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Author Topic: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?  (Read 73824 times)

Kevin Weeks

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #30 on: September 09, 2010, 12:01:15 PM »

that all works out rather handily for easy ways to reasonably determine position within the time limits of the post loss radio traffic. Too bad either none were heard or they were unable to do so.


the only post loss transmission that seems to fit to me was the one that the girl (in Florida I believe it was?) started jotting down notes on. Someone on the forum cleverly noted that she heard "new york city" which could have easily been a misunderstood description of the wreck of the norwich city.
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Ted G Campbell

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #31 on: September 09, 2010, 06:32:21 PM »

Navigation guys’
Jeff may be onto something here.

If AE and FE found themselves on Gardner and FN was able to get a good fix on where they where and he reported on the line (1)58-338 (in Betty’s notebook) can this give us and idea of how far South or North of their original course they were?

If I understand the LOP, it is 90 degrees to the course line, if the final LOP (see above) has changed doesn’t that change the course line?

My guess (and that’s all it is) if you back calculate the Betty’s LOP to the course line you will find that it reinforces the hypotheses that AE and FN were way (and perhaps a mileage figure) South of the intended course to Howland.

Ted Campbell
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #32 on: September 09, 2010, 07:00:26 PM »

"337-157" does not contain any of the information you give above which provides good reasons to think that they got so close to Howland that they could never have made it to Papua New Guinea.

As the earth rotates on its axis, there is always some region from which an observer could derive a LOP of 337-157 at dawn.  Those numbers, by themselves, without any other information, do not say "they came awfully close to Howland."

That's true, but we do have other information. We know that this 157 337 line was drawn at or near dawn on July 2, 1937. 

Dawn happens all around the world 24 hours a day.  On any given day, the 157 337 tangent to the terminator can be observed at any of those dawns.  You just have to be in the right place to make the observation.

We don't know what time Fred's dawn was.  If we did, we would know where to place a LOP on our charts of the flight.  Without that information, there is simply a region of probability.

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Therefore the sun had to rise at 67° (90° to the LOP).  In other words, to see the sun rise at 67° on the morning of July 2, 1937 you had to be somewhere on a 157 337 line that, at its closest point, passed a couple hundred miles to the southwest of Howland.

Not true.  "Morning" is traveling across the face of the earth at approximately 1000 miles per hour close to the equator.  There is no "the morning of July 2, 1937." 

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The plane may not have been (and probably wasn't) awfully close to Howland, but from nowhere on that line was it possible for that airplane to return to New Guinea.

"That line" doesn't exist for us.  There isn't just one spot north of the equator and west of Howland where an observer would derive 337-157 from that observer's dawn sighting

Think of it this way.  The 337-157 tangent to the rays of the sun gets carried along on the edge of the terminator.  The terminator is moving at about 1000 miles per hour.  Every 15 minutes difference in local dawn is about 250 miles difference between the position of the 337-157 LOP that a navigator would put on the map at that observer's dawn.  Dawn 250 miles to the east of the observer is not the same "morning" for the western observer.  Each one would put the line 337-157 on their chart as one part of getting a fix.  The slant of the line is the same but the LOPs are very different.

I'm not saying that Fred's LOP was close enough to New Guinea so that he could turn back.  What I'm saying is that the argument about the aircraft's proximity to Howland cannot be made by imagining that there is just one LOP of 337-157 west of Howland and that we know where "it" is.  We put a mental boundary on how far west Fred was because of other information, interpreted on other assumptions.  Apart from that body of information, interpretation, and argument, we don't know where a LOP of 337-157 is--there is always a 337-157 tangent traveling with the terminator across the face of the earth, 24 hours a day.
LTM,

           Marty
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Ashley Such

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #33 on: September 09, 2010, 09:45:21 PM »

Ric & Marty, both of you gentlemen have interesting points about the LOP. :) Very interesting, and I thank you gentlemen for the facts.
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Thom Boughton

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #34 on: September 10, 2010, 12:45:38 AM »

I agree. I don't see why Noonan would have to go anywhere to observe local noon to get his latitude or to take star sightings at night to determine his exact position.  If he did either of those things he should have been able to figure out where he was.  The absence of credible lat/long coordinates or any mention of an island name in any of the known post-loss radio messages makes me think that he was not able to do either of those things for whatever reason.  I see no reason to think they abandoned the airplane until forced to do so.  I think the move to the southeast end came much later.


Personally, assuming that they indeed landed in the vicinity of the Norwich City, I see no reason to make a journey all the way to the southeast corner of the island for a sun sighting.  I should think that anywhere on the eastern beach would suffice.....the idea being merely to have an unobstructed view of the eastern horizon at the moment of sunrise.  (Or are there obstructions of some kind on the eastern side of Niku that would preclude this except at the SE corner?) 


Two other additional issues come to mind, however.

First....assuming he was able and still equipped to take that sighting, could it be that he just didn't believe the position he calculated?  My understanding is that Gardner/Niku, as it was portrayed on the charts they carried, did not resemble the actual shape of the island.  Niku being triangular but being depicted on the charts as rectangular.  After the events of the past 24 hours: He thought they should have been on or near Howland....but IT wasn't there.  Now he showed a position near an island that in no way seemed to match the one on which they stood.  I could see how one's self-confidence might be a bit injured after all of this.  Might lead one to question the accuracy of his equipment....or himself.

Second....do we know what FN was using as his timekeeper?  Ships at this time were typically not using pocket or wristwatches as time standards.  Many used gimbaled Deck Watches as they were far more accurate than the movements in wrist/pocketwatches.  Deck Watches, when they were not permanently affixed, were typically carried (gimbals and all) housed in a set of nested wooden boxes roughly the size of a sextant box.

If FN was using such a timekeeper, it might have been more susceptible to damage or destruction in a hard landing.  Perhaps his clock (whatever it might have been) and/or sextant didn't survive the arrival and therefore he was unable to calculate their position.  Might also explain why a sextant box was found but no sextant...although the sextant was now worthless, the box and eyepiece could still be useful.

Yes, yes.....I know.   Idle speculation all without foundation.




.....tb


PS --  The same might also be said for their compass.  If FN was using the Electras' compass for his calculations...after the plane went out to sea, I doubt he'd have been able to calculate position without it.
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« Last Edit: September 10, 2010, 12:50:13 AM by Thom Boughton »
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Kevin Weeks

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #35 on: September 10, 2010, 06:02:06 AM »

"New York City"...

Yes, and I revisted Betty's notebook.  One of the hazards of accumulating birthdays seems to include some occasional inaccuracy on my part - she actually only wrote "N.Y." repeatedly - and that it was something that "sounded like New York" if you read the actual copy of the note book (the transcription renders that last entry only as "NY", not as Betty wrote it) - but not 'city'.  Which still does not preclude the "Norwich City" co-inky-dink in my (aging) mind at least. 

Maybe they never knew for certain where they were but found identifying information on an embossed builder's plate on the ship somewhere; maybe it was even burned, rusted and pitted enough that all they could make out was "New---h(say 'looks like a 'k''?) or something along those lines, just dunno.

yes, I read betty's notebook to see what she actually wrote. I could just picture a young girl straining to hear what was being said and writing what she heard in the quickest easiest terms in order to hear/write the next words. shortening what she interpreted as "new york city" right down to NY is quite reasonable to me.

I'm sure the state of the wreckage of the norwich city has been gone over time and again. I've seen many pictures of the wreckage in that "era" but cannot remember if the fire had destroyed the ships name or not. if it did, I don't think it destroyed all of it. (shady recollection at best)

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Also from Betty's notebook - some of the numbers are tantalizing - "58 338" still haunts me as weirdly proximate to "157 337" because Gardner (Niku) lies closer to that "line" if Howland and Gardner are considered as 'points' (notwithstanding the loss of the '1' from what then should be '158 338' - was the digit '1' lost in transmission perhaps?)...  But it is difficult, maybe impossible, to pin hard meanings to much of what is there.  But, where (on what bearing) did the sun rise in the days following the loss from the vantage point of Gardner?  What would the LOP of the island be in that case?  I'm with Ric on why they would have moved to the 7 site 'much later', but do have a thought about where one might wish to be to see the sun rise if accuracy were needed (but then would be separated from the airplane and radios, too)...

read up on what moleski is saying about the 157-337 lop. it is not a useful point on a map, but a compass heading. the only way a compass heading would have been useful to their rescue is if they determined their location and were trying to give their rescuers a heading from Howland. This sounds like an extremely unlikely way to go about it to me. gardner island is located at 4.66S and 174.53W not matching anything she wrote. (even if you take what she wrote as 3.38s by 158w you come up close to 1000miles east of gardner)

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I'll have to leave that to those who know celestial navigation better than me.  But I for one do believe that Betty was sincere; I also believe there is a good chance that she heard a genuine plea from AE and FN, in bits and pieces, and if hard evidence of the plane, AE and/or FN ever surfaces it may even explain a few of Betty's details somehow (note in a sealed bottle would be nice...).  I think it is also likely that there would have been enough interference and perhaps voice-overs from other traffic to make Betty's listening experience very confusing at best.  But she seems to have heard enough to have been keenly alerted and then to lock-in on the traffic, and she gave us all she could from that experience.  Remarkable, and it in no way discounts any idea of AE being on land at Gardner at that time.

agreed

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Couple all of that logic with what the navy thought at the time, the body of evidence TIGHAR has painstakingly amassed and printed, now the emergent report of a late WWII loss of a PV-1 in the Buka passage in the wake of the breathless press release from down under, and my money is still on TIGHAR and Niku. 

If, however, the Electra turns up in the Solomon Seas against all odds, then we STILL have a most intriguing 'castaway' mystery on our hands - SOMEONE apparently struggled and died on Gardner, likely at the 7 site.  Seems to have been a European-descended female, circa 1930's, too...

Same here. I'm as open to new hypothesis as anyone out there, but this one just doesn't follow any evidence we have.

the castaway mysteries to me are almost inevitable. with the number of ships roaming the world and the evidence of people that Tighar has seen simply visiting the island the odds that there haven't been castaways on the island would be astounding.

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And, we'd be left wondering (probably forever) how in the cosmos so much realized real-time radio traffic and navigational clues could be so tragically off the mark.  Could all of the "Howland/Itasca vicinity" radio traffic REALLY have occurred much farther west than thought?  Might FN's "LOP" been tragically off due to some wrongful assumption (there was an element of dead-reckoning always present and when the some of the clues don't align as they should or skies are obscured, humans can tragically second-guess many things)?  Did AE then realize she was short of Howland, panic and do a 180 and exhaust 4 or 5 hours of reserve to just make it back to the Solomon Seas (having not gotten so far east after all)?  What could ever explain such gross errors?  Much stronger head winds going / tail winds returning than realized?  Were the Itasca contacts aided by a 'harmonic' somehow (wacky)?  What then of the body of post-loss traffic?

The world can be a very weird place of rogue winds and waves, but until somebody proves that's AE and FN lying in a Lockheed in the Solomon Seas, I'm still with Ric & Co. - "I don't think so."

LTM -

- Jeff

the possibilities are literally endless on this one.
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Bruce Thomas

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #36 on: September 10, 2010, 09:57:34 AM »

Using the NOAA Solar Calculator, the sun rose at an azimuth of 66.94 degrees on July 2, 1937 at Howland Island.  Seven days later, July 9, (when the Navy planes flew over Gardner Island), the azimuth of the rising sun at Howland Island had only advanced to 67.62 degrees.  A couple of days before that, on July 7, the azimuth had only advanced to 67.4 degrees. 

So I conclude that the sunrise azimuth would not have varied enough in that week to warrant a change of the figures for the LOP to 158-338. Of course, there's always the possibility that a weary, thirsty, hungry, marooned navigator might have misread his sextant (and then failed to properly stow it in its box!).
LTM,

Bruce
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Bruce Thomas

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #37 on: September 10, 2010, 11:41:42 AM »

But then, there's always the consideration that the great circle direction from the Seven Site to the original incorrect coordinates for Howland Island (about 6 miles west of its true location) is on a 158-338 line!  Maybe the weary, thirsty, hungry, marooned navigator nonetheless still had a steady enough sextant hand to fix his latitude, a reliable chronometer to pinpoint his longitude, and a set of those incorrect coordinates for Howland Island!
LTM,

Bruce
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Alfred Hendrickson

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #38 on: September 10, 2010, 03:15:36 PM »

and yet there it David Billings, who claims he saw a wasp engine in the mts of New Guinea that had a tag on it with SN1055.  You can read this by googling "Engine in mts of New Guinea".  also http://www.electranewbritain.com.

For the record, Mr. David Billings believes that AE's plane is in New Britain, but he has never claimed to have seen any part of it, let alone an engine. He does say that some Australian soldiers saw the plane.
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #39 on: September 11, 2010, 07:08:17 AM »

I've drawn a couple of pictures and put them in a new thread in the Celestial Navigation area.

Most of the pictures and conclusions drawn from them were wrong.  I've modified the post.  Live and learn! :-\
LTM,

           Marty
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« Last Edit: September 11, 2010, 05:36:17 PM by moleski »
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #40 on: September 11, 2010, 07:42:38 AM »

I've drawn a couple of pictures and put them in a new thread in the Celestial Navigation area.

If I ever get good at Flash, I could animate the whole argument.  Not today.  For now, you have to do your own animation.    :D

So what did AE mean by saying "we are the line 157 337"?

She did not mean the line that Fred drew on his map at dawn (wherever that was for them).  That LOP wouldn't do them any good--from his watch, Fred could tell how far west of a second and parallel LOP of 157-337 that he drew on his map through Howland Island.

So a full expansion of what she meant would be "We think we have reached the advanced line of position 157-337 running through Howland that Fred drew on his map and toward which we have been dead-reckoning since dawn."

If that is what is meant by the LOP, I guess I have to concede that there is just one of them out in the Pacific (treating Howland as a point).  But it is not a morning LOP and it is always where it is by definition, not by navigation.

We don't know where the LOP was drawn on Fred's charts based on celestial navigation because AE didn't tell us the exact time on the chronometer when the sighting was made nor what their altitude was at the time.  We know it had to be later than dawn on Howland and, if we assume that they did, in fact, get pretty close to the parallel LOP drawn through Howland, that there is a finite region in which they must have been to derive that LOP and still get near the advanced LOP by the time of the last transmission.

I'm not sure whether Randy Jacobson tried to narrow down that range in his Monte Carlo simulation.  It seems to me that the range ought to be calculable, given a range of possible airspeeds-made-good from the dawn LOP to the advanced LOP. 

It also seems possible to me that reckoning from the dawn LOP was the basis on which AE reported four "positions": 200 miles out reported at 1742 GMT, 100 miles out reported at 1812 GMT, "we must be on you but cannot see you" reported at 1912 GMT, and on "the" line drawn through Howland, flying North and South, reported at 2013 GMT.
LTM,

           Marty
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Bill Lloyd

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #41 on: September 11, 2010, 09:41:34 AM »

Marty makes interesting and accurate points. The report that you are flying the line 157/337 is not a fix nor a position report. Without any antecedents, it is a meaningless report.

The way that I understand the probable sequence of events is that Noonan and Earhart, after flying for 17 hours and 50 minutes, were attempting to approach Howland on a track of 78 degrees.  When Noonan saw the sunrise and noted his chronometer he knew, according to his nautical almanac,  where to plot the dawn line that he was on.  He also knew the right angle from the sunrise would be 157/337 so he then plotted that line on his chart.

He also  knew, from his almanac, that sunrise at Howland was 1745z, therefore, he then knew just how far he was from the line running through Howland. When Earhart reported 200 miles out, that report was probably given to her by Noonan who would have clocked the sunrise at about 1757z or as the sun travels, about 200 miles southwest on course for the LOP.

What Noonan probably did not know was his exact position on the line, or if he was north or south of course. When, according to his calculations of groundspeed and distance, he told Earhart that they were approaching the LOP is when she began her letdown. Then at the ETA of about 1912z she reported “we must be on you….flying at 1000ft. ”

Noonan probably hit the LOP within 10-15 miles and then Earhart turned either left to 337 or right to 157. Meanwhile Noonan was probably trying to get an accurate fix on their exact position with a sun shot.

In my estimation and premises considered, all of the aforesaid would indicate that more likely than not, the 157/337 line that Earhart reported was the line running near Howland. 
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #42 on: September 11, 2010, 11:20:13 AM »

The way that I understand the probable sequence of events is that Noonan and Earhart, after flying for 17 hours and 50 minutes, were attempting to approach Howland on a track of 78 degrees.  When Noonan saw the sunrise and noted his chronometer he knew, according to his nautical almanac,  where to plot the dawn line that he was on.  He also knew the right angle from the sunrise would be 157/337 so he then plotted that line on his chart.

He would have to account for his elevation, too.  Someone standing 10,000 feet above the surface of the earth sees the sun rise before an observer directly underneath.  It seems to me that I heard that even ship navigators had to account for their elevation, even though that doesn't seem at all likely.  OOPS--I was wrong.  "The sextant angle obtained is corrected for dip (the error caused by the observer's height above the sea) and refraction to obtain the true altitude of the object above the horizon" ("Long by Chron").

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He also  knew, from his almanac, that sunrise at Howland was 1745z, therefore, he then knew just how far he was from the line running through Howland. When Earhart reported 200 miles out, that report was probably given to her by Noonan who would have clocked the sunrise at about 1757z or as the sun travels, about 200 miles southwest on course for the LOP.

OK.  I think that blows away my theory that the 200 mile "position" report might have been based on the dawn LOP.  It seems as though the horizon to an observer at 10,000 feet is over 100 miles.  But that would only let Fred see the sun five or six minutes earlier than the ground-pounder--not enough time for him to make the observation before the sun rose on Niku.

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What Noonan probably did not know was his exact position on the line, or if he was north or south of course. When, according to his calculations of groundspeed and distance, he told Earhart that they were approaching the LOP is when she began her letdown. Then at the ETA of about 1912z she reported “we must be on you….flying at 1000ft. ”

Noonan probably hit the LOP within 10-15 miles and then Earhart turned either left to 337 or right to 157. Meanwhile Noonan was probably trying to get an accurate fix on their exact position with a sun shot.

In my estimation and premises considered, all of the aforesaid would indicate that more likely than not, the 157/337 line that Earhart reported was the line running near Howland. 

I agree.  That's the one they were looking for and thought (calculated) that they had hit.
LTM,

           Marty
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #43 on: September 13, 2010, 09:47:00 AM »

This makes me wonder about how they would have established and used any LOP procedure - was it a 'last minute / last ditch' effort to establish how far east they had come after belatedly realizing that the RDF apparently was not working?

Drawing Lines of Position on charts is how navigators nagivate.

The intersection of two LOPS taken at practically the same time gives you your most probable location. It is fuzzy due to the limits of the instruments and observers.

If you can get three LOPs at about the same time, that gives you a triangle as the center of your most probable location.

We don't know how many celestial sightings FN got during the night.

Therefore, we don't know how many LOPs he drew on his charts.

We speculate that he was able to make the dawn sighting because the charts tell us that from the region west of Howland and close to the equator, the dawn observation would yield a LOP of 337-157--the same as was announced in the last transmission.

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If so, could FN have made rapid readings on the fly ...

Could have.  Maybe would have.  They still wouldn't give him a fix all by themselves, but they would give him new LOPs to work with to refine his dead reckoning.  But you have to give the sun time to change position significantly so that your new LOP has information not contained in your old LOP.

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... that were enough off the mark to leave the aviators woefully further short of the progress across the pacific than they had thought? 

I don't think that's likely.  If FN got a good LOP at dawn, he would have a good sense of the distance between that LOP and a parallel LOP drawn through Howland.  It seems that he must have had the dawn sighting in hand; otherwise, it would make no sense for AE to announce that they were searching "the LOP" (i.e., "the advanced line of position that Fred drew through Howland parallel to the LOP he drew on the map shortly after our dawn, west of Howland") north and south.

They thought they were close--really, really close.

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Could the sun have been well up by the time it fell to FN to determine a LOP?

FN didn't start drawing on his charts when they realized that they were not going to get help with direction finding.

Drawing lines on his charts was his job.  That was the basis of the newscasts that AE made during the night about where they were.

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Could cloud cover have made star shots in the preceding night difficult or impossible?

Yes, of course.

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Could the early reports of how far out they were have come then from dead-reckoning alone when those calls were made, and not a sunrise LOP / offset reading?

I think this is a list of all of the transmissions heard from the aircraft during the flight.

It seems to me that the "200 mile" message couldn't have been from a dawn sighting; it was logged at Howland 3 minutes before the sun rose there.  AE and FN's local dawn would have to be at least a few minutes later than Howland's.

The "100 mile" message might be after FN had done some chart work with the dawn LOP.

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Might then FN have resorted to a belated sun-shot to establish a LOP in haste - realizing he could not know how far south or north he was (and having to rely on dead-reckoning to believe he was "close")?

I think not.  Drawing lines on his chart on the basis of celestial observations was not an emergency measure; it was Fred's job.

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If so, how much error might be caused by a later-morning sun-shot under their flying circumstances?

You may assign as large an error bar as you like.  Just make assumptions about visibility, troubles with instruments, exhaustion, hangovers, and ordinary human lapses in judgment.  How big do you want the error bar to be?

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None of that can really blow a hole in the logic we have seen put together to-date, but if we find ourselves having to 'rethink' things at some point then maybe some of these wandering wonderings will apply.  Still, I am beginning to believe that AE and FN realized all too late how very lost they may have been after a night of assuming that all would be well with the RDF approach for too long into the flight.

They were assuming that the RDF would work from the time they left Oakland.  If they had thought more about the technical difficulties, we wouldn't be here today talking about them. 
LTM,

           Marty
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Earhart's Electra found in Papua New Guinea?
« Reply #44 on: September 13, 2010, 06:42:34 PM »

... I still wonder how much FN really drew on his charts with the assumptions they had about the RDF ...

He had to get them within radio range in order that:

  • They could talk to the Itasca.
  • The DF equipment (on land or on the plane) would have a chance of getting a bearing.
  • They would have sufficient fuel to fly the bearing given by the Itasca or worked out by AE and FN.

I'm moderately confident that Fred didn't say, "Fly east until we can hear Howland.  Then we'll get a bearing from them and fly thataway until land comes in sight."

The 1812 GMT transmission suggests that Fred was hard at work before they were aware of any radio emergency.  AE says that they are about "100 miles out" and asks for a bearing.

The 1910-1912 GMT transmission is where AE indicates that they can't hear the Itasca. 

At 2013 GMT, she reports that they are on "the line."  She doesn't say how long they've been on it. 

I don't see any evidence that Fred wasn't on the job, doing what he was supposed to do.  If there hadn't been a failure to communicate (a complex problem with many factors--an accident chain that began long before the last flight), they would have gotten to Howland.
LTM,

           Marty
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