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AuthorTopic: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?  (Read 168517 times)

Gary LaPook

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Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #30 on: December 14, 2011, 02:37:35 PM »

Sorry Ric, that's not how it works.

Thanks for the correction.

If you can accurately measure the altitude of the sun at it's highest point, at noon, then you can easily determine your latitude but this also requires a sextant since you can't estimate the height with the naked eye any better than about ten degrees so you can only determine your latitude with a naked eye to a precision of about 10 degrees, 600 NM, so the "281" wasn't determined this way. To get to an accuracy of one mile you need the altitude to be measured to a precision of one minute of arc and the sextant carried by Noonan had a scale marked only every two minutes of arc.

Now THAT is interesting.  We think the airplane (and thus our heroes) were at roughly 4.65° South. If a degree of latitude in that neighborhood is 60 nm (I have great faith that you'll correct me if I'm wrong) then our heroes were 279 nm from the equator.  The proximity of that number to "281" is intriguing but I have always wondered how Fred could be close but not precise.  I would have thought that ol' Fred, if he could get their latitude at all, would nail it to the mile.  You have provided a reasonable possible explanation.  Not that I don't trust you  but I checked and the Brandis Navy Surveying Sextant is, indeed, marked in two degree increments.

The "281" message is one of the most cryptic, frustrating, and fascinating transmissions in the whole pantheon of post-loss radio signals.  If 281 is an attempt to convey the plane's location it means that someone, either AE or Fred, has used the sextant to determine latitude, probably by shooting the sun at local noon, but has not used the sextant to get a precise location by shooting the stars on any of the three nights they've been there.  Fred certainly had the required knowledge and expertise to do that.  AE just as certainly did not but she may have been able to manage a simple sun shot.

The 281 message was sent in the very early morning hours (Gardner time) of Monday, July 5.  The transmission Betty heard - with an apparently irrational Noonan - was heard later that same morning.
The problem with this is that after you measure the sun's altitude at noon, you do the standard computation and the answer that you get at the end of the computation is the latitude, not the distance in NM (or SM) from the equator. There is no standard navigation procedure in which you convert the latitude to distance from the equator. Transmitting the latitude itself provides better information about their location because the receiver of the information can instantly look at his chart at the indicated latitude. If the transmitted information was distance from the equator then the receiver would have to convert it back again to latitude before he could look for it on his chart. So why would they do additional computations to convert the latitude to NM prior to transmitting it? This is especially unlikely if we are assuming that Earhart was doing this work since it is hard to believe that she took any interest in celestial navigation in light of her lackadaisical attitude towards other aspects of this flight, such as proper operation of the radio, that were even more directly in her bailiwick.
gl
« Last Edit: December 14, 2011, 03:40:06 PM by Gary LaPook »
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Gary LaPook

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• Posts: 1624
Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #31 on: December 14, 2011, 03:56:10 PM »

"If you could determine the time of noon, when the sun is highest in the sky, then you can easily find your approximate LONGITUDE, not your latitude."
Then the chapter "Finding Latitude by meridian transit and Polaris" in my copy of Crawford is wrong?   No wonder they got lost.

I find it easy to believe that FN had a map showing the location of Gardner, but not the name of the island.  It would be an easy matter to take the latitude off of the map, if he was sure that particular dot of an island was where they were at.
Not wrong, just read it more carefully. Notice I said "the TIME of noon" not the height of the sun at noon. I was simply responding to Ric's post in which he mentioned the "time of noon." The standard noon sight for latitude has been used since Columbus' time, you don't need a clock to do this, you only need a calender.  You find the latitude by measuring the altitude of the sun at noon, the exact time is not important for finding latitude. But one cannot find longitude without accurate time and that wasn't available until the end of the 18th century. A four second error in the time will throw your longitude off by one nautical mile (at the equator), a one minute error in the time will cause a 15 NM error and a 4 minute error in the time will make a 60 NM error, one degree of longitude, in the calculated longitude. These errors in time can come from errors in the clock or in errors in estimating when the sun was at its highest point. As I said, one can find his APPROXIMATE longitude by observation at noon but not to a high level of precision due to noise in the observation which causes small random variations in the altitudes measured with the sextant.

Latitude by Polaris is a completely different procedure in which the timing is not as critical as it is with the noon sight but you can't get longitude from a Polaris sight.

You apparently did not read the second paragraph in my prior post.

gl

gl
« Last Edit: December 14, 2011, 04:10:59 PM by Gary LaPook »
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Gary LaPook

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Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #32 on: December 14, 2011, 04:28:27 PM »

The "281" isn't so far off from the actual distance from Howland to Gardner, is it?

If you don't have a sextant but you do have an almanac you can get your latitude pretty accurately by simply observing the time of local noon (when the sun is highest).  If you know you latitude, you know how far you are from the equator.  The spot where we think the Electra was when the "281" message was heard is 280 nautical miles from the equator.

That makes the number even more interesting.

I have forgotten what instruments exactly FN carried, but believe there were two - one primary and one 'preventer' that was actually a nautical device modified for aviation use.  Maybe these didn't survive - maybe they did.  Even if they were 'limited' in accuracy FN may well have been able to sort out the '281' figure from all he could muster.  Of course injury may be a factor against that, hard to say.

In the end though, it's hard to discount that AE and FN very well could have sorted that out and it would be an obviously desireable element for any message they might manage to get out while able.  The number came from somewhere - what an odd coincidence if not related to Gardner.

Thanks, Ric.

LTM -
The idea that Noonan carried a marine sextant in the Electra comes from a letter that Noonan wrote to his friend Philip Van Horn Weems and published in Weems' Air Navigation, 1938 ed. In this letter Noonan was describing the procedures and equipment used when he was navigating the very much larger flying boats of Pan Am which had voluminous navigation stations and room for every imaginable item that could be of any use. (In fact, he was describing the first Pan Am pioneering flight from Alameda to Honolulu in a Sikorsky S-42, NR823M, April 16&17, 1935, two years before the Earhart flight. See attached photo.) And, even in the Pan Am four engined flying boat, Noonan wrote that the "Pioneer bubble octant...was used for all sights."  It was a very different situation in the Electra so there is no direct evidence that Noonan carried a marine sextant on the Earhart flight.  "Due to the spacious chart room and large chart table aboard the Clipper, the navigation equipment need not be so severely limited as in smaller planes...", page 423. You can read Noonan's entire letter on pages 422 through 425 of Air Navigation.

gl
« Last Edit: December 15, 2011, 12:52:07 AM by Gary LaPook »
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Ric Gillespie

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• "Do not try. Do or do not. There is no try" Yoda
Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #33 on: December 14, 2011, 07:57:13 PM »

Specifically what navigational equipment do you think he would be unable to carry in the Electra?
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JNev

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• It's a GOOD thing to be in the cornfield...
Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #34 on: December 14, 2011, 08:21:20 PM »

Specifically what navigational equipment do you think he would be unable to carry in the Electra?

None, within reason, personally.

With all due respect to Gary's comparison of the L10E's capacity versus that of the Clipper's, I don't think carrying both pieces, as stated in the reference Gary provided, would have been at all difficult in the Electra.  Somehow I always had the impression that he did - and actually still do.

I also suspect that while FN may have surely described something as-done on a specific Pan Am trip in that particular statement, that it was not really limited to that context.  I can see where some may argue that as it might seem limited to that context to them.  But to me it reads more like FN not just telling what was done a) on that trip, and b) aboard Clippers, but also c) it is very possibly revealing of a habit or philosophy that FN employed.

I can't know that or prove it.  But we all have certain habits that go with our duties in life - and FN's somehow seemed to involve a primary instrument and a 'preventer', at least to me (opinion).  There was also a sextant box found on Gardner some decades ago - I wonder what type of instrument it was consistent with?  Maybe the 'preventer'?

A fact we can know: NR16020 wasn't so limited on capacity that FN would have had to leave his 'preventer' behind.  He could have easily carried both a primary and preventer aboard NR16020.  After all, he was the only guy riding in the back as opposed to a much different arrangement on the first world flight.  Why wouldn't there be ample room and capacity for a preventer to be included for the longest trans-oceanic leg AE and FN faced?  Maybe they left the 50 gallons or so of fuel behind on Lae to allow it...

If it were me, I think I'd pack a preventer along - and FN would have realized better than I that one drop to the deck and an instrument is questionable at the very least.  Isn't that how Rickenbacker got in trouble in a B-17 once?  I don't think NR16020 or AE would have known the difference, or cared.

LTM -
- Jeff Neville

Former Member 3074R

« Last Edit: December 14, 2011, 08:45:54 PM by Jeff Neville »
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Irvine John Donald

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• Posts: 597
Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #35 on: December 14, 2011, 08:30:49 PM »

Gary,

Please take this as a compliment.  If I ever commit a crime I'm hiring you as my lawyer. I'm confident you would find a reason to prove I wasn't even at the scene.

To Jeff's latest post....  In the case of a very long trip would you not take a second sextant anyway as a backup?  Your point about it likely being an FN habit is likely bang on. Navigation was FN's career. In fact on a clipper he probably needed the "preventer" less than he needed it on the global trip with AE.
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv

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Gary LaPook

• T5
• Posts: 1624
Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #36 on: December 15, 2011, 12:48:41 AM »

Gary,

Please take this as a compliment.  If I ever commit a crime I'm hiring you as my lawyer. I'm confident you would find a reason to prove I wasn't even at the scene.

To Jeff's latest post....  In the case of a very long trip would you not take a second sextant anyway as a backup?  Your point about it likely being an FN habit is likely bang on. Navigation was FN's career. In fact on a clipper he probably needed the "preventer" less than he needed it on the global trip with AE.
As I said, there is no evidence that Noonan carried a second sextant on the Earhart flight, no witnesses, no documents and no photographs. No marine sextant is listed on the Luke field inventory. Noonan's letter would not be admissible evidence in a court of law to prove that a second sextant was carried on the Earhart flight because it is too remote in time and the circumstances are too different. In fact, the letter itself shows the circumstances are not the same, as Noonan wrote "Due to the spacious chart room and large chart table aboard the Clipper, the navigation equipment need not be so severely limited as in smaller planes..." and no one can dispute that the Electra is a "smaller plane" compared to the S-42. And note, Noonan did NOT say in the letter, "I always carry a marine sextant as a 'preventer.'" And Noonan made no mention of a marine sextant in his article published a year later. (BTW, as to Noonan's experience at sea, ships commonly carried only one sextant.) (Although there is such a thing as "habit evidence," this one letter comes nowhere close to the requirements to prove an action based on a "habit.")
Could they have crammed in an additional sextant, probably, but looking at all the things that Earhart removed from the plane, including even papers and her Colt pistol, a second sextant would seem pretty low on Earhart's priority list. We pilots want two of everything, two engines, two spark plugs in each cylinder, two magnetos on each engine, two fuel pumps, two navcoms, two GPSs, etc., but there is a limit. How about two life rafts, two parachutes for each person, two coffee pots, two "potties?"
By 1937 the Pioneer octant had been perfected and was carried in thousands of Air Force and Navy planes, virtually unchanged, through the end of WW2. Bubble octants are extremely simple and reliable instruments. Bubble octants were used on trans-oceanic airline flights through the 1970's and commonly on Air Force planes until less than ten years ago, (I believe that there are still some Air Force planes with them.) In all of these uses, only ONE octant was carried in each airplane, no "preventer" in B-17s, no "preventer" in Boeing 707s, no "preventer" in B-47s, no "preventer" in C-130s, and no "preventer" in B-52s, and none of these planes were limited by space and weight constraints like the Electra. No second octant was carried in any of these planes because they are so simple and reliable.
So, like I said, there is no evidence to prove that a marine sextant was carried on the Electra, the burden of proof is on those who make that claim.

gl
« Last Edit: December 15, 2011, 01:28:57 AM by Gary LaPook »
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Thom Boughton

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• Infinite Rider on The Big Dogma
Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #37 on: December 15, 2011, 12:59:54 AM »

Now THAT is interesting.  We think the airplane (and thus our heroes) were at roughly 4.65° South. If a degree of latitude in that neighborhood is 60 nm (I have great faith that you'll correct me if I'm wrong) then our heroes were 279 nm from the equator.  The proximity of that number to "281" is intriguing but I have always wondered how Fred could be close but not precise.  I would have thought that ol' Fred, if he could get their latitude at all, would nail it to the mile.  You have provided a reasonable possible explanation.  Not that I don't trust you  but I checked and the Brandis Navy Surveying Sextant is, indeed, marked in two degree increments.

The "281" message is one of the most cryptic, frustrating, and fascinating transmissions in the whole pantheon of post-loss radio signals.  If 281 is an attempt to convey the plane's location it means that someone, either AE or Fred, has used the sextant to determine latitude, probably by shooting the sun at local noon, but has not used the sextant to get a precise location by shooting the stars on any of the three nights they've been there.  Fred certainly had the required knowledge and expertise to do that.  AE just as certainly did not but she may have been able to manage a simple sun shot.

Ric....

I suspect I shall be sorry for wading into the middle of this...especially as I'm not taking either side on the matter.  However, in the midst of all this I've become terribly curious.....

If we work it backwards, 279 miles is (as you've said) roughly 4.65°.  However, 281 miles works out to be 4.683°.  Obviously, this give us a difference of only 0.03°.  Not really familiar with the Brandis sextant, but my archaic old Esco (also marked in 2° increments) isn't even close to being capable of that kind of resolution based only on a simple sun shot.

Perhaps all of this is just due to a simple (read: unfortunate) error in an attempt at interpolation?  I mean, it seems that Fred mightn't have even been able to count his toes at the time, and AE was...well, AE.

(or am I merely embarrassing myself by having missed something here?)

....tb

TIGHAR #3159R

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Gary LaPook

• T5
• Posts: 1624
Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #38 on: December 15, 2011, 01:30:05 AM »

Now THAT is interesting.  We think the airplane (and thus our heroes) were at roughly 4.65° South. If a degree of latitude in that neighborhood is 60 nm (I have great faith that you'll correct me if I'm wrong) then our heroes were 279 nm from the equator.  The proximity of that number to "281" is intriguing but I have always wondered how Fred could be close but not precise.  I would have thought that ol' Fred, if he could get their latitude at all, would nail it to the mile.  You have provided a reasonable possible explanation.  Not that I don't trust you  but I checked and the Brandis Navy Surveying Sextant is, indeed, marked in two degree increments.

The "281" message is one of the most cryptic, frustrating, and fascinating transmissions in the whole pantheon of post-loss radio signals.  If 281 is an attempt to convey the plane's location it means that someone, either AE or Fred, has used the sextant to determine latitude, probably by shooting the sun at local noon, but has not used the sextant to get a precise location by shooting the stars on any of the three nights they've been there.  Fred certainly had the required knowledge and expertise to do that.  AE just as certainly did not but she may have been able to manage a simple sun shot.

Ric....

I suspect I shall be sorry for wading into the middle of this...especially as I'm not taking either side on the matter.  However, in the midst of all this I've become terribly curious.....

If we work it backwards, 279 miles is (as you've said) roughly 4.65°.  However, 281 miles works out to be 4.683°.  Obviously, this give us a difference of only 0.03°.  Not really familiar with the Brandis sextant, but my archaic old Esco (also marked in 2° increments) isn't even close to being capable of that kind of resolution based only on a simple sun shot.

Perhaps all of this is just due to a simple (read: unfortunate) error in an attempt at interpolation?  I mean, it seems that Fred mightn't have even been able to count his toes at the time, and AE was...well, AE.

(or am I merely embarrassing myself by having missed something here?)

....tb
Did you mean Ebbco?

gl
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Irvine John Donald

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• Posts: 597
Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #39 on: December 15, 2011, 02:36:05 AM »

Gary,

Please take this as a compliment.  If I ever commit a crime I'm hiring you as my lawyer. I'm confident you would find a reason to prove I wasn't even at the scene.

To Jeff's latest post....  In the case of a very long trip would you not take a second sextant anyway as a backup?  Your point about it likely being an FN habit is likely bang on. Navigation was FN's career. In fact on a clipper he probably needed the "preventer" less than he needed it on the global trip with AE.
As I said, there is no evidence that Noonan carried a second sextant on the Earhart flight, no witnesses, no documents and no photographs. No marine sextant is listed on the Luke field inventory. Noonan's letter would not be admissible evidence in a court of law to prove that a second sextant was carried on the Earhart flight because it is too remote in time and the circumstances are too different. In fact, the letter itself shows the circumstances are not the same, as Noonan wrote "Due to the spacious chart room and large chart table aboard the Clipper, the navigation equipment need not be so severely limited as in smaller planes..." and no one can dispute that the Electra is a "smaller plane" compared to the S-42. And note, Noonan did NOT say in the letter, "I always carry a marine sextant as a 'preventer.'" And Noonan made no mention of a marine sextant in his article published a year later. (BTW, as to Noonan's experience at sea, ships commonly carried only one sextant.) (Although there is such a thing as "habit evidence," this one letter comes nowhere close to the requirements to prove an action based on a "habit.")
Could they have crammed in an additional sextant, probably, but looking at all the things that Earhart removed from the plane, including even papers and her Colt pistol, a second sextant would seem pretty low on Earhart's priority list. We pilots want two of everything, two engines, two spark plugs in each cylinder, two magnetos on each engine, two fuel pumps, two navcoms, two GPSs, etc., but there is a limit. How about two life rafts, two parachutes for each person, two coffee pots, two "potties?"
By 1937 the Pioneer octant had been perfected and was carried in thousands of Air Force and Navy planes, virtually unchanged, through the end of WW2. Bubble octants are extremely simple and reliable instruments. Bubble octants were used on trans-oceanic airline flights through the 1970's and commonly on Air Force planes until less than ten years ago, (I believe that there are still some Air Force planes with them.) In all of these uses, only ONE octant was carried in each airplane, no "preventer" in B-17s, no "preventer" in Boeing 707s, no "preventer" in B-47s, no "preventer" in C-130s, and no "preventer" in B-52s, and none of these planes were limited by space and weight constraints like the Electra. No second octant was carried in any of these planes because they are so simple and reliable.
So, like I said, there is no evidence to prove that a marine sextant was carried on the Electra, the burden of proof is on those who make that claim.

gl

Are you saying that if FN lost, misplaced, broke or had his primary sextant stolen then he would have been able to get it replaced easily anywhere on the world trip?  Are you also saying that unless it was recorded somewhere in evidence then he couldn't possibly have had it with him?  And aren't all the aircraft you list as having "no preventer" loaded up with modern, electronic nav equipment that have backup systems?  Doesn't that mean the bubble octant in those aircraft is the backup to the backup?  Whereas for FN it was his primary method of navigation?
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv

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JNev

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• It's a GOOD thing to be in the cornfield...
Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #40 on: December 15, 2011, 05:24:03 AM »

I dunno about FN's 'character' being summarily excluded - that's a little argumenative for our purposes here (and perhaps even in a 'court of law'...) - and he's revealed something positive about his character and habit as a professional navigator that is worth thinking about.  No one said it 'proved' anything anyway.

And I'm not really sure that a scientific quest that asks us to contribute rational ideas really also requires us to stand-up to what a 'court of law' would require regarding the prosecution of a criminal in an open discussion, but there goes that 'impeachment' thing again...

If FN really thought that 'the one' instrument was so immune to damage, etc., then why did he bother carrying a 'preventer' on the Pan Am flight in the first place?  Was that a fluke?

Impeachment attempts don't seem to contribute much to our seeking here.  I would personally much rather see a positive alternate opinion or theory to talk about if Gary has one.

LTM -
- Jeff Neville

Former Member 3074R

« Last Edit: December 15, 2011, 05:26:06 AM by Jeff Neville »
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Irvine John Donald

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• Posts: 597
Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #41 on: December 15, 2011, 06:40:47 AM »

You're right Jeff. I wonder if Gary spends as much time on what he believes happened as he does trying to disprove the TIGHAR hypothesis?  It would be nice if he shared it. Probably very interesting reading. Maybe even give us food for thought.
Respectfully Submitted;

Irv

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Ric Gillespie

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• "Do not try. Do or do not. There is no try" Yoda
Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #42 on: December 15, 2011, 06:41:40 AM »

...but looking at all the things that Earhart removed from the plane, including even papers and her Colt pist0l

Colt pistol???  Did AE have a Colt pistol??  I would LOVE for AE to have had a Colt pistol. For Christmas I'm asking Santa for documentation that AE had a Colt pistol.

So, like I said, there is no evidence to prove that a marine sextant was carried on the Electra, the burden of proof is on those who make that claim.

Of course it is.   What we have is a string of coincidences.
-Noonan said he carred a marine sextant as a "preventer."
- A photo of the navigation room aboard a Martin M130 clipper shows a box for a Brandis Navy Surveying Sextant on the shelf.
- the numbers reported to have been on the sextant box found with the castaway bones on Gardner fit perfectly in the sequence of known Brandis makers and Naval Observatory numbers.
- So the box found with the bones was almost certainly the same kind of sextant Noonan used as a preventer.

That's not proof that it was Noonan's box or even that Noonan had such a box with him on the world flight, but it leaves us with two possibilities:
1. The box was Noonan's
2. A box for a sextant just like Noonan carried on the Clippers somehow turned up in the possession of a castaway on a remote corner of a remote uninhabited Pacific atoll and who seems to have been an American woman of the 1930s - but was NOT Amelia Earhart.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #43 on: December 15, 2011, 06:46:11 AM »

If we work it backwards, 279 miles is (as you've said) roughly 4.65°.  However, 281 miles works out to be 4.683°.  Obviously, this give us a difference of only 0.03°.  Not really familiar with the Brandis sextant, but my archaic old Esco (also marked in 2° increments) isn't even close to being capable of that kind of resolution based only on a simple sun shot.

My only point is that a sun shot from Gardner with a Brandis sextant might reasonably result in an estimate of 281 nm from the equator.
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John Ousterhout

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• Posts: 487
Re: Why wasn't Gardiner identified in the radio messages?
« Reply #44 on: December 15, 2011, 06:49:24 AM »

I'd like to step back for a moment to ask why anyone would assume he might have had two instruments? (edit - I posted this before Ric's more detailed post, above)  We may be making a simple mistaken assumption.  We "know" that FN most likely carried a bubble octant for their celestical nav.  We know that a "sextant" case was found on the island. Is this the source of the inference that there were two instruments during the last flight?  I would not expect the difference between a case for an octant and a case for a sextant to be obvious to a casual observer, if found on a beach (although the serial numbers is a compelling argument).  I also would expect FN to bring the case for the Octant, to protect it in flight.  Where's that case?

I also strongly suspect that his map did not name Gardner island, and it isn't mentioned in AE or FN's correspondance. Didn't AE mention the "Phoenix islands"?  That may have been the extent of island identification on a large-scale map. Otherwise the map may only have shown little more than dots for the islands (like the Cape Verde example on one of FN's actual maps).  Dots are fine for determining ratherr precise position, distance or bearing information, if you know which dot you're on.  One of the post-loss transmissions mentions something like "an unidentified island".  What identification would be expected, other than a name on a map?  A big sign on the beach?
Cheers,
JohnO

« Last Edit: December 15, 2011, 06:56:59 AM by John Ousterhout »
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