appears to be in an open area, sans scaveola. Find someone else that was on Bruce’s chopper to confirm the engine find if you are worried about his story, then go get it. Find that engine, and funds will flow. If you don’t find the engine on Canton, then go back to Niku. You have to go back to Niku more than one more time anyways to solve/analyze this mystery.

Love to Lambrecht, The No Land Club*

From Ric

This Canton versus Niku debate is really quite interesting and revealing about which anecdotes people consider to be credible.

On the one hand, we have Bruce Yoho. He relates his recollection of recovering an engine from an island in the Phoenix Group and, ultimately, putting it in a dump on Canton. Based upon his description of what he found, we think that the engine might well be from NR16020. We have been to Canton but have yet to search the place where the engine is thought to be (buried in the dump). This is considered by many (including me) to be a highly credible account and worthy of vigorous investigation.

On the other hand, we have Tapania Taiki and Pulekai Songivalu. They independently describe aircraft wreckage they saw on Niku when they lived there. Based upon their description of what they saw, we think the wreckage may well be from NR16020. We have been to Niku but have yet to search the place where the wreckage is thought to be. We do, however, have apparent corroboration of their accounts through aerial photos which indicate the presence of metal in the described locations.

On the surface of it, you would think that independent anecdotal reports of aircraft wreckage by two individuals, supported by photographic corroboration, would be considered to be as worthy of investigation as an unsupported anecdotal report by a single individual. And yet, while Bruce’s engine is assumed to be there for the plucking, Tapania and Pulekai’s wreckage (far more significant if found) is dismissed. “Why run the risk of another trip that most likely will gather minimal evidence at such high cost like the last couple of trips you have taken to Niku?”

Why is one American seen as more credible than two Tuvaluans? Is it a matter of expertise? Bruce is a licensed airplane mechanic and he thought that the engine might have been an R1340. That's pretty good. Without that expertise and that opinion we might be less inclined to pursue his engine. Tapania has no such expertise but she says that there was “part of a wing” on the reef and “airplane parts” in the bush. That’s all I need to know to chase her wreckage.

I fear that the tendency to regard people on Funafuti as being less credible than people from California is based upon some assumptions that should have been put aside a long time ago. Bruce’s engine and Tapania’s wreckage are at least equally credible and are both worthy of continued investigation. Both investigations are hideously expensive. The difference is that Canton is a one-trick pony. The only thing you can do there is look for Bruce’s engine. If it’s not there, or it’s the wrong engine, you’re skunked. If it’s the right engine, that’s wonderful, but you still don’t know where it came from. Niku is a different story. The search for the wreckage on Nutiran is only one of at least three operations which need to be conducted (the other two are the examination of Kanawa Point and further investigation of the Aukaraime site) and which could produce very significant finds. And, unlike Canton, a diagnostic artifact or bone found on Niku solves the central question of the Earhart mystery.

So, we go to Kanton if we can do it cheaply (and that may be possible), but we stay focused on Niku.

Love to mother,

Subject: New Canton Engine Info
Date: 11.3.98
From: Simon Ellwood

Just one more comment....

>Why is one American seen as more credible than two Tuvaluans? Is it a matter of expertise?

For me, at least, it’s not a question of whose account is the most credible, but the fact that Bruce’s experience happened much more recently – (times I can relate to, almost yesterday in the AE saga), and the stark realisation that no other aircraft loss is known in that area that would yield a PW1340. Wreckage on a shore – related from WW2 times just seems much more ephemeral (though no less credible – then!).

An interesting question would be whether light aluminum structures on a shoreline would survive sixty years without corroding away completely. My guess would be that larger, heavier structures – maybe a part of the wing with that massive beam – would survive. I’ve seen some talk on the forum of the rapid biological decomposition present on Niku, does anyone have any idea how rapidly aluminum structures would decay in a salt/sea atmosphere ? Are any of the old surviving structures (the barrel etc.) on Niku made of aluminum ?


Simon #2120

From Ric

One of the most encouraging phenomena we have observed on Niku is how incredibly well aluminum survives in the island environment. Ferrous material (iron and steel) rusts almost before your eyes, but aluminum remains very stable.

Aircraft components (for example, the navigator’s bookcase) which we know date from early WWII (only the first 1,653 B-24Ds were equipped with part number 28F2043) survive with little or no visible corrosion. The infamous section of airplane skin, Artifact 2-2-V-1, has a rivet of a style that was common before the war but went out of general use fairly early in the war and the skin has manufacturer’s markings that, according to Alcoa, likewise indicate that its an OLD piece of aluminum. And yet the only places where corrosion has penetrated through the .032 thickness is in one small spot where there was some kind of corrosive deposit (battery acid? bird dung?). Even very thin (less than .025) structures are found intact and almost shiny.

It doen’t seem to matter whether the aluminum is buried in the ground or laying on the surface. Apparently the environment is so dry and free of airborne pollutants that the stuff just lasts and lasts. If the wreckage of the Electra was once in the bushes, it hasn’t gone away due to corrosion.


Subject: Engine and Reality
Date: 11.4.98
From: Bruce Yoho

I need to make a point here. My interest in Amelia Earhart and her disappearance was after a few facts had happened in my life. In 1971 I was in the Phoenix Islands working on the SAMTEC mission. I did not know about A.E. or did I give much of a hoot. My interest was making money to pay for the house my wife and I had just bought and then returning, as fast as I could make it happen. Canton Island became very boring for a young man missing his family and with nothing to do at that time for R&R.

I did find the engine and this gave me something to do with my time. That was my interest then and in all reality was nothing but a plaything for me. When I became bored with it, it was not even worth the thought, of putting it aside for the Generals visit, in fact the Generals visit was just the jolt, a procrastinating mechanic, needed to get rid of the engine, so to the dump it went.

Some years later, after becoming an Instructor in Aviation Maintenance I read the book Amelia Earhart Lives I read the book and became the believer in the idea that she lived and her and old Fred went off to England to live happy ever after and it was made possible by some exchanges with Japan after the surrender.

Enter a different story, my local newspaper carries a story about some group calling themselves “The International Group for Historical Aircraft Recovery” the paper mentioned that they were looking for A.E. in the Phoenix Islands. I yelled to my wife in the kitchen, that these nuts should read Elgin Longs book A.E & Fred are in England.

It did cause me to review my film and I thought wait, what if they are up to something and if they are going there, maybe they would like to take a look at an engine I found. I could not find any way to contact these people (Tighar) so kind of gave up. The highest Tech stuff then was hand held calculators.

As years went by the newspaper again had an article about Niku lll expedition and also Linda Finch. The arterial stated that (Tighar) was in the Phoenix Islands right now. I thought, let me see if I can find that group and get a message to them. Thanks to computers and the Internet I was able to contact Purdue University and found out you guys go by TIGHAR. I sent a message. In my first message I stated I did not want anything for the information nor any publicity of where they got the information. Anything of use to Tighar was theirs.

At the time I was just not sure of the value of this engine to solving a world mystery. I am a part of Tighar and so is all if anything is useful that I may contribute. I did take pictures of that engine, I cannot find them but we did find a roll of undeveloped film that at this time is in a Lab. in Colorado in hopes it can be developed. It could be a film my kids took, but it could also be film taken of that engine. The film was located in the camera bag I used at Canton and never used another time.

If you have gotten this far, the purpose is credibility of, one over another, that has been appearing on the forum. Ric use’s some long words but to say it bluntly my statements are just that “statements” yes Del Saylor knows I had an Engine others know, but we have not been able to contact them. The two Tuvaluans story of seeing an aircraft in pieces on the island of Gardner has just as much credibility as my story at this point, and I couldn’t care less if I am an American or a Tuvaluan. Please let us not weigh one story against another because of who they are or what they are.

TRUTH, PROOF, FACTS AND EVIDENCE (Sorry I ain't yelling)

Love To Mother

Subject: Castaways
Date: 11.6.98
From: Monty Barr

I’m sure that our castaways clung to the hope of being rescued, probably more by ship than plane. Also they must have known that any rescue effort would come from the North or northwest. Don’t you think they would have spent a lot of time on the north and northwest side of the island for this reason? Maybe had stuff ready to start a signal fire on the beach in case they saw a ship.

I know that just about all the castaway items have been found south of the lagoon, but at least for the first 2 weeks maybe AE and FN were on the North side. Maybe that is where the report of recent habitation by the search planes came from.


From Pat

Well, perhaps all these maybes are true. But in the world of SAR, you start from the Point Last Seen – PLS. That can be a physical sighting of the person, or it can be a jacket dropped by the person you are looking for. We have to go with what we have. Speculation about possible signal fires that might or might not have existed, while amusing, isn’t actually useful. Even if they were hanging on the northwest side of the island, once they saw/heard (if they did) the search aircraft leave, they would have been powerfully motivated to explore the island and find out what resources they had at their disposal.

It is worth reminding all readers that any sentence which starts with or contains the words “would have” “must have” or “maybe” is pure speculation, even if it’s written by Ric and/or me :-). Maybe we should make a new rule that all such words must be offset and highlighted?


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