Highlights From the Forum
November 21 through 27, 1999
Patrick Gaston asked some questions about the Norwich City which make it clear that I need to explain that the possibility of the bones found by Gallagher being those of someone from that shipwreck is a subject that we have looked into a great length. Let me make a couple of specific points which may help:
* We can be quite certain that there were no women aboard Norwich City. The identities of the British crewmen, both surviving and lost, are well documented. We do not have the names of the six "Arab firemen" who were drowned but we do have the names of the three surviving Arab firemen and the one "Arab donkeyman" (he was Cassin Hassan and he hurt his shoulder). The wreck was the subject of a British Court of Inquiry in Samoa and we have copies of the testimony from that event plus other statements from survivors. The wreck of the Norwich City is a classic sea story of tragedy and survival and deserves its own book. Maybe later.
* Gallagher himself rejected the suggestion of his superiors that the bones he found may have been a survivor of the shipwreck. The 24 men who made the shore alive all washed up in the same area, as did the three bodies that were found. The survivors were on the island five days before they were rescued. The rescue ships circled the island looking for survivors. It is, of course, possible that one of the eight unaccounted-for crew members could have washed ashore and only regained consciousness after everyone had left. That still wouldn't explain the women's shoes found by Gallagher (and TIGHAR) and the likelihood that the skeleton was that of a white female.
Patrick Gaston wrote:
>My point is that,
if mysterious aircraft debris also had been found on the
Tom King and I don't necessarily agree about this, but in my view island folklore indicates that that's exactly what happened. Emily connects the bones (which she never saw) with the airplane wreckage pointed out to her by her father. Tapania on Funafuti told us:
The older people said they saw the skeleton of a man and woman, one each. The elders said, "Do not go to where the plane is. There are ghosts there."
Tom King wrote,
"Oh for heaven's sake, Don Jordan, give us credit for a modicum of intelligence, will you? See my post in response to Michael Real's post. Are you suggesting that when we read Harry's statement that they had "thoroughly searched" the island we should have just said, "well, that's that," and written off Niku"?
I am certainly not questioning your intelligence! And, I am not suggesting that because Harry said they searched the island, that you should disregard it all together. I still don't believe you would have to go any further than the beach to know whether the Electra was there or not. At the time of the first surveys, nothing would have been any farther inland than that! If the Colonist would have found things and took them inland, then they found them on the beach or reef. And, that is where most of the activity was in those early days.
We can argue until Hell freezes over about the small details, wording of sentences and personal inadequacies of their authors. The bottom line is, there were too many people on that beach and reef not to have seen something that resembled airplane wreckage. If the Electra did land gear down on Niku and somehow end up hidden inland, then it had to cross that beach. If it were destroyed by surf action, then it would have washed up on the beach. (In my opinion!).
I think the thing that bothers me more than anything else, is TIGHAR's unwillingness to consider revising it's theory even slightly. As I understand the current theory, the Electra landed gear down on the reef and came to rest fully intact and functional. Then radios signal were sent for several days. But before the Colorado pilots flew over, the surf completely destroyed the airplane and rendered it into pieces so small that the pilots could not see them, and buried the rest so the survey parties could not see or recognize them months later. Then Amelia went to the far end of the island carrying a Sextant box and a bottle, where she died under a tree. Is this a fairly accurate assessment of the TIGHAR theory?
What if it didn't happen just that way? Why does it have to be a gear down landing on Niku? What evidence is there to suggest a gear down landing? Other than possible radio signals, there is none. What if while making the approach to the reef flat, she botched the first try and attempted a go around. Maybe running out of gas in the attempt while over the lagoon and ditching.
Even changing the current theory by that one detail would make all the other details possible. But TIGHAR is unwilling to change the theory by even one detail. It has been stated, "Show me the evidence and we will consider another theory". Well, in my opinion the lack of evidence to support a gear down landing should be evidence enough to reconsider!
What if in a few years, someone else goes to Niku and finds the Electra in the lagoon. Wouldn't that be about the biggest insult to TIGHAR. How embarrassing!
I don't mind debating my position with the distinguished Dr. King, but if that airplane is found in the Niku lagoon by someone else, I am going to put as much distance as possible between TIGHAR and myself.
Don, I'll tell you a little secret. Our current "best guess" is that most of the airplane may very well be in the lagoon. The morphology of the main lagoon passage appears to act as a venturi which collects anything swept into it from significant weather events coming out of the west and northwest. Once the flow hits the "head" of the body of water in the lagoon, suspended material drops out forming a sandbar delta just inside the mouth of the passage. Logically, any debris swept inward through that passage might now reside down in that sand.
At present it's just a theory based upon our observation of how that end of the island "works."
Please feel free to put as much distance beween yourself and TIGHAR as makes you comfortable.
Let's distinguish between being worried about how Maude et al could have missed wreckage on the reef near the Norwich City (that bothers me, too), and feeling "betrayed" because TIGHAR never happened to mount Maude's article (which is protected by copyright, by the way) on the website. Maude's chapter in his edited volume, Of Islands and Men, is one of the very first published sources we looked at back in the late '80s. We've come a long way from there. There's no "betrayal" here; the article (though it contains lots of very good and interesting information about Niku and the colony) just isn't very relevant to the question of Earhart's presence or absence. Except, of course, in that it (like other sources) documents the fact that Maude (like several other people and groups) crossed the reef at the Norwich City, close to the putative wreckage site. That's old news. Puzzling, but old news.
LTM (who doesn't
Patrick Gaston says:
>Tom, the discovery
of human remains seems to have been reported quickly
Actually, we're not aware of any discovery of human remains that was reported quickly. The skull wasn't -- at least not initially -- and the remainder of the bones of the skeleton discovered in 1940 were apparently shown to Gallagher only after he somehow found out about the skull. If the bones reported to us by Emily Sikuli weren't the same bones collected by Gallagher et al, they weren't reported to the authorities at all. We've gotten anecdotal reports of bones being found at both ends of the islands, none of which appear in official records (except that those we've been told about at the SE end presumably are those collected in 1940).
As for the incentive to report airplane parts, shoes, etc. -- I think Pat's observation is a good one, and we've certainly seen similar disinterest in such things in the Pacific. If you're not fascinated by old airplanes and vanished aviatrices, you may not be real interested in some old hunk of aluminum you find on the reef or in the bush, and there's no particular reason to report it to the authorities.
LTM (who's never
had an airplane part reported to her)
Another comment on Michael Real's quotes from Harry Maude's book: It's certainly true that there was plenty to eat on Nikumaroro -- assuming one is able to get at the coconuts (and they're healthy enough to be useful), turn over the turtles, catch the fish, dig up the shellfish, etc.. Water, however, is quite another problem. Again if one can get good coconuts one can survive on their water, at least for awhile, but there's no running water on Niku, and the colonists had a devil of a time finding any by digging, eventually using dynamite to create wells in some locations. One could probably get along chewing leafy vegetation for awhile, but how long? We don't know.
I'm personally unimpressed by the poison fish notion; actually I thought we'd pretty well put that one to bed. I'd speculate that the most likely cause of death on Niku for a castaway would be an infected cut. It's easy to get cut there, on coral, sticks, etc., and in the tropical climate a wound gets infected quickly. If you don't have anything to treat it with, you could quickly find yourself in deep trouble. Add to this a lack of easily accessible water, and food that requires some energy to obtain, and you have a pretty good formula for attenuated survival.
LTM (whose survival
has obviously not been attenuated)
The funny thing is, I still haven't seen a response to what seems to be a very logical question: If Harry Maude & his crew were there only a short time after the loss of Amelia & Fred, and the reef photos currently being persured so diligently actually DO show the wreckage of the Lockheed-10, why didn't Maude or his crew see it out on the reef themselves?
- Jon Pieti
It's a classic "would have" problem. Based on the picture we have in our heads of "what it must have been like", we say that somebody surely "would have" seen or done thus and so. But none of us was there and none of us really knows what it was like to be there then. There are thousands of examples of things that happen that don't seem logical and yet somehow happened. Why does an apparently happy, well-adjusted airline copilot calmly disengage the autopilot, shut down the engines, and dive the airplane into the sea? It doesn't make any sense, but the evidence (at least, at the moment) suggested that it happened.
If, and I say again IF, we are presented with compelling evidence that there was a wrecked Electra sitting right there on the reef when Lambrecht and company flew over, when Maude and Bevington went ashore, and when the New Zealand survey party was on the island, we'll try to understand how it happened that they didn't recognize it for what it was. We may or may not be able to come up with good answers, but if it was there, it was there.
We have to go wherever the evidence leads us. The answer, whatever the answer is, is perfect and entirely logical.
Let me just comment on Michael Real's impression that:
>...in an attempt
to solve this mystery, ALL
First, the idea of gathering ALL the data about anything and then sifting it out for the good stuff is referred to as "inductive" research, and while it has its place, it's not a very efficient or effective way to learn anything. Most science is more or less DEDUCTIVE: that is, it involves posing hypotheses, deducing test implications, and then finding the data, pro and con, to determine whether the implications are bourne out. Of course, one uses all the data one has available to formulate hypotheses, but it's a truly fruitless endeavor to try to gather everything that MAY be pertinent before you start to "sift."
Second, I'm not sure that the "behavioral patterns of the principal people involved" is a very big part of what we're trying to sort out, or that it's very useful to TRY to sort out. Suppose we posit that Noonan was dead drunk shortly after the Electra lifted off from Lae: how are we going to test that? We can't, so what earthly use is there in arguing about it?
LTM (who's really
getting tired of this)
> From Michael Real
What evidence is there, to support there having a thorough knowledge of the search area for AE? How much information about the Naval search was in the hands of the New Zealand government? Today with TIGHAR we have a lot of information on the search and granted the press at the time they were lost cover the search, but I would question how many details the press reported and how many details the Navy released. It is of interest if Harry Maude and his group missed the remains and wreckage, if there is proof they were looking for it.
Maude had nothing to do with the New Zealand government. In 1937 he was Lands Commissioner for the British Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony. His base of operations was in the Gilbert Islands, variously at Tarawa and Beru. These were far-flung outposts of the Empire. They did have wireless communication with the Western Pacific High Commission back in Fiji and they may have picked up "short wave" news broadcasts (but that is speculation). There is certainly no hint in any of the official traffic or in Maude's writings that he was aware of or had the slightest interest in the Earhart flight, disappearance, or search. It is worth noting that when Lambrecht landed in the lagoon at Hull, the "white overseer" there (John W. Jones) who had a radio, was not aware of the Earhart flight, disappearance, or search.
Gallagher was obviously aware of the whole mystery but he didn't leave England until July 17, 1937. The disappearance and Navy search were headline news at about the time he took ship for his posting.
OK, Michael, let's try this one more time:
You say: "So if Harry Maude's October 1937 visit and "THOROUGH SEARCH " of the island did not reveal them (the bones), they presumably arrived on the island after this visit..."
What does one have to do to make you understand that Harry's allusion to a "thorough search" does NOT mean that he and his colleagues did the impossible and covered the whole island in detail in a three-day period? Ric and I have both gone into some detail about what Maude & Co. actually did on the island; what part of this don't you understand?
You go on: "...unless these remains were so well hidden as to be invisible to the original search parties and to the subsequent N. Z. survey of the island in 1938/1939."
The bones did not have to be particularly well hidden to escape the notice of Maude and Bevington. If as reported by Gallagher they were on the SE end of the island they were not in an area where the NZ survey party spent much time. And of course, the remains WERE found by the colonists rather early in the colony's history. What can we do to make you understand that Niku is not a nice, simple, open little place where it's easy for people to stumble over things?
Finally, you say: "And if they were more than four years old, then they cannot be from the A.E flight."
There's no evidence that Gallagher had any experiential basis for judging the age of bones in the bush; we can't take his guess as a statement of fact, any more than we could accept as truth Isaac's guess that the bones were those of an elderly Polynesian male. Why is it so difficult for you to understand the difference between primary and secondary data, and between fact and opinion?
The frustrating thing is that you're obviously knowledgeable in a lot of ways, and that you're working hard on this thing, so it would be really nice to cooperate with you, but you make it very difficult by being so bloody confrontational, and by being so indiscriminate in your blending of fact and speculation.
LTM (who's going
I have been a member of the forum since its inception and I have seen several instances where hypotheses were changed/altered with new information coming to light. This is a credit to the folks who are in charge. I think a lot of the feelings of "betrayal" and negativity directed at TIGHAR is a bunch of bull. We are all adults and those of us who contribute either financially or with our time to TIGHAR do so not only to find out what actually happened to Amelia and Fred but to eliminate various theories, speculation and scenarios. This elimination process helps all of us get closer to the truth of what really happened. I for one realize how much time and frustration Ric has to endure and I think his methods are good. I have seen Ric patiently answer the same questions time and time again and I have also seen some pretty absurd questions/comments too. Some of these are downright rude. Through it all I think Ric has kept a pretty cool head. No one has given any guarantees about all the various theories expressed and those of us who support TIGHAR should accept this fact and take resposibility for our own actions (namely our own support of TIGHAR). Someone has to take charge and lead the investigation. I don't think everyone will always agree on the proper course this investigation may take. But everyone hasn't spent 10 odd years investigating this particular hypothesis either. So I guess in a long winded way I am saying I still support Ric, TIGHAR, and all of the people who have spent so much of their time and money on this exploration.
Dean Alexander 2056
Tom, I'm not so much tired of Michael's postings as I am frustrated. They are long and full of information and I read them carefully, hoping to find something usable, only to find nothing to move the ball forward. A lot of it is telling me what he is GOING to do and that information is being SENT to him but I'm not sure what to do with his data even if he has it and it is attested to by 12 bishops.
For example, it doesn't bother me that the folks looking at Niku didn't see an airplane. Look how difficult it usually is to find a downed airplane even today. We're still finding World War II planes and NO ONE has found Flight 19 even though the general area is reasonably known.
I also don't really care how many thousands of people have paraded through Niku over the years. How many of them wore a size 9 woman's shoe?
And who cares if Noonan was passed out in the passenger compartment on the way to Howland? We already know the plane arrived in the island's vicinity, didn't find it and went elsewhere. It would be nice to confirm roughly how much fuel should have been available at or about last radio call but to track down all the rabbit trails is an exercise in futility. I think TIGHAR has enough legitimate stuff on its plate as it is.
I'm not interested in reading antagonistic comments nor being impressed by someone's linguistic abilities nor do I see a point in trying to discredit anyone or their views. I'm not interested in wasting my time with long winded irrelevant postings but would rather see carefully reasoned analysis. I'm even happy with wild speculation as it gives us all an opportunity to be reminded of known facts and why TIGHAR is going in the direction it is and not off on some dubious tangent. It also keeps the air open for other possibilities and reasoning.
I think you guys are making the forum fun AND getting the job done. Let's stay on track.
Tom King wrote,
>On the other hand,
an hypothesis like the Nutiran reef hypothesis is
What data do we have that suggests the Electra was landed gear down and came to rest intact and fully functional on the reef?
Also, can a person cross the lagoon inlet on foot at any time, or do they have to go clockwise around the island to get to the south east shore where the bones were found?
The safe-landing-on-the-reef-flat theory evolved out of an attempt to come up with a scenario that satisfied several apparent conditions:
1. If any of the post-loss signals are legit (and there is some reason to suspect that they may be) then the airplane must be intact enough to send them (on its gear and able to operate the starboard engine) during the first couple days after the disappearance.
2. By the time Lambrecht and his boys fly over, the airplane has to be hard enough to see so that they don't see it, even though they're looking hard.
3. The discovery of human remains which seem most explainable as being those of Mrs. Putnam reinforces the notion the arrival involved something other than a fatal crash.
4. There are very few places on the island that are long enough, wide enough, hard enough, and smooth enough to permit the landing of a Lockheed.
5. The beach is a pretty lousy place to land an airplane. Much of it is soft sand on a fairly steep slope or rough coral rubble. There's a mud flat on the back side of Nutiran and, as Tom King has said, we searched its perimeter in 1989. There's an overwash area down east of Bauareke Passage which we checked out in 1997. The reef flat, at low tide, is by far the best prospect if you choose the area carefully.
6. Although the few pieces of aircraft debris we have found which seem to be consistent with the Electra (the dado, the plexiglas, and possibly the radio cables and section of skin) are intriguing, they are few in number and were all found in or near the abandoned village. A wrecked Electra, on the other hand, comprises a impressive amount of junk. IF the artifacts we found are from an Electra, and IF they were not imported from another island, then it would seem logical that either the locals used up a whole lot of Electra parts or there never were very many Electra parts for them to use. If they used up a whole lot of Electra parts it seems like more people should remember that. It therefore seems more likely that there never was much Electra debris kicking around the village.
7. The reef is a dynamic environment and if we're looking for a place where the airplane could be okay one day and very much not okay the next, without the intervention of a major storm, the reef is a prime candidate.
8. Even before we found Emily we had multiple anecdotal accounts and possible photographic corroboration of aircraft debris on the reef flat.
All of this had led us to formulate a hypothesis that the airplane landed more or less intact on the reef flat somewhere on the western edge of the island and was subsequently destroyed or at least rendered invisible by surf action. That's why we were floored when Emily, who had never heard of TIGHAR or Amelia Earhart, matter of factly spouted our own scenario back to us but provided a very specific location. The fact that there is indeed something anomalous in that location in the early photos makes us feel that it's worth a real hard look at those photos.
You can cross the lagoon inlet on foot at low tide by either going way out and around near the ocean or, if you don't mind wading up to your belly with black-tip sharks zipping between your legs, you can cross closer to shore. I've done both. I recommend the former.
Actually, I couldn't agree less with Don J.
Recently we have had a flood of "quote posts," long passages from many books and other published sources. To this I say, "What a great place to start." But it's a bad idea to treat any source as the Fountain of Truth.
I make my living as a bookseller, and I am around all kinds of printed material: people bring me manuscripts to critique, I see books in the making, I talk with authors about their books years after they have been published, etc. I know for certain that books (and all sources) are fallible things. I encourage all readers of the forum to prove this to themselves. I am always glad to hear or read what someone has to say, but everything must be tested, no book can be accepted as true without it.
The problems are not the result of any conspiracy, big or small, but rather because authors (and typesetters) are quite human.[*1] No one writes ''pure fact.'' Everything is filtered through the mind and ideas of the writer--nothing comes through clean and considered. It is all ''contaminated,'' and therefore everything must be checked. (In academic journals it's called "peer review."[*2]) To accept something as true and complete and accurate merely because it is in print is incautious and dangerous. Everything must be tested and evaluated. An especially useful tool here is the book Evidence, by Newman and Newman.
#1: When my father as a new second lieutenant sitting on his first ever accident review board asked the old crew chief why he thought the P-40 crashed, the crew chief looked at my dad as if he were an idiot and said, "Well, sir: these things is made out of iron and they's flown by men." People make mistakes, even when their lives depend on them. And also when their lives don't. For years scholars marveled at Herman Melville's brilliant description "the soiled fish of the sea" in Moby Dick. When someone finally looked at the manuscript, Melville had actually written "coiled fish of the sea." A typesetter's error (then compounded for years by following typesetters) changed one the great American novels.
#2: Such peer review is much more common in medicine, engineering, mathematics, etc. and we in the humanities--the Earhart search is an exercise in history, not physics--do not have the tradition. (As Frank Sulloway says in his book on birth order, "No one ever died from bad history.") I am glad that TIGHAR is so open to peer review.
(I do not feel I have earned the right to use "LTM" in my closing until I have actually experienced 24 continuous hours of discomfort on a TIGHAR expedition.)
Never fear. We have an equivalency program. You can either:
In response to the allegation that TIGHAR has adhered rigidly to one hypothesis, let me second what you, Tom King, and others have already said, namely that such an allegation is simply not supported by the facts. The Niku hypothesis has been altered considerably (suspected landing location) just since the conclusion of last summer's expedition, based on eyewitness recollection (Emily Sikuli) which was subsequently corroborated by contemporaneous documentation (the photos in the forensic imaging project).
You've also made it abundantly clear that conclusive results aren't yet in, just as you have also done in every previous research bulletin on the website. If I may borrow a phrase from one of those bulletins, "it's clear that something unusual happened on Niku around that time so what we're trying to do is find out if the unusual thing that happened there is the one we think it is." This is NOT, as some might suggest, a case of "hedging our bets," but rather is a shining example of not making dogmatic statements about things for which no dogmatic proof exists. This is what happily separates TIGHAR from Von Danakin. (Short history lesson: Von Danakin is the author whose book a few years back held that since the Nazca lines in South America can only be seen from high altitude, and they date to a time prior to human-run aircraft, then the ONLY POSSIBLE CONCLUSION is that earth's primitive civilizations were visited by aliens.)
You've also said previously that if solid evidence came to light which pointed in another direction, then TIGHAR would go in that other direction. Despite much protestation contrariwise, no such evidence exists, and so we quite rightly continue to research and refine the Niku landing hypothesis, a hypothesis supported by a preponderance of evidence.
If you don't think that the TIGHAR evidence points to Niku, you probably also think that O.J. Simpson is innocent of murder.
LTM, who knows that
TIGHAR's preponderance of evidence will one day be evidence beyond a reasonable
While Mr. Gillespie and Mr. Real are in their respective corners gulping oxygen, allow me to offer an observation. I do not claim it's a startling one.
Based upon the Lambrecht Report, the recollections of Harry Maude, Bevington's unpublished diary, and what we know of the New Zealand survey efforts, I think it must be accepted as fact that there was nothing readily identifiable as aircraft wreckage on Gardner Island in 1937-38. Thus, if TIGHAR's hypothesis is correct, the major portion of NR16020 is either at the bottom of the lagoon or on the ocean floor just off the reef flat. And it's still there.
Now, maybe TIGHAR reached this conclusion ten years ago. But if so, then the question that comes to mind is why the organization has spent so much time and money chopping through the underbrush when it could have been saving up for an intensive, full-scale SONAR search of these two areas. Even if the Electra was subsequently pounded to bits after being washed off the beach, the engines and other heavy structures should still be down there, along with an extensive debris field. Find the Electra and everything else becomes more or less academic.
I'm sure I will be told it's not as simple as it sounds. All I know is that the areas in question are certainly a lot smaller than what the Longs propose to search. (Hint: Maybe Oceanworkers could be persuaded to loan one of their submersibles).
Michael, I don't believe that TIGHAR has intentionally concealed information. They are a small outfit with a headquarters staff of two, as far as I can tell, and there's only so much time in the day. However, I was surprised to hear that Maude had been written off as unreliable in favor of Bevington, and disappointed that >neither< of these important, first-hand accounts had been deemed worthy of posting for the benefit of Forum members. And Ric, if it weren't for "rank speculation," on some days there would be no Forum at all!
Now I'm bowing outta here before I need a good cut man.
LTM (who suggests
a few drops of Beano on the tongue as a sure cure for Don J's "vapors"),
I'll take issue with your first assumption:
>I think it must
be accepted as fact that there was nothing readily
All we can say is that, as far as we know, nobody who was there during that time period left a written record describing the discovery of aircraft debris.
That said, it should be clear that I don't agree with the conclusions you draw from your assumption.
Re. Patrick's comment that: "However, I was surprised to hear that Maude had been written off as unreliable in favor of Bevington, and disappointed that >neither< of these important, first-hand accounts had been deemed worthy of posting for the benefit of Forum members."
First, Maude wasn't "written off." We've read his stuff (which goes far beyond his Of Islands and Men chapter), and talked with him, and have the greatest of respect for him. Nor did we "favor" Bevington; we just took all the information we could get from both, and tried to make sense of it. It didn't make any sense to give more weight to Maude's offhand allusion to "thorough search" than we did.
Second, we dealt with all these matters long before there even WAS a Forum. I hope TIGHAR can be forgiven for not going back and dredging up every document we've ever dealt with and distributing it. I mean, there HAVE been other things to do.
LTM (who agrees
about the Bean-o, though)
Maybe I missed something somewhere, but wasn't the Electra the property of Purdue University, not the personal property of AE and GP? Or did Purdue sell it or give it to them? Or if any remains of the aircraft are found in Niku do they now belong to the local government? Or... Or....
LTM (who once wished
she has a pair of oars)
Mary Lovell goes into this in some detail in The Sound of Wings (pages 229-30). As she describes it, Purdue provided the money through a special foundation set up for the purpose. The principal contributor was David Ross who put up $50,000 with another $30,000 being donated by J.K. Lily, Vincent Bendix, Western Electric, Goodrich and Goodyear. The money was apparently given to Amelia for the purpose of buying the airplane in her own name and, indeed, all of the Bureau of Air Commerce paperwork shows "Amelia Earhart" as the aircraft owner. What Purdue got out of the deal was name association and publicity as the sponsor of Earhart's "Flying Laboratory."
As for who owns the aircraft now, that's an excellent legal question. There have been many similar cases in recent years where the ownership of an aircraft or aircraft wreck has had to be determined (although I know of no case where ownership was determined before the wreck was found). My understanding is that it makes a whole lot of difference where the aircraft is. There's little doubt that anything found within the borders or territorial waters of the Republic of Kiribati belongs to Kiribati. Something on the ocean floor in international waters is another issue. The U.S. still owns Howland Island but I don't know anything about ownership of the surrounding waters.
Perhaps some of the great legal minds on the forum (and we have several) can shed some light on this interesting issue.
I withdraw my hasty comment about the discovery of human remains being promptly reported to Gallagher. It does appear from the original correspondence that Gallagher himself may have led the search for additional remains after he found out about the skull.
It is intriguing why Gallagher was so certain that the remains were female, absent any clothing or personal effects. Similarly, he confidently identified the footwear in question as a woman's size 10 stoutish walking shoe, despite the fact that "only part of sole remains." Did our boy know more than he was telling? Too bad we will probably never find out.
With respect to Noonan-as-drunk: It is not at all surprising that the child of an alcoholic parent would continue to associate with alcoholics. But I will leave it up to someone more qualified than I to explain this phenomenon, as all I know is what I've read and that was many years ago. Any psychologists, psychiatrists or ALANON group leaders out there?
I do regard the character assassination of Michael Real that has taken place on this Forum as little less than shameful. So maybe Mr. Real is guilty of mixing fact with speculation, but let he who is without sin, etc., etc. For that matter, the entire Niku Hypothesis was initially founded on "rank speculation": AE and FN >could< have made it to Gardner, they >should< logically have turned southeast, they >might< have suffered a radio failure that prevented them from telling anybody where they were going....
TIGHAR has subsequently uncovered evidence that may support its speculative hypothesis, but thus far it's inconclusive at best. E.g., islander recollections seem to place the male-and-female skeletons near the wreckage ("Do not go to where the plane is. There are ghosts there.") To me, at least, this seems difficult to square with the castaway campsite discovered by Gallagher. But we need not debate all this stuff again. Find the Electra!
In any event, I believe Michael Real could be a good and valuable friend of TIGHAR unless you persist in making him an enemy. I have reviewed his posts and note that he did not go on the "attack" until attacked by members of this Forum.
LTM (who is out
of taglines for the moment),
I don't go looking for enemies. We have an adequate supply.
I do beg to differ regarding who "attacked" first. The trouble started when Mr. Real submitted his memorable 11/3/99 "Lambrecht's Scouting Manouevres" posting in which he dismissed TIGHAR's hypothesis with a parade of speculative "would have" pronouncements stated as facts. It was just the kind of bad historical work that has typified Earhart "research" for 62 years and Randy Jacobson and I (quite rightly, in my opinion) landed on him with both feet. Real got mad and stomped off. After a chorus of "Michael, please don't go!" postings he returned with a series of postings that made the validity of his pronouncements clear to (almost) everyone.
Michael Real's initial postings concerning Harold Gatty seemed knowledgable and well-researched but then, we didn't know anything about Gatty. After seeing how he performs in a field we do know something about, I'd take a hard look at his information about Gatty before I accepted it as fact.
Over the past couple years we've seen a number of characters come and go from this forum. Mr. Real is merely the latest. We learn from all of them.
[Note from Ric: I'll answer Steve's question as he asks them, in DARK BLUE.]
As brought up in a recent posting about the expedition to search the ocean floor for A.E.'s Lockheed, what is the best guess of the status of ownership of the plane? Who owned it legally - Amelia, G.P., someone else (a corporate entity set up by G.P.)?
RIC: All we can say is that Earhart seems to have been the owner of the plane.
Was it insured (if they even did that for private aircraft in the 30's) and did anyone receive a compensation payment after it was lost? If there was a claim that was paid, then my legal expertise (B.S. in Perry Mason, M.S. in L.A. Law, Ph.D. in Ally McBeal) suggests that the insurance company would have ownership rights over any relatives.
RIC: There is no indication that it was insured.
Did Putnam have any descendants who could claim ownership, as opposed to the claim(s) apparently being exercised by Amelia's relatives?
RIC: Apparently AE left everything to GP. If he died before her mother, then everything went to Amy. GP did die before Amy so the estate seems to have passed to the Earhart family.
If TIGHAR, on its next expedition to Niku, finds the proverbial smoking gun, such as an engine, prop or radio, are there any salvage laws that come into effect? I seem to remember reading recently somewhere that Robert Ballard, discoverer of the RMS Titanic wreck, said he'd been told later that all he'd have had to do to claim salvage rights (and thus protect the wreck from plundering) would have been to retrieve one item from the seabed. Is there a legal difference in finding the Lockheed wreck underwater as opposed to on land?
RIC: Anything on Nikumaroro belongs to the Republic of Kiribati.
If the next TIGHAR expedition retrieves a piece of confirmed Lockheed wreckage (perhaps something smaller than an engine), what are the plans for its disposition (after the initial analysis): donate it to a museum (such as NASM?), auction it on e-Bay, or hoist it up on the mantle of the TIGHAR office? Is there a government that controls Niku that would/could claim ownership of any artifact, and has TIGHAR had to make any salvage arrangements with the government there for previous expeditions?
RIC: Our standing agreement with the Republic of Kiribati is that we can collect artifacts for research purposes. If the artifacts prove to be of significant historical interest we hold them in trust for the government of Kiribati. If they turn out to be junk we can throw them away. (We've never thrown anything away.) Should we come up with a "smoking gun" artifact its disposition would be up to Kiribati. Our recommendation would probably be that it be proffered as a gift to the people of the United States from the people of Kiribati. As such, it would then most likely go to the Smithsonian.
I've heard the US military has asserted legal rights to recovered warplanes (doesn't apply in this case, natch), but I'm wondering who else could get their fingers in the pie....
RIC: The U.S. Navy has made such claims but has recently suffered some legal setbacks.
If the fire extinguisher mentioned in previous postings, for example, were conclusively proven to be from A.E.'s plane, and someone in the States sued for ownership, would the fact that the artifact is in the States affect the dispute (i.e., does returning an artifact to the States change its legal status as opposed to leaving an artifact on Niku - e.g., an engine too big or difficult to recover)? I'm wondering because if a TIGHAR expedition finds the conclusive proof, would it legally be wise to return it to the States immediately or not?
RIC: Good point. Might be a good argument for leaving the artifacts in situ except it would be virtually impossible to police the site. Thorny problem, what?
BTW, who has the fire extinguisher and what became of the efforts to check out whether it could have been a Coast Guard Loran station item?
RIC: Tom King has the fire extinguisher and a whole bunch of other stuff we brought back in 1997. We've been meaning to get some photos up on the website and just haven't gotten to it. Maybe Tom can provide an update on where the identification process stands.
LTM (who's falling
in love with parenthetical remarks, but who always knows what's hers and
Thanks for the reminder. Pyrene sent me the specs on the extinguishers they thought matched the serial numbers on the Luke Field inventory. They didn't very closely resemble "our" extinguisher 2-4-V-100, but in the meantime a photo turned up (at TIGHAR Central) showing AE and FN loading the Electra, and there's an extinguisher sitting there that for all the world looks like 2-4-V-100, and NOT like the Pyrene specs. I've sent a photo to Pyrene and asked for their thoughts; haven't heard back. Need to check with them....
By the way, re. Navy aircraft: as I understand it commissioned naval vessels remain the property of the government whose navy they represent, unless formally captured or surrendered (hence all Confederate wrecks now belong to the U.S. Government). The Navy has extended this principle to its lost aircraft (but the Air Force has not). However, as Ric says, they've suffered some reversals lately in court.
LTM (who never gives
up the ship)
We'll get those photos up on the website soon - promise.
[See the photos in question at Worth A Closer Look.]
>If something is
not where you have already searched, then search somewhere
Ric, I'm seeing a lot of absolute statements which get in the way of good reasoning. Not to single out the above but using it simply as an example it might be more correct to say " If something is not FOUND (rather than 'where') you have already searched, then either it is still there and you need to look again or it is somewhere else. Because it has not been found in a certain area does not necessarily mean it isn't or wasn't there.
Also "I think we know the plane is not hiding in the bushes by now." only means it hasn't been found in the bushes so far.
If we follow the other reasoning we might as well pack it in as most of that Pacific area has been looked at to varying degrees and the plane has not been spotted. The way our statements are worded ARE important. Particularly to those of us who are not totally up on everything and might inadvertantly take such statements as facts.
We DO have to be careful how we say things because language shapes thought. Words can close doors in our minds behind which may wait the answers we seek.
>Did Putnam have
any descendants who could claim ownership, as opposed
Ric, I don't recall, without looking it up, in what state the Putnams claimed residence but your estate passes either by will or by the intestate laws of the state you are in or in some cases the state the real property is in. Property can also pass by trust of course. Unless the estate passed to GP in trust for Amy or anyone else for that matter it became his to do with as he pleased. Upon GP's death it would pass to the heirs unless there was a contractual agreement otherwise or HIS will directed it to Amy.
Having said that and having learned by experience you are usually correct do you mind setting me straight?
Anything I know about Earhart's estate and will comes from secondary sources. If we're really going to dig into this issue (and I can think of a couple of reasons that we should) we need to have an attorney familar with this field of law look into the primary sources. AE and GP were residents of California at the time of her disappearance.
The Putnam family is still around. GP's oldest son David died just a couple of years ago but his daughter, Sally Putnam Chapman, is very much alive and is a TIGHAR member, as is her uncle George, GP's other son by his first marriage. The Putnams, as far as I know, make no claim to AE's estate. The Earhart family, in the person of AE's sister Muriel's daughter Amy Kleppner, rather aggressively assert ownership of the "Amelia Earhart" name and have engaged the services of Curtis Management Group in Indianapolis to police the use of it. Several applications for trademarks using the Earhart name have been granted with their approval (and with royaties paid) and several attempts have been abandoned after being challenged by CMG. At least one trademark (for a line of clothing), however, was awarded over the family's objection to Linda Finch. There have also been numerous uses of AE's image (Apple's "Think Different" campaign for example) which appear to have gone unchallenged.
So is Amy Kleppner Amelia's heir or not? Interesting question. If she is not, then Dana Timmer has purchased the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a question that is certainly beyond my expertise to answer, but the answer may be important to have.
I know that we have a number (a large number) of attorneys in the TIGHAR membership. Perhaps it's time to form a TIGHAR Counsel Council to answer the great historical question Who Is Earhart's Heir? (music up, cut to commercial).
>We DO have to be
careful how we say things because language shapes thought.
A good example of that comes to mind. I remember reading about the first female business "consultant" that advised her client that was in the venetian blind industry to not think of themselves as a "blind" manufacturer, but rather as a "light regulating" company. They went on to expand their business into many areas relating to lighting. Other examples come to mind in the reverse. When I worked for a railroad I found that their attitude was "WE ARE THE RAILROAD" instead of we are a transportation business. They missed out on the trucking and airline opportunities that could have made them continue with their huge success instead becoming an almost obsolete industry. So much for my preaching. Yes, words can make or break people, business and organizations of all kinds. We should never let ourselves become trapped by one set of thinking. I bought a very good book that teaches how to escape this type of trap. Sometimes, I even remember to use some of the techniques!
A VERY, VERY GOOD EXAMPLE OF THIS: One day I was sitting at home, minding my own business, when the door bell rang. A man and woman said they were looking for their child that had disappeared. They were frantically raising our entire subdivision to help find this toddler. I asked them where they had last seen the child and they said that he was asleep in their bed and when they went to look for him, he was gone. They lived two blocks away on another street. So I walked back to their house and asked to see the bedroom. I then asked if they had looked under the bed. They replied that they had looked. I asked for a flashlight, got down on my knees, looked under the bed and VOILA! there was the missing child, all the way up against the wall under the head of the bed! They looked, but not with a flashlight and not all the way to the head of the bed. Problem solved.
At that time, I did not have any children, had not been trained to look for missing children or missing anything for that matter. But, I did know that a search should start at the last known point and be expanded outward searching THOROUGHLY from the starting point.
Another example. My dad had bought a new International TravellAll (like a Suburban). It had a short somewhere that affected the turn signals, flashers and horn. It was intermittent, but vexing. The local dealership couldn't fix it. I asked my dad to go back to the dealership and have them remove the steering wheel and follow the wiring harness down. He came home and said that they had done so and found nothing. I went to the car, pulled the horn cover on the steering wheel and declared that it had not been pulled. He asked me in amazement how I could tell. I replied that the tool they use to pull the steering wheel leaves a dimple in the middle of the steering column and there was no dimple. I pulled the wheel, followed the wiring harness down and VOILA! underneath the steering wheel column there was a screw to hold a tray that the wiring harness ran in and the screw was smack thru the middle of the wiring harness. A new harness and no more problems.
These searches were easy (for me), but other people failed to find anything. A jungle of undergrowth thousands of miles away with limited time and resources creates a huge, huge barrier to a proper search. I cannot see any way that Ric and company have had the opportunity to thoroughly examine every inch of the island, let alone the reef and lagoon areas, which with silting, could be hiding the Titanic (exaggeration for effect)!
Don Jordon wrote:
> As for the subject
of Fred's drinking habits. There is no doubt
To provide some additional perspective on Mr Jordon's point that the evidence shows no correlation between Fred's drinking habits and the disappearance of the Electra, it may be useful to understand the cultural role of alcohol in the States during the 1930s and several following decades.
"Social drinking" was very prevalent. For example, issues of Time magazine from the early 40s even show full page display ads for large liquor companies that demonstrate to thrifty, responsible mid-level business executives how to budget for x number of home-poured cocktails per day/month. Through the mid-70s, it was quite ordinary and very socially acceptable in large urban areas like New York, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles for a successful executive or professional to come home in the evening and drink 2 or 3 stiff martinis before dinner with the wife and kids. In general, a gathering of friends (men only or both sexes) was perceived as incomplete without alcohol: Beer, old fashioneds, gin and tonics, whiskey, highballs, martinis, whatever. There were even "trainer" cocktails for kids, for example ginger ale, and a fruit concoction called a "Shirley Temple" which children could ask for and feel "included" as the waiter took down the adults' drink orders before dinner at perfectly respectable locations around the world.
The amount of alcohol routinely consumed by successful executives and professionals of the previous two generations really astonishes me, but at the time it was part of the landscape of their world.
Hundreds of thousands of these men generated trillions of dollars in revenue for their companies, families, and the economy. There was a tendency to "work hard and play hard." Perhaps it was their depression and war-era experiences that led them to balance out their lives that way. In later years, many had significant health problems as a result of the abuses of their younger years and they sometimes died of these complications somewhat sooner than one would have expected. But the vast majority of them were "responsible" drinkers, that is, people who didn't drink on the job, didn't have car accidents or damage property while intoxicated, didn't beat their wives or children (although detachment from the day to day emotional life of their families was common to the point of cliche), forbade their sons and daughters any drinking until age 21 (but may have offered a cocktail when they reached the age of majority), sent their kids to college without direct government assistance, and retired, frequently, in very prosperous circumstances.
Eisenhower, Churchill, and Roosevelt all habitually consumed "cocktails." We can make speculative arguments that their long term decisions and choices were clouded by the light "cocktail fog" of the era, but it would probably be irresponsible to characterize them as reckless or irresponsible drunks (ironically, Hitler drank very little, and was probably drug-free when he embarked upon genocide, while there is some documented evidence that Stalin was in fact a reckless, paranoid alcoholic).
Fred Noonan appears to fit into a then-socially acceptable cultural pattern with which I am historically familiar: If he wrote to a friend, "With kindest personal regards, and looking forward to a highball together in the not too distant future," this was probably a social remark made by a "responsible social drinker" in the context of urban North America in the 1930s. The wording constitutes zero evidence of the kind of clinical alcoholism associated with irresponsible, reckless and self-destructive behavior that could lead to the immediate destruction of lives and property. Even if Noonan had a flask aboard the Electra during the attempted flight to Howland, and there is zero evidence that he did, based on his previous professional record there is no way to responsibly extrapolate from even that sort of speculation any problems in judgement that could have lead to the disappearance of the Electra.
As always, if new evidence were discovered that indicated a real problem (time spent in a sanitarium, drunk driving arrests, drinking problems recorded at work, etc), I would perhaps alter my opinion about Fred Noonan. But the existing evidence indicates only that he was an exceptional navigator (and aviation pioneer) and that Earhart was fortunate and smart to have him on board. Further, there is an obvious argument to be made that his presence in the aircraft actually enhanced the possibility that they made it to Gardner after failing to find tiny Howland Island in the empty, cloud-dappled expanse of the central Pacific.
So that's where I've seen you before. Anybody else think that the website photo of Ric walking along the Niku shoreline looks suspiciously like Tom Berenger playing Colonel Teddy Roosevelt in the made for TNT movie Rough Riders? Hey, we're all volunteers too!
Ric, any more detail you can give us on the cache of supplies left by the Norwich City rescue party would be greatly appreciated.
Now Mike Real is using Cam Warren as source material?! That's not going to do much for his credibility to anyone who has been reading this forum for the past year. If he starts quoting Sactodave, I'll really know something strange is afoot.
LTM, who says that AE was "late...for a very important date" (landing at Howland)
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going out to get an Egg McGuffin (which, my wife says, is nothing at all, nutrition-or is it Nutiran-wise)
Dave Porter, 2288
Our information about the supplies left on the island is very sketchy. The survivors had built themselves a rough shelter back in the bush while they awaited rescue. When help arrived it was found that, although a surf boat full of supplies was successfully guided over the reef by native boatmen, it was judged suicidal to try to take the survivors back out over the reef at that location so they loaded everybody in the boat and traveled across the lagoon to the leeward side from whence the rescue was ultimatley accomplished. According to a statement by Captain Daniel Hamer:
That's the entire reference. But I just thought of something. Maybe I'm reading too much into this but I get an implication that the provisions were not just casually left behind but were more or less neatly "placed" in the shelter. The next people we know visited the island were Maude and Bevington in Oct. '37 but they make no mention of coming across the wreck survivors' camp. The New Zealand survey party in 1938/39, however, did find the camp and even took a snapshot of it. Interestingly, the place is a mess with light colored cannisters of some kind scattered all over. At this point we have only a photocopy of the snapshot but we'll be getting an actual photographic copy before long.
Kind of makes you wonder.
Here's a quick status report on the Forensic Imaging project.
In terms of the potential for a proverbial "smoking gun" this is a very exciting line of research. Simply stated:
Anecdotal accounts allege that there was airplane wreckage on the reef just north of the Norwich City wreck as early as 1940. So far, at least three photos of that area taken in October 1937 and December 1938 confirm the presence of something anomalous in the indicated location. If forensic imaging of multiple photos establish that that something is identifiable as the wreckage of a Lockheed 10, and if that identification is replicable by independent expert peer review, then we have a smoking gun.
We're still a long way from that point and the research could instead establish that the anomalous feature in the photos is something other than the wreckage of a Lockheed Electra, but at this point we have obtained photographic images of all 10 of the photos we want to examine and we'll be updating the research bulletin on the website with those images next week. Very preliminary analytical results have been encouraging and we're now trying to get access to more original versions of two of the photos (the 1937 Bevington photo and the 1938 New Zealand photo taken though the hole in the hull of the Norwich City).
We can now create the promised private page of high resolution scans for those forum subscribers who contribute at least $200 toward the Forensic Imaging Project. Those who contribute $100 will ultimately receive a print of the best image Photek is able to produce when the project concludes. The Forensic Imaging project will cost TIGHAR something over $7,000 of which we have so far paid Phototek $2,300 and have paid another $350 for copy negatives from various archives. Photek is doing this work at cost and has put off other revenue-producing work to give us priority, so we really need to do our part and pay the bill. We need your help.
If you'd like to contribute please send your check, payable to TIGHAR, to:
or you can make your donation by VISA or MasterCard via fax (302/994-7945) or phone (302/994-4410).
Ric said, "The next people we know visited the island were Maude and Bevington in Oct. '37 but they make no mention of coming across the wreck survivors' camp. The New Zealand survey party in 1938/39, however, did find the camp and even took a snapshot of it. Interestingly, the place is a mess with light colored canisters of some kind scattered all over."
Kinda makes me wonder if Amelia and Fred found the camp and lived off of the supplies for a while.
The photos that the New Zealand survey party took of the camp when rediscovered may yield some very important clues.
How many photos of the camp exist? Did the survey party leave any documentation or opinions about their find?
The camp is not mentioned at all in the survey report nor is it shown on the map they made. All we have is a snapshot which is one of 78 photos taken during their stay. The handwritten caption says only "Remains of wreck survivors' camp."
However, IF AE and Fred were on the island, and especially IF they landed where we think they did, THEN it would seem quite likely that they DID find a cache of supplies which is known to have been right in that same area. No mention is made of leaving a sextant or a sextant box at the camp, and it would surprise me if they did (sextants are valuable instruments), but the "corks on brass chains" thought to be "from a small cask" which were found with the bones in 1940 may very well have come from a water cask left at the wreck survivors' camp. That bit of speculation strikes me as quite valid regardless of the identity of the castaway whose remains were found by Gallagher.
Reasoning a bit further, IF the corks came from the wreck survivors' camp, THEN the castaway had been to that part of the island which is also the part of the island anecdotally associated with the airplane wreck. In other words, the corks (like the woman's shoe sole, and the four digit number beginn ing with 35 on the sextant box, and the liklihood that the bones were female) are another possible link to a reef flat landing near the shipwreck by a Lockheed Electra on July 2, 1937.
>...In a sense, if TIGHAR's true mission is to educate and promote the
While we must agree the end does not always totally validate the means utilized to reach that end, I don't think we should imply that the end result doesn't really matter. In order to validate the thought processes behind the means & methods utilized in striving to reach a successful conclusion, it seems to me, the accomplishment of the objective of our search must be at least of equal importance as the means & methods employed in its pursuit.
The only common thread that ties all of the numerous AE/FN theories (however absurd or bizzare) together, is the _fact_ that none of these theories (including TIGHAR'S) has led to the discovery of the Electra, its remains or the remains of its crew. Should TIGHAR'S main objective be to educate & promote the values of the scientific thought process, that objective could be pursued through the use of educational audio & video tapes (such as those promoted by all of the other internet & TV hucksters) for considerably less cost than funding the Niku & Fiji expeditions.
Since there is no guarantee that any of the current undertakings (including TIGHAR'S) will be successful in finding the Electra, its remains or the remains of its crew (and even if found, shed any greater degree of light on the answer to the question: ..."why didn't they find Howland Island"... ), the value of the thought processes behind the means & methods employed by TIGHAR in the pursuit of the quest to find the Electra & its crew, would still stand the rigors of any future critique by others as to the soundness of the decisions made & avenues actually pursued, thus serving as valid patterns for any further, future attempts to locate &/or recover the elusive Electra & its crew or for that matter, any other exploration of historical events or artifacts.
We must not forget that the AR in TIGHAR stands for Aircraft Recovery!
Yes, the end result matters. We have no control over what may or may not still survive. We can only control how we look for it. If nothing survives to be found, no matter how valid our means of searching, we will be judged to have failed. Should we find conclusive evidence that proves the case, even if our methodology is dumb and we just get lucky, we will be judged to be successful. The reason we try to use good investigative methods is that they're more reliable than luck.
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