From this approximate
time, we do not have direct knowledge of Earhart’s movements nor
intentions. Clearly, she thought she was in the vicinity of Howland,
and must have been maneuvering the plane in some sort of a search
pattern to visually spot the island, as radio bearings and radio
communication were not fruitful for homing in on Howland. Radio
communication becomes increasingly hectic, particularly from the
Itasca. Continuing the chronology:
||Itasca sends dashes on 500kHz.
sends dashes on 7500, also go ahead on 3105 and 500 kHz.
sends message on 3105 and 7500 kHz: "Did you get our transmission
on 7500? Go ahead on 500 kHz so we can get a bearing on you.
It is impossible to get a bearing on you on 3105. Please acknowledge
with voice on 3105."
on the air on 3105 kHz, "Did you hear my messages on 3105
or 7500? Please acknowledge on voice, 3105."
message, but now on 7500kHz.
message, unknown frequency.
broadcasts on 500 kHz: "go ahead on 3105, voice, with report
of our signals." Note that the Itasca has broadcast
nearly continuously during a possible Earhart schedule, and
that only one radio operator was available at this time, at
Radio Station 2.
broadcasts: "go ahead on 3105 with voice, provide position
and signal reports."
Island receives report from Itasca that they believe
Earhart is down. The landing party is recalled back to the ship.
message requires a short digression. Black states in his report
that “... shortly after the 8:55 AM [sic -- 0843 Itasca
local time or 2013GMT] transmission from the plane as
recorded in transcript above [sic -- Black’s report does
not contain a 08:55 transmission, but in the immediate days
following the flight, the 08:55 time was referred to as her
final transmission], when a blinker message was received
from the ship stating that the plane was probably down at
sea and recalling all hands to the ship as quickly as possible.”
Lt. Cooper reports “When Amelia Earhart failed to arrive by
0900 [local time for Itasca or 2030GMT or 1930GMT
if using Howland Island local time], all hands except
a radio operator and several colonists returned to the ship.”1 The Itasca bridge
logs state that the personnel were recovered aboard ship at
0912 local time, or 2042GMT. The Howland log states that the
landing party was recalled back at 0926 local time, or 1956GMT
(remember, Howland Island is on +10.5 time zone; the Itasca is
on +11.5 time zone).
are two possible explanations for this message. First, the
reported times are accurate, meaning that CDR Thompson believed
the radio message about 1/2 hour of gas left, and that Earhart
was about to go down, and he wanted the ship ready to conduct
search and rescue. The alternative explanation is that the
time reported on Howland is off somehow, so that the landing
party was recalled at approximately 2026GMT (thirty minutes
later). It is our opinion that the former is the proper interpretation,
that the radio transmission was not forwarded to the appropriate
officers in a timely manner, and that the ship had to use
its blinkers to get the message ashore somewhat later. This
leads to the speculation that Thompson was ready to “weigh
anchor” about this time.
is transmitting constantly on 7500 kHz: "respond with voice
on 3105 kHz."
broadcasts: "respond on voice, 3105."
broadcasts: "answer on 3105, voice with report and position,
sent on 7500, key."
transmitting constantly on 7500kHz: "Please come in, answer
on 3105, we do not hear you on 3105." [Note: Itasca
personnel now recognize that Earhart has heard them on 7500
kHz, and is sending messages by key on this frequency, hoping
that she can hear them. Unfortunately, she does not know Morse
code enough to understand the messages or is not listening to
broadcasts: "answer on 3105, voice. How is our signals?
Bellarts is tuning up the T16 transmitter to communicate with
USCG Radio San Francisco.
on the air: "KHAQQ to Itasca we are on the line 157 337 wl rept
msg we will rept this on 6210 KCS wait, [(3105/A3 S5 (?/KHAQQ
xmission we are running on N ES S line)]" [Note: information
in square brackets includes frequency, mode of transmission,
signal strength, and interpretation of what Earhart said, and
is the literal transcription.] This is the last message
Earhart sent and was received. Most investigators interpret
this message to mean: Earhart to Itasca: we are on the
line of position 157/337, we will repeat this message on 6210
kHz, wait … The radio operators interpreted this to mean that
Earhart was running up and down a North and South line, running
such a critical message, and one that is open to a number of
interpretations, that it is worth further investigation. The
first problem is to establish, as closely as possible, what
was actually said. There are four sources which purport to describe
the message, and none of them completely agree. Two other sources
which logically should contain the message, Itasca1, and Howland
Island, don't record it at all. Remember that Itasca1, Radio
Station1, has been unmanned since 1900GMT. Howland Island's
batteries have by now run down, and the radio receiver is inoperative.
We prefer to use the most credible source of information, the
original, raw radio transcript as saved by Leo Bellarts. You
can open a copy of the log in a new window by clicking here:
the log was kept in real time and was intended to be an accurate
chronological record of events, mistakes and alterations are
easy to spot and this entry shows several. Prior to the first
alteration, the log must have looked like Figure
2. Translated from radio shorthand, the entries read:
Earhart from Itasca. Answer on 3105 kilocycles with
voice. How is our signal being received? Go ahead. / Unanswered
08:34 to 08:41 [2004-2011GMT]
listening on 3105 but hear nothing. Chief Radioman [Bellarts]
is tuning up the T16 transmitter for a transmission to San
Francisco radio 08:44 [2014GMT; remember, to make this
entry, the operator had to look up at the clock, note the
time, and type it in.]
Francisco this is Itasca. Do you receive? End of message.
Sent on 12600 kilocycles. / Unanswered 08:45 [2015GMT]
point it appears that the operator suddenly becomes aware
that, while he was distracted recording Bellart’s attempt
to contact San Francisco, a transmission was received from
Earhart. He missed it and now not only has to ask someone
else what she said but now must go back and change the times
in the log so that they will be in sequence. He alters the
log to look like Figure
message from Earhart came in at 08:43 so he changes the preceding
times and records the following entries:
to Itasca. We are on the line 157 337. We will repeat message.
We will repeat this on 6210 Kilocycles. Wait. This message
was received on 3105 in voice at maximum strength. 08:43
listening on 6210 Kilocycles. Earhart from Itasca. Heard
you okay on 3105 Kilocycles. Do you receive? This message
was sent on 7500 kHz, and in code. 08:44 - 0846 [2014-2016GMT]
possibly while he was typing the entry for 08:4-08:46, Earhart
came on again. Rather than start another entry, he decided
to try to cram the message onto the 08:43 line. What he tried
to fit in was:
xmission we are running on N ES S line
a questionable transmission from Earhart: We are running on
a north and south line, (or possibly we are running on a line
north and south?) but had run out of room and had to cross
out the 43, add the N ES S on the line above, and add another
43 below word “LINE.” The result is the mess that appears
in the log. Figure
to the Thompson Radio Transcripts, Thompson sent a July 4th
release to the press, and said that the final message came
in at 08:44 instead of 08:43, and stated the contents as:
are on the line of position 157 dash 337 will repeat this
message on 6210 kilocycles we are now running north and
official report, Thompson (and Black in his cruise report)
stated it as 0844 - 0846:
are on the line of position 157-337, will repeat this message,
we will repeat this message on 6210 KCS. Wait listening
on 6210 KCS (Other person in radio room heard this message
the same.) We are running north and south.
transmission was by voice on 3105 with a signal strength
5. Nothing was heard on 6210 KCS)
Cooper’s report listed the message as:
Earhart. We are on the line 157-337 will repeat message
we are on the line 157-337. (very loud and too rapid for
accurate reception S-5)
Earhart. We are running on line North and South. (Very loud
S-5 and far too rapid for accurate reception. Earhart sounded
as if she was very excited and did not talk distinctly.)
worth noting that Lt. Cooper was still on Howland Island at
the time, so either his report is second-hand information,
or he heard it via the Howland Island radio receiver.
Itasca bridge log states:
Miss Earhart reported as being on line 157;337 and running
north and south courses; good reception.
all that can be said with any certainty is that Earhart sent
a voice message on 3105 kHz at her scheduled transmission
time of quarter past or quarter to the hour and that the signal
strength was at the maximum. She said that she was on the
157-337 line that that she was running on that line. She also
said that she would repeat the message on 6210 kHz. It is
also clear that there was a quality in Earhart’s voice which
Cooper described as “very excited” and which Thompson
portrayed as “hurried, frantic and apparently not complete.”2 It
must be remembered that both characterizations were made several
days following the failed search and were presented in the
context of reports the principle purpose of which was to exonerate
the writers from any blame for Earhart’s disappearance. There
is nothing in any of the three logs kept at the time, nor
in the Itasca desk log, which supports
later allegations that Earhart was panicky. His adherence to
the routine transmission schedule conveys quite the opposite
sends on key, 7500 kHz: "we hear you on 3105."
on key, 7500 kHz: "stay on 3105, we cannot hear you on
6210, maintain communications on 3105."
sends: "please answer on 3105."
sends: "answer with voice on 3105."
sends: "go ahead on 3105 or 500, your signals are OK on
Island's radio batteries are discharged, and operations are
commencing to recharge them.
sends on key, 7500: "go ahead on 3105 with voice."
on key, 7500: "answer on 3105 or 500, signals are OK on
3105. Go ahead with your position."
party recalled from Howland Island and aboard ship.
on key, 7500: "answer on 3105 or 500, signals ok on 3105.
Go ahead with position." Itasca listening on 500,
500 Direction Finder, 3105, 6210 kHz, but nothing heard.
tunes Radio Station 1 to 6210, Radio Station 1 listening on
3105, RDF to 500, but no signals.
Itasca calls Howland Island on 7500kHz, inquiring about
tells Howland Island to get a directional bearing going at any
cost. Itasca broadcasts via key on 7500: "go ahead
to Earhart on 7500: "answer on 3105kHz," and now tuning
to listen for her answer.
signals heard on 500, 3105, or 6210kHz.
heard on bridge radio, tuned to 500kHz.
broadcasts to Earhart: "we can hear you fine on 3105. Please
go ahead on that frequency." Sent on 7500, key, but no
Itasca broadcasts several times: "we can hear you
well on 3105, so please give us your position and go ahead on
3105." Sent again on 7500 kHz, key.
signals heard from Earhart.
tunes receiver to 7500kHz, but no signals from Earhart.
signals from Earhart on 500, 3105, 6210, or 50kHz D/F.
no signals from Earhart on 7500 kHz.
calls Howland Island and asks to get the radio compass working
broadcasts: "we heard your signals on 3105 kHz, etc."
Sent on 7500 kHz, key.
to Howland Island: "Get the direction finder up and running
at any cost," repeated. Itasca called Earhart on
7500, key, and said "we heard you on 3105, keep using 3105."
sends a radio message to both Radio Wailupe and Radio Tutuila,
stating that Earhart is missing, that the Itasca estimates
1200 for the maximum time aloft, and if she hasn't arrived
by that time, they will search to the NW of Howland. The other
message suggests the Navy contract for a seaplane search,
and that there is aviation gasoline on Howland.
the time of filing for these two messages is 2145 and 2148GMT,
as received on the other end. Perhaps these messages were
composed and were to be sent at that time, but instead were
sent a few minutes earlier. Nevertheless, at this point, the
Itasca clearly believes Earhart is down on the water,
despite her being able to be aloft until 1200 local time or
calls Radio Wailupe: Did you hear Earhart, and if so, what time?
Wailupe responds no, we didn't hear anything. What frequency?
Itasca responds 3105.
listening on 3105 constantly, but no signals.
bridge logs state: "No report received from Miss Earhart since
0843 [local time]; preparing to begin search for Miss Earhart
in case plane has been found to land on water."
listening for plane on 6210 kHz.
bridge logs state: "Underway at 155rpm on course 337° p.g.c.
[per gyrocompass] to search most probable area of landing
to north and northeast of Howland."
By now, it
is clear that the Itasca personnel firmly believe Earhart
is down on the water, after not hearing from her in the last hour
and 15 minutes. In fact, they must have been startled to hear her
at 2045GMT, since at that time, they had begun to call back the
landing party from Howland Island. Clearly, the radiomen were upset
with the lack of two-way communication and information provided
by Earhart. They were broadcasting nearly continuously on all frequencies,
hoping that Earhart would hear and interpret the Morse code signals
they were sending. At one point, Bellarts himself went to man the
500kHz radio direction finder, forcing somewhat of a manpower shortage
in the radio room. T. O’Hare, manning Radio Station 1, left his
watch station for nearly an hour from 1930 to 2026GMT (0800-0856
local time), possibly so that he could have his breakfast. No relief
was available, apparently. The Howland Island RDF was manned since
early in the morning, when it was clearly not of any use, and due
to inappropriate match of power consumption and batteries, had no
power left when it was needed most of all.
to be shared all around, and Earhart deserves some of it. First,
she skips the radio test in Oakland back in March, which may well
have provided impetus to her to carry an experienced radio operator.
While the radio procedure for establishing communication for the
first attempt was sound and promulgated in sufficient time, it required
the use of 500kHz and Morse code to establish that communication
effectively. After Earhart’s Luke Field accident, she had the 500kHz
trailing wire antenna removed, along with her Morse code equipment.
Nevertheless, she could still broadcast on 500kHz, albeit somewhat
poorly given her antenna configuration, but 500kHz was the emergency
frequency that everyone monitored, and was the one frequency that
the Itasca could take bearings on. At this point, she was
relying solely on voice communication, notorious for poorer propagation
that Morse code. Neither she nor USCG personnel bothered to set
up an emergency protocol for establishing two-way communication
with available assets for the second attempt. Earhart asked the
Itasca to broadcast on 7500kHz for bearing purposes prior
to departure and during the flight, yet her RDF could not operate
effectively at that high a frequency. Earhart apparently knew that
the Itasca was hearing her, yet she did not attempt to establish
two-way communications from her end, which she could have done by
asking the Itasca to send long or short dashes on 7500kHz
as an acknowledgement to her questions. Finally, Earhart did not
make use of potential broadcast stations along her route to help
her navigate on course.
needs to be distributed to USCG personnel. The Itasca personnel
became confused about time zones, contributing to the resulting
chaos. The San Francisco office interfered in the Itasca’s
setting up radio protocols, adding confusion in Earhart's mind in
Lae. The Itasca personnel must have realized that Earhart’s
asking for 7500kHz for bearings prior to departure would not be
of use to her, given her RDF capabilities, but did not question
her reasoning for selecting this frequency.
to be placed upon George Putnam, for not paying attention to details
regarding logistics and radio communications protocol. Although
he was not proficient in this by any means, he did have a competent
person, Bill Miller, helping him on the first attempt. Yet, although
Putnam did seek help for the second attempt, he did not follow through
and hire someone with the necessary expertise. Further, Putnam apparently
put out wrong information regarding Earhart’s RDF and radio frequency
capabilities, leading to misunderstandings and confusion.
needs to be placed on the Bureau of Air Commerce, the US Navy, and/or
the US Coast Guard for not have a single point of contact and central
location for information gathering and dissemination regarding this
flight, particularly the leg from Lae to Howland. Documents that
should have been available to people involved were not delivered
nor addressed to the appropriate personnel. It is only now, after
60-some odd years that one can piece together what actually happened.
At the time of the disappearance, only different portions of the
facts were available to individuals.
Is it any
wonder that Earhart could not find Howland Island by the use of
celestial navigation and almost no radio communication?