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Author Topic: How Did the Castaways Build Fires  (Read 52770 times)

Don Dollinger

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #45 on: January 20, 2011, 08:51:03 AM »

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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.

Now it makes perfect sense why she would want to move to the other end of the island!  Too get away from the stench of FN's rotting body. ???

LTM

Don
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Dan Swift

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #46 on: January 31, 2011, 01:05:49 PM »

Remember the "knob" artifact.  Look at the cap on the top of this lighter fluid can from the 1930's. 
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Bruce Thomas

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #47 on: January 31, 2011, 04:46:53 PM »

I don't think the can was definitively identified down to the product it contained.  Only that the closure was of that type.  So there might have only been one can, with an unknown product.  Could have been lighter fluid ... could have been oil for cleaning rifle bores ... whatever.
LTM,

Bruce
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Thom Boughton

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #48 on: January 31, 2011, 11:22:35 PM »

I'm afraid I'm with Bruce on this one.  That can was popular with a number of manufacturers.  Indeed I can remember an identical can as that one kicking about my own home during the entire time I was growing up.  Only, in our case the can was a Three-In-One Oil can.


....TB
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Lars Chr. Ødegaard

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #49 on: February 01, 2011, 12:30:56 PM »

Maybe they could have used any remaining fuel from the plane to start a fire? If they had time to be in the plane to send radio calls for hours, i guess they would have plenty of time to drain some fuel from the tanks as well. A rag or a piece of clothing soaked in gas would be very easy to ignite compared to other things discussed in this thread.
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Walter Runck

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #50 on: February 01, 2011, 01:55:21 PM »

The only ID of 2-6-S-45 was the patent (US 1891826) under which it was manufactured.  This was for a cap with an integral spout similar to what is still used today for stuff that you don't want to risk leaking out (inflammables) or expose to air (glue).  There is no mention of prior art on the application, so if this is the original patent for the style of packaging where you have to remove the cap, cut the tip off, dispense and then reseal if there's any left, the guy had a pretty good idea that lives on to this day.

The inventor (Edward McGinniss) worked for and assigned the patent to the Consolidated Fruit Jar Company, one of the early manufacturers of Mason jars.  They were in the business of selling packaging, not contents, so it would have been one of their customers (we don't know which) or their packager who put the cap on a particular product.  This means that we do not know what was in the container that 2-6-S-45 was placed on.  It is supportive of the hypothesis that the cap had something to do with starting fires that the patent application described the invention as "especially adapted for use on containers in which highly volatile or dangerous liquids and gases are contained...", but it is not conclusive.

Concerning the shape variations noted in The Knob that Wasn't, the final form of 2-6-S-45 would also have been determined by the content manufacturer or bottler as opposed to CFJ.  The McGinniss patent covers multiple methods of attaching the cap to the container and two of them, threading and "clamping" are illustrated.  According to http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Research/Bulletins/38_SecretsKnob/knob1.html, 2-6-S-45 does not exhibit evidence of threading.  The clamping method (what I would call crimping, swaging or rolling the cap on) would have the cap start with a fairly smooth, straight, cylindrical ID as the mating surface and a straight or more likely curved OD of the container spout.  The container is filled, the cap placed on the spout (probably with a seal between them) and a tool or machine would compress the cap around the spout, providing mechanical closure and fluid integrity to the package.

I don't know what kind of device was used to install this particular cap; a product in high volume production would probably have had automated equipment on the packaging line, but specialty items might have been done manually with a hand tool.  Either way is going to deform the soft metal of the cap, but the strike marks would vary with the type of machine, from tool to tool, line to line, time to time as jaws wear, operator to operator on a manual line or by simple process variation.  You can see these marks in the pictures of other products with the same type of cap.  It seems that the knurling that originally contributed to the knoblike appearance may be a result of the closure process, rather than the cap manufacturing itself.  The Permatex can shows the knurling well below the shoulder of the cap, while on 2-6-S-45 you can see them in the view looking down from above the spout. You might be able to match the final shape of 2-6-S-45 up with some antique, but it's not going to tell you anything other than two old caps ended up looking the same.  At most this would be supportive that they were closed by the same method, extremely doubtful that any conclusions regarding content could be reached.  Remember that you have to eliminate all of the impossibles for the improbable to be a known truth.

So much for research, now some speculation.  Start with the type of cap chosen by the product manufacturer.  He had a choice: threaded or crimped.   Setting aside cost and other considerations, let's focus just on product utility and safety for a moment.  The main difference between these methods is that the end user can remove and replace a threaded cap, but not a crimped one.  If you have a product where you might want to use a little bit at a time (a drop of oil for a squeaky hinge) or a lot in a hurry (pour some oil into a lube reservoir on a piece of machinery), the threaded cap makes sense.  Take the small cap off for just a squirt or unscrew the whole thing if you're in a hurry, sort of a two-speed dispensing device.  If, on the other hand, you have a product that is expected to be used only in small amounts or where you don't expect anyone to want to get it all out at once (any suggestions class?) or perhaps are worried about the lid accidentally coming loose because of a danger associated with the contents (anyone, anyone?), then a crimped cap would be a better choice, allowing small amounts to be dispensed until the container was empty, and then disposed of.  Kind of like you would want for a can of ligh...

OBJECTION!, he's leading the witnesses!  SUSTAINED!

OK, that's enough fun.  My apologies to the court.  Now how about some questions?

1.  What happened to the container? 

I originally wrote this as "Where is the container", but that wording supposes that it still exists and I don't know that it does. I/we need to discipline my/our thinking to stay true to the scientific method so I redid the question to fit what we know and not include anything that is supposition.  Well, OK, I quess it's supposition that the cap was on a container when it reached the island and not carried by someone as a bird whistle or other stand-alone use.  How many possible answers to this question can the forum come up with?  I've got a couple, but will refrain so as not to influence the unspoiled thinking of others.

2.  What was in it?   Volatility of contents would impact whether anything was left to analyze, either on the cap or if a compatible container is found.  If someone in survival mode carried it from the NW side of the island, it probably had a place in their plan.  Supposition, I know, but without some degree of rational person on the island, how would a fire ever have been started?

3.  Why was it broke?  Lots of room for speculation here!

4.  Where is the rest of it?  The spout and the small cap might still be out there.

5.  What could it contribute to our understanding of AE/FN?  Probably just that it fits with the general Niku hypothesis.  You could find a receipt for a can of 3 in 1 Oil from a New Guinea drugstore with Amelia's signature on it or film of Fred getting into the plane at Lae with a can of lighter fluid in his hand and still not be able to prove that 2-6-S-45 wasn't from a can of Coast Guard gun oil. 


Threads spawned:

Consolidated Fruit Jar Company.  Do they still exist, are there any pre-1937 customer records available?  Any known fluid sponsors of the flight, Lockheed or P&W manufacturers recommendations for lubes, known product preferences of AE/FN or other principals?  Any ties from this type of info to products known to have used this packaging?  Has anyone found a threaded cap with this patent number?

Has any thin gauge steel similar to what a small can would have been made from dating from the same period been found on Niku?  Corrosion of untreated ferrous metals in hot humid climates with high chloride levels is usually pretty aggressive (surf is vicious stuff, look what's left of SS Norwich City after 80 years).  But the steel tank with Tarawa police marking is from the same time frame, no?  Maybe something still to find at the Seven Site?

Smoking habits?  Don't know if AE smoked, but lots of people are particular about what, when and how they smoke.  Was Fred a Lucky Strikes (green label before WWII) guy?  Always have a Zippo with him?  Wasn't there a lighter found by the small inlet?  Does lighter fluid take nail polish off?  Prevent freckles?  Probably not on that last one, but I only know what I know, and for all I know, it might.

Anyway, this is fun stuff and my thanks to those that brought the discussion this far along.



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Mona Kendrick

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #51 on: February 01, 2011, 08:36:27 PM »



Smoking habits?

[/quote]

Well, at least there's one question in your post that's easy to answer.  FN was a smoker.  AE was not.

LTM,
Mona
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Walter Runck

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #52 on: February 01, 2011, 10:12:26 PM »


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1.  What happened to the container?

Do you know what material the container was made from?


[/quote]
The container was made from 28 gauge (about 0.015 inch thick) mild steel with a 1-2 mil layer of tin electroplating on both sides.  It was an oval can, 2 1/8" wide by 3 2/3" high and held 3 US fluid oz.  Made by either the American Can Company of Chicago or Crown Cork and Seal of Batavia, IL.  Not sure what it held, but the can was painted with a red, yellow and white label.

I know this because I found an old can with the same cap on eBay.  Plus it came to me in a dream.  Good enough for the benzene ring, good enough for me!

Seriously, the answer is no, I don't know what material the container was made of.  None of us know and we won't know unless we find it, which will be difficult if it doesn't exist anymore.  But we can ponder it a little and see where our thoughts take us.

To me, the curious question of the cap is:

How did the container vanish without the cap being severely distorted in the process?

Start with the container material.  Two candidates are steel and glass.  Let's take glass first.

Glass is plentiful, cheap and was in wide use for packaging at the time.  It’s also brittle and dense, so it gets heavy by the time it’s thick enough to have any strength.  One thing it’s got in common with lead is chemical stability, so if you want to bring some sulfuric acid on your flight around the world, a glass bottle with a lead cap would be a good candidate.  I don’t like the geometry of this, though.  If the OD of the cap is about 5/8 “, and the bottle neck thickness was enough to have some strength and impact resistance, there isn’t a lot of diameter left for a hole through which to pour.

Regardless of how good a container a glass bottle with this cap on it would be, we are now at the interesting question.  What happened to the bottle?  If it was empty and someone wanted to use the bottle as a container, the issue is removing the cap without damaging the bottle.  Lead is nice and malleable; it wouldn’t take much of a tool to pry the skirt of rolled-over crimp material up and remove the cap, if you have a tool.  If you don’t have a tool, you become the tool.  Fingernails or teeth would probably get the cap off, but with a lot of deformation (teethprints anyone?, dental records, photogrammetry of publicity-shot smiles?).    This way is, by definition, going to deform the cap and 2-6-S-45 doesn’t show evidence of this kind of mechanical trauma.  You might try pulling on the spout to get the whole cap off.  That might work, but it might just break the spout off.  Lead also has a low melting point, so you could heat it up and hope that you don’t lose the bottle in the process.  Place your bets and take your chances.

Conversely, if you wanted the cap and didn’t care about the bottle, break it and shake it.  No tools needed and you’ve got a lovely little lead funnel/shot glass/ fishing weight/???  along with some glass shards.

How about a hybrid of the above?  You want a nice sharp piece of glass for something.   Break and shake, then throw the cap away and hope you ended up with a piece of glass that suits your purpose.

Got a gun?  Shoot the glass out from under the cap!  William Tell’s evil twin!

Whatever the motivation or course of events, both the lead and the glass would be durable enough to survive 70 years of atmospheric exposure, which is unavoidable.  Less certain is whether an intact bottle would remain in place or be scavenged by a colonist, used as a target or float away during a high water event.  I didn’t see any details about the circumstances the artifact was found under, but it seems like there was some glass located at the site.  Any chance of a match?

Now to the steel possibility.  Most of the contemporaneous items these caps are found on are steel, probably tinplate, cans holding a few ounces of refined liquids.  Oil, white gas or lighter fluid and the type of specialty products envisioned by the caps inventor seem to be most common product.  More pedestrian products wouldn’t rate such a specialized cap.  I have a can of gun oil, probably from the 1940s or 50s in a steel can with a similar style but different manufacture cap.  No signs of corrosion, but it hasn’t been in the same environment.

I went back and reread the first bulletin on 2-6-S-45 and the NDT work done at the Naval Academy reported a steel ring inside the “knob”, along with corrosion products on the outside that helped to obscure the markings.  The presence of a steel ring didn’t seem too weird if the item was a knob for adjusting something, but to find a steel ring inside an item that was designed to be deformed during the crimping process is puzzling if not downright counterintuitive.

If you wanted to get a lead cap off of a steel can so you could use the can, you’ve got pretty much the same situation as with the glass bottle and the tools, except that a steel can could take more abuse and still function.  Removing the cap without damaging it, however, is a bit of a challenge, unless you have a lot of time and some chemistry available.

So where are we now?  We have a lead cap with a steel ring inside it, but no indication of the container it once sealed.  A cap made of a very stable metal with corrosion products on it with no obvious driving force for the corrosion.  Or do we have something a little different?
 
Rather than a lead cap that was cast around a steel ring or had one pressed into it, perhaps we have a lead cap with a ring of steel still inside it.  The remains of a steel can?   I’d be curious to see some details of the steel to see if it appears to be the rim of a spout.  If the lower edges of the steel indicate failure by rust penetration, then it seems like we have a steel can that has oxidized itself into oblivion, or at least oxidized itself into separation from its cap.

Lead forms an oxide layer very quickly when exposed to air, much like aluminum.  It is this layer that then protects the base metal.  I am not enough of a chemist to know whether lead in contact with iron would form corrosion products without any real electrolyte other than salt spray, but perhaps someone else could comment on this.

Curiously, the leading contenders for the contents of the can would likely have opposite effects on its post-consumer lifespan.  Some sort of oil or lubricant would act as a preservative, while a naptha-based lighter fluid would volatilize rapidly and leave the surface free of petroleum or other oils that might protect it.

In my mind, the most likely scenario is that a can of lighter fluid comes to the island, is used up and someone tries to take the cap off by prying/pulling on the spout, which breaks off and is lost or discarded.  The can is discarded, the cap rusts off with a ring of can spout material still embedded inside and the rest of the can either rusts, floats or is carried away.  The cap survives to be found 64 years later, and people all over the world relax in the evenings by pondering things that aren’t real important, but offer a chance to exercise the brain.  Beats Sudoku any day.

Regardless of the container material, you end up with a couple of known knowns , and a big pile of known unknowns.  Life is like that, but if you’re careful to put things in the right pile to start with, they tend to migrate to the smaller pile as you keep thinking about them.  Just make sure to keep the unknowns from sneaking in to the known pile.


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Dan Swift

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Re: How Did the Castaways Build Fires
« Reply #53 on: February 02, 2011, 09:02:30 AM »

To your great post about the different purposes of the caps and the spout caps:  One could speculate that the cap was removed from the can of flamable liquid as it ran out.  This is a natural action, to take of the cap exposing the larger hole to be sure you get the last drop.....building your last fire....at least with this starter. 
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