Forum artHighlights From the Forum

July 19, 1998 Through July 25, 1998

Subject: Vacuumatics
Date: 7/19/98
From: Will Nobel


First off, thanks for the open forum -- I've long been interested in the AE topic, and have followed your efforts with no small amount of enthusiasm.

As to Vacuumatics.....

I'm a collector of fountain pens. The Parker Vacuumatic system was used on several different pens; it employed a rubber sac within the pen tube, and one of several plunger mechanisms at the base of the tube in order to fill it.

While the Vacuumatic was an innovation, the Parker nib assembly required disassembly every few fillings for cleaning; otherwise it would "pack up" completely. The best success (although this still required cleaning) was the Parker Mod. 51 (please note that this is a model reference; not the year of manufacture).

What I'm driving at is this: Any pen found on the island or elsewhere, if not already dated by your staff, could, if complete with readable markings, be dated rather closely -- Parker employed several different innovations and style changes within the Mod. 51, along with several different cap and nib styles -- all may be used to date the pen to within two years.

Such was the mind of Parker engineers -- and this works to the advantage of collectors; changes were made almost yearly, and as such we find it rather easy to date and type each pen.


Collecting and Valuing Fountain Pens; Paul Erano (1993; Northwest Publishing, Inc.)

(NB: There are many books on collecting, valuing and dating old pens. This is one of the more-reliable, inasmuch as it has photographic guides for each pen. Another good source for information is available at the website of what has to be the premier repair facility in the US for old pens, the Fountain Pen Hospital in New York City. will get you there).

Hope this is of some assistance down the line!

-- Will Noble

From Ric

We hadn't really thought a lot about pens as possible surviving artifacts - but we should. What was the body of a 1930s fountain pen made of? What kind of metal was used for the clip? Is this something that might survive 60 plus years in a tropical environment? If the metal was ferrous it will have rusted away and we can't find what's left using a metal detector. That means screening, which is a whole lot tougher. Thanks for bringing this up.

Subject: The Sydney Crash Found
Date: 7/19/98
From: Ric Gillespie/Craig Fuller

Craig Fuller, TIGHAR 1589C, of Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research has found the fabled Sydney crash.

For many years we have been trying to pin down just what airplane once crashed on Sydney Island, the easternmost of the three atolls of the Phoenix Group (Gardner, Hull and Sydney) which were first settled in 1939. Legend had it that "a large, four-engined American plane" had crashed there during the war. An anthropological study of former residents of Sydney who had been moved to the Solomons said that:

During the late war years, a large four-engined aircraft from Canton Island crashed on Sydney. Apparently low on fuel or with one engine afire, it circled the island once before attempting to ditch in the lagoon. The approach was made too low, however, and the airplane sheared off a palm tree and crashed just inland from the village. It burned on coming to rest, but the islanders hastened to pull the crew members from the wreckage. One man lived for a short time, but succumbed after an hour or so as he was badly burned. As a service organization, the members of the Matangarengare Welfare Club ( a group organized by the U.S. engineers who had been there earlier) volunteered to guard the site and bury the crew members, which they did that same afternoon. The next day a ship arrived from Canton and the bodies were removed and taken aboard. The members of the club had taken charge of the effects of the crew members, and these were surrendered to the party from Canton. They also helped search the wreckage for important documents and equipment which might be salvaged. After the ship left for Canton, the wreck became the chief source of aluminum for the islanders, who had learned on Canton Island to make women's combs and other ornaments from this material. Eventually almost nothing remained of the aircraft.

It is important to remember that this information came not from any official report but from interviews with former residents years after the event. The kind of aircraft is not part of the story nor is a specific date mentioned. This is pure anecdote.

Because we had found known B-24 parts on Niku and we know that people from Sydney came to live on Niku after the war, and because the B-24 was by far the most common "large, four-engined aircraft in the wartime Pacific, we strongly suspected that the airplane that crashed on Sydney was a B-24. That suspicion was strengthened when we obtained photos of wreckage on Sydney taken in 1971. The photos showed a large section of what appeared to be wing structure and two engines which appeared to be P&W R1830s - the kind of engine used on the B-24.

On two separate occasions, TIGHAR researchers spent several days at the USAF Historical Center at Maxwell, AFB Alabama looking for an official report of a crash at Sydney Island without success. Now, after months of searching the microfilmed accident reports Craig Fuller has hit paydirt. His message to me reads, in part: "I just e-mailed you an hour or two ago saying that I have yet to find the crash on Sydney and just now I stumbled across it! The pilot of C-47A s/n 43-30739 was on a "sight seeing" flight from Canton to Sydney and back. He flew over Sydney 4 times and clipped a tree on the last pass, killing all nine on board. Report with pictures to follow via snail mail." The date was 17 December 13.

A C-47? Wow. This raises (and may eventually answer) all kinds of questions. The photos of wreckage on Sydney could well be a Gooney (which had two R1830s). The report is similar enough to the legend that it does seem to be the same crash. So where did the B-24 parts on Gardner come from? Most logically from the B-24 wreck we know happened at Canton. Is our mysterious piece of airplane skin from a C-47A? We've tried it on various Gooneys we've come across, but not necessarily on an A -model. And what are the cabin windows of a C-47A like? Are they, like the windows of a Lockheed 10, made of slightly curved 1/8 inch plexi?

But then there's the dado, which does not seem to be a military part. And the cables which, at last word, have been judged by one expert to date from earlier than 12 because the connectors are nickel rather than cadmium plated. C-47A 43-30739 was contracted in 13 (that's what the 43 means) and had to have been built in either 13 or 14.

Once I've received Craig's package I'll report further. By the way, as noted in the last issue of TIGHAR Tracks, Craig Fuller does this kind of research for a living. His work for TIGHAR is done as a donation, for which we are deeply grateful. You might want to visit his website at Aviation Archeological Investigation and Research. The guy is GOOD.

A full description of the crash at Sydney Island can be found at
Earhart Project Bulletin, July 27, 1988

Subject: Label Fragment and Bar Codes
Date: 7/19/98
From: Walt Holm

Hi Folks!

Earlier this month at the TIGHAR Earhart gathering in San Carlos, one of the topics of discussion was the label fragment that was found in the campfire remains during the last Niku expedition. For the first time I saw a clear picture of the entire fragment, and it struck me that a portion on the end of it looked like the edge of a UPC (Universal Product Code) barcode. I volunteered to research this possibility, and here are the results of a very quick study.

Most of the information that I present here was gleaned from a very quick search on the internet. There are many sites of interest, but perhaps the most useful is, which discusses how to decode UPC labels by eye. UPC labels were standardized in 1973 and first used in 1974, and were widespread by the end of the 1970s. Thus, their presence on the island is not inconsistent with the SAMTEC program or the GEOMAREX investigations later. The area of the label that is of interest is to the rigtht of the "..ROWER PRODUCE," beyond a band of blue color. Ric has a good computer scan of the label and perhaps he can post it to the conference. I have what I believe is an ink-jet printout of this scan, printed (according to Ric) at about 400% scale. Anyway, beyond the area of blue there is a new white area, with what appears to be an upside-down 8 flanked on the left by two vertical bars.

If one imagines the "..ROWER PRODUCE" being upside-down on the bottom of the label, then the 8 (now on the left side of the label) could be the last symbol of a UPC barcode, flanked on the right by the two narrow vertical lines. There is a white space to the left of the two vertical lines, and to the left of that is what appears to be a tiny remnant of a wide dark bar. This is right at the very edge of the fragment and is a bit open to interpretation. At the conference I stated that it looked to me like a bar code ending in a wide dark bar, wide white space, narrow dark bar, narrow white space, narrow dark bar.

The following summary of UPC code relies heavily on the web site mentioned above- I suggest you consult it and others if you want more detail.

The most common form of the UPC code (UPC-A) encodes 12 digits, of which the last is a check-digit to help ensure that the code has been scanned correctly. UPC is a "discrete" code, that is, each digit has a unique encoding that is not interleaved with the other digits- each digit stands alone and it is possible to decipher the code by eye. Each digit in the UPC code is seven places wide, with a place here referring to the width of the smallest dark line (a "1") or light space (a "0"). For the UPC code at 100% scale this width is 13 mils (0.013) [I backed out this number from two separate documents, but have not seen the UPC standard - confirmation please?]. An 8 on the right hand side of the symbol is encoded as 1001000. The UPC symbol begins with a "101" start code and ends with a "101" stop code, for the scanner to measure the scanning speed. Thus, a UPC code ending with a check digit of 8 would end as ....1001000101. Multiple 1s in a row will look like a wide dark line, and multiple 2s in a row will look like a wide light space. Around the UPC symbol is a light area referred to as the "quiet zone," which allows the scanner to determine the intensity level for a light space "0."

Rather than run all of my observations together, I will summarize them into two categories, those that support the features being a UPC code and those that reject it.


  • Border of UPC symbol - The border between color and white in the area I believe to be a UPC symbol is different than the other borders on the label. The other borders on the label have a black line about 40-60 mils wide (as measured on the ink-jet print), while the border around the symbol area has a much finer black line, about 20 mils.
  • Width of bar code lines - The width of the narrow black lines and the narrow white space on the ink-jet print that I have is about 50 mils. If the print is indeed 400% scale, then the lines on the label are about the right 13 mil size for a 100% scale UPC label.
  • Valid stop code - The two thin vertical lines on the edge of the symbol would form the proper 101 stop code for a UPC symbol.
  • End of digit 8 encoded properly - the white area to the left of the two thin vertical lines looks about 140 mils wide on the print. This is an appropriate size for the 00 encoding at the end of the digit 8.


  • Insufficient Quiet Zone - This is definitely a problem. The current UPC specification calls for a quiet zone on the right hand side of the symbol to be at least 7 times the narrow bar width. For the print of the label this would be about 350 mils. The actual quiet zone on the print is about 200 mils or 4 narrow bar widths.
  • Beginning of 8 not encoded properly - Following to the left of the wide white area (see #4 above) is what appears to be a wide black bar, right on the very edge of the label fragment. On the print it appears to measure at least 110 mils wide, or at least two narrow bar widths. This would make the encoding of the last digit XX11000, which is not a valid character. (8 on the right of the label is encoded as 1001000)

Items that need to be done:

1. Measure the size of the narrow lines using a loupe or microscope with a reticle (Ric). Are they around 13 mils? What are the UPC guidelines for printing symbols different than 100% scale?

2. Examine the area of the label, just at its edge, presumed to be a wide dark bar. Could part of this be a burn mark?

3. Get hold of the UPC standard as it existed in the 1970s, as opposed to currently. It may be the same as now, may not be. Specifically, what did the original UPC spec say for the width of the quiet zone? Anybody know an expert on bar codes?

4. There is a variation on the UPC codes called the EAN (European Article Numbering system), and somehow it encodes a 13th digit in the same number of bar widths as the 12-digit UPC symbol. This is apparently now an international standard. It could potentially match the observed bars.

5. How about some ideas as to what this area of the label could be if it is *not* a UPC symbol? Frankly, I haven't heard any good ideas yet.

My *opinion* is that we are looking at a modern (1972s or newer) label fragment. However, I'm not really able to prove it - yet. All opinions on the subject welcome.

Walt Holm

From Ric

As instructed by Walt, I have examined the actual fragment under a dissecting microscope matched up with an actual barcode. Here is what I see.

The two narrow vertical lines on the fragment are quite similar to, but not exactly like the lines on the barcode. The barcode lines are a smidgeon narrower and the space between them a smidgeon wider than on the fragment (smidgeon: unit of measurement perceptible to the eye but too small for me to quantify with available instrumentation.)

The other vertical line, only the very tip of which is visible just above the 8, is definitely of the same width as the first two.

And, as you note, there is inadequate "quiet zone."

My opinion: While the similarity is indeed striking, this does not seem to match the current UPC standard, but (again, as you note) the standard may have changed over the years or the fragment may conform to the EAN system.

On another front: Bob Perry, TIGHAR 2021, has enlisted the help of a very reputable analytical lab in Chicago which has worked on little projects like the Shroud of Turin. They may be able to date the piece from the inks and paper. (So what do we do if we get a 10s label with a 1970s barcode on it? Cue the theme from The Twilight Zone.)

I do have a real "killer" scan of the fragment but it's way too big to email. The current plan is for us to do some more detailed photography here, then ship the artifact to Paul Chattey, TIGHAR 1120, for additional photography, by which time they may be ready to go to work on it in Chicago. Seems like an awful lot of fuss for a scrap of paper. Maybe we should call it The Label of Niku.

Love to mother,

Subject: Fountain Pens as Artifacts
Date: 7/20/98
From: Will Noble


Ric raised some excellent questions that I'll try to answer here without becoming either too specific or arcane:

Q: From what material was the body of a 10's-era pen constructed?

A: This varies. The most common was resin (as plastic was susceptible to cleaning solvents and sunlight, it was almost never used. The Parkers mentioned earlier were resin. Others used more exotic materials (gold; silver; even wood were employed), but the most-common material was resin.

Q: From what material was the clip commonly constructed?

A: Again, this varies. The Parker '51 was gold-fill; even if there were rust spots on the metal clip, the gold sheath would prevent complete corrosion.

Q: Other materials?

A: Nibs were always an alloy with some gold. These would remain preserved, even on Niku.

Q: Markings?

A: Most pens carried the name (and sometimes the place of origin), along with other markings useful for dating a pen. Again, these vary; it might be a good thing to remember that research with an expert would be necessary. I am a collector and an Earhart buff; I am not an expert.

It should be remembered that there are fountain-pen parts that have survived the sinking of the Titanic, and which have been recovered by Titanic, Inc. from a depth of over 10,000 feet. While I don't want to get off on a jag about "that other disaster", the point is simple -- pens were not throwaways, not back in the '30's -- they were made from precious and semiprecious materials and made to last. This certainly isn't more important than dating the more detailed parts of the 10-E, but could (and should) be used to assist in dating a site that's being excavated.

Thanks again!

- Will Noble

Subject: Sending and Receiving Morse
Date: 7/19/98
From: Vern Klein

>"On enquiry Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan advised that they entirely
>depended on radio telephone reception as neither of them were able to read
>morse at any speed but could recognize an individual letter sent several times."

This suggests they could have transmitted using code -- if the key was not discarded. I don't think we know for sure. I don't recall what all people think (claim) they heard, but they could sure have got out a lot of SOS signals (... --- ...) That's pretty easy. And they could probably have managed a bit more.

It's a lot easier to send code than to read it. Maybe not "good" code with dots and dashes the right length and properly spaced, but readable. If you've memorized all the characters, you can do it. Even thought you're a long way from being able to read it at all. "... At any speed."

"...recognize an individual letter sent several times." Yeah, trying to communicate with them would have got a lot of "dit dit dah dah dit dits" from them! "Repeat!"

Been there, done that! You're out in the woods with a radio you've carried on your back for several miles. Another guy has carried the hand-cranked generator. You ride it like a bicycle except you turn the two cranks by hand. It's WW-I stuff. Each time you press the key, it loads the generator -- VERY hard to turn.

You've just laborously sent a message of perhaps half-a-dozen words. Your trying to remember where you are and what to send next, and that other guy is yelling at you not to make the dashes so damn long! Finally, with a sense of relief, you key in a -.- ("K" says, "over") and switch to receive. After all that effort, what do you hear? Ditty dumb dumb ditty! Repeat! The idiot couldn't read it!

It's hard to believe I could once copy 30 WPM -- about the limit when you're writing it down by hand. It was encrypted stuff. It meant nothing so you had to write it down. You had to get on a typewriter to get any faster. I got out of there before a typewriter opened up and haven't touched the stuff since! Now I can't even recall all the characters! And I have no inclination to try!

From Ric

Supposedly, Earhart left her code-sending key (what we would think of as a telegraph key) behind in Miami. If that was the case, she could only send code by keying her mic.

Perhaps significantly, the only S-O-S messages claimed to have been received were heard by two amateurs, Walter McMennamy and Karl Pearson, in L.A. on the night of the day she disappeared. McMennamy is a very suspect source who later went off the deep end with outlandish conspiracy claims. None of the more credible post-loss messages are alleged to have contained S-O-S. One explanation could be that, if AE and FN were able to receive, they knew that the search was on. No need to waste precious time and power telling people they were in trouble. Duh.

Another interesting point is that the only credible post-loss message which has any intelligible content was the famous "281" message received by Navy Radio Wailupe (Hawaii) late on the night of July 4. This message was heard only as fragmentary phrases sent in "keyed transmission, extremely poor keying behind carrier." This would seem to be consistent with the sort of thing Earhart and Noonan could put out given their limitations of expertise and equipment. The "fragmentary phrases" heard by three separate navy operators were:


We really don't know how the phrases were split up, but traditionally they have been presented as:


We've only spent about a gazillion hours trying to assess the credibility and possible meaning of this equisitely cryptic message. The Navy initially thought it meant that the plane was down in the water 281 miles north of Howland and ships were sent to look there. About the time the ships arrived at that point and saw zippo, a message was received from California saying that if the plane was sending these messages it had to be on land and able to operate its right-hand, generator-equipped engine. That is, in large part, why the Colorado's search focused on the Phoenix islands rather than the water. Later, after the search failed, the message (like all the post-loss messages) was judged to have been either a misunderstanding or a hoax.

Well, the 281 message was not a misunderstanding because nobody sending a legitimate message would have done it in "extremely poor keying." It could have been a hoax, except that very few people knew that AE and FN were crumby at code. The most interesting thing to us about the message is that the equator happens to be exactly 281 nautical miles north of Niku and the "won't hold with us much longer...above water...shut off" seems to fit rather nicely with our hypothesis of an airplane on the reef-flat threatened by rising seas.

Love to mother,

Subject: Radio Installations and Gurr
Date: 7/22/98
From: Mike Everette the Radio Historian

Regarding code (C-W) transmission capability of vintage avionics:

I do have experience with this sort of equipment. It is indeed possible to transmit code (send C-W) by keying the mic. The push-to-talk button would be wired in parallel with the telegraph key. (In fact, some older military aircraft radios which used a throat mic had a "key knob" on top of the transmitter control box for use as a push-to-talk button, or as a code key... specifically, the SCR-183 and 283; as well as the SCR-274N - the famous "Command Set." These were used in many Army Air Corps birds).

The important thing to remember: The transmitter would have had some kind of mode-selector switch, probably "C-W - Voice" or "C-W - Tone - Voice." "Tone" would refer to morse transmission using tone-modulated carrier. In such a mode the radio still had to be keyed, of course. It is conceivable that this is the source of the comment "extremely poor keying behind carrier" referenced from a posting about the post-disappearance messages and their content.

It would have been important to switch the radio over from Voice to C-W or Tone (which may be called MCW) before trying to send morse. Reasons below.

Check your diagrams... I'll bet the tube filaments are on all the time, even in standby... instant heat tubes were quite uncommon in the 30s. What are the tube type numbers? I can tell you for sure.

On C-W the dynamotor would run continuously, and the key would activate a relay or relays to make and break the high-voltage lead, or perhaps come other circuit, as well as switch the antenna. On voice, the dynamotor would not run until the transmitter was keyed on push-to-talk. In either case, keying would involve several relays.

If the rig was keyed by the mic switch to send C-W, and the transmitter was still switched to the Voice mode, the dynamotor would be cycling on and off with the keying. You are right-it'd sound horrendous... the note would "chirp" like a 500-pound canary bird, rather than be clean and stable. Also, the constant starting and restarting the dynamotor in sync with keying would kill the battery very quickly... a transmitter dynamotor may draw 100 amps, momentarily, on start surges. Running continuously, it might draw 10 to 12 amps if powering a 50-watt transmitter from a 28-volt battery. That current drain does not include tube heaters. Anyhow, that's lots of amps compared to solid state gear; and aircraft batteries weren't that large, even then.

This, as they say in the trade, is definitely not good.

In any event, AE may not have realized she had to switch the radio over to C-W (or Tone or MCW) mode before trying to key it!

The battery would have gone fast. Perhaps, if the radio was being Morse-keyed in Voice mode, which it wasn't designed for, something in the transmitter - a relay contact, or the modulation transformer - may have fried itself... and, even if they had an engine running to supply power, their lifeline was still cut.

It is a shame that Amelia was not more radio-savvy, and from the Gurr letter she appears to have been either overconfident of her ability to "learn on the job" or simply unconcerned.

By the way... speaking of the Gurr letter: I have read it a couple of times, and some things bother me; and not just about the technical side. What was the source? Has anyone seen the original letter from Gurr, or is it merely a copy of something from Fred Goerner? Anyone analyzed the letter for writing style, comparing it to Goerner's?

A number of the things Gurr tells about just seem to "fit" Goerner's hypotheses rather conveniently - which is okay I guess, if Goerner indeed used Gurr as a source....


Seems to me, if Gurr held all the licenses he claimed to have had, he also would have possessed an Amateur Extra Class ham ticket (the highest class), not an Advanced... that's sort of like the difference between a First Class Radiotelegraph and a Second Class. (Back in the 10s, however, ham license classes were structured a little differently. He may have held a "Class-A" license, which was (I believe) redesignated in the late 40s or early 50s to Advanced Class. I am not exactly certain when the Amateur Extra license came into being...)

Did he also have an Aircraft Radiotelegraph endorsement on his First-Tel? Can someone check the FCC archives - if any exist? - to determine this?

Reason I bring this up: The CAA might have required such an endorsement to work on avionics, especially airline service.. Also, the exam (Element VII) for the Aircraft endorsement included a great deal of material on general aerial navigation practices, as well as the tech aspect of nav-aid equipment. It'd be helpful in establishing his credibility, to know if he had this endorsement (if it indeed was required then). It seems that, if he had held it, he would have mentioned it in his credentials.

For whatever that may be worth.

It also may mean nothing that the guy held only an Advanced Class ham license; for he may have simply decided he didn't want to take another exam... but if he had all the other top tickets, why not that one? Most radio people would have gotten it as a matter of personal accomplishment..

For Vern Kline: Do you have the schematics for the Electra radios? May I somehow get a copy? Pse QSO me off forum; u hv my e-mail QTH.

73 CUL GM (good morning) AR


From Ric

I agree that AE may not have known enough to switch to the CW setting before trying to send code by using the push-to-talk on the mic. We do know, however, that the airplane originally had a key for sending morse, so the switch was probably there.

The Gurr letter is a typed document signed by Gurr dated May 3, 1982. The Q and A document consists of typed questions from Goerner (different type-face than Gurr's letter) with handwritten responses under them from Gurr. It is undated and unsigned but the handwriting resembles Gurr's signature on the letter. Both documents appear to be authentic.

It was the opinion of an earlier TIGHAR-member researcher (who had extensive experience in avionics) that Gurr's lengthening of the dorsal Vee antenna would have really screwed up her ability to transmit effectively on 3105 and 6210 without giving her any real transmit capability on 500 kc. Agree? Disagree?

Anybody want to tackle getting Gurr's records from the FCC? Did Amelia entrust her radio set up to an unqualified technician? Inquiring minds want to know.

Subject: Tin can corrugations
Date: 7/23/98
From: Dusty

In trying every possible avenue to discover the truth about the "ROWER PRODUCE" label from the can, and reading about the striations possibly caused by marks from the corrugations of the can - I happened on the following website - - They are located in England and according to their website... "Itri is the world's foremost authority on tin and its applications."

This company has a library - The librarian's name is listed as Lindsey Hobbs. Again, according to their website the library has on-line search capabilites of over one hundred data bases. I know tin cans are not made out of tin - but with such wide reaching research capabilites, I thought it worth asking. So, I e-mailed Lindsey and asked (him/her) to tell me if possible if tin a tin can with 1/8 " corrugations, or any corrugations for that matter, would have indeed existed in 17.

Today, I received a reply from an Amy Chesworth at ITRI who said "... I can tell you that in 17 corrugated cans were not invented/in use. They were invented later to add strength to the can."

I am writing back to find out what source she used to gather that information and when corrugation on cans started and could the striations be caused by anything else other than marks from corrugation.

I would have waited to e-mail you this after I got more information, but I am leaving for vacation tomorrow and will not be back for a while.

However, having studied around 50 can labels (and counting) in whole or part from 1920-10, it seems very possible that the label could be from 17. I say this because the richness of the colors seems to correlate with labels of that period, as does "ROWER PRODUCE". Although I have not found "grower" followed by "produce" on any label yet, one or the other word is used quite often on fruit can labels (- not very often on vegtetable labels) of that period.

Subject: Label Logic
Date: 7/23/98
From: Tom Cook

I was born in Jan. of 28, so I was a kid during WW2, one of my jobs around the house was to recycle empty "tin cans", I would remove the label, wash them out inside, turn them upside down and cut the other end out (no electric can openers in those days!), put both ends inside, and then step on the can to mash it flat, we would turn them in at the next scrap drive. What all of this is coming to is that I don't recall any corrigations in the sides of the cans at that time.

TC 2127

From Ric

We seem to have a building body of anecdotal evidence to indicate that corrugations did not exist on cans in 1937. If this proves to be documentable it presents two possibilities (that I can think of) about our label fragment: 1. What we take to be marks left by corrugations are something else. 2. The label dates from later than 1937.

Of course, the two possibilites are not mutually exclusive. They could both be true.

One possible indication that No. 1 is the case is the fact that the striations on the fragment (best observed on the reverse of the label) appear to begin right at the top of the (implied) can rather than 5/8ths of an inch down from the top, which seems to be the way most 1/8th inch corrugations appear on cans.

Other evidence we have to help us date the label:

  • a trace of what might be a barcode that is not right for a standard UPC barcode.
  • a consensus among informed observers that the colors and styling of the label are typical of the 1920s and 30s.
  • the stratigraphic level at which the fragment was found (ca. 5 cm below the surface) which would seem to indicate that it had been in situ for many, many years.

Further research which might more conclusively date the fragment:

  • Dating of the paper and inks through materials analysis.
  • Matching of the surving fragment with a datable entire label.

Have I missed anything?


Subject: Antennas Again (Still)
Date: 7/25/98
From: Bob Sherman

To: Bob, TIGHAR Member #0941

Hi Bob,

In my last email, I indicated that Gurr had flight tested the Radio Range System because he says in his letter he "made radio contacts with the FCC Range."

Ric has indicated in one of his latest emails "No record of Earhart ever using her radios successfully at any time during her second world flight attempt except for a brief flight over Lae on July 1st. She talked to the ground station at Lae okay (V Antenna), but could not get a minimum" (Loop Antenna). So, what's the big deal about the belly antenna? Her problems didn't start with that thing falling off. She had problems prior to that.

By the way, the belly antenna was 16 feet long. The standard DF Sense Antenna length. If you want to count the lead in, it was 18 feet. (lead in's are not considered when determining length of these type of antennas). That antenna was resonant (a half wave) at 30,000 kc. Let me tell you from experience that a 16 foot antenna is not going to hear much of anything at 3105 or 6210kcs. So, if the HF receiver WAS hooked up to the belly antenna, she wouldn't have heard anything anyway whether or not it was torn off taking off out of Lae. Gurr new what he was doing. He NEVER would have hooked that thing up to the HF receiver. Now, I know that Radio Range Systems used short antennas, and they worked real well. But, don't forget that they were operated very close-in to a very powerful station.

Gurr indicates in his letter after the Luke crash, and when the Electra was at Lockheed being rebuilt, "We designed a belly sensing antenna for reception of signals for direction finding." (Sense Antenna.) I know that there is no record of her having a DF receiver on board (after the Luke crash) but the records are not to good and maybe she did.

Gurr indicates that when she flew to Miami; Pan American did some further radio work on the Electra. If this were true, what did they do? Pan Am had an excellent group of Radio Technicians at Miami in those days. They were the cream of the crop. They were aviation electronics pioneers. They never would have tinkered with that airplane and hooked the belly antenna up to the HF Receiver. They new that doing something like that might get Earhart killed.

What I would like are records of just what Pan Am did do to that airplane in Miami. That might answer many of our questions.

Lastly, Gurr says "Amelia was not proficient in operation of the radios." He had tried to check her out, but she always had excuses to leave these training sessions early or to cancel out on them completely. She didn't find radios user friendly. Could it be that there was nothing wrong with the radios at all? Was it just, as we, Pan Am ground people, used to say, "cockpit trouble", and it finally did Amelia in.

Love to Mother,

Bob, #0902

From Ric

I, too, would like to know just what Pan Am did to that airplane in Miami. Press reports mention problems with the Sperry GyroPilot (autopilot) and one account says that a radio direction finder was installed, but no official records have ever turned up.

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