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Author Topic: 3 Problems with Niku hypothesis / inconsistencies  (Read 146968 times)

Terry Richard

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3 Problems with Niku hypothesis / inconsistencies
« on: April 02, 2011, 09:28:23 AM »

I've been working my way through the TIGHAR website, (I'm about half way through) and have read a couple of books on the subject (Fred Goerner's book, which I do not believe is credible, and Mary Lovell's The Sound of Wings) of the Amelia Earhart disappearance. The TIGHAR hypothesis seems very plausible to me, but, as I worked my way along, I began to notice some inconsistencies, some of which are troubling:

1. It has been suggested that Amelia and Fred may have survived for months. In another place, it is suggested that with daily temperatures at 120 degrees, they might not have lasted a the week until the search planes flew over. In “The Colonization of the Phoenix Islands” by H.E. Maude, he suggests that "The temperature averages about 82 degrees, with maxima and minima varying only a few degrees above and below this figure, and a variation of less than 3 degrees between the monthly means."

2. If Amelia landed at Gardner, presumably near the wreck of the Norwich City, she would have seen the wreck. I read somewhere that someone received a radio message to the effect: "We are on coral southwest of an unknown island". If she had mentioned in any of her radio transmissions the fact of the wreck, (even if she did not know the name of the wreck) the wreck's location would have been known, and would have helped searchers. The navy pilots would have been alert to the fact of a wreck, and would have paid special attention Gardner when they saw it.

3. In the Coast Guard report, the officer suggested that the radio direction finding bearings taken by Pan Am were 'doubtful'. This is inexplicable to me. I must believe that Pan Am was a reliable source, and since there was no other population in that area, with or without a radio, such transmission could only have come from the Electra. What do they mean, by 'doubtful'? Sounds to me like 'cover your butt'.

4. It took the Colorado a week to get to Gardner. Once the Pan Am triangulations suggested the Phoenix group, by about day three, the Itasca could have been there by day four. Day four might have been in time, when day seven was obviously not. I understand why the crew of the Itasca assumed that they were to the northwest, but when they were not found there, why did they not go southeast to the Phoenix group? Since they could have gotten there three days sooner, they might have been able to rescue the castaways. Isn't that what they do?

5. The aerial photo of Gardner shows surf on the eastern end of the island, from the easterly winds, but the western side would have been less subject to the effect of wind and surf. It has been suggested that the plane was not visible due to action of the wind and surf.

6. It has been suggested that tidal and wave and surf action could have pulled the Electra off the reef within a few days, yet it is also suggested that the colonists on Nikumaroro 'saw aircraft wreckage'.

Terry Richard
« Last Edit: April 02, 2011, 11:34:08 AM by Terry Richard »
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2011, 10:39:40 AM »

Dear "Nomad,"

I'll be happy to answer your questions but you'll have to tell us who you are.  As you'll see from all of the other postings, this is an open, honest discussion and we don't respond to anonymous queries.
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david alan atchason

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2011, 10:44:02 AM »

I am very new to  TIGHAR and I have many questions about the likelihood of them being castaways. I can easily accept they couldn't find Howland and to their dismay sighted a wrong island, by now they were out of gas and had to put the plane down somewhere.

1) Why not KcKean? Wouldn't they have hit this island first?

2) What were their chances of surviving at all in a "crash" landing like Gardner? Or surviving with injuries and then unable to find sufficient water?

3) Did the plane catch fire?

4) How high were the tides? 5 ft, or maybe 10 ft? Was there heavy surf on west end at that time?

If the "Miracle on the Hudson" was only achievable by a highly skilled pilot like Sullenberger and even then was a very slim chance, how could an "average" skilled pilot like Amelia been able to pull this off?
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david alan atchason

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2011, 11:19:14 AM »

Sorry, I ran out of space in the reply box in last posting.

There must have been thousands of what I would term crash landings around WW2 in the Pacific. How many survived these and wound up on a deserted island as a castaway? Then survived that, too. Were seat belts in general use? Would someone like Amelia have bothered with them?

I'm guessing that very, very, few survived a landing like the Gardner hypotheses, especially w/o life raft or PFD which I'm assuming Amelia didn't have. It caught my attention that the co-pilot of the C-87 that crashed on Kanton survived, but "went through the windshield" , it shows what a water landing might have been like. Especially without seat belt. I could be completely wrong about this, I just haven't read these issues addressed.I intend to find out, though.

Of course, none of this disproves anything about the hypotheses.  I also have some quibbles about the shoes issue, which I understand has been downgraded. I wouldn't assume for sure that a woman was wearing the shoe. I have at least once bought women's tennis shoes and worn them for running because at the time it was a bargain at the shoe outlet. I would even wear 2 different shoes if one of my shoes was damaged. Probably wouldn't wear 2 lefts, though. But I'm thinking a very poor islander would be glad to wear any shoe that vaguely fit if he got it for free and needed shoes. This is not like contemporary USA where we return our shoes to Walmart if they pinch a little.

I don't know what Amelia generally brought on her flights, especially in light of her throwing out direction finder because of the weight. Freckle cream? Does anybody know?
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2011, 11:44:37 AM »

1) Why not McKean? Wouldn't they have hit this island first?

I don't know what they would have done.  No one can say what they would have done.  McKean is a bit off the LOP. It's much smaller than Gardner and has no big turquoise lagoon - typically the first thing you see when trying to spot an atoll from the air. If they did see and investigate McKean they probably weren't impressed.  There's no place there to put an airplane down without a major wreck. They might well have decided to keep looking and come back to it only as a last resort but my personal guess is that they never saw it.

2) What were their chances of surviving at all in a "crash" landing like Gardner? Or surviving with injuries and then unable to find sufficient water?

I can't answer your question.  I don't think anyone can.  What I CAN tell you is that I have walked around many times on the section of reef where the available evidence suggests the plane was landed. At low tide the reef surface is either dry or has only a skim of water.  I'm a commercial/instrument/multi-engine pilot with over 5,000 hours including significant time in heavy, tall-wheel twins.  In my opinion it would be entirely possible to land a Lockheed 10 on that reef at low tide with little or no damage.

3) Did the plane catch fire?

If the post-loss radio distress calls are legitimate (and they are) there was no fire.

4) How high were the tides? 5 ft, or maybe 10 ft? Was there heavy surf on west end at that time?

At high tide on July 2, 1937 (about 3.5 hours after AE & FN could have arrived) there was .6 meter (about 18 inches) of standing water on the reef.   The highest tide prior to July 9 when the Colorado search planes flew over was on the morning of July 7 at .9 meter (just shy of 3 feet).  We have no way of knowing what the surf conditions were at the west end of the island but the Itasca and Colorado deck logs tells us that there was no significant weather in the area throughout the week following the disappearance.


If the "Miracle on the Hudson" was only achievable by a highly skilled pilot like Sullenberger and even then was a very slim chance, how could an "average" skilled pilot like Amelia been able to pull this off?

I don't think we need to postulate a Miracle on the Reef.  AE had a light airplane with huge tires and, if the wind was typical for that place, 10 to 15 knots on the nose.  The "runway" was either dry or had only a skim of water, long a wide enough, and probably smoother than some of the airfields she had landed on earlier during the world flight.
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Terry Richard

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2011, 11:52:58 AM »

I am very new to  TIGHAR and I have many questions about the likelihood of them being castaways. I can easily accept they couldn't find Howland and to their dismay sighted a wrong island, by now they were out of gas and had to put the plane down somewhere.

1) Why not KcKean? Wouldn't they have hit this island first?

Hello David. They might have hit McKean first, but if they were on a line for Gardner, McKean would have been about sixty miles off their course, and is a much smaller island.


2) What were their chances of surviving at all in a "crash" landing like Gardner? Or surviving with injuries and then unable to find sufficient water?

The landing at Gardner would not have been a "crash". The sea was at low tide at that time, and the reef surrounding the island would have been dry. Even if it had been necessary to land at sea, any low-wing retractable can be 'ditched'. Every aircraft operating handbook discusses 'ditching' at sea.


3) Did the plane catch fire?

There would have been no reason for it to, and precious little fuel on board to support a fire.

4) How high were the tides? 5 ft, or maybe 10 ft? Was there heavy surf on west end at that time?

The sea was at low tide. With an easterly wind, there would have been little if any surf on the west end.

If the "Miracle on the Hudson" was only achievable by a highly skilled pilot like Sullenberger and even then was a very slim chance, how could an "average" skilled pilot like Amelia been able to pull this off?

Don't believe everything you read/hear in the media. Sullenberger was indeed a skilled pilot, but any competent pilot "can pull this off" with a plane of the Electra type. Leave the gear up, feather the props, and go water skiing.

The thing that wrecks airliners in a ditching, is landing with one wing low (as happened to one plane off the coast of Africa), or simply the drag of an engine when it hits the water. Thus a plane with fuselage mounted engines handles ditching better than one with the engines slung under the wings.

Terry Richard
Commercial Pilot
« Last Edit: April 02, 2011, 06:27:14 PM by Terry Richard »
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david alan atchason

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2011, 12:50:24 PM »

Thanks, Terry and Ric. You have cleared up a lot of points.  I have considered taking flying lessons at my local airport just to learn these things. I tend to believe these post-crash radio communications, especially Betty's. Hers would be really difficult to make up. It does make me think Amelia and Fred sounded disoriented at best and I am trying to think of circumstances where they would make these comments.  Of course I wondered how high the tides would be. If they were on a barely dry reef and a 10 ft. tide came in (like at times in Mass. where I live) mighten it not flood the plane if not float it away some distance? Or is it possible they landed it far enough up the reef that the ocean would not be a problem unless or until a storm came in? I think I have read the possibility that a landing gear might have buckled or broken off. It makes me wonder if their plane was being flooded and it was so hot (per Betty's account) why they didn't just clamber out, why discuss it and whine about it?
Ric, I will soon read your book, it wasn't at my local library, but I just bought a Kindle so I will get to it forthwith. Maybe the answers to a lot of my present questions are covered there. I just saw on a reply that the tides were about 1.5 feet? But apparently later the wreckage was thought to be seen almost covered by water? Yes, I understand this is all completely hypothetical and will never possibly be answered.

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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2011, 01:06:57 PM »

Thanks Terry.  Welcome aboard.

1. It has been suggested that Amelia and Fred may have survived for months. In another place, it is suggested that with daily temperatures at 120 degrees, they might not have lasted a the week until the search planes flew over. In “The Colonization of the Phoenix Islands” by H.E. Maude, he suggests that "The temperature averages about 82 degrees, with maxima and minima varying only a few degrees above and below this figure, and a variation of less than 3 degrees between the monthly means."

Recall that Maude was doing a sales job and had actually spent very little time in the Phoenix Group. Over the past 23 years I've spent way too many weeks on that island. It's 4° off the equator.  The sun is a hammer.  Temperatures are routinely in the high 90s in the shade.  I don't think we've ever measured 120° but, in the sun, with the reflection off the coral rubble, 110° is not unusual.  It's all about water. When we're working on the island we try to drink a liter per hour.  A castaway who stayed in the shade and remained fairly inactive could obviously get by on much less - if they could find it.

2. If Amelia landed at Gardner, presumably near the wreck of the Norwich City, she would have seen the wreck. I read somewhere that someone received a radio message to the effect: "We are on coral southwest of an unknown island". If she had mentioned in any of her radio transmissions the fact of the wreck, (even if she did not know the name of the wreck) the wreck's location would have been known, and would have helped searchers. The navy pilots would have been alert to the fact of a wreck, and would have paid special attention Gardner when they saw it.

I try never to say "would have."  "Would have" is a guess masquerading as a fact.  The searchers did not know about the wreck and the Navy pilots were surprised to see it. They had almost no information about the islands they were searching and made the assumption that all of them had native work parties harvesting coconuts. That's why they didn't understand the significance of the "signs of recent habitation" on Gardner.


3. In the Coast Guard report, the officer suggested that the radio direction finding bearings taken by Pan Am were 'doubtful'. This is inexplicable to me. I must believe that Pan Am was a reliable source, and since there was no other population in that area, with or without a radio, such transmission could only have come from the Electra. What do they mean, by 'doubtful'? Sounds to me like 'cover your butt'.

At the time, the Navy considered the Pan Am bearing credible enough to send a battleship to search the Phoenix islands.  In the aftermath of the failed search, the Coast Guard and the Navy were highly motivated to dispel any notion that they had abandoned AE and FN to die on some God-forsaken Pacific island.

4. It took the Colorado a week to get to Gardner. Once the Pan Am triangulations suggested the Phoenix group, by about day three, the Itasca could have been there by day four. Day four might have been in time, when day seven was obviously not. I understand why the crew of the Itasca assumed that they were to the northwest, but when they were not found there, why did they not go southeast to the Phoenix group? Since they could have gotten there three days sooner, they might have been able to rescue the castaways. Isn't that what they do?

At the risk of sounding self-serving, I suggest you read my book, Finding Amelia - the true story of the Earhart disappearance.  The culprit was the "281 message." On the evening of July 5, Itasca's commanding officer was 281 miles north of Howland chasing a phantom of his own creation and his ship was getting dangerously low on bunker fuel.  Colorado arrived the next day and refueled the cutter.

5. The aerial photo of Gardner shows surf on the eastern end of the island, from the easterly winds, but the western side would have been less subject to the effect of wind and surf. It has been suggested that the plane was not visible due to action of the wind and surf.

Another "would have" but a logical assumption. How much less surf?  How far over the edge was the plane by then? Are we to conclude that because there might logically have been less surf on the west end than is seen on the eastern shore, the plane must have been visible and, if it was visible that they "would have" noticed it?

6. It has been suggested that tidal and wave and surf action could have pulled the Electra off the reef within a few days, yet it is also suggested that the colonists on Nikumaroro 'saw aircraft wreckage'.

The anecdotal and photographic evidence of airplane wreckage on the reef suggests that the plane was washed over the edge leaving behind some portion of wreckage that was (inadvertently) photographed three months later and seen as late as 1940 or '41.  There is one wartime account of the locals using salvaged airplane parts "from an airplane wreck that was here when the first people arrived in 1939" but there are no reports of airplane wreckage on the reef during WWII.  There does appear to be a debris field of light colored metal on the reef in a series of 1953  aerial mapping photos and there are anecdotal accounts of wreckage seen on the reef and on the shoreline in the mid-to-late '50s.  This suggests that the airplane sank more or less intact in the shallow water just over the edge of the reef and remained there until it began to break up in the 1950s.  Light weight pieces washed up to be salvaged and used.  The more massive components eventually moved downhill until went over the precipice into really deep water.
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Bill Lloyd

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2011, 08:14:44 PM »

I'm a commercial/instrument/multi-engine pilot with over 5,000 hours including significant time in heavy, tall-wheel twins.  In my opinion it would be entirely possible to land a Lockheed 10 on that reef at low tide with little or no damage.
In what direction would you have made the approach? Would you make a steep approach or have shallowed it out? Would your downwind to base leg have been over the lagoon or the sea?
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Irvine John Donald

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2011, 10:08:00 AM »


[/quote]In what direction would you have made the approach? Would you make a steep approach or have shallowed it out? Would your downwind to base leg have been over the lagoon or the sea?
[/quote]
IMHO Your downwind to base leg would be a shallower approach over the lagoon for two main reasons. First is so you can observe as much of the island as possible from low altitude.  Secondly, in the hopes that your engine noise may alert any inhabitants to your intentions and who may the come to help.

From previous TIGHAR information we know it would be difficult for anyone to hear the aircraft but Amelia likely wouldn't be aware of this. She was likely to think, based on years of landings in small fields throughout her travels, that her engine noise would attract attention.

She may have done one or two circuits around the island from a cautious height to select her best landing site and plan her approach but with fuel low it's hard to say what her mind set was or would be.  But I would come in as much over the island as possible just so I could observe where I was goingbto wait for my redcoats.

LTM
Forum newbie but ardent TIGHAR follower
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv
 
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Irvine John Donald

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2011, 12:43:17 PM »

LOL.   That last line should read "wait for her rescuers". Not redcoats. Darn iPad spell checker!!
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv
 
« Last Edit: April 03, 2011, 12:45:09 PM by Irvine John Donald »
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Ted G Campbell

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2011, 06:11:05 PM »

If I was making the approach to Niku I would opt a left or right  (wind direction) over the lagoon - this would give me a stable landmass for juding distance above ground for the final.
Ted
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Simon Dresner

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2011, 01:30:18 PM »

1. It has been suggested that Amelia and Fred may have survived for months. In another place, it is suggested that with daily temperatures at 120 degrees, they might not have lasted a the week until the search planes flew over. In “The Colonization of the Phoenix Islands” by H.E. Maude, he suggests that "The temperature averages about 82 degrees, with maxima and minima varying only a few degrees above and below this figure, and a variation of less than 3 degrees between the monthly means."

Recall that Maude was doing a sales job and had actually spent very little time in the Phoenix Group. Over the past 23 years I've spent way too many weeks on that island. It's 4° off the equator.  The sun is a hammer.  Temperatures are routinely in the high 90s in the shade.  I don't think we've ever measured 120° but, in the sun, with the reflection off the coral rubble, 110° is not unusual.  It's all about water. When we're working on the island we try to drink a liter per hour.  A castaway who stayed in the shade and remained fairly inactive could obviously get by on much less - if they could find it.

I looked up the weather statistics for Kanton Island, which I think is the nearest weather station. The average temperature (day and night) is about 82° Fahrenheit (28°C), annually and in the month of July. Average daily maximum temperature is about 86°F (30°C) in the shade. On average only about one day in July is above 95°F (35°C). Humidity is very high, about 85 percent in the morning, about 77 percent in the evening. Midday temperatures and humidity are similar to July/August in the southeastern US, although much more humid at night than in the US. Temperatures will be much higher out of the shade, but the sun isn't directly overhead at 4° South in July, so the solar intensity should also be similar to a summer in the southeastern US. Nonetheless, sunstroke would be a risk if you spent too long out of the shade. Cooling sea breezes should be an advantage of Nikumaroro, so I was interested to read that you don't feel them much in the lagoon, but you do at the 7 site. I find that the most convincing explanation for why it was chosen. If I'd been the castaway, sea breezes would have been something I yearned for to relieve the combination of heat and humidity.
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david alan atchason

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2011, 03:30:27 PM »

I looked up the weather on Kanton Sat. Temp. was 82 F. The tides seemed to be about 2.5 ft and it said 6 ft. swells coming in from NNW. Right now sun is almost overhead at noon I think. So I pictured something like this: Plane lands in a few inches of water, tide comes in, now 3 ft. water with 6 ft. swells, wouldn't this be a problem at high tide? Even though the weather was apparently calm in early July 1937, couldn't there have been some inconveniently big swells coming in? I wonder what I would have done for water if I were them? Distillation using a tarp seems unlikely unless I built a fire and had a pot. I have learned that you can drink coconut milk, but is it easy to crack them with a rock and would they be lying around or do you have to climb the trees to get them? I am intending to get to the So. Pacific soon, I have wanted to go there for some time, even before I discovered TIGHAR. Then I will see for myself even though Nikumaroro seems an impossibility. I have discovered a good book, but don't have it yet. It's Called "The sex lives of cannibals: adrift in the equatorial Pacific". It has great reviews, it's about a guy spending 2 years on Tarawa. Wouldn't Fred Noonan have been familiar with some Pacific islands and what options there would be if you were stranded on one?
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Andrew M McKenna

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Re: Troubling inconsistencies
« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2011, 08:48:44 PM »

the official temperature recordings are probably pretty accurate given ambient temperatures in the tropics.  The difference is when you find yourself in a clearing inland from the beach where the sun is beating down and there is no wind because you are surrounded by scaevola.  In this case the temps can rise on the baking coral upwards to 110°+, much like the temperature out in the parking lot next to the supermarket tends to be hotter than the official temp for the day.

Water would certainly be the most urgent issue.  There may have been some coconuts available, but once they fall off the tree to the ground they have less moisture than those in the trees.  The effort to open a coconut, if you don't know how to do it efficiently, is pretty substantial.  Without the right tools / technique, you would probably waste more energy / sweat than than found in the coconut.  Give it a try when you make your trip to the Pacific, don't take any advice on how to open one, and see if you can do it.

For interesting books, I recommend "An Island to Oneself" (originally "An Island to myself") by Tom Neale.  Out of print, but you can still get copies on Amazon.  It details 6 years that Tom Neale lived by himself on the south Pacific atoll of Suvarov, some 200 miles East of Tahiti.  Lots of survival info, including the stuff he ate, which I found to be very interesting when we were planning a castaway corp during Niku VI when we though the ship was going to make a run to Samoa for 6 days.  It was this book that led me to investigate how to obtain hearts of palm during Niku VI, which everyone seemed to enjoy.

What isn't in that book is the fact that in the end Tom Neale spent something like 17 years, on and off, living on Suvarov by himself.  Why he did it is another question, but it is an amazing story.

Andrew
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