Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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Tom Maxwell
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell »

During the search and after the 4 July, west coast hams Pierson, McMenamy and other experienced radio operators as well as Coast Guard radio San Francisco NMC began to hear and log calls by Itasca and replies from a radio they identified as the Electra. The Itasca radio room had consulted the transmitter technical manuals and resolved the voice tuning issue. During the critical approach and search, the flight could not hear (voice) from the Itasca because the 3105 Kc voice transmissions at long range were very weak or nonexistent and did not get fixed until the 4 of July. 

In 1937 the Navy/Coast Guard did not use voice for at sea communications. The communication was always done with keyed code. Where key code could be encrypted, the voice modulation could not. So the Itasca was not throughly familiar with voice transmission. In addition to the short and long timing, the modulated CW (mcw) used two low frequency modulating tones for the dit and dah of the code. A long range test of the mcw had been completed when San Francisco reported receiving Vs (dit dit dit dah) from the Itasca. With the low tone modulation, typically 650 cycles for dah and 800 cycles for dit, the transmissions were said to have “music”. 

The key code modulation and voice modulation used two separate tuned circuits prior to high power amplification. The key code modulation requires carrier time on and off and the “music” tones. The Itasca radio technicians assumed tuning a transmitter for key, all  they had ever done in the past, was good for both key and voice. The technicians were likely unaware of the voice modulation tuned circuits, having never used or tuned them.
 Several messages from the San Francisco CG headquarters questioned the 3105 Kc voice operations until the last day of June and requested a priority effort to check out the voice capability. The Itasca log has no record of a priority effort to do so or message that the 3105 Kc was operating properly before the flight left Lae. However, the Howland amatuer radio log recorded, on July 1 that Itasca was testing 3105 Kc “fone”-voice with San Francisco CG radio NMC. The Howland log does not indicate if the tests were successful. The Coast Guard station San Francisco NMC reported hearing voice from Itasca and termed it a “first test” on July 4. Also Itasca couldn’t transmit voice on 6210 Kc. Why not? What did Itasca intend to do if Amelia arrived later in the day using the daytime frequency 6210 Kc? No voice on 7500 Kc and no voice on 3105 Kc.

Elgen Long, at the end of his very long study, concluded the Itasca transmitter 3105 Kc or transmission antenna was faulty during the approach and search for Howland by the world flight.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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Following the RDF plan of trying high frequency first, Amelia called Itasca at “200 miles out” to request a bearing as she made noise with the microphone (whistling?) and to ask Itasca to report on the half hour. The time of the radio call is logged :14//:15 past the hour, the normal scheduled time for her transmission. The anecdotal accounts from the Itasca radio room indicates the transmission lasted only seconds. But the log indicates as much as two minutes :14 through :15 after the hour. Again at “approx 100 miles” out, Amelia requested the radio bearing and whistling into the microphone for two minutes :44 through :45 past the hour. Once again the anecdotal reports from the Itasca radio room indicated only a few seconds of transmission. Why does the radio log indicate two minutes? The experimental RDF receiver on Howland did not get a bearing or receive any 3105 Kc signal in either case.
Not receiving any feedback from the Itasca and in accordance with the RDF plan, Amelia switched to the RDF loop antenna and tuned for low frequency signals at 333Kc and 545 Kc. No signals were detected because Itasca never transmitted a low frequency homing signal. An hour later, Amelia calls to say “been unable to contact you by radio”. The call 07:42 is a little before the scheduled time. All radio operators understood that radio covered communications and navigation. Why this call did not prompt the Itasca crew to transmit the homing signal Amelia had detailed in telegrams is not known. It did however, make the radio room aware that something had to be done so the Itasca began to broadcast repeating A….AAA on the emergency 500 Kc at 08:06. They had no way of telling the flight to look for the 500 Kc signal. By that time Amelia had returned to sending long dashes at 3105 Kc by using the microphone key in the hope of Itasca finding her location using the high frequency DF unit on Howland. Knowing the bearing of the long dashes would allow Itasca to easily find the Electra if ditching were required. But again, the Howland experimental unit failed to get the Electra's bearing.
With no communications and no homing signal, the flight turned south for the Phoenix islands. Noonan knew the only place to get the Electra down safely was on the quiet surface in the lagoon of one of the Phoenix Islands.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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Fred Goerner was a through and respected researcher of the Amelia Earhart mystery. Also, after years of study and detective work, Fred remained open to alternative explanations. At the end of his extended review of his Saipan/Japanese capture investigations, he left this passage:

“Until the mystery reefs that lie between Howland and the Phoenix Islands are thoroughly searched and the lagoons of several of the islands are plumbed, the possibility that the aircraft can be found remains.”

Had investigators followed up on Fred Goerner's thoughts some 60 years ago, the aircraft would have been found. Most likely in much better condition than found today.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The Nautilus has started the 2022 expeditions as it leaves port of Honolulu.
The OET/Nautilus has not responded to my e-mails requesting information about the 2022 expeditions. So I speculate and try to figure out if a search for the aircraft will even be a part of the 2022 activities. On the OET/Nauilus web pages the various expeditions are discussed. One expedition-termed From Shore to Abyss NA 143 -mentions marine archeaology and “3D photogrammetry”. From the WIKI here is a definition of photogrammetry:
" Photogrammetry, as its name implies, is a three-dimensional coordinate measuring technique that uses photographs as the fundamental medium for metrology or measurement. The fundamental principle used in photogrammetry is triangulation. By taking photographs from at least two different locations, so-called ‘lines of sight’ can be developed from each camera to points on the object. These lines of sight, sometimes called rays owing to their optical nature, are mathematically intersected to produce the three-dimensional coordinates of the points of interest."

This may be a clue as the discussion also relates that the National Geographic is a sponsor and like the 2019 expedition to search around Nikumaroro, the actual purpose wasn’t explained until the expedition actually got underway. Not advertised as a search for the aircraft initially. Bob Ballard said he would continue the search-turning over every stone (clue) to find the aircraft.

So I speculate the “3d photogrammetry” of archaeological objects might mean going to Orona and getting multiple photos of the plane at Orona using either drone or the autonomous surface vessel ASV. The photogrammetry software applied to the photos would quickly determine if the airframe is for real. The photogrammetry technique would determine if the object were three dimensional or light and shadow playing on coral formations.

Certainly some readers still are unable to “see” the airframe and of course many don’t trust Google Earth measurements of dimensions or the rudimentary optical science of refraction and virtual images. But I think these discussions mean verifying something the Nautilus has questions about. There are of course many archaeological objects in this part of the Pacific Ocean that this 3D photogrammetry might be applied for study. But because of Ballard’s interest in the Amelia Earhart mystery, the plane in the lagoon at Orona is a possible good choice.

A recent podcast (march 1) by National Geographic indicates that Dr. Ballard may be planning a January 2023 expedition with archaeologist Dr. Fred Hiebert. Professor Hiebert is an associate at National Geographic for many years. So the best to be expected this year might be a trip to Orona to get pictures from different angles using the drone or ASV. Apply the 3D photogrammetry to the photos and insure it’s the plane and not light and shadow as the prelude to the 2023 expedition to actually dive on the aircraft in the lagoon. My speculation may be wrong. We most likely won’t have a clue until fall 2022.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The 85th anniversary of the 1937 loss of the world flight of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan approaches so time to reflect on facts, clues, and speculations.Having earlier analyzed the Jaluit dock photo to reveal clues as to the date and actual location of the photo, some time is devoted to further observations as to the identity of the people in the photo. While waiting for any information on the OET/Nautilus plans to continue the search for Amelia Earhart's plane, a closer inspection of the Jaluit dock photo reveals more details related to the identification of the persons in the image.
Facts lead to speculation, speculation can lead to clues, and clues can lead to evidence. We are at the early stages of investigation with many facts, some speculation, very few clues, and no evidence. The discovery and investigation of the airplane in the Orona lagoon will establish evidence from which the investigation can be continued towards a conclusion
Speculation: The object setting just forward of the people on the dock is Amelia’s small luggage carryall. On another forum, the possible alternate explanation for the object was offered up to be two tins of oil placed along side each other. That is possible but improbable as the tins must have been exactly positioned and aligned in order to make the defining lines ruler straight and the width of the darker vertical appear exactly in the center. The speculation that this is Amelia’s one small piece of luggage carried on the world trip is a better explanation as the ratio of the darker vertical area to other dimensions of the object match those of Amelia’s luggage designs.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The small raft like boat behind the men on the dock appears to have extensive damage to the forward part; as if it has been in a wreck. This is the raft that appears in the 1987 stamps of the Mili Atoll wreck scene, as depicted on the stamp. The raft is part of and a stage prop for the “crashed on Mili atoll” spy hoax scenario. As complex as any Kabuki performance, the hoax by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA), included a wrecked twin engined plane on the reef at Mili atoll. Marshallese witnesses to all these aspects of the hoax are allowed access to view the “spies” being rescued. Years later, the oral history by these witnesses is used to create the stamps.
At the extreme right of the 1937 dock image is what could be an aircraft. Note that the right wing beyond the engine is missing and the tail has but one vertical stabilizer. These details mirror exactly the oral history of Marshallese, as depicted on the stamps, on Milli and at the dock of Jaluit. The likelyhood of witnesses oral history used to create the stamps matching a photo found decades later is very remote unless both document the same event. It is obvious that the Marshallese government used the oral histories because in 1987 they knew Amelia’s plane was twin tailed and had windows toward the rear of the aircraft; but instead complied with the elder Marshallese histories to show only one single vertical stabilizer. The same applies to the absence of rear window(s) on the plane in the 1987 stamp and the Jaluit dock photo. The recorded oral histories for the stamp and the dock photo discovery are separated in time by decades, making it almost an impossible match without both marking a singular event.
The presence of a raft, an airplane with broken wing and single vertical tail, and two foreigners -one a women- in both the stamps and a picture discovered thirty years later makes the possibility that both are recording the same event most likely.Image

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The aircraft used in the spy hoax was not a L10E but any number of Japanese aircraft that fit the two engine profile. The Marshallese witnesses were unfamiliar with aircraft so accuracy was not necessary. The IJA could have pulled a previous wreck onto the reef at Mili then informed local Marshallese when the stage was set. Witnesses were required as the IJN would inquire about the spy charge. While the IJA had the "spies" in custody, a background story was needed to convince other Japanese military leaders of the authenticity of the charge. The whole idea behind the spy hoax was to move the Japanese Navy to a first strike strategy with regard to the Mahan principle. The IJN probably did investigate and found the charge was a hoax but by then the charge had spread in the upper echelon of the military and too late to stop the propaganda machine Tojo had set in motion with the hoax.

The wing of the plane in the dock photo does not appear to be in the right place relative to the cabin. Perhaps the broken wing is lying over the top of the right engine? Not really important as the witnesses knew little about airplanes. All that was important was that they saw an "airplane" at Mili and at the dock of Jaluit.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The man leaning heavily against the telephone pole looks like Fred Noonan. The widows peak hair of Fred is documented in various photos. A critic of the History channel investigation insists that the Fred photo used in the facial analysis was reversed in order that the hairlines fit when superimposed. But photos show Fred had a true widow's peak, with the receding hair on both sides of the head. In this photo, the widow's peak style shadows the receding hair on the right side of the head. Another facial feature was the prominent skull bump over Fred’s right eye. In the image, the sunlight is reflected from the rounded upper forehead and yet continues down to just above the right eye. The head position is held slightly down such that the flat portion of the lower forehead should be dark as it is shielded from the direct sunlght. But Fred’s forehead bump sticks out and continues to reflect brightly in the Jaluit (Jabor) photo found in the National Archives.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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Fred’s right leg is raised such that the upper leg is horizontal. The shadow under the thigh is visible; the white rounded canopy with the scalloped skirt of the craft beyond the dock is easily mistaken for the right trouser leg. But the right leg, just above the knee, is bound to the pole Fred clutches in his right hand. The shadow of the stick makes a dark vertical stripe just behind Fred’s knee. The bindings can be seen in the expanded view. Further down, the ankle and foot are bound. The lower leg is immobilized and the pole acts as a crutch. A magnified view of the photo shows Fred’s foot bound to the pole. The white binding crosses the bottom of the foot at the arch of the foot.The tall man's foot is bare and bound to the pole! The Marshallese matriarch studies the injured leg intently.
Bilimon Armaron, with a white headband, stands to the side of the Japanese doctor. The doctor looks directly into the camera. Bilimon’s oral history about how he assisted the Japanese doctor in treating the white flyer has become slightly twisted over time; “could not go onto the ship” has become “could not go into the ship; like wise "treated the man on the dock” has become “treated the man on the deck”. The remarkable oral history of Bilimon, recorded 60 years ago by Fred Goener and others, is depicted exactly in the recently discovered photo. The Marshallese witnesses look at the scene and decades later record their oral history. In the dock photo, the matriarch looks intently at the injured man’s knee. The stamps issued in 1987 depict the tall man with an injured right leg that has a bandage about the right knee. In the stamp scene, the man uses a cane gripped in his right hand.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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A person identified as female and having the same hair style as Amelia sets with legs dangling over the edge of the dock. Even in adulthood, Amelia Earhart was noted for her tomboy style when outdoors. Her right arm is extended as if in animated conversation with someone not shown in the dock photo; perhaps hidden from view by the Marshallese matriarch. The short sleeve white blouse Amelia favored is seen hanging out the back and over the belt line of her black trousers; another favored wear item while flying. Amelia’s blouse design had extra length in the back. In this photo, Amelia stands with Noonan on the wing of the Electra dressed in her favorite warm weather flying wear; black trousers and white short sleeve blouse. What are the odds that someone else would appear in a picture with Noonan and Bilimon wearing these clothes?. A picture that is proven to be taken after 1936 and most likely summer 1937 and that someone else wearing the exact same clothes as Amelia Earhart. Obviously these are not the same clothes Amelia wore on leaving Lae, PNG. The different clothes of course came from the travel case that sets on the dock.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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Today marks the 85th anniversary of the loss of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. The investigation of that loss is continued.

The speculations noted about the Japanese capture of the flyers would not have significant meaning had not Japanese sympathizers stepped forward with an immediate disclaimer that the Jaluit dock photo was taken in 1935 and thus could not show the presence of the two American flyers lost in 1937. The authors of these fabrications went on to double down on their deception by later claiming the photo could have been taken as early as 1932. The facts presented about the construction of the dock and the disparity actually shown in the image horizon and documentation of the dock in use in 1935 could become proofs if there is repeating analysis by other investigators. The National Library of Japan may simply be stuck with fake information implanted decades ago at the end of the Pacific War II. But the rapidity of the disclaimer following discovery of the photo in the US National Archives and the follow up fabrication about the dock photo, indicate that more information about the Japanese involvement in the disappearance is known somewhere in Japan.

Many of these speculations will become clues and perhaps evidence after the Electra is investigated in the lagoon at Orona.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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Returning to the Jaluit dock photo, some more facts to study: close inspection reveals a crutch hand loop that the injured man can use to support himself. The loop is secured to the stick above the man's knee and drapes down to form a closed loop at the right height to provide support for the man's right side when the right arm is extended and grasping the loop of fabric or rope. The loop cuts in front of the dark vertical shadow cast by the crutch stick. Further facts pointing to the accuracy of the Marshallese witnesses statements is the single tall and somewhat angular vertical rudder in both the Marshallese 1987 stamp and the dock photo. Recall that decades separate the stamp and the picture. The 1987 Marshallese government knew what the Electra looked like-with twin and rounded stabilizers- but elected to use the witness descriptions that show a single tall and angular vertical stabilizer. This points to a fact that the aircraft depicted in both was not the Electra.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The 24th of July is the birthday of Amelia Earhart. Here is my tribute to a great pioneer of aviation.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The Marshallese stamps point to the fact of the hoax. The stamp titled “takeoff from Lae” illustrates the well known likeness of the Electra. The twin stabilizers and rounded tail assembly are obvious in the take-off stamp drawing. However, the Mili Atoll crash landing stamp portrays a different tail- single, tall. and angular. The two are not the same airplane. The government used the multiple eye witness descriptions at Mili and Jaluit without debate; considering the apparent paradox.

This of course agrees with another major fact: the Electra lies at the bottom of the Orona lagoon. These facts along with the Jaluit dock photo join to justify speculation and support the theory that Amelia and Fred were kidnapped and held prisoner by the pro-Axis forces of Japan.
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