Highlights From the Forum
July 26, 1998 Through July 31, 1998
To Randy and Ric,
We need to keep our time frame in mind. Bruce found the engine before the first missile splashed down. That was in late Feb '71 or early Mar '71. The splash, in fact, was the reason the 2-star general was at Canton. Upon his arrival, the general also noted besides the "splash" that we were not doing much to help the ecology in our living and working locations. The general (Lou Wilson), I'm almost certain, therefore, directed his R&D Directorate to get Clapp to Canton a second time. NOTE: Bruce was not on site during Clapp's first visit when Clapp made his initial "bird/ecology" survey.
When Clapp did arrive, he was escorted by a relatively high-level VIP-escort team from the SAMTEC R&D areas. All resources were dedicated to Clapp since his report could possibly close us down. He was taken wherever he wished. If he had wanted to go to the South Pole, we probably would have found a way. Although Clapp was only a mid-level grade civilian, he was the key to our not getting the Brits, who jointly owned the place, all in a dither. Clapp may have gone to Gardner at this time. If so, one would think he would have taken more photos of the Niku village. According to the Sept 96 TIGHAR Tracks, however, Clapp's last photo of the village was in October 1963. Unless there is something more specific in the SAMTEC memo from Major Akers, moreover, "in the islands" doesn't necessarily indicate Clapp went to Gardner. Since Clapp was at Canton about two weeks on that visit, he possibly did. He was the VIP. Only the Global pilots, the SAMTEC VIP- escort team or Clapp would know for certain. Perhaps he got photos of "H-3's" at Gardener on later trips?
One other major reason, I believe our CH-3E's never went to Gardner before the second coming of Clapp was to avoid unnecessary AOC for parts or maintenance. In the early days of reactivation and construction, the copters not only had to ferry all personnel and supplies daily to the outer radar sites, but also served as sky cranes to erect the radar towers at all three locations. Since our re-supply from Hawaii was twice a week--sometimes just once--Global was severely impacted by this. Before Bruce arrived, and we had only two copters, if one was AOC, and the other "got sick", our schedule was really hit. Global with limited support sincerely tried to keep us going, so why would they put unnecessary flying time on their "bread and butter"? Gardner was not in our game plan.
To reiterate, the Canton engine was found during the first few months of activation which started in Sep 70--before the first missile splash around the end of Feb 71. We must keep this time period in mind when we try to piece together Bruce's find. Admittedly, we all want that engine to have been found on Gardner and have been on Amelia's AC . As discussed above, I just don't think it was.
You are correct about the monotone of airborne radio transmissions. This is, in part, due to the operator and also the nature of the equipment. Did you ever hear music transmitted over aeronautical radios? Two tin cans (corrugation optional), connected by a string with background static accompaniment, should give a reasonable facsimile.
There are parts of the world where this phenomenon may be heard today. It shouldn't be too difficult if you have an HF receiver. Night is best. Lots of fade, reflection and overlapping signals. All the good stuff that make flying interesting. New York ARINC (Aeronautical Radio, INCorporated) Caribbean night frequencies, 2887, 5550, 6577, 8918 would be a good place to start.
BTW, I have heard the radio transmissions of pilots as they confronted potentially fatal situations, and the monotone doesn't change.
All the technical talk about AEs antennas, radios and DF and be pretty confusing to the neophyte, but I would like to emphasize its importance to help solve the riddle, and how difficult it is to get everything right.
Most laymen think radio waves "and stuff" like it are fairly simple and everything always work as planned. Experience has told us otherwise.
In my younger days my job with Air Force and its civilian "overseer" was intercepting communications of the bad guys. At our station on Crete we had a DF shack to help us identify the guys we were copying. The DF shack was hooked into a regional network of other Air Force intercept/DF sites and they'd work to together to help any site that needed a DF shot. On numerous occasions we would call for a DF fix, put it on the net, and when it came back the transmitter was identified as US. Somehow the signal we were copying would be intercepted and rebroadcast from our intercepting antennas on the same frequency and the DF net (in Germany, Turkey, Italy etc.) would ident us as the transmitter. Very frustrating... and confusing. So even then these things didn't work like they were supposed to, just like today.
For what it's worth. Robert N. Buck, teen age x-country record setter in the very early '30's, author of a number of books on aviation, was a DC-2 & 3 airline pilot before and during the time of AE's trip, had this to say about aero radio in the '30's:
Transmissions were very much 'conversation', and slower than today for readability. There was no Roger, Wilco, Able Baker (alpha bravo) stuff. They began in a normal conversational tone of voice, but during the many periods of static they often escalated to shouting matches with liberal use of synonyms (C like in Crazy, which later led to a standardized alphabet). Whistling one or more characters of code into the mike to get a letter(s) or number(s) understod was a last resort and not uncommon. Relays by other pilots were also common. He passed off Tom Wolfe's stuff as interesting reading but some of it, 'poetic license'. As for C. Yeager's good ole boy style, he said, we had country boy pilots in the '30's too.
Suppose the campfire site TIGHAR found turns out to be of recent origin. Where does that leave us? We are left with some shoe parts, TIGHAR's and Gallagher's, that are a little hard to explain. These shoe parts, and Gallagher's sextant box, are about the only things found to date that seem highly likely to connect to the Earhart flight. We have nothing definite on the bones at this time, nor on the various metal and plastic pieces.
Gallagher found parts of a woman's shoe near his campfire site in 1940. He did not find the shoe parts TIGHAR found in 1991. Why didn't he find these other shoe parts despite searching the area?
Because they were not there.
It had been about 3 years since Amelia and Fred had been there... And perished there. In the meantime the shoes had moved about. Maybe it was the crabs. Maybe it was torrential rains that must have occurred during those three years. Some shoe parts, apparently from two different shoes, ended up in the vicinity of the TIGHAR campfire site. They had a lot of years to migrate about. They may have been there when the later campers built their fire. They didn't notice the old shoe parts or, If they did, they took no notice of them.
Then TIGHAR came along in 1991 and definitely did take notice of the old, deteriorated shoe parts! And they found the remains of the later campfire. Chance? Coincidence? Maybe it has to do with the lay of the land and the way water runs.
Gallagher found considerably less than half a skeleton. TIGHAR has found no bones or bone fragments. Even after 60 years, I think there might be some at Gallagher's campfire site. TIGHAR has searched with a metal-detector and found only a brass eyelet that was once part of one of the shoes.
If this was the place where Amelia and Fred, one or both, perished, I would expect more metal objects of some kind to be found. Gallagher searching 3 years after the fact and without aid of a metal-detector might well not have found anything more.
I think TIGHAR's campfire site is not Gallagher's campfire site. The two sites may not be far apart. How do we find Gallagher's site? My only thought is to look to higher ground. Objects moved about in more or less random manner, crabs, rain, wind, whatever, tend to move to lower places.
Was Gallagher's site all dug up with coconut planting? That would mean sifting and metal-detector -- and scrutinizing every particle! Maybe it's a bit of bone -- or part of a Parker pen!
Maybe it's too much to hope for that "The Gallagher Letters" might be found and that they would provide more clues to the exact location of his campfire site as well as answers to a number of other questions.
I can't fault your logic. In some respects it would be good news if it turns out that our site is not Gallagher's site because, as you say, if we can find Gallagher's site there may (should) be more there. If we do have the coincidence of two campfires and if the shoes did move (certainly possible) then I agree that the the "real" site is not far away.
It sort of comes down to our old friend the label fragment. If it was burned in the fire (which appears to be the case) then it is is contemporaneous with the fire. And if the label is modern, so is the fire. Gotta get that label pinned down.
I can't fault Vern's logic either, and am puzzling about the same questions. The trouble with the idea of looking to higher ground for the source of migrating shoe parts is that there really isn't any; Aukaraime is pretty flat but for localized low spots, and the "shoe site" occupies an area between such spots. There's no significantly higher elevation from which stuff would have migrated. It could easily have migrated through crab action, but in this case it should be dispersed, not concentrated, and there's no reason for it to be associated with the burn site. It could have migrated during clearing of the land -- which indeed HAS been pretty throughly cleared for coco planting (in ca. 1940-41) and may have experienced clearing more recently. The shoe parts could even have been inadvertently gathered together with a bunch of vegetation that somebody at some time pulled together and burned (this kind of thing happened to me with a clip of machine-gun rounds when clearing a Japanese AA battery in Chuuk, with pretty scary results -- the only time I've been brought under fire by an archeological site).
One thing that cheers me, and provides some direction, is the second shoe heel, found in '91 near the east edge of the search area several meters away from the site of the burn. We didn't search very much further east in '97, but there's a fair expanse of flat ground in that direction, which includes a tree on which some rather enigmatic (in that we haven't been able to connect them with any known people) Gilbertese names are carved. I stupidly assumed that the tree had to be long post-Earhart, and paid no attention to it besides recording the names, but my tropical biologist daughter says it's not impossible that it was standing in the '30s. I think that's the direction to look -- which of course will guarantee that whatever we find will be somewhere else, and discovered on the last day of the fieldwork.
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