Some of the clues are stronger
than others. Forensic imaging from two photos is much more reliable
than an anomaly in a single photo. Human memory is notoriously frail,
but it is interesting that all of the clues, so far, appear to tell
a consistent story that conforms with the known natural forces affecting
wreckage distribution as evidenced by debris from the Norwich City shipwreck.
This is how the Electra may have broken up over time in such a way
as to explain the various photos and reports of wreckage seen and not
seen. We have good information about the reef surface where the plane
seems to have landed, and good information about the underwater environment
down to about 100 feet. Beyond that we have only general information
from soundings done by the U.S. Navy in 1939. The shelf at 250 feet
may or may not be there. It was reported by a diver on a New England
Aquarium expedition in 2002 who was suffering from nitrogen narcosis.
NR16020 is landed near the surf line on the dry reef north
of the Norwich City shipwreck.
July 2 – 6, 1937
Earhart and Noonan send radio distress calls during hours of
darkness and low tide.
7 or 8, 1937
Rising tides and surf wash the aircraft
into one of the “spur
and groove” features where it is swept into shallow water
in the surf zone.
July 9, 1937
Breaking surf hides the aircraft from view when
the Navy search planes fly over the island.
December 1, 1938
The aircraft remains largely intact but hidden from view in
shallow water just off the edge of the reef. Parts of the wreck
are visible above water at unusually low tides on calm days.
Fishermen from the new island settlement discover the wreck and
salvage useful pieces. They know it’s an airplane but have
no interest in what airplane it is or how it got there.
Spring or summer 1940
Emily Sikuli sees some of the wreckage on the reef on a calm
day at low tide.
Severe westerly weather shifts the wreck onto a reef shelf
at a depth of about forty feet.
1941 – 1952
The airplane remains on the reef shelf, battered but largely
The wreck begins to break up due to time and storms. Lightweight
pieces travel southward along the reef face with the prevailing
current. Some are thrown up on to the reef flat in storms.
Buoyant wreckage (fuel tanks, wooden flooring) goes through
the lagoon passage and washes up on the opposite lagoon shore
where it is seen by Pulakai Songivalu.
1958 – 1963
Wreckage continues to wash up on to the reef flat and beach
to be salvaged and used by the colonists. Other lightweight underwater
debris becomes more widely scattered.
By 1989 (first TIGHAR expedition)
Storm action has shifted debris below 100 feet (diver limit).
is the Electra? Connecting
The Dots What
Might We Find?