Forum artHighlights From the Forum

August 16, 1998 through August 22, 1998

Subject: Digging the Engine
Date: 8.19.98
From: Vern Klein

Is there any possibility this could be conducted partially by remote control? I recognize that it would be very desirable to have one or more TIGHAR people on site for the whole operation but perhaps economics, and time of personnel, dictate otherwise.

My impression is that there is a lot of stuff to be removed before getting close to the engine level – bottom of the heap. If one could feel confident that someone on the island would make sure activity stopped the moment the engine was sighted, work could be suspended until TIGHAR people were on the scene.

What kind of communication facilities exist on Canton? Could one keep on top of what was going on?

Subject: Radios
Date: 8.20.98
From: Vern Klein

>>Clearly AE knew something about her loop & 7.5 mc that we do not.
>I have had that suspicion myself.

Yes, we might stop theorizing for a moment about how inept AE was with her radio equipment and assume she had some reason for what she did. She may have observed at some time, perhaps by accident, that she could hear signals on higher frequencies with the loop and reasoned that she could DF on anything she could hear. That might not be true, but she may have had no reason doubt it.

I keep falling back on the article in Aero Digest which is the only thing I know of that provides any information about the Bendix loops of the various models – and that “coupling unit.” It’s just a magazine article written by a “journalist” but it’s all I’ve seen. And it says of the loops, in part:

“They may be used as fixed-loop homing devices or as navigational direction finding instruments within the range of 200-1500 kcs.”

Clearly, this is where they were intended to be used. But that does not preclude the possibility that they might respond in some fashion to signals of much higher frequency. AE was close to the Itasca and it was a strong signal.

We think she lost her normal receiving antenna. The loop was at least a connection to something outside the skin of the aircraft. Although it was an electrostatically shielded loop, shielding is never 100%. And maybe it did respond to the magnetic component of the signal, as it did at the intended lower frequency signals. But I think it’s unlikely that loop would have the typical directivity pattern when operating this way. She couldn’t get a null.

I don’t know how we can resolve that one short of experimenting with a nearly identical loop – or finding some data on just how such loops behave at frequencies such as 7500 kcs.

While we’re talking loops... The next paragraph in the article explains:

  1. How the Bendix loops could work with any receiver,
  2. How the sense antenna gets into the act, and
  3. How the balanced/unbalanced problem is taken care of.

“Each DF unit consists of a loop unit for reception of signals, a coupling unit for comparing characteristics of the signal received by the loop with those received by a fixed antenna, and the necessary cables and connections. The electrical coupling unit automatically resolves the 180 degree ambiguity of the loop, permitting unilateral bearings.”

  1. The coupling unit does all the stuff unique to DFing. Any receiver is OK.
  2. The sense antenna is connected to the coupling unit – not the receiver.
  3. The output of the coupling unit is unbalanced (one side grounded) and can be connected directly to the antenna terminal of a receiver. With these receivers, there is no coaxial connector, just a push-type terminal for a simple insulated wire connection.

One further thought... A sense antenna may not have been used. I suspect that it could be worked that way. The ambiguity would exist but there are ways around that.

Subject: Digging the Engine
Date: 8.20.98
From: Hugh Graham

> The bottom line would seem to be finding a way to dig for the Canton engine
> without having it cost an arm and a leg.

Ric: If Canton has a serviceable airport, why not charter a 727 and sell a camping, working, holiday excursion for 200 Tigharistes @ $500 a pop? I.e.Bring your own shovel. HAG

From Ric:

I’m not at all sure we could find 200 people who would do that, and if we did I have no idea how we could support 200 people on Kanton for several days. The Holiday Inn is closed for renovations. I’d also be very surprised if $100,000 would do the trick. There’s also the question of refueling. etc. etc.

Subject: Kanton and Tarawa
Date: 8.20.98
From: Tom King 0391CE

Sheesh, you’re getting so NEGATIVE, Ric! I kind of like the idea of 200 crazed TIGHARites charging out of a 727 to attack the Kanton dump, shovels at the ready. Of course, shovels may not be what we need in the coral rubble. I’m afraid it’s going to be lots of bare (or gloved) hands work.

Seriously, if one could handle all the complexities of liability insurance and such, and of course the charter costs, taking a big unruly group might not be an entirely infeasible idea. But I realize that those are huge “ifs,” and pains in the backside for those who have to deal with them.

I’m also not entirely sure that the “remote control” idea should be rejected out of hand. We discussed this a bit on Kanton, I recall, and you had a good argument against it, but now I can’t remember exactly what it was. We really don’t need much in the way of archeological control digging the dump – in fact, I can’t think of why we'd need much of any. The context of the engine, if it’s there, is irrelevant. Off the top of my head I can’t think why one couldn’t hire the residents to dig the dump and pile up all the metal, and then have a very short trip there for someone to pick through what they found. Not as desirable as having a team on the ground to keep things focussed, but not beyond the realm of possibility.

And finally, I can’t help but wonder whether the sheer visual interest of having a whole bunch of people (islanders or others) grubbing in the coral and passing rocks hand-to-hand, combined with the detective-story interest of the engine and its connection (sic) with Earhart wouldn’t appeal to some element of the media – particularly if it weren’t hyped as a Geraldo sort of thing, but explained as the kind of legitimate research it is.

That’s my two bits worth for the day.


From Ric

Me? Negative? Hell, I’m in favor of anything that will actually work. Over the years I’ve learned (the hard way) that an expedition – like politics – is the “art of the possible.” What I’m negative about is me spending a lot of time I don’t have trying to put something together that my experience tells me won’t work.

It’s easy, and not necessarily bad, to approach these things with the problem-solving techniques pioneered by Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland (Hey kids, I know! We could put on a SHOW!) but I spent a year trying to figure out a way to get a team to Kanton and I can tell you that the logistical and marketing problems involved in the “200 crazed TIGHARs on a 727” approach are enormous and very probably insurmountable.

The Gilbertese Treasure Hunt approach has more promise. I think that it is primarily a matter of getting a credible and clearly articulated request communicated to the good people of Kanton. We would need to offer to pay them a fair price for the work (but I have no idea how much that would be) and I wonder if it’s something that should go through Tarawa. After all, we’re talking about contracting for labor in a foreign country. Making it all official via Tarawa would give the offer credibility and would help us establish a fair price and a formal avenue of communication.

We now have a number of reasons for a TIGHAR delegation to visit Tarawa in the relatively near future. This matter has actually been under discussion for some time and we already have a basic diplomatic/research team selected for the mission. We’ll fund the trip the same way we funded the Kanton Mission earlier this year, with a few sponsor/team members who will make a significant financial contribution and also participate fully in the work to be done. As soon as the timing and budget for the trip are set I’ll post that information and invite potential sponsor/team members to apply for a place on the team.


Subject: AE’s Frequencies
Date: 8/20/98
From: Vern Klein 2124

Everything that surfaces about AE’s radio communications adds a few more worms to the can. And they just get more tangled and wiggly and hard to get hold of! Without having really studied these messages (I think it could make you crazy), I’m inclined to comment on a few points.

There seems to have been a general understanding that the DF covered from about 200 to 1400 kc. Did AE understand this? Why did she try to work it at 7500 kc? I do note that 7500 kc was mentioned as one of the frequencies that could be used. That’s not so much out of thin air as had seemed the case to me with only the “Log Jam” communications to go by.

It’s very difficult for me to believe that AE knew of some strange characteristic of the DF that prompted her to ask for 7500 kc. It must have been a mistake – a misunderstanding. It has always bothered me that if you drop the last zero, you have 750. And 750 meters is 400 kc which would make a lot of sense. We see in these messages that AE herself did speak in terms of wavelength – twenty-five meters and 46 meters (6/30/37). Did she get confused? Did she really want 400 kc, a suitable frequency for the DF?

Curiously, she also speaks of frequency in megacycles instead of the more usual kilocycles – and mixing them in the same message! (If she had thrown in megahertz too, we’d really be in trouble!) Does she know more about frequencies and wavelengths than I give her credit for? Or is she totally confused about everything having to do with radio?

Curiouser and curiouser said Alice... (6/1/37) AE seems to be asking that the Ontario transmit on 400 kc. She knows she doesn’t have the long-wire antenna. Does she expect to use the loop – DF on the Ontario? We don’t know whether she heard the Ontario or not. The Ontario didn’t hear her. All this communication about frequencies and wavelengths and all we have is a few transmissions by AE on 3105 kc heard by the Itasca. All AE ever heard was some dit-dahs on 7500 kc using the DF loop.

Bob Sherman has suggested that hearing the Itasca for the first time on 7500 kc might have prompted AE to try 6210 kc. And she presumably switched from the loop to no-antenna-at-all and still didn’t hear anything. Nor was she heard from again. There would be no reason for her to go back to 3105 kc. She had never heard anything there.

Back to Highlights Archive list.

About TIGHAR Join TIGHAR TIGHAR Projects TIGHAR Publications Contract Services
The TIGHAR Store Blog TIGHAR Forum Contact TIGHAR TIGHAR Home

Copyright 2018 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