Highlights From the Forum
March 25 through 31, 1999
Hi, Something is still bothering me. If AE ducked out of the Radio Navigation Test imposed the Bureau for Air Commerce wanted her to take before granting permission for the flight, she lacked the necessary qualifications. How could she get permission for making the flight ? No wonder she had problems with RDF.
Even in 1937 anyone flying an airplane had to plan his/her flight and that included the pilot being in possession of all information necessary for the flight and to have all the details on his destination. This included maps, information on available beacons, radio frequencies to be used en route and at the destination, airfield QFU's, alternate airfields, etc.. By 1937 radio facilities to guide aircraft to their destination were rather new but already had become as crucial as they are today, only less sophisticated. FN's reluctance to rely on radio navigation is understandable: radio navigation was relatively new and FN was naturally inclined to have more trust in his navigational skills than to rely on ADF which could and can be misleading at night, near or in thunderstorms, near coastlines and over mountains ranges. But Itasca was there, a floating locator beacon to guide them to Howland. How could they possibly fail to have the right radio frequency after having flown around half of the world ? If AE couldn't locate the Itasca using airborne DF, expecting a QDM from Itasca instead, knowing the ship's radio frequency was at least elementary. And yet the flight ended in disaster because AE did not know Itasca's frequency.
Doesn't that sound rather like negligent planning ?
Here's what happened on the Radio Navigation Test - the Bureau of Air Commerce said, "If we're going to give you permission to fly around the world you'll need to take an Instrument Flying test and a Radio Navigation test." Earhart took, and passed, the Instrument Test but said, "I don't want to take the Radio Navigation test because it would involve putting more hours on the airplane which would mean that I would need to overhaul my engines during the world flight at a time when there would be no facility where I could do that." To which the Bureau of Air Commerce replied, "Oh, okay. Never mind." (Needless to say, the preceding is a rough paraphrasing of what transpired.)
Now - there is no way that Earhart's engines would need overhauling during the world flight even if she had gone on around the world twice. This looks like a scam to get out of taking the test. AE and GP had pulled a similar stunt in the fall of 1936 to get the airplane a Restricted rather than Experimental registration - but that's another story. (Far from being in cahoots with the gummint, Earhart was often at odds with the Feds. For example, she was reprimanded for not reporting her accident in Hawaii.)
As for not knowing the Itasca's frequency - that's not the way it worked. Itasca did not have "a frequency." Itasca had at least two transmitters and a receiver that would function on many, many frequencies. Earhart could transmit on 3105, 6210, and 500 kcs. However, the 500 kcs frequency was not a viable option for two reasons:
1. It would only carry code and she had no knowledge of code and no key with which to send code.
2. To efficiently put out a signal on 500 kcs required a longer antenna than the 50 feet of wire she had in her dorsal V antenna. This is what all the flap about the 250 foot trailing wire antenna is about. Because 500 Kcs was a code-only frequency, and neither she nor Noonan knew code, she saw no sense in carrying 250 feet of wire around the world. The trailing wire antenna and the code sending key were thus deleted from the equipment carried on the second world flight attempt. If Earhart is to be faulted for anything, it is setting off to fly around the world without somebody on the airplane being adept at morse code. To say (as it often is) that her mistake was to leave the trailing wire antenna behind is to miss the point. But we digress....
Earhart, by commercial radio messages sent prior to her departure from Lae, told Itasca what frequencies she would be using, told them to send only voice messages to her, told them what times she would be transmitting and what times she would be listening, told them that she would be using Greenwich time, asked that they send signals on 7500 kcs for her to home on and specifically asked if that frequency would be okay.
Itasca did not advise her that it would be almost impossible for them to take bearings on the frequencies she said she would be transmitting on, did not tell her 7500 was far too high a frequecy for efficient direction finding, ignored her request for voice-only messages and sent most of their in-flight transmissions to her in code. They also ignored her stipulation that the radio schedule use Greenwich time, which caused considerable confusion. There is no doubt that Earhart made mistakes, but there is plenty of blame to go around in the disappearance of NR16020.
Love to mother, Ric
God, I hate bringing that thick file out of my cabinet. Here is the complete list of relevant documents in the State Dept. Archives at NARA:
Letter, dated Dec 2, 1938 from Embassy in Paris to Minister of the Interior to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, regarding discovery of bottle, and notes on a lecture given on November 25, 1938 by M. Eric de Bisschop of the Geographical Society, when he was questioned by Japanese authorities quite undesirable in the vicinity of the Marshall Islands.
Letter from the Prefect of the Girond, to the Minister of the Interior, Nov. 21, 1938, regarding discovery of bottle
Report from the National Gendarmerie, Gironde, Oct. 30, 1938 regarding the bottle discovery.
Notes from lecture of M. Eric de Bisschof, dated Nov. 26, 1938.
All of these letters are part of an enclosure from the Embassy in Paris to the US State Department. I probably did not photocopy all of it, since it appears that I am missing portions.
Thank you for dragging that thick file out of your cabinet. At least we can now say that the incident actually occurred. Curiously, the bottled letter itself does not seem to be there. The statement reported to be in the letter that the yacht had a radio, yet the yacht's absence from the "Bern List" is a strong indication of a hoax.
The questions remain:
Was it regarded as a hoax by the State Department?
Was there ever an attempt -French or American - to investigate it?
When did it first become known publicly?
New forum subscriber and imminent TIGHAR member Bob Brandenburg has called my attention to an interesting on-line article in the newsletter of The Institute of Navigation. It's a discussion of the navigational aspects of the Earhart/Noonan flight by Bill Polhemus who was the navigator on Ann Pellegreno's 1967 recreation of AE's world flight.
Bill is a crackerjack navigator but he falls into the same trap with lots of other good people. He doesn't have the known facts straight, so he reaches invalid conclusions. (Note: I am not "denigrating" his effort. I'm just saying that he was working with bad data.)
His article is no longer available on the ION site, but you can read my letter to the editor right here.
In his article in the ION Newsletter Vol. 8, No.2 entitled "Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan: Navigating the Pacific Circa 1937", Mr. William Polhemus draws some rather firm conclusions about the famous lost flight. As a navigator who has quite literally "been there and done that" he would seem to be supremely qualified to comment upon the navigational aspects of the Earhart/Noonan disappearance. Unfortunately, his assessment of what happened in 1937 is based upon some key, and all too common, misconceptions.
Some of his errors have little or no direct bearing on the riddle. For example, Earhart's transmitter had no "tunable crystal" and there were no U.S. Navy personnel aboard the Itasca or at Howland Island. Other errors, however, are more substantive and none more so than the airplane's estimated fuel reserve. Mr. Polhemus states that Earhart had fuel for an anticipated 18 hour flight to Howland "plus an estimated four-hour reserve at reduced power setting." In fact, the aircraft's known 1,100 U.S. gallon fuel load at takeoff, if managed according to the power management schedule prepared by Lockheed's legendary engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson during test flights with Earhart in her airplane, would yield just slightly over 24 hours of endurance at the recommended economical cruise power and altitude. At the time of the last transmission heard by the Itasca at 20:13, the flight should have had nearly four full hours of fuel remaining, rather than the 1 hour and 35 minutes estimated by Mr. Polhemus.
As one of his footnoted sources, Mr. Polhemus cites "a synthesis of the radio of the radio logs prepared by the Coast Guard and Navy personnel following the disappearance of the Earhart team." He is almost certainly referring to a report entitled "Radio Transcripts Earhart Flight" dated 19 July 1937 and signed by Cdr. Warner K. Thompson, commanding officer of the Itasca (again, no Navy personnel were involved in its preparation). This unfortunate document is riddled with discrepancies between what Thompson claims was heard and what is documented in the Itasca's original radio log, preserved by Chief Radioman Leo. G. Bellarts and now in the National Archives. For example, Earhart almost certainly never said "thirty minutes of gas remaining" and a close examination of the original log casts serious doubt that she ever said she was "circling." But not even Thompson's flawed report claims, as Mr. Polhemus does, that Earhart's transmissions between 18:16 and 20:13 were "emanating from the northwestern quadrant relative to Howland Island." Itasca took no bearings on the transmissions and had no idea where Earhart was, except that she was somewhere close enough to be heard very loudly on the radio. The world's most famous woman pilot had just disappeared on Thompson's watch and he was grasping at straws. He noticed some big clouds on the horizon to the northwest and thought that maybe they had prevented Earhart from seeing the island. That's why he began his search in that direction.
Mr. Polhemus' speculations about the problems caused by the aircraft having only one "optically-flat" window in the aft cabin are negated by abundant photos which show that the window he refers to was skinned over prior to Earhart's departure from Miami on June 1, 1937 and equally abundant evidence that Noonan spent most of his time and took most of his celestial observations from the copilot's seat.
Just as no navigator can accurately establish his position from faulty observations, so no investigator can draw valid conclusions from bad data. Whether Earhart and Noonan flew down the line of position as far as Gardner Island (Nikumaroro) in the Phoenix Group remains to be proved, but that they could have done so is hardly in doubt. For more information visit our website, tighar.org.
Richard E. Gillespie, Executive Director, TIGHAR
Consider this: A pair of leather shoes, on an exposed corpse, near a beach in a hot, fairly humid, shady setting, surrounded by vegetation with salt water nearby in all directions, with crabs, bacteria, and presumably insects all feasting away? For two or three years? In the absence of forensic proof, it is probably reasonable to conclude that natural forces could have reduced the remains substantially in that time. Also bear in mind that early colonists seemed convinced that the remains were of a "white" man and a woman, and it seems likely that there would have been significant further decay and scattering between the time they were first spotted by the Gilbertese workmen and later collected by Gallagher.
There is nothing about these facts, as known so far, that proves or disproves E & F's presence on the island in July 1937; but the existing evidence provides very strong indications that they might have been there.
Further, it is almost impossible to speculate how long the pair could have survived in that kind of setting after a forced landing, or why, if they were there, they weren't seen from the air by the US search planes. The imagination can produce many plausible scenarios (which probably aren't necessary to explore here). Obviously, there are too many variables and too little hard evidence.
Personally, I suspect that after the bones were examined by Hoodless, given how their significance was ultimately dismissed by the colonial bureaucracy, they were probably quietly disposed of (burned, buried, discarded or otherwise "lost") in Fiji. Given the tactically cautious but confident mindset of British colonial administrators, none of this would surprise me. I would hold only marginal hope that they're sitting in an archival box somewhere, although it wouldn't hurt to exhaust all reasonable avenues of archival search before giving up on finding the remains.
TIGHAR seems to be focusing the real bulk of its capital resources on looking for identifiable remains of the Elektra on Niku, which is probably the best strategy at this time.
The only thing I can find to disagree with in the above is your spelling of Electra (which was probably a typo).
As a polymer chemist with lots of mileage, my opinion is that rubber from shoe heels would not degrade significantly for 60 or more years on Niku, with or without decaying bodies or crabs or whatever nearby. The stuff just doesn't decompose that easily, except for mechanical abrasion, which wave action on the seashore could cause, certainly. A rubber heel sitting near the water subjected only to minor mechanical forces over time, even in that God-awful environment, should survive for many decades. Rubber in the 1930's was from natural sources, to be sure, and natural rubber degrades much more rapidly than synthetic rubber produced today. However, it was highly vulcanized, so it would be minimally susceptible to degradation from ozone over 60 years. It was no surprise to me that Ric found an apparent 1930s-vintage Cat's Paw heel on Niku several years ago.
Predicting how long things last from accelerated aging tests is almost impossible. Have fun on those tests, Tom, but I would draw no conclusions from them.
Pardon me if this subject has already been covered. And I don't really mind the flames from Ric - - - too much !!!!
I haven't seen much of a discussion on the weather. AND I haven't been on the TIGHAR circuit that long either. Did y'all beat this weather question to death already?
The ITCZ, aka "the Inter-Tropical-Convergence-Zone, is one whale of a band of nasty, equatorial, unstable air masses. This is where the northern air masses blow down to the equator to mix with the southern air masses that come up from the south. The ITCZ can be encountered as far north as 2 degrees above equator and as far as 2 degrees south of the equator. It usually moves around so that it is sometimes more north of the equator or sometimes more south. Sometimes it equally-straddles the equator, with coverage as wide as 4 degrees. (2 deg N-2 deg S) This worse-case scenario of 4 degrees of width covers 240 nautical miles. When flying on a north-south course at 180 knots ground speed, it takes about an hour and twenty minutes of punishment to get through it, if you are flying much below 24,000 ft.
AE and FN should have been flying a course (approx.. 078-080 deg T) that was quite oblique to the equator. An angle of about 12 degrees to the equator. IF they encountered the ITCZ at 2 degrees south latitude and passed through the equator to Howland's approx. 50 minutes north latitude, most of it IN the ITCZ, they would have traveled a distance of about 817 miles IN the ITCZ. This would be a worst case scenario: 2 deg-50 minutes, or 170 nautical miles of ITCZ width. Not much meteorological forecasts available along their path of flight in those days either. Did they know much about the ITCZ in those days?
At, say, 180 knots ground speed, that would have put them into a bit over 4.5 hours of BAD, BAD, ITCZ weather flying. It could have been awesome punishment, keeping the aircraft straight and level and on course. Not to mention the whiskey compass whirling around, while trying to set and re-set the directional gyro. Most likely, very rough dead reckoning navigation at best. Lots of chance to be set left or right of intended course also. And a major bashing and smashing around in the cockpit.
Been there. Done that. Mid-July 1971, I was ferrying a Cessna 421 to Australia and refueled at Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. Departing Tarawa, I encountered the ITCZ approx. 20 miles SSW of Tarawa. I was on a true course of 193 degrees headed for Port Vila in the New Hebrides. With this course I would cross the equator at almost 90 degrees. The shortest distance through he ITCZ. The ITCZ turned out to be about 185 miles wide where I crossed the equator.
At 8,000 feet assigned altitude the turbulence was so severe that I elected (HAD) to climb above the ITCZ or turn back. The C-421 was supercharged and pressurized, so climb I did. I didn't break out of solid cloud, with severe turbulence, until level at 24,000 ft altitude. The ITCZ was solid all the way to approx. 2 degrees south latitude. As I wove my way through towering cumulus clouds, I noticed many buildups to approx. 35,000 ft.-plus altitudes. I flew around them. I'm sure there were embedded thunderstorms within those cells. They were very dark and mean looking.
I have a pronounced respect for the ITCZ. Been there by light twin and sailboat and there is little to compare with that kind of weather. It is very muggy, changeable and unpredictable. And wild !
The point of all this is: Did AE and FN get into a bout with the ITCZ that they couldn't handle? Were they tossed about and maybe damaged by embedded T-storms? One major hit from a big T-storm and it's all over. Did they choose to fly north to get out of the ITCZ? This could have put them into the Gilberts. How about Abemama Atoll? Or Tarawa? Or Makin? Saw a bunch of wrecked planes at Makin and Tarawa.
Alan - a no-number nothing
We really haven't discussed the ITCZ as a possible factor in Earhart's flight. It may well have been the cause of the storm that turned back the PBY sent to help search for her, but that happened north of the equator.
Nothing in Earhart's transmissions to Itasca indicated that she was encountering bad weather. (A log entry referring to "overcast" was added later, apparently to bolster the theory that Noonan had not been able to take star sightings during the night.)
If Earhart came down anywhere in the Gilberts she managed to do it without attracting the attention of anyone on the badly overpopulated islands. The nature and strength of the transmissions received by Itasca seem to indicate that, weather problems or no, the flight arived in the vicinity of Howland pretty much on schedule.
In July, the Intertropical Convergence Zone is typically located about 4 degrees North. That was the location as observed by the PBY pilot, the Swan (as it went south to help in the search), the Colorado, Lexington, Drayton, Lamson, and Cushing. The Itasca did not encounter it at all during its search, running up to 2 degrees North. Based upon this meteorological real time information (albeit a day or two later), I seriously doubt AE and FN encountered the ITCZ.
However, on their flight from Howland to Honolulu, had they made it to Howland, would have been quite interesting. If the PBY could not get through, could the Electra? If not, could AE and FN find their way back to Howland? Interesting rhetorical questions....
Interesting indeed. I've never heard that point of specualtion brought up. The PBY was a much larger, beefier airplane than the Electra. AE and Fred would have had their hands full if they had ever gotten the chance to tangle with the ITCZ.
I am beginning to believe that some readers of this forum don't read these emails carefully before firing off their agenda-laden responses. What follows is exactly what I said about proof to date of Earhart and Noonan's presence on Niku/Gardner:
"There is nothing about these facts, as known so far, that proves or disproves E & F's presence on the island in July 1937; but the existing evidence provides very strong indications that they might have been there."
Please read this carefully; I have now paraphrased it for speed readers (and others) with low content comprehension:
There has been NO proof found on Niku that E & N were ever there. Stop. Read that sentence again. Thanks. Now please continue if you wish...
But there are, in my humble opinion, many very good reasons to keep looking on Niku for proof. What does this mean? It means that in science, especially forensic science, one sometimes has to take risks to establish the truth (chasing down reasonable leads and evidence often involves expense and risk that might not result in anything useful).
For example, if I hear about an island on a known navigational line from the Electra's presumed flight path (there aren't many), within a range reachable by the Electra given the documentable amount of fuel it MAY have had onboard when it reached the vicinity of Howland Island, and I go to that island (Niku), and find a tidal flat where a plane could have landed, several local stories of the bones of a "white man and woman" associated with a sextant box that were found in the late 30s, and I then go looking on successive trips and investigations and start finding things like 30s era shoe remains that are similar to shoes that Earhart was photographed in, airplane fragments that can't be eliminated as having come from the Electra, documented descriptions of the bones in contemporary British colonial records, and accounts of former local residents who remember hearing stories of airplane wreckage or who say they actually played around airplane wreckage when there is no record of a plane ever having crashed on Niku and no substantial wreckage has ever been found, I might start to think, if I have an objective interest in finding out what really happened to Earhart, that she and Noonan MIGHT have landed there, and that the some remains of the Electra MIGHT still be on Niku (while still acknowledging that the Electra could likewise be under several miles of salt water on the floor of the Pacific Ocean).
Taken altogether, along with the general risk of archaeological research, what are the odds that as yet undiscovered artifacts are on Niku that can eventually establish beyond doubt the broad circumstances of what happened to Earhart? 10%? 20%? If so, these are by far the best odds I've seen in the 60 years that people have been wondering about what happened to NR16020.
We have a new and very knowledgable TIGHAR member who will soon be joining the forum. He is pursuing some interesting research about the smoke Itasca was making on the morning of July 2nd and we need some details that I'm sure someone out there can come up with.
ITASCA (#50) was one of 10 250' Chelan class cutters, built in several yards between 1928 and 1932. ITASCA by General in Oakland, CA. 1979 tons. 42' beam. 16' draft. 3320 hp. turbo-electric drive, one screw, one stack. Speed 16 knots. 2 5'' guns as main armament, 2 6 pounders as secondary.
From James C. Fahey, The Ships and Aircraft of the United States Fleet, 1941--a contemporary standard quick reference pamphlet. USCG material on pages 42-43, which I can fax if anyone wants.
I am Very Fond of
Jane's Fighting Ships of World War 2 gives the following for Itasca:- Champlain class coast guard cutter (1930),
LTM Simon #2120
As previously explained, the complete bottle story is discussed at length in Oliver Knagg's book, Chapter 7. Knaggs (a South African) did a thorough investigation of the story, including visiting French archives in Paris and both Library of Congress and the National Archives in Washington, DC. So his information can be seriously considered, including his list of conclusions, as follows:
Note: M. de Bisschop, the former French naval officer who visted Jaluit in 1938, seriously doubted that Earhart or anyone was held prisoner there, although he admitted it was "possible".
Thanks for that information Cam. As you might expect, I have a couple of comments on Mr. Knaggs' observations.
Knaggs says, "He knew the tiny and little known atolls of Mili and Jaluit ..."
The message writer did not say anything about Jaluit or Mili. He wrote "Jalint" and "Mila." Assuming that the corrections to "Jaluit" and "Mili" are justified, it should be pointed out that these atolls are not particularly "tiny" nor were they "little known" in 1938. They could (and can) be found in any decent world atlas.
"...and knew, too, that the Japanese were building up fortifications there."
This is the big lie upon which virtually all of the Japanese capture theories, and the letter in the bottle hoax, are based. After the war there was, quite naturally, a great curiousity about just how and when the Japanese had conducted their build-up in the Pacific. The results of the American analysis, based upon Japanese records, show that the fortification of the mandated territories was carried out at an accelerated rate in the two years preceding the attack on Hawaii. Reproduced below is the Marshall Islands section from Table 1 in "How Japan Fortified the Mandated Islands" by Thomas Wilds (United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 81, No. 4, 1955).
The table bears the following notation:
For those interested in a more detailed discussion of what was really going on in the mandated islands I recommend Nanyo - The Rise and Fall of the Japanese in Micronesia - 1885-1945 by Mark R. Peattie (Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1988). Prof. Peattie, formerly of Harvard's Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies and presently at Stanford University, is considered a pre-eminent authority in the field. We sought his advice at the outset of the Earhart Project and are proud to number him among the members of TIGHAR. He is intimately familiar with our work and my copy of his book bears the following inscription:
"For Ric Gillespie and Pat Thrasher - Their objectivity, imagination, judgment, persistence, and investigative rigor in their research have my greatest admiration and respect.
Mark R. Peattie, March 6, 1991"
As Cam would say, we clearly have him hoodwinked too.
The French bottle message can be dismissed as a hoax because the situation it describes did not exist.
Love to mother,
Turboelectric drive, as used aboard ships, refers to steam being used to drive a turbine which in turn drives an electric generator. The power output from the generator is used to drive the electric motors which turn the screws.
Babcock & Wilcox was (is, still?) a manufacturer of steam boilers.
As an aside: Turboelectric drive was invented and patented by Reginald A. Fessenden, the same scientist/engineer who invented voice radio... in 1900, Fessenden transmitted speech over a distance of one mile. In 1906, he made the world's first entertainment broadcast from a station in Massachusetts, on Christmas Eve... this broadcast was heard all over the eastern U.S. and as far south as the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
Turboelectric drive revolutionized ship propulsion.
73 Mike E.
I have some new information from Dan Skellie who recently told us of how the USCG cutter Buttonwood dropped off an officer at Gardner Island in January 1947.
> After leaving
Canton Island and stopping at Gardner Island, and Apia British Samoa,
arriving Pago Pago,
This begins to sound stranger and stranger. Were there other places where officers or crew went for vacation (what would later be known as "R&R")? How unusual was something like this?
>>>How unusual was something like this?<<<
Fiji was considered one of the worst places to go at that time when we were already in Pago Pago. Also it was too far to be even considered normal travel. He was the only one we knew of who ever went there for r&r.
Let me offer a pro and a con in response to Cam and Ric --
1. Pro (or Con?): "The message in the bottle could only have been written by a person with intimate knowledge of the Marshall Islands. He knew the tiny and little known atolls of Mili and Jaluit and knew, too, that the Japanese were building up fortifications there."
Before the Japanese took them during World War I, the Marshalls were controlled by Germany, and Jaluit was the colonial capital and a major shipping port. There were doubtless lots of people in Europe who knew very well where and what it was.
2. Con (or Pro?): When I was doing archeology in Micronesia in the late 1970s I worked a good deal with strategic bombing surveys done by the U.S. military in preparation for island invasions, and in some cases with surveys done afterwards. I learned to take them with something of a grain of salt. The Historic Preservation Office of the Republic of the Marshall Islands has recently done a good deal of study of World War II facilities in the Marshalls, and the results of this work (which I'll try to dig up) might be a better source of information on what the Japanese really had there -- though it won't likely be very specific as to date. In any event, as far as I'm aware, Ric's basically right about the timing of the Japanese buildup in the Marshalls. I'd just be a little cautious about accepting the specifics of the historical record.
> Surely we have a Japanese speaker on the Forum????
Ah, so desu ka. Yes, I have about two years of Japanese language training and for what it is worth, you cannot even write/say the word "Nom" in Japanese. It would have to be "Nomu" instead -- Japanese is essentially a series of consonant/vowel combinations, with the exception of the straight vowels and the letter "n" appearing at the end of the a word. And there are only five vowel pronunciations, a-i-u-e-o (ahh -- "open wide and say 'Ahh'", ee -- like in bee, you see; oooh -- like a cow would say; ay -- as in Mandalay; oh -- as in Oh My!.
So, in the A-KA-SA-TA-NA (their word for the alphabet), you get first the raw vowels, A-E-U-E-O, then the "Ks", Ka-Ki-Ku-Ke-Ko, then the "Ss", Sa-Shi-Su-Se-So (note the soft "i"), etc. The "Ms" are rather ordinary: Ma-Mi-Mu-Me-Mo. There is no "M" all by itself in any permutation (period, end of story).
Now, it so happens that I also have about seven years of French (plus three other languages -- hey, some people were good at math and I wasn't, so now you know how it was that I ended up in diplomacy and the White House for those eight years a decade ago...), so when I read the name Nippon Nom? (with the question mark), I rather thought it was the writer's way of saying "Nippon Name?", as in "I have no idea what the second half of that name was, despite the fact that I am living on a boat by that name, working there for some time, and everything around me is labelled as it is on all boats worldwide, so I am basically both blind and stupid, but I can write in shorthand!" (sorry to belabor the absurdity of the whole makeup).
Now, back to Japanese shipping.... It is quite worth noting that many Japanese ships were named, "Nippon Fill_in_the_Blank", so the writer just included the part of the name that made the most sense for the hoax. (Nippon, of course, is the old spelling for "Nihon", which means Japan.)
> I've been sort of curious - does anyone know the French word for "Japanese"?
Love to Hoaxes,
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