"We are on the line 157 337"
These are the last words received from Earhart and Noonan between 2013 GMT and 2025 GMT; the Carey diary says that Earhart was "still on air" at 2030 GMT.
This is a photostat of the entry in the "rough log" preserved by Leo G. Bellarts.
The crucial information here is: "We are on the line 157 337. Will repeat the message. We will repeat this on 6210 kcs. Wait. We are running [on] line [north and south]."
Earhart indicates here that she is switching from her nighttime frequency (3105 kcs) to her daytime frequency (6210 kcs). No further messages were received from the aircraft. "Due to the skip characteristics of 6210 Kilocycles, Earhart’s decision to switch to that frequency effectively shuts off any further reception by Itasca. Conclusion: The Coast Guard’s official position that the Earhart flight ran out of fuel and crashed at sea shortly after the final transmission heard by the Itasca is not supported by the facts" ("Log Jam," TIGHAR Tracks 12:2-3, 1996).
The most probable explanation of why Earhart and Noonan were flying on the compass headings of 157 degrees and 337 degrees is that Noonan had calculated a line of position at sunrise.
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How the 157-337 LOP fits into the story
- 1. Credible reports of overcast conditions during the night mean that Fred was not able to maintain an accurate course for Howland using celestial navigation.
- 2. After sunrise Fred takes his observation. He already knows that the sun will come at 67° True so he knows that his Line of Position will be 157° - 337°. His after-sunrise observation lets him draw that line on his map and shows him how far along he is in an east-west sense. He has no way knowing where he is in a north-south sense.
- 3. Having drawn his 157-337 line on the chart ("I'm somewhere on this line.") he draws another 157-337 line that passes through Howland. He then measures the distance between the two parallel lines. Now he knows how far it is from the line he is on to the line that passes through Howland.
- 4. Next question: How long will it take to cover that distance? For that he needs to know the airplane's ground speed and that means getting an accurate handle on what the wind is doing (something he has not been able to do all night). Now that it's daylight he can estimate the wind by watching the wave tops on the ocean or using his drift meter.
- 5. Now he can estimate at what time they will reach the line that passes through Howland. That time turns out to be 19:00 Greenwich. He tells Earhart (probably with a note) "ETA 1900." He, of course, means that they'll reach the line at 19:00 GMT. If they're bang on course they'll also reach Howland at 19:00 GMT, but Fred has been dead reckoning all night without a celestial fix. He knows it would be amazing if they are still exactly on course. Amelia doesn't understand the nuance. All she knows is that Fred says ETA 1900 GMT.
- 6. Amelia tries repeatedly to get Itasca to take a bearing on her, but gets no reply.
- 7. 19:00 GMT comes, but Howland is not there and, at 19:12 GMT, Amelia radios, "We must be on you but cannot see you." Fred knows that it's not true that "we must be on you" but he's not the one on the radio. He knows that what they have to do now is DR their way up and down the line to find Howland.
- 8. He has Amelia fly northwest first and at 20:00 GMT she tries to use her loop antenna, but no luck. Fred has her turn around and they retrace their steps, dead reckoning southeast, and still hoping that they'll find Howland.
- 9. Amelia finally understands what they're doing and why, and at 20:13 GMT radios "We are on the line 157-337" and says she'll repeat this on her other frequency, but before she does she decides to explain further and at 20:25 radios, "We are running on line north and south." Then she changes frequencies and nothing more is heard.
- 10. Noonan knows that all of the other islands on or near the LOP are southeast of Howland. That's why he goes northwest first. But everything they do is in hopes of finding Howland. At no point do they decide to "go for" some other island.
Earhart's Tone of Voice
- Ric Gillespie, AESF, 4 February 2000.
- We do not have a copy of the tape, just the transcript. This is what Bellarts told Long in 1973 about the way Earhart sounded:
- "Ah, actually her voice...we could here her voice just as easy as I'm hearing yours right now and I'm deaf in one ear now. But I'll tell you, you could hear her voice all over the shack and even outside the shack. you know, real loud and clear. I mean it. She was a woman. We heard her quite a few times, you know, but that last one, I'm telling you, it sounded as if she would have broken out in a scream, it would have sounded normal. She was just about ready to break into tears and go into hysterics. That's exactly the way I'd describe her voice now. I'll never forget it."
- Transmissions heard from NR16020.
- "The Radio Logs of the USCG Itasca: Introduction and Index."
- "The Radio Logs of the USCG Itasca: Analysis of the 0843 Message."
- "Last Words."
- "What is the significance of Earhart's statement, 'We are on the line 157 337'?"
- "Log Jam."
- "Visualizing the 337-157 LOP."
- "Midpoint to Vicinity of Howland."
- "At Howland Island: 1415GMT to 1930GMT."
- "The Airplane Returns to Earth."
- Offset method of celestial navigation.
- Air Navigation: State of the Art in 1937