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Author Topic: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise  (Read 80770 times)

Tim Mellon

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2013, 01:58:00 PM »


Many an aircraft accident could have been prevented if somebody had told the pilot in command, "This is stupid!"

Amen.
Tim
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John Ousterhout

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2013, 03:19:00 PM »

Fred - "We're at the point of no return Amelia, have you figured out that DF thing yet?"
Amelia - "No Fred, but I'm sure the Itasca will be able to help as soon as we're close enough to talk with them..."
Cheers,
JohnO
 
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Dave Potratz

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #17 on: September 13, 2013, 01:49:00 PM »

I know this is an inference based on speculation, but in contemplating why AE & FN seemingly abandoned all due diligence in preparation for what became the fateful final flight, I'll posit once again (as surmised in another thread) the specter of fatigue

I think one of the results of fatigue is that we often-times proceed wearing "rose-colored glasses".  Because we just want to get through with a thing, we hope and wish that everything will just "turn out right".  We come to believe that as fact, abandon our better reason, and allow ourselves to proceed from that series of false assumptions.
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Adam Marsland

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #18 on: September 13, 2013, 02:57:33 PM »

I'll second that.  I once had several frustrating go arounds with an *ahem* stubborn poster on this topic, someone who insisted that FN and AE "would have" done superhuman X, Y and Z because their survival depended on it and that's what he would have done.  I kept pointing out that what was theoretically doable during best case scenarios was impossible as a practical matter when the tools at hand, bad communication, incomplete information, and especially mind-numbing endless fatigue are conspiring against you.  We know they were up for 24 hours on the plane flight and the engine was making an unholy racket.  And they probably got very little sleep after they landed, either...never mind what condition they were in.
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Dan Swift

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #19 on: September 16, 2013, 08:11:55 PM »

As Ric stated, "The Earhart world flight was his shot at redemption.  He had re-married, stopped drinking (maybe), and reportedly planned to open a navigation school.  There is also some evidence that he was involved in a Hollywood film deal about the world flight.  But the flight had to succeed." 

That's why ditching was not going to be an option.  Landing and trying to save the aircraft was priority...with thoughts of possibly continuing the flight. 

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Christine Schulte

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #20 on: September 19, 2013, 04:32:47 AM »

Ric, I've gone through what is available on the Ameliapedia on FN and I can't see  "redemption" as a motivation for FN I'm afraid, nor does FN come across as "desperate and rushed" to me.

The sequence of events in FNs divorce and remarriage as far as we know them seems fit with him only deciding to divorce this first wife after he'd met someone else. In these cases people tend to be excited about starting something new rather than terribly torn up and remorseful - or so I'm told :).

In your section on FN's career in "Finding Amelia", you seem to be hinting that FN may have changed careers because he was never made captain although he held a sea captain's patent; in your answer you seem to be implying that he'd have minded losing his star status after leaving Pan Am. Is there any indication that he did, or was, or are you just assuming he would have been? Navigator seems a bad career choice for someone who left his prior job because he resented always playing second fiddle. It seems to have been very much a background job, ideal for someone with specialised skills who was comfortable having lots of resposibilty while NOT being a team leader and NOT getting lots of attention. FN rather strikes me as someone like that. In photographs or on film he often has his back to the camera, or he's busy with something, or looks away - he doesn't appear to be eager to have his picture taken with AE in the way photographers complained George Putnam was. FN seems to accept being in the pictures as part of the background scene.  He spent more than a month with one of the most famous, charismatic women of her time yet in his letters to Helen Day he doesn't gossip about her, or brag. His attention is on his job, and on what he notices travelling. The only time he mentions something she says, he's relaying a compliment of Amelia's about his young correspondent.

I find it surprising that FN found the time and space to write to Helen Day at all. (If he was pursuing some kind of career-advancing scheme with Eugene Pallette -whatever could that have been? A navigator's experiences aren't exactly an Oscar-winning subject- it'd have been much more sensible to get off more reports to him.) In the letters he comes across as a considerate person. He obviously knew Helen as a child and is eager to assure her that she's become a nice young woman, and always asks to be remembered to her family. He seems to be enjoying the trip and the new experiences immensely - for a man of his time, FN seems remarkably open about foreign customs and cultures; his letters to Helen almost entirely lack the assertions of cultural superiority that make similar contemporary accounts such disturbing reading nowadays. (That's really quite special considering that he seems to have had little formal education.) It's the kind of letters I'd find hard to write if I were preoccupied with unpleasant thoughts about my reputation and my career (but I'm not FN of course).

There's the matter of his drinking, and his leaving Pan Am under a bit of a cloud -maybe, he may just as well have been fed up with working conditions ther and looking for a more settled job that would leave him more time to be with his new wife, and working conditions and treatment of employees don't seem to have been ideal.  Being asked to go on the world flight (there's no indication he applied for the job, or is there?) may have given him a gratifying feeling of  "So there!", and he must certainly have been bitter about how his work relationship ended, but would he have felt a need to redeem himself?

There's a telegram FN sent to his fiancée before the Luke Field crash ("Leaving 1.30 AM your time. Amelia has asked me to continue with her at least as far as Darwin, Australia and possibly around the world. Will keep you advised. Trip around world will be completed before I can return from Australia. I love you, Fred", qulted on p. 39 in "Finding Amelia").
Am I the only one who detects a tiny whiff of guilt in what he says? He seems rather eager to anticipate any objections his fiancée may have when he states that travelling home from Darwin by steamer would take quite as long as flying around the world. I sometimes get similar text messages from my husband's overseas business trips and they usually mean that I'll have to handle things we'd been planning on doing together on my own, which tends to lead to marital discord  :). Perhaps I'm over-interpreting this but it seems to me that FN quite badly wanted to make the world flight. It must have been a once-in-a-lifetime chance for him - when does one ever get asked to make a trip around the world in a state-of-the-art new plane, expenses paid? To navigate the routes his colleagues wrote about surely must surely have seemed an exciting challenge to him - to the extent that he was willing to leave his wife of six weeks and take part in the second attempt  (Of course we can't know how his wife felt about his job, but it seems likely that this by itself would have provoked a bit of discussion even if his wife didn't grasp quite how dangerous his profession was?)

As for feeling constrained to stay on the flight because leaving would create a stir in the press, FN seems to have written professional articles mostly, and there's also a newspaper article with a very matter-of-fact description of his work at Pan Am that I can actually understand  :), but nothing for mass consumption really; this indicates that he cared about his reputation among his peers rather than about being famous (how independently famous was he, or could he have become, anyway?), and since AE's reputation was rather shaky among the professional flying crowd, wouldn't they'd probably have been quite understanding about his reasons for leaving if he'd chosen to?

There's a lot that makes me think he must have been in better shape than AE when they started on the last flight - physically certainly (there is no mention of him being ill or very tired, and from what he tells Helen about the rijsttafel, he seems to have enjoyed the meal as well as the experience), but possibly emotionally as well. He doesn't come across as desperate at all, he seems to be enjoying the trip and the new experiences as well as looking foward to getting home. According to what your witness says he seems to have been preoccupied about the flight to Howland Island, but that seems appropriate (I must have overlooked that account before, there's such a wealth of information on the Ameliapedia). The flight must certainly have been stressful, which perhaps led to even heavier drinking than usual with him. Still, he was doing something he'd successfully done before, and knew inside out. AE certainly wasn't.

I still find it hard to understand why someone who comes across as responsible and thoughtful to me should have decided to disregard the considerable risk of attempting to find Howland without decent wireless communication.There isn't really anything to go on except his personality (as interpreted by me) and what we know about people with similar experiences. People who work together closely on something unique and dangerous often seem to develop a special bond, even if they don't know each other well and don't talk much (which would have been difficult on the plane with the terrible noise the engines must have given off). Perhaps FN, who seems to have been a considerate, perceptive man and may have sensed how desperate and rushed AE was, and how very badly SHE needed the flight to succeed, came to feel she was a comrade or chum of sorts and that it simply wouldn't do to leave her to go on to Howland on her own (telling her she couldn't or shouldn't do something seems to have been a sure way of getting AE to attempt it - as when Wiley Post advised her not to fly over the Gulf of Mexico). Never to leave a comrade in the lurch seems to have been an important theme with men of his generation. This is, of course, wild speculation (and I'm not really happy speculating).

I very much want to believe that AE and FN wound up on Nikumaroro (I can just hear my former philosophy teacher saying "If you want to believe, go to church - scientific reasoning is about discerning reality not inventing it"!) because the evidence you've come up with at the Seven Site and your work on the artefacts are great and so is your work on the post-loss radio signals (not that I understand the technical aspect thoroughly). I just can't see so many coincidences piling up.  But that still leaves the question of how the plane and the crew got there. It's always bothered me that AE/FN should just have headed off towards the southeast IF (but only if) FN (who was the crew member with most of the know how and experience) knew, or was convinced he knew, that they must be close to Howland Island. Gary LaPook's box search hypothesis seems to make much better sense because there were people waiting on Howland Island while the Phoenix Islands were very much unknown territory. It has the additional merit of being referenced in the literature of the time - that's important to someone like me who's been taught, and is convinced, that if one can't established a historical personality had a thought, the next-best thing is to establish that the thought was current at the time. But if FN couldn't have been convinced he was close to Howland Island at all,(which is what you seem to be saying) that changes things considerably. If FN was aware that  his chances of reaching Howland Island without decent wireless communication were actually rather slim, this leaves  him with a motive to look for alternatives early on, even if he didn't do it on a conscious level. It doesn't make sense to search for a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific then.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #21 on: September 19, 2013, 06:30:33 AM »

"If you want to believe, go to church - scientific reasoning is about discerning reality not inventing it"!

Amen to that.  Interesting analysis Christine.  I won't try to second guess your assessment of Fred's state of mind but I agree that "if one can't established a historical personality had a thought, the next-best thing is to establish that the thought was current at the time."  But did Gary LaPook really establish that the "box search" was an established technique in 1937?
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Alex Fox

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #22 on: September 19, 2013, 12:58:22 PM »

Perhaps FN, who seems to have been a considerate, perceptive man and may have sensed how desperate and rushed AE was, and how very badly SHE needed the flight to succeed, came to feel she was a comrade or chum of sorts and that it simply wouldn't do to leave her to go on to Howland on her own (telling her she couldn't or shouldn't do something seems to have been a sure way of getting AE to attempt it - as when Wiley Post advised her not to fly over the Gulf of Mexico). Never to leave a comrade in the lurch seems to have been an important theme with men of his generation. This is, of course, wild speculation (and I'm not really happy speculating).

I'm not convinced the sentiment of "not leaving a comrade in the lurch" is a generational thing.  IMHO, FN abandoning the mission and letting AE try to fly to Howland alone would have been a pretty shitty thing to do in any time, at least without a very good explanation (e.g., insufficient communication).  If AE had done this leg alone, and disappeared in the same manner, I have to think FN would have been cast in quite a bad light by media, comrades, whoever.
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Christine Schulte

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #23 on: September 20, 2013, 04:18:26 AM »

Quote
But did Gary LaPook really establish that the "box search" was an established technique in 1937?

No, having gone over it again I wouldn't say that he has. But he's done solid work with primary sources.

I noticed that TIGHAR haven't really done well in establishing that a navigator would naturally have resorted to turning towards the nearest stretch of land on the LOP. You cite the two gentlemen who approached you with the idea at the beginning of your search for AE/FN but you haven't really come up with contemporary, preferably written, sources to back it up as far as I can see. I do trust you to have checked this but I think you haven't really documented it well so far. I wonder why that is, is there a special reason or were you just busy with something else?
The problem of what to do if you don't hit your destination in the middle of nowhere immediately must have been very much on aviators' minds at the time. Obviously, it isn't limited to overwater flights - somebody flying over huge stretches of jungle or desert (as e.g. the French, and to a lesser extent the British and Germans did in Africa at the time) encounters the same kind of problem (Actually there's a quote from a letter FN wrote to his wife in a footnote in Last Flight in which he likens flying over Africa to flying over an ocean) . It must have been gone over endlessly in aviation circles, and FN must have been very much part of these discussions. Shouldn't it be possible to reconstruct which suggestions they mulled over, and with reasonable effort and little resources, too?
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Joe Cerniglia

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #24 on: September 20, 2013, 06:07:29 AM »


I noticed that TIGHAR haven't really done well in establishing that a navigator would naturally have resorted to turning towards the nearest stretch of land on the LOP. You cite the two gentlemen who approached you with the idea at the beginning of your search for AE/FN but you haven't really come up with contemporary, preferably written, sources to back it up as far as I can see. I do trust you to have checked this but I think you haven't really documented it well so far. I wonder why that is, is there a special reason or were you just busy with something else?
The problem of what to do if you don't hit your destination in the middle of nowhere immediately must have been very much on aviators' minds at the time. Obviously, it isn't limited to overwater flights - somebody flying over huge stretches of jungle or desert (as e.g. the French, and to a lesser extent the British and Germans did in Africa at the time) encounters the same kind of problem (Actually there's a quote from a letter FN wrote to his wife in a footnote in Last Flight in which he likens flying over Africa to flying over an ocean) . It must have been gone over endlessly in aviation circles, and FN must have been very much part of these discussions. Shouldn't it be possible to reconstruct which suggestions they mulled over, and with reasonable effort and little resources, too?

Christine,
I'm certainly not the expert on navigation, but since I've spent some time looking at this, I'll wade in and wait for more experienced hands to chime in after me.

There's always room for more documentation, but in my opinion TIGHAR has made a very satisfactory attempt at explaining the navigational logic. This is not the same as documenting what Noonan "would have" done, but that kind of documentation is, as has been shown, fraught with difficulties.  I have begun reading P.V. Weems' Air Navigation (1937 edition) for clues on Noonan's navigational 'database,' so to speak, and while much of it is a high endeavor for an untrained individual, it speaks consistently of the importance of lines of position, and how a single line of position, while not as good as two, gives the navigator "certain useful information" (p. 270), that these lines of position ran to the core of principles of celestial navigation, which was the kind of navigation Noonan used.  Noonan was a student of Weems and would certainly have been aware of these principles.  (There I go again, committing a "would have.")

Had you read the article to which I just linked?  If so, did it leave you unsatisfied or did it improve your impression of the likelihood of the navigational logic proposed by the Nikumaroro Hypothesis having occurred?

Joe Cerniglia ~ TIGHAR #3078ECR
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John Balderston

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #25 on: September 20, 2013, 06:58:22 AM »

In 1937 there were three air navigators of similar experience and reputation - peers and giants: Gatty, Weems and Noonan.  All three pioneered routes, held patents for air navigation inventions, and firmly established the art and science for those that followed.  In 1935/1936 Fred taught every other navigator in Pan Am's Pacific Division the techniques for navigating the Pacific.  His methods are well known and documented; establishing an LOP, and offsetting to one side of a destination among them.  I'm on the road and don't have references handy, but will provide when I get home.
John Balderston TIGHAR #3451R
 
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #26 on: September 20, 2013, 07:22:30 AM »

I noticed that TIGHAR haven't really done well in establishing that a navigator would naturally have resorted to turning towards the nearest stretch of land on the LOP.

What we have as a primary source is the last transmission.

It is what one might call a "clue" as to what AE and FN were doing.

Please note that you have inserted "towards the nearest stretch of land on the LOP" without warrant.  TIGHAR thinks that AE and FN were searching the LOP for Howland Island, their destination, and that they first searched north, then south along the LOP.

That is classical navigation technique.

That is why you draw an "advanced LOP" on your charts. 

That's what LOPs are for.

The bearings given in the last message correspond to a dawn or near-dawn observation of the sun.

We don't have any evidence of what AE and FN did after sending the last message.
LTM,

           Marty
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Tim Gard

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #27 on: September 20, 2013, 07:36:43 AM »

I think TIGHAR has covered this perfectly.

After running under an overcast for the last third of the flight from Lae (making celestial navigation impossible) and having their RDF attempts fail, the next best hope was for FN to get them to the Howland Island LOP, supported by AE's logged radio message. He needed to sight the sun to achieve this.

Their "running on the line north and south" revealed Gardner Island. They then accepted that Hobson's Choice  as preferable to ditching through fuel exhaustion.

It may well be they thought Gardner was Howland and didn't twig until they discovered the ship to be a shipwreck and the cause of their communications failure a destroyed receiving antenna.

Just ATM I can't find where Ric posted this, but in a reference to the 281 North Howland message he did decode the lat longs to be just north of Baureke Passage, just as if FN was forced to hurry to the closest place he could after landing to get a Latitude At Noon sighting by reference to both the peak sun angle and the horizon.

It's possible that during this sojourn he contracted heatstroke.

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« Last Edit: September 20, 2013, 07:46:34 AM by Tim Gard »
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #28 on: September 20, 2013, 07:47:10 AM »

Quote
But did Gary LaPook really establish that the "box search" was an established technique in 1937?

No, having gone over it again I wouldn't say that he has. But he's done solid work with primary sources.

Fine, but if his solid work with primary sources did not establish that the "box search" was a known and accepted technique in 1937 then his opinion that Noonan "would have" used it is baseless.  The reason Gary LaPook no longer posts to this forum is his refusal to accept the invalidity of his "would have" arguments.  As I've said countless times -  in historical investigation, "would have" is a guess masquerading as a fact. If something DID happen, say it DID and then show your proof.  If you think it MIGHT have happened, then say it MIGHT have happened, but don't say it "would have" happened.

I noticed that TIGHAR haven't really done well in establishing that a navigator would naturally have resorted to turning towards the nearest stretch of land on the LOP. You cite the two gentlemen who approached you with the idea at the beginning of your search for AE/FN but you haven't really come up with contemporary, preferably written, sources to back it up as far as I can see. I do trust you to have checked this but I think you haven't really documented it well so far. I wonder why that is, is there a special reason or were you just busy with something else?

I'll assume that your somewhat accusatory tone is unintentional.  Allow me to direct your attention to the following paragraph in Captain Wilhelm Friedell's Report on the USS Colorado's Search for Earhart, Research Document #7 on the TIGHAR website.

Considering the question as to what Mr. Noonan did do, it must be considered which way he would steer on the line. To the northwest of Howland was wide stretches of ocean, to the southeast were spots of land. To a seaman in low visibility the thing to do when in doubt of own position would be to head for the open sea. The land would be the place to get away from. To the Air Navigator with position in doubt and flying a land plane it is apparent that the thing to do would be to steer down the line towards the most probable land. To the Air Navigator, land would be a rescue, just as the sea would be to the seaman. Would and did Mr. Noonan do this or had he other reasons to do otherwise? The answer was of course unknown but logical deduction pointed to the southeast quadrant.

Friedell was present at the conference in Pearl Harbor on the evening of July 2 when Earhart's most likely actions were discussed by the most knowledgeable naval aviation officers available.

While at Pearl Harbor the Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. COLORADO received instructions from the Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District, Rear Admiral Orin G. Murfin, U.S. Navy, and conferred with the Commanding Officer, Fleet Air Base, Captain Kenneth Whiting, U.S. Navy, and other officers of the District and Air Base relative to the probable path and location of the Earhart Plane in the event of a forced landing. This information seemed to indicate that the most probable reason for missing Howland Island would be that of stronger winds than normally expected in the region, and that the plane had probably been carried southeast of Howland a greater distance than that from which Howland could be sighted. These opinions lead the Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. COLORADO, at this time to believe that southeast of Howland was the most likely area.

As a contemporary written source it just doesn't get any better than that.  No mention of offset navigation.  No mention of a box search.

Shouldn't it be possible to reconstruct which suggestions they mulled over, and with reasonable effort and little resources, too?

No, it is not.  Much as we'd like to, there is no way to "reconstruct" events that no one was witness to without hard evidence (contemporaneous notes, photos, or conclusively identifiable artifacts).
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Tim Collins

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Re: visual counterfeit , navigation and subsequent demise
« Reply #29 on: September 20, 2013, 08:23:54 AM »

What's the rough flying time from the vicinity of Howland to the vicinity of Gardner?

I find it an awfully daunting thought to imagine that once committed to heading southward on the LOP the only prospects were either to hope to spot a small speck of land (after having already missed another small speck of land) or fly until you essentially fall out of the sky.
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