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Author Topic: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook  (Read 31354 times)

Adam Marsland

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158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« on: July 10, 2012, 01:07:09 AM »

I had posted this in the navigation forum, but I realized that it was probably the kind of thing that more properly belonged in its own thread.  At the risk of turning things too speculative, I want to ask a question I asked once before, 10 years ago.

In the jumble of numbers and letters that inexplicably fill Betty's Notebook, which purports to be a fragmentary transcription of a weak radio reception from Earhart, there are several entries that, if you sound them out phonetically (as they were heard), are consistent with broadcasting a LOP of 158-338:

"158 mi. "
"58 338"
"fig 8 - 3. 30"
"Z 38"
"38-3 "
"3"
"30"

By my count, of the 12 fragmentary number transcriptions, that's seven that are consistent with hearing a fragment of someone saying the phrase "one fifty eight three thirty eight," including two that are nearly complete transcriptions of that phrase, once you sound them out phonetically, which is exactly how fragments like this would be transcribed.  Given that I work in sound design, I've always thought that one of the key things about Betty's Notebook to understand is that without context, it's hard to work out what any one fragment of a word really means.  We all experience this when we try to understand a conversation without knowing the topic, or can't hear some of the words. Is it a Z or a 3?  Did someone call for someone named Steve, or was that the first part of "stevedore."  Absent any frame of reference, "Norwich City" could easily be interpreted as "New York City," in fact it would be more likely, because given an unknown quantity we will generally default to something familiar.  You have to factor that in if you are trying to interpret something like this -- not just what might have been being transmitted, but what was being actually heard and how that would be interpreted by someone that had no frame of reference to guess at what the whole of the sentence might be.

I realize that this is speculative, but to me it's also very striking since the numbers themselves always struck me as something it was improbable a hoaxer would come up with, since it's too obscure and would tend to make people DISbelieve the message (as, indeed, they have).  And AE repeating the line of position in the message both makes some sense in terms of revealing their position, and also give us some sense of what about half of those numbers, mistranscribed in phonetic and fragmentary fashion, might mean.

So here's my question:  would there be any reason at all for the LOP to be shifted by one degree if AE was indeed transmitting them?  I seem to recall that no one could think of any when I first posed this question.  But the repetition of variations of those two numbers, once you sound out the transcription aloud and account for how garbled the transmission would have been, is very striking to me.

postscript:  I understand that some pooh-pooh Betty's Notebook outright or view it with a great deal of skepticism, and believe that any walk down the speculation road is a fool's errand.  That is fine.  My personal opinion is that since there is a distinct possibility that BN is genuine (as there has been no evidence that it isn't other than the long odds of the reception itself), then it's worthwhile to think these kinds of things through as we may find unexpected light through analyzing them.  If the transmission happened, the numbers mean something.  Which is my way of saying that, having acknowledged this, blanket responses saying this is too deep in the weeds and these kinds of questions shouldn't be bothered to be asked are in no way helpful.  :)  If AE broadcast the line of position altered by one degree to help people find their location, then it's an odd enough occurrence that deducing the reason for it could conceivably advance the hypothesis in terms of how the flight ended and how they got on Niku, or where they thought they were.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2012, 01:20:10 AM by Adam Marsland »
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Gary LaPook

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2012, 01:40:19 AM »

I had posted this in the navigation forum, but I realized that it was probably the kind of thing that more properly belonged in its own thread.  At the risk of turning things too speculative, I want to ask a question I asked once before, 10 years ago.

In the jumble of numbers and letters that inexplicably fill Betty's Notebook, which purports to be a fragmentary transcription of a weak radio reception from Earhart, there are several entries that, if you sound them out phonetically (as they were heard), are consistent with broadcasting a LOP of 158-338:

"158 mi. "
"58 338"
"fig 8 - 3. 30"
"Z 38"
"38-3 "
"3"
"30"

By my count, of the 12 fragmentary number transcriptions, that's seven that are consistent with hearing a fragment of someone saying the phrase "one fifty eight three thirty eight," including two that are nearly complete transcriptions of that phrase, once you sound them out phonetically, which is exactly how fragments like this would be transcribed.  Given that I work in sound design, I've always thought that one of the key things about Betty's Notebook to understand is that without context, it's hard to work out what any one fragment of a word really means.  We all experience this when we try to understand a conversation without knowing the topic, or can't hear some of the words. Is it a Z or a 3?  Did someone call for someone named Steve, or was that the first part of "stevedore."  Absent any frame of reference, "Norwich City" could easily be interpreted as "New York City," in fact it would be more likely, because given an unknown quantity we will generally default to something familiar.  You have to factor that in if you are trying to interpret something like this -- not just what might have been being transmitted, but what was being actually heard and how that would be interpreted by someone that had no frame of reference to guess at what the whole of the sentence might be.

I realize that this is speculative, but to me it's also very striking since the numbers themselves always struck me as something it was improbable a hoaxer would come up with, since it's too obscure and would tend to make people DISbelieve the message (as, indeed, they have).  And AE repeating the line of position in the message both makes some sense in terms of revealing their position, and also give us some sense of what about half of those numbers, mistranscribed in phonetic and fragmentary fashion, might mean.

So here's my question:  would there be any reason at all for the LOP to be shifted by one degree if AE was indeed transmitting them?  I seem to recall that no one could think of any when I first posed this question.  But the repetition of variations of those two numbers, once you sound out the transcription aloud and account for how garbled the transmission would have been, is very striking to me.

postscript:  I understand that some pooh-pooh Betty's Notebook outright or view it with a great deal of skepticism, and believe that any walk down the speculation road is a fool's errand.  That is fine.  My personal opinion is that since there is a distinct possibility that BN is genuine (as there has been no evidence that it isn't other than the long odds of the reception itself), then it's worthwhile to think these kinds of things through as we may find unexpected light through analyzing them.  If the transmission happened, the numbers mean something.  Which is my way of saying that, having acknowledged this, blanket responses saying this is too deep in the weeds and these kinds of questions shouldn't be bothered to be asked are in no way helpful.  :)  If AE broadcast the line of position altered by one degree to help people find their location, then it's an odd enough occurrence that deducing the reason for it could conceivably advance the hypothesis in terms of how the flight ended and how they got on Niku, or where they thought they were.
Here's the problem with your idea, there never was a 158-338 LOP in the vicinity of Howland or Gardner on July 2, 1937. The direction of the LOP is determined by the azimuth of the sun so to have a 158-338 LOP you need the sun to be on an azimuth of 068° and it never was. This may be confusing to those of us in the U.S. because or experience is that the sun rises in an easterly direction and then the direction to the sun, it's azimuth, changes in a clockwise direction with the numbers increasing during the day, 90 to 100 to   180, south at noon, to 220  to 270  and then setting in a generally westerly direction. Things were different on Howland and Gardner in July. Howland is just north of the equator and Gardner is south of the equator. The sun in July is about 23° north of the equator so it passes north of those islands. The sun rose on an azimuth of 067° and then moved in a counterclockwise direction, 067 to 066 to 065....to zero, straight north at noon then onto 330 to 310 to 300 and setting on an azimuth of 293°. Because it's azimuth never changed to 068° there would never be a 158-358 LOP.

gl
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Andrew M McKenna

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2012, 01:45:03 AM »

Gary

What about the subsequent days, what were the azimuths for July 3-7?  We don't know exactly when Betty heard these numbers, so it is possible that these are derived from a date different than July 2.

Also interesting that Niku is closer to 158° from Howland than 157°, at least according to Google Earth. 

Andrew
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Gary LaPook

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2012, 03:03:31 AM »

Gary

What about the subsequent days, what were the azimuths for July 3-7?  We don't know exactly when Betty heard these numbers, so it is possible that these are derived from a date different than July 2.

Also interesting that Niku is closer to 158° from Howland than 157°, at least according to Google Earth. 

Andrew
Good try..... but no. Since this was near the summer solstice, the declination of the sun was changing very slowly so it's azimuth at sunrise stayed 067° through 7/7/37 at both Howland and Gardner so there is no way to produce a 158-338 LOP on those days.

gl
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Andrew M McKenna

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2012, 03:08:59 AM »

And what would be the margin of error if you were standing on an island taking the sun shot to try to determine the azimuth / LOP as opposed to calculating it from the almanac?

amck
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richie conroy

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2012, 06:17:34 AM »

Gary according to the itasca logs that 157 - 337 was questionable, because it had come over radio when the radio men thought she was already down,

So if they find the wreckage of the electra this week, what would have been correct L.O.P to take them to gardner ?

I just wonder if they typed correct L.O.P and that's why its questionable ?
 
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Gary LaPook

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2012, 06:31:07 AM »

And what would be the margin of error if you were standing on an island taking the sun shot to try to determine the azimuth / LOP as opposed to calculating it from the almanac?

amck
But you never attempt to measure the azimuth for a celestial observation since it comes out during the normal computation.

gl
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Gary LaPook

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2012, 06:32:25 AM »

Gary according to the itasca logs that 157 - 337 was questionable, because it had come over radio when the radio men thought she was already down,

So if they find the wreckage of the electra this week, what would have been correct L.O.P to take them to gardner ?

I just wonder if they typed correct L.O.P and that's why its questionable ?
There is no LOP to take you to Gardner see:
https://sites.google.com/site/fredienoonan/discussions/why-it-was-not-possible-to-follow-lop-to-nikumaroro

gl
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Adam Marsland

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2012, 05:48:45 PM »

I take your point, Gary, and it's a fair one.  But noting that, let me ask you to look at this another way, and try to apply your expertise in another way...as I have said, it's easy enough to poke a hole in something this speculative.  But this is a different kind of thought question, and one where, if you can let go of your skepticism for a moment and think it through from a different perspective, you might come up with an excellent answer (albeit one that you might not want to come up with!)

For the purposes of this thread, make two assumptions:  one, that Betty's Notebook is genuine.  Second, that the recurrence of these numbers is not a coincidence.  Neither is proven, but both are possible and to me, plausible.

Regardless of whether such an LOP existed or not, is there any reason why AE (not necessarily FN) would have thought transmitting an (apparently fictitious) LOP of 158/338 would help people find her?  It's a slightly different question than the one you are answering.  Assume for a moment that, regardless of what you think makes navigational sense, that's what she did.  Why?

I admit I can't think of a reason, but I really am dogged by this question.  For reasons I have stated, I believe the BN to be more likely to be real than not.  I really do not believe the number recurrence is a coincidence, either. But as to why...I'm stumped.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2012, 05:51:24 PM by Adam Marsland »
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John Hart

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2012, 06:28:47 PM »

I too am skeptical of the Betty Notebook.  Too many miracles for her to have heard so much for so long.  That being said I do not think there has to be something nefarious.  Betty was a very talented young lady based upon her drawings and she obviously loved to doodle and had a vivid imagination.  There are obvious answers for all the 3's and 8's.  They are the most numerous numbers when doodling.  Ask one of your kids to doodle all over a piece of paper and see which numbers occur most.  Betty probably had heard lots of radio programs about AE, not just March of Time, and may have been inspired by that and during another broadcast started imagining a dialogue based on some of the speculation she had heard.  Watch TV after an airplane accident and how many analysts come on with their speculation.  So she starts doodling dialogue and throwing in numbers.  Page jumping is hard to account for but her picture jumping could still be the answer.  The Father/Mother stuff is hearsay and hard to prove.

Why not nefarious?  My grandfather always wanted to  be a pilot, his brother in law was a pilot and was killed in a crash in the 20s.  After I became a pilot he always talked to me about it and how he wished he had flown in WWI (too old for WWII).  But he was the most honest man on the planet.  When he started getting senile he suddenly started describing his exploits flying in WWI.

Now that I've said that I don't want all the BN devotees decending on me.  I said skeptical, not convinced either way.  just trying to show a possible way the nice old lady could be telling the truth as she remembers it.  The longer you tell a story the more real it becomes to you till one day even you believe it.

Still a lot of other ways to answer those numbers.  FN taking sights and asking her to write down numbers while she is talking on radio.  Sextant angles, times and so forth would not make sense out of context.  so don't give up on me...just not sold.

JB
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Adam Marsland

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2012, 06:52:03 PM »

Take your point, John, but it's another one of those "I don't buy the premise, so I'm reaching for an explanation that doesn't really make any more sense than what I'm being asked to buy, but it just sounds less fantastic so I feel OK saying it" kinds of explanations to me (meaning no offense).  It certainly sounds very plausible on the surface, it just doesn't fit in any way what's actually there in the book and the person's recollection.  To me, it's an explanation solely crafted to fit one's disbelief in BN, not what we actually have there, which isn't convincing to me.  But...I acknowledge, certainly possible. 

I can't prove that Betty's Notebook is for real, it's simply that all other explanations are less credible than it being real.  So in that sense, I'm not "sold" either.  Just going with what the most likely scenario is to me weighing what's there and what we know.

I appreciate that you threw out another possible explanation -- that's what I'm looking for.  It's fine if other people can explain this away.  I can't.  It's been bugging me for years, but for the life of me I can't imagine why she would broadcast that.  Even if she was telling them she was down the LOP, why change by one degree?  Why not broadcast lat/long if FN was taking measurements?  It doesn't make any sense to me.  But I can't get around the recurrence of those numbers, particularly that "58 338" staring me right in the face, followed by "fig 58 3.30".  I'd like to just assume that it means nothing, that it's just scribbling, that Betty dreamed it up, or it's a coincidence.  But in my gut, I simply don't buy it.  As I said, the other explanations only seem less far-fetched on the surface, but they really aren't.
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Gary LaPook

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2012, 10:33:49 PM »

I take your point, Gary, and it's a fair one.  But noting that, let me ask you to look at this another way, and try to apply your expertise in another way...as I have said, it's easy enough to poke a hole in something this speculative.  But this is a different kind of thought question, and one where, if you can let go of your skepticism for a moment and think it through from a different perspective, you might come up with an excellent answer (albeit one that you might not want to come up with!)

For the purposes of this thread, make two assumptions:  one, that Betty's Notebook is genuine.  Second, that the recurrence of these numbers is not a coincidence.  Neither is proven, but both are possible and to me, plausible.

Regardless of whether such an LOP existed or not, is there any reason why AE (not necessarily FN) would have thought transmitting an (apparently fictitious) LOP of 158/338 would help people find her?  It's a slightly different question than the one you are answering.  Assume for a moment that, regardless of what you think makes navigational sense, that's what she did.  Why?

I admit I can't think of a reason, but I really am dogged by this question.  For reasons I have stated, I believe the BN to be more likely to be real than not.  I really do not believe the number recurrence is a coincidence, either. But as to why...I'm stumped.
The true course from Howland to Gardner id 159°, see chart here.

If, after landing she measured that course on her chart with a plotter, then she might have measured 158° depending on the accuracy of her chart. But that is a course, not an LOP, so there is no reason to mention the "338." For this scenario to make any sense she had to know she was on Gardner so why not just say "GARDNER ISLAND" over and over again? None of the alleged post loss messages, and that includes Betty's, contain the word "Gardner" nor the word "Phoenix" not any other position information.

See: https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,674.msg13056.html#msg13056

and https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,674.msg13063.html#msg13063


gl

gl
« Last Edit: July 10, 2012, 10:37:38 PM by Gary LaPook »
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Adam Marsland

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2012, 02:51:37 AM »

No, you're absolutely right about all that, Gary.  It doesn't really make any sense.  Can't shake it, though.
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Malcolm McKay

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2012, 03:50:18 AM »

For this scenario to make any sense she had to know she was on Gardner so why not just say "GARDNER ISLAND" over and over again? None of the alleged post loss messages, and that includes Betty's, contain the word "Gardner" nor the word "Phoenix" not any other position information.


Of course you are right Gary. The other thing that I find interesting is that of the plots of post loss messages, as illustrated in post #98 of http://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,764.0.html http://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,764.msg15832.html#msg15832 only one seems to come within cooee of Nikumaroro. Superficially at least this could indicate that Earhart and Noonan were anywhere along those lines but as the bulk of the post-loss messages are known to be clouded by deliberate faking, to be honest one must say that the evidence is tainted. Which is not to say that it is entirely possible that after flying around looking for a dry spot to land the pair found Nikumaroro but that the post-loss messages are not safe evidence. 
« Last Edit: July 11, 2012, 03:53:11 AM by Malcolm McKay »
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Matt Revington

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Re: 158 / 338 in Betty's Notebook
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2012, 04:31:10 AM »

Malcolm
Yes many of the post loss messages were frauds or mistakes, but most those involve attention seeking or just plain confused amateurs in North America (perhaps including Betty) .  The rdf operations in Hawaii and on wake were manned by professionals and though the lines don't intersect exactly at niku they come close, and there is no other piece of land that is closer to those lines.  It's possible those operators mistook some garbled search transmissions from the area but it's hard to see how some hoaxer would generate false transmissions from the sea near niku
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