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Author Topic: Similar circumstances?  (Read 9839 times)

Don Yee

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Similar circumstances?
« on: August 07, 2021, 05:19:47 PM »

Should the Nikumaroro hypothesis be supported then the Electra likely slid or was carried off the beach/reef into the surf, where it either floated or sunk (and then perhaps "flew" some distance) and was either broken apart and the parts scattered over a large area of arrived largely intact on the bottom.

Given that underwater searches have proven inconclusive, I'm wondering if TIGHAR has ever investigated other similar circumstances for a known aircraft? I'm mostly thinking about WWII aircraft that crashed near shore and were later carried deeper. Given the vast number of planes that crashed in WWII (especially in the Pacific theater) it would seem like there would be some other examples that could shed light on the fate of the Electra.

Also, has any underwater modeling been done to simulate the movement of the plane off shore? It would seem useful to examine tides, water velocity, and underwater topography, to get a hint at a direction and potential resting place for the aircraft. I'm guessing some or all of this had been done but I've not seen anything specific about it.

Thanks,
Don...

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Greg Daspit

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2021, 07:29:33 PM »

How straight could it "fly" underwater?  Wouldn't a spiral be more likely with any kind of damage to the wing or tail? Or having only one landing gear still attached?

If it floated some distance away then Ballard, or someone else, has a a chance of finding it eventually. The logic being the plane is in a big piece so modern technology can find it. I would like to see data on how long it should take to sink. Both right side up and inverted. And assuming the tail may already be filled before the rest of the plane is in deep water.

If broken up near shore, then the pieces may be covered by coral. From a Tighar bulletin: "The debris field identified by Jeff Glickman is on a moderate slope near the base of a cliff amid apparent coral debris from landslides" I think the evidence is it broke up and pieces are close. Not finding it before could mean its pieces are covered up. Some technology that can detect pieces underneath coral may be needed in that case. Or luck that other landslides may uncover pieces.

I like the "Land and Sank" hypothesis. It describes what happened and the oddity of the sequence in that phrase is why it wasn't found in 1937. Evidence the plane landed being ignored because searchers didn't see it. They couldn't comprehend that it sank after landing.

I think the most similar circumstance is the Monospar Croydon ST-18

3971R
 
« Last Edit: August 07, 2021, 07:52:51 PM by Greg Daspit »
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Jon Romig

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2021, 10:29:57 PM »

The evidence that we have, although inconclusive, does seem to point to a breakup on the reef. To my knowledge we have the following data points that suggest the Electra did not just float away:

1. Nessie
2. Wheel seen in the Tatiman Passage
3. Emily Sikuli seeing aircraft parts on the reef
4. 2-2-V-1
5. The dado
6. Numerous pieces of aircraft(?) aluminum

The highest tides during the relevant period do not appear capable of floating the plane (although they may have swung the tail around), except with the help of substantial wave action (I wish I had precise numbers for this assertion - how high would waves have to be to float the Electra - maybe that’s a new project). In any case the Electra almost certainly did not float smoothly away into the ocean on a high but gentle tide. Rather the Electra likely experienced a very rough ride across the reef, banging in the troughs, leaning or tumbling on the crests, with wheels (and later props and wings and other protuberances) getting stuck in fissures or troughs in the coral and likely damaged or torn off.

The Electra was not watertight so - initially partly submerged - she would have taken on water and been quite heavy, if still somewhat buoyant because of the fuel tanks. The added weight, however, would only have made for a rougher ride and more damage.

Because of the shape of waves, objects that are lighter than water get pushed towards the shore. It is only when they get heavy, waterlogged or filled with water that their movement in the surf tends to be away from shore. So it is likely that the Electra was initially pushed farther onto the reef while being damaged enough to eventually lose buoyancy and be dragged toward the reef edge, and eventually into deeper water.

This scenario (if true) inevitably concludes with substantial damage to the airframe in the surf at the edge of the reef, with the wreck likely now too heavy to float but lingering, caught in the heavy wave action in the big gulleys and crevasses at the reef edge.

More searching with magnetometers offshore and downslope of the landing site might turn up the wreckage, as suggested by Greg hidden in the coral wrack at the foot of the cliff.

Jon

Jon Romig 3562R
 
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Don Yee

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2021, 07:27:39 AM »

You raise some good points Jon.
One of the things I don't understand is how did the plane break up and not float while also leaving a landing gear behind in an upright position.

I assumed that the wheel was left after the plane floated and the wave movement caused it to sheer off (wheel gets stuck in reef, tide floats the plane and eventually the two separate, leaving the gear behind). If the waves didn't reach a height to do this, and instead the constant buffeting of the wave caused metal fatigue that snapped off the gear it would seem that the plane would have fallen onto the gear (or the friction would have at least bent the gear so it was no longer in the landing position). As this does not appear to be the case (at least for one of the gear assembly) I assumed (again, perhaps wrongly) that the plane and gear separated while the plane was floating (or at least not with the whole weight of the plane on it).

Although I'm not advocating that the entire plane floated away wholesale, I do find it hard to understand how if the plane broke up on or near the reef how more of it didn't float back to shore. I understand a lot has happened in the time since the event, and that pieces may have floated into shore then back out to sea or were buried, but as of now there appears to only be one piece of aluminum identified from a plane containing many hundreds of square feet of material. 
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2021, 09:18:04 AM »

Good discussion. The next issue of TIGHAR Tracks as currently planned, will feature three articles/papers:
• What happened to the Plane?
• What Happened to Fred?
• Lost In Translation (a discussion of cultural factors that influence the credibility and accuracy of the several accounts we have of airplane wreckage seen at Nikumaroro)

To answer a few of the questions raised by Don, Jon and Greg:
Don - "I'm wondering if TIGHAR has ever investigated other similar circumstances for a known aircraft?"
As Greg pointed out, we have one example of a plane being landed on a reef.  See Better Than Average Luck
Whether that plane was ultimately washed off the reef is not clear.
During WWII planes did land or crash on reefs but they didn't last long. I'm aware of no occasion when an aircraft landed on a reef was washed off, and floated away to sink in deep water.

Jon - "..the Electra likely experienced a very rough ride across the reef, banging in the troughs, leaning or tumbling on the crests, with wheels (and later props and wings and other protuberances) getting stuck in fissures or troughs in the coral and likely damaged or torn off."
The landing gear in the Bevington Photo is wrecked.  The fork has pulled out of the oleo strut and the worm gear has cut through the tire. The brake line may be the only thing holding the whole mess together. The scenario that makes the most sense to me is that waves big enough to float the plane surge across the reef, lifting the plane and setting it downward enough to collapse the gear.  The plane, now on its belly on the reef gets pushed around and the gear comes apart and separates from the airframe in much the same way as it did in the Luke Field accident.  At some point the wrecked gear assembly gets jammed in one of the grooves in the reef edge.

I'm not convinced that the "debris field" Jeff Glickman saw in the ROV video is not just coral, but there is far more evidence to support the hypothesis that the plane broke up close to the reef edge than there is to support the "floated away" theory.

Don - " I do find it hard to understand how if the plane broke up on or near the reef how more of it didn't float back to shore."

But much of it did float back to shore.

Jon cites:
"1. Nessie
2. Wheel seen in the Tatiman Passage
3. Emily Sikuli seeing aircraft parts on the reef
4. 2-2-V-1
5. The dado
6. Numerous pieces of aircraft(?) aluminum"

And there's more than that. I have a pretty good idea exactly what Emily saw.




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Don Yee

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2021, 01:16:30 PM »

Thanks Ric. This is great info.
I do wonder about the engines. What's the hypothesis there? I can see them being more or less where they fell, perhaps locked into coral close to the beach. Otherwise I'm assuming they took a long tumble down the underwater mountain and it's up to and ROV to find them.

Don...
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James Champion

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2021, 05:33:25 PM »

My thought is that initially as the tide came in the tail would have filled with water. There are waves on top of any incoming tide. As the tide came in more, the fuselage fuel tanks would have enough buoyancy to attempt to float the tail wheel off the reef at the top of each wave. But this can't happen as the tail and horz stabilizer are filled - a big heavy sea anchor. With each successive wave there is a negative bending load on the rear of the fuselage at the top of each wave, followed by a positive bending load at the trough. After a few dozen waves, the fuselage snaps - somewhere aft of the main tanks. The electra may have already been stressed here. Tighar already has some evidence of a rough landing at Miami resulting in the need to remove the window and cover with new skin - an attempt to strengthen the fuselage?

After this initial breaking of the fuselage, subsequent breakup is somewhat a guess. Waves hitting the end of the broken fuselage could have pressurized the cabin and popped-out cockpit windows, which might explain 2-3-V-2 (curved pexiglas). But, if just the tail section remained later in the reef area it could explain what later colonists found, reused, and the later individual stories Tighar documented.  2-2-V-1 being possibly the window patch, may have been freed by this event or have remained with the tail to eventually end up on the island. The fatigued edge of 2-2-V-1 may have been later wave action.

Just some thoughts I've had over time.
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Bill Mangus

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2021, 11:08:15 AM »

I have long thought the bright objects in the 1953 aerial recon photographs of the reef flat on the north side of the lagoon entrance are the possible remains of the outboard wing sections, the horizontal stabilizer and/or the twin vertical stabilizers/rudders.  (See Tighar Tracks Volume 35, Number 2, page 7).  These flat surfaces would likely have not remained attached to the main fuselage for very long as wave action shoved the aircraft around on the reef and they then migrated south over time.  I don't think its known if the colonists salvaged these pieces or if the continued either into the lagoon or went across the lagoon entrance in the same direction as 2-2-V-1, towards the landing channel.  There are stories of aluminum pieces being seen/recovered on the shore of the lagoon across from the entrance.

« Last Edit: August 10, 2021, 11:29:16 AM by Bill Mangus »
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Don Yee

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2021, 03:15:05 PM »

My thought is that initially as the tide came in the tail would have filled with water. There are waves on top of any incoming tide. As the tide came in more, the fuselage fuel tanks would have enough buoyancy to attempt to float the tail wheel off the reef at the top of each wave. ...After a few dozen waves, the fuselage snaps - somewhere aft of the main tanks.

If this happened I wonder if Fred was left in the plane, and that's why no evidence of him has surfaced (skeleton, clothing, personal effects). If he was delirious with injury/thirst he would be difficult to extract (especially if Amelia was experiencing malnutrition or injuries by then).
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Bill Mangus

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2021, 11:10:26 PM »

Same thing could have happened if he was able to exit and collapsed on the way to the beach and the surf took him.
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Leon R White

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2021, 11:10:52 AM »

Perhaps the inhabitants were responsible for some of the dismantling - above shore or in shallow water?
L
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Don Yee

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2021, 08:26:13 AM »

In one of the radio broadcasts it was interpreted that Amelia was having difficulties with Fred, either due to his injuries, dehydration, or both. I could see a scenario where she was unable to remove him from the plane, either due to his having passed out and her physically unable to carry him, or his resisting her attempts to remove him. I could see her returning to the plane each day to send out broadcasts and him becoming more and more incapacitated until her succumbed and was eventually carried off when the plane broke up.

I'm more skeptical of him dying in the surf and being carried off by the waves. Why? I think he died before her. If so, it would be logical for her to scavenge him for any useful items (his belt, shoes, cloths). As none of those items has thus far been found we may assume none of Fred's items were at the camp site. Several items which could be attributed to her have been found (shoe, zipper tab, etc.) but as far as I know nothing that could be solely attributed to Fred. I know I'm speculating here and probably letting the movie Castaway inform my ideas. I wonder if he was injured in the crash and never left the plane.
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Bill Mangus

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2021, 10:45:23 AM »

If I'm remembering correctly, one of the credible radio messages was interpreted as Fred saying the "water's coming in", and him scrambling to get out. AE saying, "watch the battery" and then complaining about her ankle.

(See Tighar Tracks Volume 34, #2, August 2018, right hand column page 28, "Injuries" and page 29, right hand column under "Rising Water, Rising Anxiety".)

« Last Edit: August 20, 2021, 11:01:10 AM by Bill Mangus »
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Christian Stock

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2021, 02:13:12 PM »

From what I can see of the items found at the Seven Site, they very well all could have been contained in her cosmetic bag. I have found 1930's cosmetic bags, with talon zippers, made from beads and silk or rayon type of material, on ebay.

Small Talon Zipper - from cosmetic bag
Small bit of unknown fabric - also from cosmetic bag
Bead - from cosmetic bag
Compact and mirror
Pharmacy bottle
etc

This tells me that perhaps they lost the electra very quickly, possibly with Fred onboard. Maybe she had just her cosmetic bag, jack knife, and the clothes on her back.

It is also possible that the loss of the electra and the landing gear breaking off was from Fred attempting to take off again. He loses the gear, hitting a rut at high speed, then spins out into the surf off the ledge and into bolivia. Probably no way for him to even swim back to shore safely.
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Diego Vásquez

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Re: Similar circumstances?
« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2021, 06:58:10 PM »

He [Fred] loses the gear, hitting a rut at high speed, then spins out into the surf off the ledge and into bolivia.

I love it.  Just like Butch and Sundance, except instead of spinning off a ledge into bolivia like Fred, Butch and Sundance jumped off a ledge in Bolivia.  At least they did in the movie. 

Even more coincidental, Butch was rumored to have lived, returned to the U.S., lived under an assumed identity (not Irene Bolam) and died in Spokane in 1937 (of all years!) or maybe as late as 1941 in Utah.     



I want to believe.

Diego V.
 
« Last Edit: August 20, 2021, 06:59:41 PM by Diego Vásquez »
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