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Author Topic: Did Howland get a direction finder reading?  (Read 10377 times)

Jeff Carter

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Did Howland get a direction finder reading?
« on: July 09, 2012, 02:53:07 PM »

Why did some newspapers report that Howland Island station had successfully got a bearing on Earhart's transmissions while still in the air?  Is this just a reporter's confusion or is there some truth to this at all?

Reading Eagle - Jul 7, 1937 via Google Newspapers.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Q7sxAAAAIBAJ&sjid=_OEFAAAAIBAJ&dq=earhart%201937&pg=3855%2C1389932


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Bruce Thomas

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Re: Did Howland get a direction finder reading?
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2012, 03:31:36 PM »

Is this just a reporter's confusion or is there some truth to this at all?

"Reporter's confusion"?  Why, certainly you jest, sir!   :D

Chapter 9 ("Lost:Communications Failure on the Flight to Howland Island") of Finding Amelia is a good place to consult about what all went on with Cipriani. 

Or, you can read the pre-publication version of that chapter in TIGHAR Tracks Vol. 22 (there it's numbered as Chapter 8, beginning on page 18 of that issue). 

Cipriani (the Coast Guard guy borrowed from the USCGC Taney) was on Howland with a high-frequency direction finder (borrowed from the Navy by Army Air Corps Lt. Daniel A. Cooper), but the signals he heard were fleeting and he couldn't get a bearing. 

(Maybe someone can help me with my memory -- in addition to his running down the battery on that unit, I swear I recall something about the innards of the unit getting balled up by Cipriani continuing to spin the external wheel too much in one direction, until eventually the wires got all boogered up.  Did I dream that?)
LTM,

Bruce
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« Last Edit: July 09, 2012, 04:06:48 PM by Bruce Thomas »
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C.W. Herndon

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Woody (former 3316R)
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Jeff Victor Hayden

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Re: Did Howland get a direction finder reading?
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2012, 03:43:36 PM »

And here...

As noted earlier, the Itasca deployed an experimental direction finder on Howland Island, manned by Radioman Second Class Frank Cipriani. Leo Bellarts, the Itasca’s chief radioman in July 1937, described68 this direction finder as a portable Navy unit using a loop antenna, that had neither slip rings connecting the loop to the output signal wires, nor limit stops to prevent over-twisting the signal wires. According to Bellarts, the wires were badly twisted and broken when the unit was returned to the Itasca

http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Research/ResearchPapers/Brandenburg/RDFResearch/RDFAnalysis/RDF5.html
This must be the place
 
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Bruce Thomas

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Re: Did Howland get a direction finder reading?
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2012, 04:03:10 PM »

Woody and Jeff V. H. get their "AE Forum Searcher Merit Badge" at the next pow-wow!
LTM,

Bruce
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« Last Edit: July 09, 2012, 04:05:09 PM by Bruce Thomas »
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C.W. Herndon

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Re: Did Howland get a direction finder reading?
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2012, 04:27:51 PM »

Thanks Bruce. We like you too! ;D
Woody (former 3316R)
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Did Howland get a direction finder reading?
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2012, 07:13:43 PM »

... in addition to his running down the battery on that unit, I swear I recall something about the innards of the unit getting balled up by Cipriani continuing to spin the external wheel too much in one direction, until eventually the wires got all boogered up.

From Randy Jacobson, Thu, 19 Nov 1998 08:52:27 EST:

Where to start? Most of the information is anecdotal, third hand, etc. Yes, there was an experimental HF/DF on Howland. It was run by Radioman  3rd Class Cipriani, detached from the Itasca for the purposes of DF'ing her signals. It was run by batteries extracted from the Itasca, but the radioman started the radio early during the night, and by the time he really needed to use it, the batteries had basically ran down.

Where did the radio come from? Stafford, who was in the Navy Communications and ONI departments then and during the war, did some research after his retirement when he was working at the Library of Congress. He claims that the radio was essentially the same rig as what AE had in her plane, only set up for use on land and on ship. It came from the Fleet Air Base, Pearl Harbor, where it was an experimental unit, probably under examination for future utilization by the Navy.

Radioman 1st class Leo Bellarts of the Itasca claims it was a breadboard (read very experimental) unit, that when came back aboard ship, was wrapped completely around the turning axis several times so that the wires were broken, and thus was unusable. I guess they did not know about slip rings back then.

What was its capability under the best of circumstances? Unknown.

Who was the manufacturer? Unknown.

Did AE know about it? Only if Putnam was knowledgeable enough about it to pass it on to AE during phone calls. AE was expecting a radio rig (but not DF) on her first try to Howland (from Honolulu).

In all of my correspondence on file, there is very little mention of the HF D/F during 1937, with the exception of Capt. Thompson's report to the Coast Guard. The rest of the stuff above comes from 1960's interviews and manuscripts.

I do know that the radio was not calibrated in direction. It was set up away from the Howland living facilities, and was never calibrated against the Itasca prior to the flight. Itasca never made a run around the island, which was the standard practice for calibration (actually, aboard ship, the ship turns, D/Fing against a fixed location).

There was some calibrations made a couple of days later against the Itasca, which most people assume was a reading against AE (NNW/SSE), unless they read the radio logs in excruciating detail.  Hope all of this helps.
LTM,

           Marty
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Jeff Carter

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Re: Did Howland get a direction finder reading?
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2012, 09:06:17 PM »

Thanks. Makes sense.  Sounds like the reporter was badly confused.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2012, 09:10:48 PM by Jeff Carter »
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