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Whatever Happened to Ameila Earhart?

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  • #31
    Even if Earhart didn't understand how to use the radio or the direction finder, she had Fred Noonan with her, who was perhaps the premier navigator of the age. He taught navigation for Pan American airlines, and navigated the maiden flight of the China Clipper (a huge prestige project with most of the world watching, for all that it's forgotten now).

    Obviously something happened to them, but I have to think that there's more to the story than simple incompetence.
    - Ginger

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    • #32
      I'm not suggesting that TIGHAR's findings are beyond question, but the topography of Gardner Island is that a short distance off the part of the island where TIGHAR suggests the Electra ended up, the seabed drops down almost vertically. If, as I suppose is possible, the Electra ended up half in - half out of the sea, it wouldn't have lasted long. Look at the state of the Norwich City cargo vessel which ran aground on Gardner in 1929 - even when it was attempted to establish a community on Gardner shortly before WW2 the ship was falling apart.

      TIGHAR claims to have found what they say are aircraft components which can be linked to the Electra design. Maybe, maybe not. If any of the finds can suggest the presence of Europeans, then I think it's the personal possessions.

      However, it's untrue to suggest that Gardner was uncharted at the time of the Earhart disappearance - it had been visited, and of course the surviving crew of the Norwich City spent some time on the island before they were rescued. But I must admit I would doubt if any brawny seaman would have used anti-freckle cream....

      I'll re-state that I tend towards the belief that the Electra did crash-land on Gardner, but because of the conditions on the island neither aircraft nor crew lasted long.

      I'll also re-state that there is good evidence that the Electra could transmit but not receive radio messages.

      Graham
      We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

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      • #33
        Originally posted by GUT View Post
        Yes Longs conclusions are at least logical, however the mystery remains, if correct where are the remains.
        Thanks for the kind welcome, GUT!

        Re the replies: The remains are (without doubt, IMO) near Howland on the bottom of the ocean. A search has been proposed but it's a long and expensive proposition. We know AE was very near Howland when she was very low on fuel and stressed about it. It is exceedingly improbable that she flew another 2 hours to another spot without saying so on the radio--and if she had the fuel to reach it, she would have continued the box search for Howland. (Elgen Long, himself a long-time pre-GPS Pacific navigator, discusses the "finding Howland" issue extensively in his book.)

        Noonan's navigation position was not in the cockpit but behind it; he could not reach the RDF (in front of and above AE's head) and didn't know how to use it either. There are absolutely no verified contacts from the plane after splashdown, and no reason to think the Electra's radio could have been used for more than minutes if at all. Again, all just MHO but it's the only logical conclusion.

        Cheers! --oscar the newbie (but long-time student of AE & JFK; relative newcomer to JtR)
        Last edited by Oscar D'Oslavah; 08-02-2015, 07:36 AM.

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        • #34
          Originally posted by Oscar D'Oslavah View Post
          Thanks for the kind welcome, GUT!

          Re the replies: The remains are (without doubt, IMO) near Howland on the bottom of the ocean. A search has been proposed but it's a long and expensive proposition. We know AE was very near Howland when she was very low on fuel and stressed about it. It is exceedingly improbable that she flew another 2 hours to another spot without saying so on the radio--and if she had the fuel to reach it, she would have continued the box search for Howland. (Elgen Long, himself a long-time pre-GPS Pacific navigator, discusses the "finding Howland" issue extensively in his book.)

          Noonan's navigation position was not in the cockpit but behind it; he could not reach the RDF (in front of and above AE's head) and didn't know how to use it either. There are absolutely no verified contacts from the plane after splashdown, and no reason to think the Electra's radio could have been used for more than minutes if at all. Again, all just MHO but it's the only logical conclusion.

          Cheers! --oscar the newbie (but long-time student of AE & JFK; relative newcomer to JtR)
          Sorry Oscar I actually meant the remains of the plane, there should have been bits and pieces scattered everywhere.
          G U T

          There are two ways to be fooled, one is to believe what isn't true, the other is to refuse to believe that which is true.

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          • #35
            The talk of radio communication (or lack of it) reminds me of the eerie legend about the Dam Busters raid, and a Lancaster that crashed not far from the Moehne Dam. It is said that long after it had crashed and burned out, Bomber Command HQ continued to receive radio voice communication on its wavelength. Probably a load of old tosh, but ya never know.....woooo-hoooo!

            Graham
            We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

            Comment


            • #36
              GUT, sorry, I misunderstood--yes, agreed, if AE had landed on Gardner there would probably be more detritus to have been found. But (again, just MHO) it's remarkably unlikely that AE could or would have gone to Gardner.

              And Graham, I've read about the "dambusters" and seen a documentary about them but hadn't heard that story--as you say, probably bogus but it's a great story.

              Apologies for rambling off-topic, but "long-delayed radio signals" have been observed on shortwave, but those are a matter of seconds and involve a global circumnavigation. But this story is a good 'un even though it didn't happen:

              http://www.snopes.com/radiotv/tv/klee.asp

              I'm an American, but years ago I had two Norton motorcycles and my sister had a TR-6. From that perspective I'd say if Englishmen had seen 3-year-old TV identification signals without another explanation, it would probably be from using TVs made by Lucas. ;-) There was a bumpersticker popular here years ago: "Joe Lucas says: don't go out after dark!" :-)

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              • #37
                Originally posted by Ginger View Post
                Even if Earhart didn't understand how to use the radio or the direction finder, she had Fred Noonan with her, who was perhaps the premier navigator of the age. He taught navigation for Pan American airlines, and navigated the maiden flight of the China Clipper (a huge prestige project with most of the world watching, for all that it's forgotten now).

                Obviously something happened to them, but I have to think that there's more to the story than simple incompetence.
                Hi Ginger,

                Noonan may have been that good, but I have heard he had a serious drinking problem that Earhart was watching during the trip. It may have been under control or not.

                Jeff

                Comment


                • #38
                  Originally posted by GUT View Post
                  Sorry Oscar I actually meant the remains of the plane, there should have been bits and pieces scattered everywhere.
                  G'Day GUT.

                  Even had it landed fully on Howland or Garland or any island in 1937 the plane's remains would be in pieces by now - it just is that had it hit the water straight down it would have split up faster.

                  Jeff

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                  • #39
                    Originally posted by Mayerling View Post
                    G'Day GUT.

                    Even had it landed fully on Howland or Garland or any island in 1937 the plane's remains would be in pieces by now - it just is that had it hit the water straight down it would have split up faster.

                    Jeff
                    But I would have expected something to have washed up.
                    G U T

                    There are two ways to be fooled, one is to believe what isn't true, the other is to refuse to believe that which is true.

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      Originally posted by GUT View Post
                      But I would have expected something to have washed up.
                      I'm not sure it would have in the 1930s. Airplane debris that's found floating now is mainly plastic, or else thin sheets of aluminum robot-welded into hermetically-sealed structures (lighter, and usually stronger, than solid members). They didn't use that much plastic before the War, and the ability to fabricate hollow welded aluminum members just wasn't there, or at least not there for commercial aircraft builders.

                      Edit: And the plastic that was chiefly in use at the time was Bakelite, a phenolic resin, which was denser than water (specific gravity of around 1.35 or so).
                      Last edited by Ginger; 08-04-2015, 08:48 PM. Reason: Afterthought
                      - Ginger

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        Originally posted by Mayerling View Post
                        Noonan may have been that good, but I have heard he had a serious drinking problem that Earhart was watching during the trip. It may have been under control or not.
                        Jeff, that's an interesting point: a few of the books say Noonan was a hard boozer, others say not. One interesting datapoint is that Noonan got what we 'Mericans call "sloppy drunk" with a pal in New Guinea the night before leaving for Howland, and Earhart had to postpone the trip for a day. (Source for that is the Longs' book.) Noonan certainly *was* a top navigator in his day.

                        A bit off topic, again, sorry, but speaking of the Dambusters, this is in Wikipedia's 'recent deaths' page for yesterday:

                        Les Munro, 96, New Zealand pilot, last surviving pilot of Operation Chastise

                        Men of steel, the Dambusters. What F1 race commentator David Hobbs calls having "very large attachments."

                        Comment


                        • #42
                          From what I've read over the years, I don't think Fred Noonan was really the problem. After all these years it's difficult to point a finger at anyone, but it seems to me that the 'round the world flight' was very poorly prepared. Amelia kept changing her mind about the route, for a start. She was a very attractive woman with a persuasive manner, and it seems it was rather easy for her to 'get her own way'. The Lockheed Electra was an excellent aircraft for what it was intended for - a 'short haul' commercial aircraft designed to transport 10 passengers on flights of around 700 miles. That is, between cities within the United States. As a bit of an aviation buff, I've often wondered just why the Electra was selected for Amelia's big flight. In my humble opinion she'd have been better off with something like the Douglas DC-2 (forerunner of the famed C47 Dakota), but I wasn't paying for it....

                          Lockheed made excellent aircraft, of that there is no doubt. When the British Purchasing Commission visited the USA just prior to WW2, the gave Lockheed top marks in terms of quality of design and manufacture. Having said all this, the Electra Model 10E powered with two Pratt & Whitney Wasp 600hp engines should have done, and in fact did, the business. So what went wrong?

                          IMHO, it was a combination of bad planning, niggling technical problems that weren't properly addressed, and an insistence that a selected time-scale must be adhered to. Plus, I have to say, the filmed take-off from Lae in which it can be seen that the under-fuselage trailing antenna (aerial) was torn off, which would, effectively, have meant that Earhart and Noonan could receive but not send messages. I do believe, sincerely, that this is what did for them.

                          My opinion purely, and I await to be shot down - not, please, marooned on a waterless atoll.....

                          Graham
                          We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

                          Comment


                          • #43
                            Originally posted by Graham View Post
                            From what I've read over the years, I don't think Fred Noonan was really the problem. After all these years it's difficult to point a finger at anyone, but it seems to me that the 'round the world flight' was very poorly prepared...
                            My opinion purely, and I await to be shot down - not, please, marooned on a waterless atoll.....
                            Graham
                            I'd be more afraid to be marooned on a rum-less atoll, myself. ;-) Graham, I agree with you on almost all of that. Noonan got them very close to Howland, very much as planned and expected. Howland was tiny, and hard to see flying east in the early morning. If they had had more fuel on board the airplane (for the 'box search') OR if Amelia had bothered to learn to use the RDF, they'd have been fine, IMO.

                            Remember that the people on the _Itasca_ heard AE quite regularly during the final hours of flight, using voice on 3105kHz, and very strongly 1.5 hours after local sunrise. So she certainly could transmit voice signals. Amelia asked the Itasca to take a bearing on her--which also would have solved her problem, except that the dumb lady didn't have a Morse key on board--she left it out to save weight. It is exceedingly difficult to get a bearing on a voice signal (in AM or SSB mode) because the signal strength, which is what you're measuring, bounces up and down with the voice. Sending long dashes on the Morse code key would have allowed Itasca to RDF AE's plane and find her bearing to the island--but she had no Morse key.

                            She could have RDF'd the Itasca's signals, except that she didn't know her shortwave receiver and the RDF loop used different scales (source: Longs' book) and she never bothered to learn to use the RDF before leaving--one more fatal mistake on her part.

                            She was actually terribly clueless about the radio; at one point she asked Itasca to reply to her on 7500KHz, but she had been informed that Itasca couldn't send voice on that frequency. She just hadn't paid attention to the written radio protocols that were sent to her. She also liked to transmit on 00 and 30 minutes after the hour, and listen on 15 and 45 minutes after (or the other way around, I don't recall), instead of normal two-way communications.

                            As I recall, a naval officer saw the proposed communications schedule and darkly predicted failure for the flight--if I'm not misremembering that. Most ships used 500KHz as a "watch frequency" (until 30 years ago, in fact.) AE never tried to send on that frequency, being clueless, and she didn't have Morse capabilities, as I said. She never learned to use her own RDF and she was unable to let Itasca effectively use its RDF. Very poor planning.

                            Apologies to AE's shade, but Noonan got her to Howland as well as any navigator could have in those days. (Elgen Long explains this quite cogently in the book I mentioned.) But Earhart failed in planning and preparation, with disastrous results. (Again, IMO.)

                            It's an interesting discussion--my thanks to you all for welcoming me so nicely!
                            --oscar

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                            • #44
                              Graham, now that I think about it, the trailing-wire antenna on the plane was for 500KHz, not the shortwave bands--so if it did break off, AE couldn't have effectively used 500Kcs. If that antenna did break off, she may not have been aware of it, since (I believe, though I don't know for sure) that 500KHz was used only for Morse (CW) communications, and I'm not aware that she ever tried to use that frequency. As a longwire, this would have been electrically "loaded" against the aluminum body of the plane.

                              For shortwave frequencies, which AE used during the Howland attempt, the Electra usually had a dipole antenna running from a short mast on the fuselage, each arm of the dipole running to the tail, to mounts on the tailfins. You can see them at:

                              http://www.history.com/news/wp-conte...very-plane.jpg

                              The mast is around 5 feet behind the RDF loop above AE's head on the fuselage. Neither Noonan nor Earhart were able to use Morse code. The RDF unit was linked to the plane's shortwave receiver by a new control box, which Noonan and AE weren't trained on.

                              Sadly, Fred (or Harry) Manning, the original choice for navigator, left the flight after the crash ended the first attempt. He had been trained on the RDF operation, and he also knew Morse at a respectable 15 words per minute. If he had been aboard leaving New Guinea, the Electra probably would have found Howland safely. Poor planning, poor technical preparation. :-(

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                Originally posted by GUT View Post
                                But I would have expected something to have washed up.
                                G'Day GUT,

                                To be fair something could have washed up - in 1928 Roald Amundsen took off in a plane with a crew to try to assist in the rescue of his old rival Umberto Nobile and the survivors of the crash of the airship "Italia" in Arctic regions. But he never got there, and his actual fate is as unknown as that of Earhart. Apparently (from an essay I read once) the French plane loaned to him was rather stupidly chosen - it had an air cooled motor. Not exactly what is used in Polar areas.

                                Anyway months later some of the plane parts turned up and suggested that Amundsen and his two man crew tried to put together the parts as a make-shift raft. But it was like a wing strut and an aileron - not really much. Still it was from a pre-1950 plane so it had metal in it, although I wonder if it was also wooden.

                                The recent rediscovery of a portion of the wing (most likely) from the missing Malaysian plane on Reunion Isle seems to support the floating wreckage notion, but that plane is one of the more plastic designed planes of the present day (although it is a jet liner, so it has more metal too). Oddly enough that discovery made me think of two missing ship disasters. The 1909 Waratah disaster occurred off the east coast of the Union of South Africa, but a life belt was found in Australian waters some time later. The 1860 disappearance of USS Levant returning from a trip to Hawaii (then a kingdom) left only a piece of a sternpost (I believe) that turned up on the Hawaiian Island of Hijo.

                                Jeff

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