Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The SOI research vessel Falkor has a HQ60 UAV on board. It can be launched from the ship's deck. I wrote to the SOI and suggested the HQ60 be used to take photos at the Electra location: W 172.1575 S 04.4986 in the Orona lagoon. With good surface conditions, a bettor image might be obtained. The Falkor will be doing biological research and not marine archaeology. But SOI might share that confirmation if they get a good image. That would be a feather in the cap of SOI and L3 Technologies- the UAV manufacturer. They haven't answered back. The ship is approaching Honolulu and will begin the Phoenix Islands 2021 expedition in June.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The SOI research vessel Falkor has departed Honolulu to start the Phoenix Islands expedition.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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SOI Falkor is at work with biological survey at depth about five hundred miles north of Orona. Interested viewers can follow the Falkor and the ROV dives with live video https://schmidtocean.org/rv-falkor/stat ... avigation/. The location map is annotated with the 157 line that is noted in the last radio transmission from the missing flyers. It will be interesting to see if Falkor follows along the 157 line in the course of the biological survey.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The SOI ship Falkor has been at work with the biological survey in and around Howland and Baker islands and the shallower seamounts south and west of that location. Looks like they may work their way south to look at the western most of the Phoenix group, Nikumaroro. Just a guess. The blog that various members of the exploratory team post will be the best guide to the deployment of the HQ60 UAV. If the ship does numerous circles around Orona as they did in the 2017 expedition, that could indicate deployment for a picture taking event.
OET Nautilus and SOI Falkor have mutual information sharing agreements so another "good" picture at the lagoon location would help convince the Nautilus crew to look at the Orona location. Even if only a bad picture- one that doesn't reveal the aircraft- I think the Nautilus will still look there. Interestingly, the Nautilus 2021 crew roster includes six (6) engineer/scientists dedicated to the ASV BEN operation. This is several more people than in 2017 and indicates to me that close in island searches are planned using the autonomous surface vessel.
None of the activities listed for the 2021 expedition specifically lists the airplane search as an objective. But several untitled persons in the roster, I speculate, could be SCUBA diver/photographers. Plus a Coast Guard Lt. Commander of considerable experience is on board. It all points to a search for the airplane at Orona.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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SOI Falkor continues the biological survey and research north of the Phoenix Islands.

The OET EV Nautilus has left the San Pedro/LA port to start the 2021 explorations. The ship will hug the West Coast of North America from British Columbia to Baja California for a variety of explorations before heading out to the blue Pacific in October. No planned exploration given for the AE aircraft on the Nautilus website. Hopefully, that will be announced so we can follow the voyage. Follow the ship here. https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/de ... l:NAUTILUS

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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SOI Falkor seems to be returning to Honolulu. Maybe equipment trouble.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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I am always too optimistic. Falkor is headed back to mainland US. The "Phoenix Islands" expedition is over and turned out to be not a remake of the 2017 expedition but a limited Howland/Baker Island expedition only. Not gonna get that bettor picture.
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Also reading closer at OET Nautilus site, I've learned that Nautilus is going to home port in Hawaii for several years. That might mean Dr. Ballard will not continue the search for the airplane until 2022 or later. Bummer. My apology for letting on like the airplane search would soon commence.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The most recent news is that the Nautilus lost the ROVs as the tether came undone. That recovery time is going to extend the timeline considerably. Til then I'll continue with other subjects.
There are arguments if the world flight saw the ocean tug Ontario, assigned to provide a mid flight checkpoint, or was the ship Amelia reported a merchant vessel named the Myrtlebank. In the image green is straight path- Lae at the extreme left and Howland at the far right. Red is actual flight path. Yellow is that part of path from Nikumanu island to the Ontario position.
After takeoff from Lae, the flight turned to a 95 degree heading in order to avoid the worst part of the large storm system located east of Lae. After 600 nm of flight, Amelia reported a position of 157 E and 7.3 S. at 0518 GMT. Fred then had the flight turn Northeast and fly 235 nm to 159 E and 4.3 S, intercepting the straight course line and reported at 0718 GMT directly over Nukumanu island as planned. Fred knew exactly where he was. The flight followed the straight course line for 3 hours and 12 minutes at AS 140 knots headwind 23 knots and surface speed 117 Knots traveling 376 nm and at 1030 GMT reported “ship in sight ahead” at exactly the USS Ontario assigned position of 165 E and 03 S. There is no question that the ship reported was the Ontario and not the merchant ship Myrtlebank. The Myrtlebank lay 75 nm ahead and offset some 30 nm from the path.
The further question: was the Ontario intercept the result of Fred’s excellent navigation or did the flight use the RDF 400 Kc homing beacon transmitted by the Ontario to zero in on the ship’s position. Because the ship was reported “ahead”, meaning on the nose of the Electra, probably both. Fred’s navigation to put the ship within almost visual range and the homing beacon to put the ship on the nose “ahead” when the distance closed to within visual. The intercept gave the flight confidence to continue on.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The flight was on course. What happened? What went wrong? Many investigators think Amelia was not knowledgeable about her radio equipment. And because of Amelias' lack of knowledge, Amelia is often cited as responsible for the failure of the world flight. That is only partially correct. The following will upset many people but I think the problems were beyond Amelias' control. Others were responsible as well.

When Amelia left Miami to start the world flight she left the message posted below. She seems to have the rudimentary understanding of radio direction finding in hand. And she has information about the most popular RDF frequency in use around the world at the time in the map case- 900 meters=333 Kc.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The flight was on course. What went wrong. Two things: (1) The Itasca never transmitted a low frequency homing beacon for the flight. (2) There was something wrong with Itasca transmission on the communications 3105 Kc voice channel.

Before leaving Lae, PNG,  Amelia and Fred knew they would need radio guidance once the flight approached Howland Island. The radio and telegram messages sent to the Itasca by the Amelia/Putnam team, while initially confusing,  detailed the required frequency and timing of the homing beacon. Both understood that Fred’s navigation would get them close to the island and that a homing beacon would be required backup. As seen in the attached telegram(s) of the 25 June and 26 June, the plan was to try high frequency first (Electra to Itasca 3105 Kc) and later switch to low frequency- Itasca to Electra on 333 Kc. With regard to a homing beacon, some investigators have the wrong concept about radio direction finding. For radio homing to work, the fixed ground station or ship transmitted a continuous signal that the aircraft could use for direction finding at the convenience of the aviators. After tuning the receiver to the required frequency, the loop antenna was rotated to find a null in the signal and the aircraft turned in the direction of the null. Precision was not required.
 
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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Before leaving Lae, PNG,  Amelia and Fred knew they would need radio guidance once the flight approached Howland Island. The radio and telegram messages sent to the Itasca by the Amelia/Putnam team, while initially confusing,  detailed the required frequency and timing of the homing beacon. Both understood that Fred’s navigation would get them close to the island and that a homing beacon would be required backup. As seen in the attached telegram of the 25, the plan was to try high frequency first (Electra to Itasca 3105 Kc) and later switch to low frequency- Itasca to Electra on 333 Kc. With regard to a homing beacon, some investigators have the wrong concept about radio direction finding. For radio homing to work, the fixed ground station or ship transmitted a continuous signal that the aircraft could use for direction finding at the convenience of the aviators. After tuning the receiver to the required frequency, the loop antenna was rotated to find a null in the signal and the aircraft turned in the direction of the null. Precision was not required. 

The radio and telegraph  messages concerning radio homing were nebulous and did not recite the desired Itasca homing frequency transmission but once- “use 333 Kc”-the 26 June message. This message did iterate the requirement for a “ continuous" homing signal . The introduction of a high frequency direction finder confused the issue further. Was the “long continuous signal on approach” to be done at high frequency 3105 Kc ( Electra to the Itasca) or the designated low frequency 333 Kc transmission (Itasca to Electra)?

 Amelia had seen the radio homing of the Electra work well during an earlier San Francisco to Honolulu trip. The homing beacon frequency used on that flight was 372 Kc. Before leaving Miami, the RDF system was checked by Pan Am technicians using several local commercial AM broadcast stations. Amelia and Fred knew low frequency signals were required for the direction finder to work. In a June 12 message, Amelia said the receiver would be used mostly for direction finding  navigation stations and not monitoring airport control along the route. A bulletin of 900 meter (333 Kc) navigation stations along the world route was included in the flight information map case. Fred had seen the Pan Am radio navigation homing signals used on the Pacific routes and he realized the future need for celestial navigation was limited.
 The flight had used the loop antenna direction finder for homing to stations used expressly for navigation as well as regular commercial AM broadcast stations. A data sent to Amelia for flight planning listed all the 900 meter (333 Kc) stations around the world on the flight path. Amelia also knew that the Electra RDF system did not work with high frequency signals - she said so in the telegrams sent to the Itasca. Multiple telegrams to the Itasca stated that the Electra used low frequency signals for radio homing.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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 The selected frequencies for Itasca at Howland were 333 Kc and 545 Kc and Amelia ask that the Itasca test each to see which performed the best and to let her know which they found best; I guess considering transmitter power, antenna matching, ease of tuning. The Itasca radio crew were familiar with this request as a year earlier on the first world trip attempt, the ship had been assigned to transmit a similar homing frequency of 375 Kc. The Itasca radio log indicates the radio crew did set the frequencies up for testing. The log does not indicate which the radio crew preferred. A later telegram from Itasca to Amelia said a low frequency signal of 425 Kc was “calibrated”. How this frequency was chosen by the Itasca radio crew is a mystery as it was a frequency between receiver bands that Amelia explicitly told he Itasca not to use.

 Before leaving Miami, the Pan Am technicians checked the loop antenna operation with multiple commercial AM broadcast stations in the Miami area and found the receiver and loop to correctly null and point to the stations location. During the aircraft service stay at Lae, the Chater report indicates the RDF was tested on the ground using a local broadcast at 600 meters (497 Kc-500 Kc?). The day before the flight left Lae, Amelia flew a short test flight during which she tested the RDF using the Lae control frequency (6540 Kc). She received the signal but was unable to find a null; this was expected as the source was not low frequency. 
 The low gain loop antenna could pass a broad frequency band but was sensitive to the null only at low frequency. The loop is omnidirectional at high frequencies and will not produce a null. But Amelia said after the failed test that the failure to get a null pointing direction was because the signal source was too close and too powerful a signal. She and husband George Putnam had been told by someone that the high frequency RDF on Howland could be used at long range. We don’t have that documentation. But as a result of that, the Earhart/Putnam team planned to use the high-frequency unit on Howland for bearing far away from the island and the Electra low frequency as the Electra neared Howland. 

 As a scheduled transmission time approached and fearful of blowing another generator fuse, Amelia turned off the receiver to limit total current draw. When finished with the short transmission and turning the transmitter off, the receiver was turned on and several minutes of warmup was required before the receiver could be used. The loop antenna could pickup 3105 Kc just as it did 7500 Kc. Even if the underbelly receive antenna had been ripped off during takeoff at Lae, the Itasca voice should have been heard as Amelia tried the various frequency and antenna input combinations. The key code at 7500 Kc came through just fine. It points to something wrong with the Itasca voice transmissions on 3105 Kc.

In the telegram of the 26th, note the concern about voice on 3105 Kc and the priority request for checkout and confirmation.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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A telegram from Amelia also was sent to designate the frequency (400 Kc) to be used by the USS Ontario, stationed mid-way along the flight path and that the letter N (dash-dot or dah dit) would be repeated on request; later changed to continuous when Amelia found Ontario had no high frequency 3105 Kc or 6210 Kc reception capability. This is proof positive that Amelia understood that RDF required low frequency signals.There are arguments that the later change message never arrived at the Ontario and that when Amelia reported “Ship in sight ahead” the ship she saw was another vessel named the Myrtlebank that was in the vicinity. Different theories of disappearance calculate airspeed, time, and headwinds to determine if the ship was the Ontario or the Myrtlebank. The Myrtlebank said to be some 80 miles south of Nauru. The direct flight path passes  155 nm south of Nauru. It seems unlikely that the flight would find a merchant ship not on the flight path with only standard running lights but not find the ocean tug Ontario with giant flood/search lights and emitting a homing signal that was stationed on the flight path for that purpose. Amelia reported "ship ahead”; meaning on the nose. Being exactly on the flight path by mere chance on the part of the Myrtlebank seems unlikely. Being exactly on the flight path by plan on the part of Ontario makes Ontario the obvious choice. The flight followed the 400 Kc homing signal to intercept the Ontario position exactly. This intercept gave the flight confidence that the planned 333 Kc homing provided by Itasca would be  equally successful. 

 However, no low frequency signals that Amelia expected were ever transmitted. Not 333 Kc. Not 545 Kc. Not even 425 Kc which the Electra receiver wouldn’t hear anyway.  Very late in the approach and search for Howland by the flight, the Itasca sent morse coded signals on 500 Kc the emergency channel. But why would Amelia think to tune in 500 Kc; the Itasca is not in trouble and is not sinking. She was expecting constantly repeating letter A (dot-dash or dit dah ) on her selected 333 Kc-not transmissions on the distress frequency. The Itasca radio chief manned the ship’s loop antenna RDF hoping Amelia would transmit on 500 Kc emergency frequency and he could get a bearing. Why he didn’t take action to have the radio room transmit 333 Kc or 545 Kc low frequency homing beacon is not known. He knew Amelia must have been looking for a homing signal with the very same type loop antenna he was using aboard the Itasca. Amelia could have certainly used the 500 Kc if Itasca had been able to tell her that they were transmitting on 500 Kc. But the ship’s transmissions of 3105 Kc were not working either.

The arrival aboard the Itasca of Admiral Black (Mr. Black at the time) set in motion a series of blunders that resulted in the loss of the flight. The first was a request on (26 June) to release CG Headquarters from control and allow the Itasca to take charge of all communication operations. Unbelievably, CG headquarters agreed to this change. Now in charge, Black assumed that the direction finding would be done with high frequency when he saw a telegram from Amelia requesting voice on request at 7500 Kc. The words or terms used in that message never included direction finding and the transmission times were periodic-not continuous. Black’s assumption was in direct conflict of repetitive messages that said the Itasca must transmit a low frequency homing beacon. In a message on the 19 June, Black seems to understand that the Itasca will transmit a homing signal designated by the flight. For reasons not defined by any of the telegrams related to radio direction finding, Black selected an experimental high frequency direction finder that Itasca had borrowed and had set up on Howland to find the Electra bearing using the Electra's transmissions on 3105 Kc. Black convinced the Itasca radio crew and CG Headquarters that the experimental RDF receiver would provide bearings and then Itasca could radio the bearing to the Electra. The Itasca crew abandoned the original plan to broadcast a continuous low frequency homing beacon when the Electra was close to the island/Itasca. Radio homing upside down and entirely incorrect. 

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The Earhart/Putnam messages included the idea to try high frequency 3105 Kc first at the long distance and the lower frequency as distance closed. That message did not specify the 333 Kc low frequency. Amelia ask for a radio bearing at 200 miles out-but was on the air only a few seconds to perhaps two minutes according to the Itasca radio log-no high frequency bearing was achieved by the experimental unit on Howlland. Amelia and Putnam may have thought the high frequency unit on Howland was of the highly sensitive and accurate Adcock type at Honolulu operated by PAA during the San Francisco to Honolulu flight that the Electra had used with success the year before. Again at 100 miles out, Amelia ask for a bearing and was said to whistle into the microphone- briefly-perhaps as long as two minutes at 14-15 after the hour according to the log. Still -No bearing found. Even if successfull, that would not have helped because the flight could not hear the Itasca. Hearing nothing, closing on Howland, and in accordance with the plan, Amelia switched to low frequency (band 1) and tuned for 333Kc as planned. No signal was found as Itasca was not transmitting a low frequency homing beacon although told to do so in numerous messages.

 The radio crew may have been confused by the fact that the military and civilian use of the radio homing technique could be radically opposed. For example, the faster moving and more mobile military aircraft would transmit a low frequency signal that a ship could take bearings on and send back to the aircraft via encrypted code. The ship’s position was thus concealed from detection and could maintain radio silence except for the brief bearing feedback to the aircraft. An example of this is the PBY sent from Hawaii to join the search but was turned back by bad weather. The PBY used 355 Kc to transmit so that the search ships could use the onboard RDF units to find bearings and guide the airplane.
The experimental high frequency direction finder had no track record of actually finding bearings to aircraft aloft. The operator had no experience with the small unit that operated on batteries of limited endurance. It was a setup for disaster. Because of the very short transmission time and mechanical failure, the unit failed completely. Black did not understand radio direction finding in the civilian sense. Even without voice communication on 3105 Kc, the flight would have found Howland had there been a low frequency homing beacon transmitted by the Itasca.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The OET EV Nautilus has departed California San Pedro for Honolulu, Hawaii. Honolulu will be the ship's home for several years while the ship operates in the central Pacific.
Most readers already know that the problem with the separated tether line to the ROVs reported by the Nautilus earlier proved not to be a problem and was quickly repaired. Continuing on:

It is clear that the model for the Howland Island leg of the flight was the previous and successful San Francisco to Honolulu in 1935. On that flight the Electra used both high frequency guidance checks at 6210 Kc by Pan American radio and the low frequency on board RDF at 290 Kc. The difference of course is that the Hawaii flight had an experienced radio operator on board. The Amelia/Putnam team did not pass enough information frequently to impress upon the Itasca crew the totality of the radio direction plan.

In 1937 radios used amplitude modulation for transmitting. AM radio is subject to interference and pilots of the era used the local interference noise from the receiver as a rudimentary check on the receiver operation. At night, far from any radio traffic around airports, a reliable check was lighting. Lighting can be seen from a great distance. The light of the flash and receiver headphone noise blast were simultaneous giving the pilot immediate confidence that the receiver was working and a rough idea about the receiver sensitivity. The flight had passed near a large area of storms giving plenty of opportunity to check the receiver. Also, if Fred used a northerly offset before tracking down the sun line, the flight would only be about a hundred miles south of the ITCZ, an area of intense thunderstorms.  Amelia never said that the onboard receiver wasn’t working.

There is no radio log of clear long range signals received from the Itasca on the 3105 Kc, until July 4 when San Fransisco NMC reported a successful “first test” of voice from the Itasca. Earlier, the amateur Hawaiian station on Howland could hear the Itasca as they were only a short distance away. However, the Howland amateur radio log indicates it could not hear the Itasca once the ship passed out of sight during the initial search. The HMS Achilles located 900 miles to the southeast, reported a short 3105 Kc intercept of two transmissions from separate stations; the first a radiophone-“give four long dashes if you hear us” and the second by key “four long dashes”. If Itasca ask for the long dashes, that signal should  have been heard and recorded by many stations. The Itasca radio log does not indicate that and the Itasca radio chief denied that the ship never sent those four long dashes. But the Howland radio log indicates the reverse: that Itasca did send that message but Howland heard no reply (4 long dashes). The Achilles report is cited by some investigators as the first successful 2-way communication with the Electra. 

Unable to find a low frequency homing beacon for direction finding, Amelia finally ask for 7500 Kc voice (a long count 12345678987654321) but Itasca transmitted a morris coded key AAAAA because the Itasca could not transmit voice on 7500 Kc. Amelia reported she could hear the code but could not find a null for direction finding. Amelia  knew before asking that the loop antenna did not work with higher frequencies. Her attempts the day before with the Lae control frequency had proved that. Amelia was hoping for a miracle. This provides further evidence that the Itasca did not fully understand the tuning requirements for voice as voice on 7500 Kc was specifically required for the communications and Itasca never said  that the ship could not do that. The reception of 7500 Kc is further evidence that the Electra antenna and receiver were working properly.

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