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Author Topic: The Gallagher Paradox  (Read 121838 times)

Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #15 on: January 12, 2013, 05:11:45 PM »

In that post from what I remember the person also raised the idea that the "aircraft" wreckage might instead have been lighter structural bits from the Norwich City which was still pretty much intact at the time which had been washed to the north of the wreck. As an ill-informed observation on my part this does seem to have some  merit because I really do have difficulty in accepting that the islanders at that time would have much idea of what an aircraft wreck looked like. But if they had heard that Mr Gallagher thought that the stuff he was looking at might have belonged to a missing flyer then any lighter looking or odd shaped bits of ship wreckage might be construed as being the airplane as the rumour developed. Perhaps they even did tell him but he didn't bother to mention it in his reports because to him it was clearly parts of the ship. The island was a small community and like most small towns I bet there wasn't much to talk about and so rumours would get improved upon  ;D   

Emily Sikuli said she saw debris that her father told her was "part of an airplane" on the reef edge roughly 100 meters north of the shipwreck.  Her father could have been mistaken and the debris could have been from the ship, although in historical photos and in our own experience debris from the ship travels exclusively southeast.  Similarly, former island residents who remember "part of a wing" on the reef flat southeast of the shipwreck and "airplane parts" washed up on the beach in the 1950s could have been seeing unusual shipwreck debris and making unwarranted connections to an old legend.  John Mims is harder to dismiss.

Between December 1944 and February 1945 Ensign John Mims, assigned to Patrol Aircraft Service Unit (PATSU) 2-2 based at Canton Island, made eight trips to Gardner as co-pilot of U.S. Navy PBY-5 BuNo 08456. On one of those visits the settlers proudly showed him a large fish they had just caught.   Mims was astonished to see that the hook in the fish’s mouth was crudely fashioned from aircraft aluminum and the “leader” on the fishing line was a control cable from an aircraft smaller than a PBY. As Mims wrote in a March 1995 letter to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum:

“I asked the native about the hook and leader, and he promptly informed me that it came from a wrecked plane that was there when he arrived some three years earlier (apparently no one lived on the island prior to 1941).

The first work party of the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme arrived in December 1938 so Mims’ supposition that his informant arrived with the first settlers was incorrect, but the story does suggest 1941 as a not-later-than date for the discovery of airplane debris. When asked where the wreck was located Mims’ informant just shrugged.  Apparently by 1944 the wreck had either disappeared or whatever wreckage had washed up had been salvaged. 

In addition to heavy-duty fishing tackle, Mim’s saw the islanders on Gardner using …”crude knives made from aluminum by grinding it with seashells and sand.  At the present time I still have some jewel boxes and outriggers with inlaid diamond, heart, and star-shaped pieces of aluminum that they said came from the wrecked plane.”   TIGHAR had one of the inlays tested.  It’s aircraft–grade aluminum.
 
Ensign Mims was puzzled by what he had seen and the story he had been told.  He couldn’t imagine where an aircraft at Gardner in 1941 could have come from unless…     When he returned to Canton Island he asked the District Officer if the British had lost a plane at Gardner.

“He replied that no British planes had been there and neither had the Americans lost any planes there.  I asked him if this could be a part of Amelia Earhart’s plane and he said it could well be, but he had little interest in a story of a lost pilot since the war was in progress.  Also, he joked that the woman was American and that the 4th of July and Thanksgiving with the Americans was about all the American history he could take.”

Coast Guardsman Glen Geisinger was stationed on Gardner from late 1945 until the closing of the Loran station in May 1946. Like Mims a year earlier, Geisinger bought or traded for carved wooden boxes and model canoes that featured metal inlays said by the islanders to have come from “the downed plane that was once on the island.”

So the legend of the downed plane is more than stories of debris on the reef that might have been ship wreckage. 
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Dan Kelly

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #16 on: January 12, 2013, 06:16:58 PM »


Emily Sikuli said she saw debris that her father told her was "part of an airplane" on the reef edge roughly 100 meters north of the shipwreck.  Her father could have been mistaken and the debris could have been from the ship, although in historical photos and in our own experience debris from the ship travels exclusively southeast. 

Thank you Mr Gillespie - In my browsing through the threads I noted some time ago an aerial photo of the reef area to the north of the Norwich City wreck taken from a kite (is that right?) on one of TIGHAR's visits to the island. That photo showed small parts of the wreck to the north of the wreck. I'm sorry I can't remember exactly who posted the photo, but I seem to remember it was Father Moleski.

Regarding the rest of your post concerning the later observations by Ensign Mims of the islanders using aluminium to make tools and trinkets isn't there some evidence that there was airplane aluminium bought to the island from a wreck on another island in the area.     
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #17 on: January 12, 2013, 06:41:11 PM »

Thank you Mr Gillespie - In my browsing through the threads I noted some time ago an aerial photo of the reef area to the north of the Norwich City wreck taken from a kite (is that right?) on one of TIGHAR's visits to the island. That photo showed small parts of the wreck to the north of the wreck. I'm sorry I can't remember exactly who posted the photo, but I seem to remember it was Father Moleski.

Kite Aerial Photo (KAP) of Norwich City attached.  I see nothing near the reef edge north of the wreck.  We have KAP coverage all the way up to the Bevington Object location.  Nothin'.

Regarding the rest of your post concerning the later observations by Ensign Mims of the islanders using aluminium to make tools and trinkets isn't there some evidence that there was airplane aluminium bought to the island from a wreck on another island in the area.     

It's a matter of timing.  Mims saw aircraft materials being used for local purposes in late 1944 or early 1945.  The was no islander traffic between Gardner and other islands at that time.  After the war, some islanders from Gardner worked for the airlines on Canton Island.  The WWII (B-24) parts we've found in the abandoned village are probably best explained as material salvaged from wartime wrecks and brought home from Canton for local use in the 1950s.  We've been able to find no explanation for aircraft parts on Gardner in 1944, except....
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Dan Kelly

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #18 on: January 12, 2013, 06:57:59 PM »


Kite Aerial Photo (KAP) of Norwich City attached.  I see nothing near the reef edge north of the wreck.  We have KAP coverage all the way up to the Bevington Object location.  Nothin'.


Thank you Mr Gillespie, that's the photo I remembered. I can see that when I said north I had misremembered but in that photo I can see two possibly three small bits which are not to the south of the wreck. If they were there when TIGHAR took that photo it occurs to me that there may have been more (like railing parts or light painted superstructure bits) when Ms Sikuli's father claimed he saw aircraft wreckage. But I am probably in danger of committing more damage on that dead equine so I'll leave it at that.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #19 on: January 12, 2013, 07:12:41 PM »

Thank you Mr Gillespie, that's the photo I remembered. I can see that when I said north I had misremembered but in that photo I can see two possibly three small bits which are not to the south of the wreck. If they were there when TIGHAR took that photo it occurs to me that there may have been more (like railing parts or light painted superstructure bits) when Ms Sikuli's father claimed he saw aircraft wreckage. But I am probably in danger of committing more damage on that dead equine so I'll leave it at that.

You could be right. Anecdotal recollections are the least reliable form of evidence. Mims' account is also anecdotal but, in his case, there are physical artifacts (the inlaid metal in the boxes) that support his recollections. 
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william patterson

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #20 on: January 12, 2013, 11:44:34 PM »

There's an odd paradox in the historical record. 
•  British administrator Gerald Gallagher suspected that the castaway whose partial skeleton he found on Gardner Island in 1940 might be Amelia Earhart.
•  Gallagher, a licensed pilot himself, certainly knew that Earhart had disappeared in an airplane.

But, in all of his correspondence about the bones there is no mention of a search for - or even curiosity about - possible aircraft wreckage.

•  At least some of the Pacific Islanders who lived on the island knew about the discovery of the bones and the suspicion that they were Earhart's.
•  There was clearly a tradition among the islanders during and after WWII that there had been an airplane wreck somewhere on the island in the early days of the settlement.

But, none of the stories about "the downed plane" connect it with the stories about the bones that were said to be Earhart's.

How could two legends - to us so obviously related - exist independently and simultaneously on the same island without being connected to each other?

I think it a paradox if looking for a tie in of the two events, bones and wreckage.
I would imagine if Gallagher reported bones, he would have also reported wreckage. Yet he did not, and one simple explanation is the wreckage memories and stories happened AFTER Gallagher was dead.

We have Gallagher's writings that don't mention wreckage at all. I believe the reason is the fore mentioned theory that Gallagher thought the castaway had floated ashore or otherwise arrived without plane.
Then years later, after Gallagher had passed, the stories came out from the islanders and Navy men remembering at least partial aircraft wreckage. As mentioned numerous times, memories are shaky, and years get confused.
Are these later reports any more or less valid than the "saipan" memories?
I take them all with a grain of salt, years melt memories into shapes that only vaguely resemble reality.

The truth is there is not one letter or memo dated when Gallagher is alive, from anyone military or civilian, that mentions aircraft wreckage being found or reported found on Gardner. This complete lack of historical papers or letters mentioning aircraft wreckage, likely means there was no visible aircraft wreckage.

Therefore there is no paradox if the two events (bones/wreckage) were disassociated entirely in time.

« Last Edit: January 13, 2013, 08:36:22 AM by william patterson »
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William R Davis

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #21 on: January 13, 2013, 06:16:48 AM »

Thank you Mr Gillespie, that's the photo I remembered. I can see that when I said north I had misremembered but in that photo I can see two possibly three small bits which are not to the south of the wreck. If they were there when TIGHAR took that photo it occurs to me that there may have been more (like railing parts or light painted superstructure bits) when Ms Sikuli's father claimed he saw aircraft wreckage. But I am probably in danger of committing more damage on that dead equine so I'll leave it at that.

You could be right. Anecdotal recollections are the least reliable form of evidence. Mims' account is also anecdotal but, in his case, there are physical artifacts (the inlaid metal in the boxes) that support his recollections.


Mr. Gillespie,

Is there any information as to the number of inhabitants before Gallaghers arrival? It may be already covered on the website but I have not found it yet. I do believe from materials found and used by locals suggests that some wreckage did exist at some point in time. My thought was that the inverted landing strut probably was kept from washing out to sea by some sort of tie down.  The plane no doubt probably flipped over in the surf before breaking up. AE must have known that her only real hope of being spotted was her plane. If it was tied down, there was probably not enough line to do both struts because of distance. Knowing how much damage surf can do by just looking at the Norwich City tells me that the aircraft was probably a pile of junk in a couple of days. I still don't understand the lack of notice by the survey crew, yet they did take a picture of it. Was it by accident or intended. They may have made note of it but never contacted any authority about the find.   
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #22 on: January 13, 2013, 09:52:35 AM »

I would imagine if Gallagher reported bones, he would have also reported wreckage. Yet he did not, and one simple explanation is the wreckage memories and stories happened AFTER Gallagher was dead.

I agree.  That appears to me to be the simplest and most likely explanation.

We have Gallagher's writings that don't mention wreckage at all. I believe the reason is the fore mentioned theory that Gallagher thought the castaway had floated ashore or otherwise arrived without plane.

Great minds think alike.  ;D  Gallagher sailed from England for his posting to the Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony on July 17, 1937 - the day before the U.S. Navy search was called off.  It seems reasonable to suppose that he was aware of the Earhart disappearance and search in the part of the world to which he had been assigned and that he knew that the popular judgement was that the plane had crashed and sunk at sea.  Three years later, upon finding a skeleton he believed to be that of a female castaway who might be Earhart, it's not a stretch to think that he made the assumption that she drifted there sans-avion, rather than that she landed her airplane somewhere on Gardner (ain't no airplane here).


Then years later, after Gallagher had passed, the stories came out from the islanders and Navy men remembering at least partial aircraft wreckage. As mentioned numerous times, memories are shaky, and years get confused.

True, but at least in Emily's case we can put a not-later-than date on her alleged sighting of airplane debris.  Emily left the island to attend nursing school in Fiji in November 1941. See The Carpenter's Daughter. She never returned.

Are these later reports any more or less valid than the "saipan" memories?

Individually, no, but when numerous anecdotes from independent sources tell the same story their credibility increases.  We do not have that situation with the Saipan stories.  For the most part they either stand alone or contradict other Saipan stories.  Gardner's Legend of the Downed Plane is the same tale coming to us from multiple sources that cross time and cultural lines.

I take them all with a grain of salt, years melt memories into shapes that only vaguely resemble reality.

Absolutely.  The unreliability of individual anecdotal recollections is, or should be, a basic tenet of historical investigation. 

The truth is there is not one letter or memo dated when Gallagher is alive, from anyone military or civilian, that mentions aircraft wreckage being found or reported found on Gardner. This complete lack of historical papers or letters mentioning aircraft wreckage, likely means there was no visible aircraft wreckage.

Therefore there is no paradox if the two events (bones/wreckage) were disassociated entirely in time.

Exactly.  So let's see if there is a window of time after Gallagher's death and before her departure from the island during which Emily could see what her father told her was airplane wreckage on the reef edge.  Gallagher left Gardner on June 10, 1941 to go to Fiji for meetings with the WPHC.  When he returned to Gardner on September 24 he was gravely ill and died three days later.
Emily left Gardner on November 30, 1941.  There is, therefore, a period of 68 days between Gallagher's death and Emily's departure when the downed plane could have been discovered.  If you accept that the circumstances surrounding Gallagher's return in in September were too hectic and stressful for the discovery of an airplane wreck to have been discussed with the visiting Europeans, the time window spans from June 10 to November 30 - over five months.

To summarize:
The apparent paradox is best resolved if the discovery of the plane by the locals happens in the latter half of 1941.  Recall that Mims' informant said that the plane was there when he arrived in 1941.

The next thing that happened after Emily's departure was the beginning of the Pacific war in December 1941 and for the next two years there was almost no European contact with the island except by radio.  Plenty of time for an aircraft wreck in shallow water just off the reef edge to be stripped of useful pieces before storms carried it deeper and beyond reach.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #23 on: January 13, 2013, 10:04:04 AM »

Is there any information as to the number of inhabitants before Gallaghers arrival? It may be already covered on the website but I have not found it yet.

As I recall it was ballpark 80 people.

My thought was that the inverted landing strut probably was kept from washing out to sea by some sort of tie down.


I can't think of any way that to do that.  Let me see if I can describe the situation.
Let's say your 7,000 lb Lockheed Electra is parked in the parking lot of a mall about 600 feet from the nearest building and you can't get any closer.  You're concerned that a coming tornado will carry the plane away.  You have some ropes and some metal stakes but the pavement is solid concrete and there are no light poles to tie to.  How are you going to tie down your airplane?
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William R Davis

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #24 on: January 13, 2013, 10:29:20 AM »

True, I was of the thinking that they may have run a line to the edge of the tree growth. But not having been there, is the best part of the coral flats pretty far out?
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William R Davis

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #25 on: January 13, 2013, 10:38:40 AM »

Thank you for getting back to me. I read NIKUMARORO on line today by P. B. Laxton. Very interesting insight to life on the island. Did help fill in the gaps for me about who was there and when. I see now there was a very close gap between the time new islanders arrived and AE being there.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #26 on: January 13, 2013, 10:42:51 AM »

True, I was of the thinking that they may have run a line to the edge of the tree growth. But not having been there, is the best part of the coral flats pretty far out?

That would take about 750 feet of rope.
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William R Davis

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #27 on: January 13, 2013, 10:54:48 AM »

OT but there is a Dr. Berry Freckle jar for sale here. Has a top which might be of interest for final size.


http://www.junkwhat.com/collectables/6204n5%20lot%20of%205%20pcs.htm
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #28 on: January 13, 2013, 11:00:23 AM »

OT but there is a Dr. Berry Freckle jar for sale here. Has a top which might be of interest for final size.


http://www.junkwhat.com/collectables/6204n5%20lot%20of%205%20pcs.htm

Off topic for this thread - and we already have a jar just like that one.
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Tim Mellon

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Re: The Gallagher Paradox
« Reply #29 on: January 13, 2013, 06:38:05 PM »

Kite Aerial Photo (KAP) of Norwich City attached.  I see nothing near the reef edge north of the wreck.  We have KAP coverage all the way up to the Bevington Object location.  Nothin'.


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