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Author Topic: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air  (Read 151861 times)

Irvine John Donald

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #120 on: August 27, 2013, 06:43:06 AM »

To Paul Parsons

A plane on the ground means people on the ground. They didn't try zooming to alert the big shiny bird.
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv
 
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JNev

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #121 on: August 27, 2013, 11:39:24 AM »

To Paul Parsons

A plane on the ground means people on the ground. They didn't try zooming to alert the big shiny bird.

Irv, you might try being a bit more direct so as to not be misunderstood...  ;D

I don't know that I've ever seen the orders but they may exist among the Colorado's lore published on this site.  It seems clear enough that they would be looking for signs of Earhart and Noonan - floating debris; debris scattered on shore; a downed plane; people, dead or alive.  Smoke.  Clothing on flagpoles.  Coconuts on beaches...

I have doubts that their orders were so narrow as to exclued either plane or people, but would likely be worded to include 'any and all visible signs that may exist of Earhart and / or Noonan's presence on the land or in the sea along your route of flight' or similar.  Just IMO, of course.  Now you make me want to dig this out a bit...

Added -

And so I have:

No direct orders, but perhaps a clue or two of Lambrecht and his flight's focus -

According to Lambrecht: "M’Kean did not require more than a perfunctory examination to ascertain that the missing plane had not landed here, and one circle of the island proved that it was uninhabited except for myriads of birds. Signs of previous habitation remained and the walls of several old buildings apparently or some sort of adobe construction, were still standing. M’Kean is perfectly flat and no bigger than about one square mile."

So much for McKean.  But note the airplane was an obviously sought object, as was the determination of the presence of any people.  In McKean's case it was small and open enough to realize quickly that no one was there, despite clearly evident old structures.

The prospect at Gardner reads somewhat differently, fairly clearly because it was a different kind and size of island -

"...the planes proceeded to Gardner Island (sighting the ship to starboard enroute) and made an aerial search of this island which proved to be one of the biggest of the group. Gardner is a typical example of your south sea atoll … a narrow circular strip of land (about as wide as Coronado’s silver strand) surrounding a large lagoon. Most of this island is covered with tropical vegetation with, here and there, a grove of coconut palms. Here signs of recent habitation were clearly visible but repeated circling and zooming failed to elicit any answering wave from possible inhabitants and it was finally taken for granted that none were there.

At the western end of the island a tramp steamer (of about 4000 tons) bore mute evidence of unlighted and poorly charted “Rocks and Shoals”. She lay high and almost dry head onto the coral beach with her back broken in two places.

The lagoon at Gardner looked sufficiently deep and certainly large enough so that a seaplane or even an airboat could have landed or taken off in any direction with little if any difficulty. Given a chance, it is believed that Miss Earhart could have landed her plane in this lagoon and swam or waded ashore. In fact, on any of these islands it is not hard to believe that a forced landing could have been accomplished with no more damage than a good barrier crash or a good wetting."

Note the references to observed signs of 'recent habitation' - a sign of 'people', and the implicit need to contend with a screen of vegetation which may imply to some degree an appreciation that people might have been concealed there, hence 'zooming' (signs were there, where are the people... perhaps needing to emerge from the bush?).

The shipwreck was not only noticed but attentively observed, hence a rather good description provided.  The potential 'wet' and 'dry' landing possibilities were noted as well.  An observance for an airplane is implied by that, IMO.

Could it have been there and been missed?  I believe so, if at least largely submerged in / under a heavy surf.

Like I said, not really 'orders', but maybe these things give insight to Lambrecht's methodology, and therefore perhaps in essence his response to the orders he understood.  Implicitly, if looking for people lost in an airplane, you need to look for an airplane, people, stuff they may have had with them that might be showing as signs of their presence or shelter, etc.  Any or all of that being a 'sign' of the lost people...
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« Last Edit: August 27, 2013, 12:53:48 PM by Jeff Neville »
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Irvine John Donald

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #122 on: August 27, 2013, 06:27:19 PM »

Thanks Jeff. Your gentlemanly streak is showing again. My apologies to Mr Parsons if he felt I was being too direct and short. No disrespect intended. Posting is never an exact science when it comes to communication. I felt it natural that Lambrecht would have been ordered or instructed to look for "any" sign of AE and FN. After all the Electra had been down for a week. No one really knew/knows where so "any" sign would have been helpful. IMHO.

Respectfully Submitted;

Irv
 
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #123 on: August 28, 2013, 08:50:52 AM »

A point to remember:
Lambrecht's description of the mission is not a report. As far as we know there was no official after-action report other than what Colorado's commanding officer wrote about the entire search effort. What Lambrecht wrote was an article for the Navy's Bureau of Aernautics Weekly Newsletter. He had to submit it to the CO for approval before sending it in after they made port. The CO approved it and it was published but Lambrecht did catch some flack for the article's informal tone.

For another account of the Gardner search by a different pilot see Lt.jg William Short's letter to his father in the TIGHAR archive.

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C.W. Herndon

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #124 on: August 28, 2013, 10:14:24 AM »

For those of you who are new to the forum, here are links to Captain Friedell's Report , Lt. Lambrecht's Report/letter and Lt.Short's letter .
Woody (former 3316R)
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #125 on: August 29, 2013, 12:59:25 PM »

Another indication of attitudes aboard Colorado is the fact that, during the flight that visited McKean, Gardner and Carondelet Reef, back aboard ship the crew was whooping it up in the previously-postponed Crossing The Equator hazing/celebration.
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Christine Schulte

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #126 on: August 29, 2013, 01:11:48 PM »

I read this biography of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith over the summer holidays. The 1929 "Coffee Royal" incident and the subsequent Air Accident Investigation Committee Inquiry are discussed in great detail in Chapters 13 and 14 (pp. 384-428). As well as being fascinating in its own right, the account helped me put the Colorado search flight into the wider perspective of 1930s aircraft accidents/disappearances and aerial searches. There must be lots of other, lesser-known incidents and looking at these might be interesting to get a better grip on the odds of spotting people (and airplanes!) from the air without today's much more sophisticated equipment.

Kingsford Smith' airplane, the "Southern Cross", left Sydney for Wyndham on Australia's western coast on March 31, 1929 with a crew of four (Kingsford Smith, Charles Ulm, a navigator and a radio operator). The plane got lost in very bad weather and ran out of petrol having searched for Wyndham airfield for several hours. Kingsford Smith managed a controlled crash landing in deserted, very difficult terrain (a mangrove swamp); incredibly the plane wasn't damaged and none of the crew were injured. The navigator determined the exact position of the site (later dubbed "Coffee Royal" by the men) and the radioman was able to operate the receiver with the help of copper wire rigged up in the mangrove trees. However, the transmitter wasn’t working and not having any petrol the men were unable to start the generator. Although there was a mission station about 25 miles away, the men didn't know its exact location. Overall, the Southern Cross crew was in a position not totally different from what AE/FN would have experienced if they landed on Nikumaroro.

Like the Electra, the "Southern Cross" was a big, shiny airplane (it was painted silver and blue), and it was sitting on what from the descriptions of the "Coffee Royal" site must have been fairly open, greenish-brown ground. To my amateur imagination, this seems like rather ideal conditions to be spotted by searchers fairly quickly. (The probability of detection table given at the start of this thread can’t be applied to this I think because it refers to the probability of spotting people but surely it must be safe to assume that an airplane is easier to spot than people because of its size, shape and colouring).
Besides relying on the plane being visible, the crew gathered mangrove wood and sump grass to keep a signal fire going on a nearby hill. However, when after four days a search plane circled over the area twice at a distance of about four miles, it failed to see the plane, the crew and the signal fire. 
Another search plane again circled twice at about the same distance on the following day but yet again, neither the plane, nor the crew, nor the signal fire were spotted and the search plane flew away. Fortunately, the search wasn't abandoned at this point and a third search plane eventually found the "Southern Cross" twelve days after the crash landing.

That the searchers missed the airplane and the signal fire on two occasions wasn't picked out for comment in 1929, but it's of course quite interesting in the context of the Colorado search in 1937. The "Southern Cross" should have been spotted by the searchers much earlier both in terms of commonsense assumptions of what searchers look out for and notice and in terms of statistical probability; and of course, the signal fire should have been noticed much sooner, too. The "Southern Cross" can't in any way have been obscured by surf and of course wasn't submerged by tides or swept over a reef, it just sat there intact (and in fact took off from that very spot having been refuelled a couple of days later). Yet two search missions missed it, full stop.

They also missed the signal fire. There was a public inquiry into the "Coffee Royal" incident because the press voiced suspicions that the plane's disappearance had been staged to generate publicity. The inquiry committee found it hard to understand the way Kingsford Smith and his man had acted; they felt they should have been more active. (Apart from desperate but useless attempts to get the generator going, the crew - all experienced and physically healthy - seem to have been so harried by the heat, the mosquitoes, the lack of provisions - they found a water hole nearby though- and their inability to communicate by wireless that they spent most of the time in a kind of exhausted stupor). Among other bits of criticism, the barrister who questioned Kingsford Smith asked why the men hadn't poured machine oil on the fire to make heavier smoke. Kingsford Smith replied that they'd tried but found that the black smoke generated by the machine oil was less visible in this environment than the white smoke a mangrove wood and sump grass fire produced. The barrister was not convinced and the failure to use machine oil was soundly criticised in the committee's report. What I find interesting in this context is that seemingly some fires are more efficient than others; also, it's stunning that the outside perspective on something can be so totally different from the inside perspective.
I admit that the idea that a search mission flying over Nikumaroro could have missed evidence of a controlled crash landing on the island seemed preposterous to me when I first read about it and I suspected the idea of the plane going over the reef of being an attempt to “explain away” the Colorado search at first. I still have my moments with it at times. But the more I read about other thorough searches for other planes in the 1930s that failed to turn up results with the planes being found years later in spots that had been searched (one or two other examples are mentioned in the FitzSimons biography), it doesn’t seem so unlikely after all.

Quote
It's fascinating to me and might be to others that Eric Bevington mentioned "signs of previous habitation" in his diary of October 1937, almost the exact words Lambrecht used. As with Lambrecht, that is all he said.

I also find it very interesting that  another person who came to Nikumaroro went away with the impression that there were signs of recent/previous habitation there. To me, Eric Bevington's remark that it looked like someone had bivouacked for the night is even more intriguing that Lt. Lambrecht's account. Bevington was on the ground (as opposed to on a moving airplane), and he must have been closer to the signs of habitation. Also, having spent some time in the South Pacific he should have had more background to evaluate what he saw. Both comments leave a lot of room for interpretation and guesses; mine is that while both came away with the impression that someone had lived there recently (because of a campfire? objects strewn about? or something completely different?), they didn't see anything specific that pointed to a Westerner, a woman or a crash landing because these would have been so unusual as to merit a much closer look (to the extent that the Colorado planes might have risked the British getting even more 'miffed', and have landed in the lagoon).

Christine
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Joe Cerniglia

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #127 on: August 29, 2013, 02:59:45 PM »


 (because of a campfire? objects strewn about? or something completely different?)

Harry Maude, who accompanied Bevington, spoke of low mounds of debris, in a letter to senior archaeologist Dr. Tom King.  Curiously, this spot was likely near the spot where parts of a woman's shoe and the heel from a separate pair of shoes were found by TIGHAR in 1991.
Joe Cerniglia ~ TIGHAR #3078ECR
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #128 on: August 29, 2013, 07:29:32 PM »

[
Harry Maude, who accompanied Bevington, spoke of low mounds of debris, in a letter to senior archaeologist Dr. Tom King.  Curiously, this spot was likely near the spot where parts of a woman's shoe and the heel from a separate pair of shoes were found by TIGHAR in 1991.

Maybe.  Bevington put a question mark on a map to indicate his recollection of where he and Maude saw signs of previous habitation.  The spot where we found shoe parts in 1991, some of which MIGHT be from a woman's shoe, was further down the island.  There was no indication that the shoe parts were associated with a pre-settlement campsite.  There was a campfire nearby (charcoal and ash) but it contained a partially burned can label that had a barcode on it (not earlier than 1970s). 
IMO, what Maude and Bevington saw was the remains of the final Norwich City survivors' camp.
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Randy Conrad

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #129 on: August 29, 2013, 10:49:28 PM »

In light of the topic at hand...I ran across this video as I was searching on Youtube for videos of Gardner Island. Although the song is not completely finished...the lad gives an almost chilling feeling of what it must have been like on Gardner Island. Has a good sound to it!!!


http://youtu.be/UCxqsjOKr0o
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Joe Cerniglia

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #130 on: August 30, 2013, 07:56:32 AM »

Quote from: Ric Gillespie link=topic=517.msg27520#msg27520 date
The spot where we found shoe parts in 1991, some of which MIGHT be from a woman's shoe, was further down the island.  There was no indication that the shoe parts were associated with a pre-settlement campsite.  There was a campfire nearby (charcoal and ash) but it contained a partially burned can label that had a barcode on it (not earlier than 1970s). 
IMO, what Maude and Bevington saw was the remains of the final Norwich City survivors' camp.
I was under the impression from the Bevington video for TIGHAR researcher use that Bevington put the mark at Aukaraime South, where the land first juts out south of Bauareke Passage.  I was under the impression the Norwich City survivors crossed the lagoon to Aukaraime North or thereabouts on that side, the opposite side from Aukaraime South. Could you mark a map showing where Bevington put his mark in relation to the shoe site?  It's possible the map on the table in the Bevington video was oriented upside down from the way I thought it was. 

I must be mistaken in how I have oriented areas of the island and related them to one another.

Joe Cerniglia ~ TIGHAR #3078ECR
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #131 on: August 30, 2013, 12:04:08 PM »

Could you mark a map showing where Bevington put his mark in relation to the shoe site?  It's possible the map on the table in the Bevington video was oriented upside down from the way I thought it was.

Sorry. I meant to include this map with my earlier posting.
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Jon Romig

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #132 on: September 01, 2013, 09:38:32 PM »

Another indication of attitudes aboard Colorado is the fact that, during the flight that visited McKean, Gardner and Carondelet Reef, back aboard ship the crew was whooping it up in the previously-postponed Crossing The Equator hazing/celebration.
I don't think one can use this example to reach any conclusion regarding the attitude of the crew about the search. Not that their attitude would have made any difference to the search. The attitude of the officers would have, but my understanding is that the Crossing the Line tradition typically excluded officers, or kept them in very peripheral roles - at least this is how I read the Wikipedia entry on the topic and Patrick O'Brian, who is usually very dependable for detail of naval life at sea in the 19th century.

The crew of the Colorado amounted to some 2,000 sailors. Six of them were directly involved in the search. Almost the entirely of the rest of the crew were certainly involved, NOT in the search, but in the normal business of the ship - operating one of the largest and most complex war machines ever built. The Crossing the Line celebration was a naval tradition going back hundreds of years, and was normal business aboard a USN warship at the time.

Evidence

Jon
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« Last Edit: September 01, 2013, 09:46:02 PM by Jon Romig »
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Dan Swift

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #133 on: September 03, 2013, 02:00:44 PM »

Ric, is that "shoe site" close enough to have been washed there in a serious storm from the other side of the island...across the lagoon?  When I say close enough, really it's feet above water level vs feet from water's edge.   
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Odds of Spotting Survivors from the Air
« Reply #134 on: September 03, 2013, 04:10:13 PM »

a shoe could have washed up there in a big storm or something

Not likely.  The "shoe site" is about 100 meters inland from the lagoon shore.  The lagoon can get pretty choppy in a storm but not enough to was something that far inland.
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