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Author Topic: How Did the Castaways Build Fires  (Read 55847 times)

Mark Petersen

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #30 on: January 07, 2011, 04:25:54 PM »

For what it's worth, I dug into Sextant optical designs and found out that a Brandis sextant (presumably what FN used) uses a small Galilean optical telescope (http://sextantbook.com/2009/05/30/a-byrd-sextant-restored/).  Galilean telescopes are notable because they use a second optical element in the telescope tube in addition to the main objective lens.  This second optical element magnifies the image and also presents an erect (right-side up) image in much the same way that a Barlow lens does the same thing with a standard refracting telescope.  So I think that Ross is probably mistaken that the image orientation is reversed with a sextant, at least for the Brandis sextant in the link above.  It also implies that there is no use for an erecting eyepiece with a Brandis sextant (also contradicting what Ross has said).  Why?  Because it's highly unlikely that someone would want to take a right side up image and reverse it knowing that the image would also be degraded in the process.   

Despite the fact that a Galilean telescope does not reverse the image, it doesn't mean that it can't still be used with an inverting eyepiece.  Inverting eyepieces are often used with erecting lenses such as a Barlow lens and I suspect that the eyepiece used with this Brandis would belong to the class of eyepieces known as an "inverting eyepiece" (even though the image is not inverted - dang talk about a poorly chosen name).  Since Gallagher didn't find a Sextant he had no way of knowing the optical design of the sextant, but his term "inverting eyepiece" seems consistent with how astronomers use the term.  Because of historical reasons this terminology is also consistent with other optical fields such as microscopy. 

Btw, there is a comprehensive list of inverting eyepiece designs that can be found in the link below.  Most of these eyepiece designs are very familiar to astronomers and are considered to be a standard eyepiece type as opposed to erecting lenses which reverse but degrade the image (there is the confusing terminology again). 
http://www.brayebrookobservatory.org/BrayObsWebSite/BOOKS/EVOLUTIONofEYEPIECES.pdf

Now that I think about it, knowing the type of eyepiece that Gallagher found could have implications in the FN/AE disappearance.  If we assume for a second that Gallagher had no understanding of telescope designs and used the term "inverting eyepiece" based on seeing a reversed image (note, I think he would need the full optical tube to see the reversal but lets run with this thought), it would imply that he found an erecting lens and therefore that the sextant wasn't a Brandis (again assuming that I'm correct that a reversing (ie erecting) eyepiece is not needed and wouldn't have been offered as an accessory with a Brandis). 

It could also have implications from a fire starting perspective.  An inverting eyepiece focuses light from one side of the eyepiece to a specific spot on the other side of the eyepiece (based on the focal length of the eyepiece) in much the same way as a magnifying glass.  If the aperture is large enough, it can easily have enough intensity to start a fire (particularly in the tropics).  I'm not as sure that erecting eyepieces share this trait.  I'll check a Barlow that I have at home but I don't think that it focuses light in the same way.   

Anyway, please take all of this with a grain of salt as I'm not a sextant expert.  But as an amateur astronomer, I am familiar with inverting eyepieces :)

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Monty Fowler

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #31 on: January 07, 2011, 08:01:31 PM »

Getting back to the task at hand, building fires without matches or lighter - yes, it can be done, IF you are 1) patient, 2) patient, 3) patient, 4) patient ... see a pattern here? Oh, and a little training and experience is basically a must.

"Rubbing two sticks together" so beloved of the movies is, ummm, a bear of a way to start fires. The castaways would have had to have located a very dry piece of wood to use as the base board to create an ember, and then all the other parts (spindle, etc.), and it takes a lot of time if you don't know what you're doing, like maybe all day. And they had a lot of other things to do too.

Using a magnifying glass, binocular lens, inverting eyepiece, etc., can work fine, again, IF you have the presence of mind to get the right kind of fine, dry tinder material to focus the sunbeam on. The inside of coconut husks works well, dunno about ren trees or scaevola. It has to be very finely divided and absolutely dry.

Sparks are good (the old flint and steel from pioneer movies) if you think of sparking two wires from a storage battery together over some bone-dry tinder, or if you're really smart, and prepared, using a fine steel wool pad and a couple of flashlight batteries works great. If you have been trained to know to do that. I do not think you could get a good spark from a knife blade on coral rock.

Once you finally get a fire going, of course, the easiest way to start a new one is to Never, Ever let the old one go out! Which could account for all of the fires at the 7 site, in addition to keeping crabs at bay, it may be a reflaction of just moving the fire site around to take advantage of fuel sources or something like that. If you are already wek from heat exhaustion, not enough water, etc., dragging in firewood from all over is a pain. It's easier to just take some of the old fire to a new source of fuel.

My 2 cents as a former Boy Scout and ex-pyromaniac.
Ex-TIGHAR member No. 2189 E C R SP, 1998-2016
 
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #32 on: January 09, 2011, 10:35:39 AM »

Things might be simpler if an old match box or one of those water proof match tubes had been found, but given the thoroughness of TIGHAR's archeology on the ground, that possibility is essentially exhausted ...

So far as I know, our lead archaeologist, Dr. Tom King, has not finished writing his final report on "Rolling Thunder."  My impression is that he would not say that there is nothing left to be found from the castaway, only that the artifacts to be found by current techniques have found what is findable in the area that was covered in Niku VI.  I'm moderately confident that he would like to expand the search area, if time, funds, and diggers were available to do so.  Even then, the argument about how much confidence to place in the final results of such a thorough search would still depend on assumptions that are essentially untestable at this late date.  IF TIGHAR has located the area where the bones were found, and IF the Rolling Thunder technique is applied to the whole area used by the castaway, then the odds are very high that all relevant artifacts will have come to light. 

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It always did strike me as odd that an 'inverting eye piece' (some sort of lens) was found in a campsite - the context suggesting that someone was probably trying to do exactly what has been suggested here. 

I sometimes worry about where the rest of the sextant went.  Did someone discard it on the plane while packing a survival kit?  Was it abandoned at the first campsite?  Is it on land or in the water now?

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Of course we also now know there were fires started by some means - and have no reason, given the absence of the little creatures, that the castaway(s) had planned to toast ants... ; )


We probably should not attribute all of the fire features to the castaway.  IF the Seven Site is where the bones were found and the skull buried, some of the fire features probably come from the castaway.  Others may have come from the workers who cleared and searched the area; others from honeymooning lovers or turtle hunters; still others, possibly, from Coast Guard personnel; etc.
LTM,

           Marty
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Mark Petersen

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #33 on: January 09, 2011, 09:25:54 PM »

We probably should not attribute all of the fire features to the castaway.  IF the Seven Site is where the bones were found and the skull buried, some of the fire features probably come from the castaway.  Others may have come from the workers who cleared and searched the area; others from honeymooning lovers or turtle hunters; still others, possibly, from Coast Guard personnel; etc.

Because of the remoteness of the location of the 7-site and the island itself, I would guess that the number of fires lit by someone other than the castaway would be small.  I could see some of the workers/colonists possibly creating a fire and maybe someone from the Coast Guard, but not many others.  This seems like a key question to ask during the upcoming interviews with former colonists.  It's also a worthwhile question for any of the surviving Coasties.  If both groups say that they never heard of anyone creating fires on that part of the island then it raises the probability that most if not all of the fires were set by the castaway.

Along the same lines, one thing that I always found troubling is that all of the glass found at the 7-site was broken.  I doubt that the castaway would break the compact mirror and various other bottles that have been found.  So if not the castaway who else would break them?  The colonists seemed to want to reuse everything that they found and some nice bottles would have been more useful than senselessly breaking glass and leaving it on the ground.  I could see the Coasties finding bottles from a Castaway and then using them for target practice, so perhaps they were the ones.   Another good question to ask if another opportunity comes up to interview one or more of them.

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Ric Gillespie

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #34 on: January 11, 2011, 12:51:43 PM »

If the coasties were finding bottles from 1937 and doing target practice then would they not have gathered them up and made some sort of range?  I don't think the bottles are all in one place.

Excellent point, and one we hadn't thought of.

Also the bottles would show evidence of bullet strikes? (here in the UK we don't have general access to guns so i could be well off the mark)

A bottle struck by a bullet shatters.  I've never seen a mark on a shattered bottle that could be defined as the point where the bullet struck.

Do Tighar clean up the bottles, removing sootmarks and the such?  I should imagine that glassware when put in a fire will only have a finite life before heat stress causes it to shatter.

No, we don't clean up anything, even our language.
 
A thought! could fragile fire burned glassware have been trampled on and broken?

Hmmm...I don't know if heat makes glass more fragile.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #35 on: January 11, 2011, 01:46:01 PM »

The Freckle Cream jar does not look to me like it was shot.  More like dropped.  A shot glass container usually breaks into many small and widely scattered pieces.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #36 on: January 12, 2011, 11:05:33 AM »

Interesting.  The bottoms of both bottle were quite melted, suggesting that they didn't break immediately.  Some experimentation may be in order.
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Thom Boughton

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #37 on: January 13, 2011, 12:56:50 AM »

From looking at the associated pics, the Freckle Cream jar (Artifact 2-9-S-1) seems a bit thicker than your average jar of the time.  Perhaps therefore they took longer to fail...allowing time for their bottoms to melt. 

Possibly the Castaway even got more than one usage cycle prior to failure?




.....TB
TIGHAR #3159R
 
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Nancy Marilyn Gould

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #38 on: January 13, 2011, 06:19:54 AM »

Wouldn't the freckle cream jar have been awfully small to use to boil water in?  That's the one thing that I've been wondering about.  All the bottles described sound like they were small.  Considering how much water you'd need in a day, it sounds like a lot of work for a very small amount of water.

Why wouldn't rainwater have been clean enough?
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Christophe Blondel

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #39 on: January 13, 2011, 02:49:50 PM »


I sometimes worry about where the rest of the sextant went.  Did someone discard it on the plane while packing a survival kit?  Was it abandoned at the first campsite?  Is it on land or in the water now?


Imagine (as many people did already) that Noonan died first. Navigation was his profession, and for that reason I cannot imagine that he would have abandoned his sextant. Having understood that, I imagine that if AE could give him a decent burial, maybe she did not want to take the sextant, which was of no further use for her (except for the eyepiece ...), away from his owner. So she kept the box, which was definitely useful to store the few items that could make her survival kit, and gently put the sextant into Fred's hands before closing the grave. This is the answer I would offer to your question : the sextant has been in Noonan's grave. May be a much too romantic hypothesis, but it is not inconceivable that we finally know ...

Unfortunately I cannot tell you whether this is on land or in water now.

Christophe Blondel
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Ted G Campbell

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #40 on: January 13, 2011, 07:34:20 PM »

Remember TIGHAR has found traces of residue in some of the broken jars.
Ted Campbell
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #41 on: January 13, 2011, 08:03:56 PM »

What were the dimensions/weight of the box? Why I ask is that if it is heavy and cumbersome then it is a possible indicator of a staged move to the Seven Site from the landing location.  It would appear from the Luke field inventory that there were more light weight and carriable holders than a wooden box.

The British didn't record the dimensions of the box they found.

None of the [url-http://tighar.org/wiki/Sextant]sextant photos on the wiki[/url] show a scale.

I'd rate the boxes as extremely awkward to carry.

One advantage might be that it would be the best preserver for a diary of all of the containers available on the aircraft.

LTM,

           Marty
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Daniel Paul Cotts

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #42 on: January 13, 2011, 09:50:29 PM »

I checked the wiki and found http://tighar.org/wiki/File:Three_sextants.jpg that had three Brandis sextant boxes with a ruler beside them. A rough dimension would be 10 inches length and width. Depth unknown. One box slightly larger. Further searching of extant eBay links in the wiki to Brandis sextants found one description mentioning a box at 10 inches square. The boxes do have a metal carrying handle. The above is useful if the box found on Niku was a Brandis - which we don't know.
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Andrew M McKenna

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #43 on: January 13, 2011, 10:22:00 PM »

The Brandis Box I have is approx 10" x 10" by 5" deep, similar to the two sextants on the right in the link you found (mine is not pictured).  It does have a handle for carrying.  We don't know that the box found on Niku was a Brandis box, but we do know that the vast majority of pre war boxes with two numbers on them that we've been able to locate are Brandis boxes.  And, they match pretty well with Gallagher's description of the box - dovetail corners, black enamel paint from the sextant, two numbers, for example.

Andrew
« Last Edit: January 13, 2011, 10:27:53 PM by Andrew M McKenna »
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Nancy Marilyn Gould

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #44 on: January 18, 2011, 04:44:53 PM »

Which takes me a bit (more) off topic, perhaps, but just why do so many feel FN may not have made it as far as AE?  As I recall, messages suggested injury, for one.  Known skelatal remains now suggest 'a woman', too - so 'where did Fred go' seems fair game.  I've wondered if he lies buried somewhere up on the north end, left there by an AE who went trekking on to some place like the 7 site to make fires and hope for the best.

LTM -

Would AE have taken the trouble to bury FN?  That would be a tremendous amount of work, especially #1) without the right tools, and #2) without much water and risk of being dehydrated.

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