Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Discussion about wrecks and losses as well as historic sites in the Pacific.

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Tom Maxwell
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell »

Those arguments conclude that the Jaluit dock photo could not have been taken from the dock in use in 1935 (the old German dock) and the photo is post 1936- after Robert Reimer built the dock for the Japanese at it's current location in 1936. The trees of the coconut plantation in the photo on the horizon can only be seen from the 1936 dock. Earth curvature prevents any trees being seen from the old (1935) dock as the distance across the atoll lagoon is to great.
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The old dock from the German time juts into the lagoon on an azimuth of 311 degrees.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell »

RS was looking for more dock photos. Another old dock photo has been located by the Nikumaroro research group in the ONI files of the archives. It is from the Vanderbuilt collection of 1928 during a world cruise by the Vanderbuilt yacht as it visited Jaluit. The research group uses that 1928 photo with confused logic to further discredit the authenticity of the Jaluit dock photo . They must not have read the annotation of that 1928 photo--"facing 32 degrees". In my opinion, "Facing 32 degrees" makes that a positive identification of the German (1935) dock as seen in the two images below. When one faces 32 degrees anywhere near the current 1936 dock location, the camera points far away from that dock.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell »

The documentation of this event at Jaluit was in place decades before the Les Kinney/ONI photo was found in the archives. Fred Goerner CBS reporter and AE mystery investigator interviewed Marshallese citizens in the 1960's; the verbal history of these witnesses reflect something very near to what is found in the image. Later in the 1980's Bill Prymark, another AE investigator, found the same exacting information about this event from others including the history of the dock construction from Robert Reimer, the man who's Marshallese company built the dock in 1936. I worked at Kwajalein in 1987 when the stamps that commemorates the event were issued by the Marshall Islands government. The local population and Americans who had close ties to Marshallese families repeated the same history. Perhaps the stamps and all these people are wrong, but they tell a consistent story over the decades.

Many details of the image fit the oral history. Some subjective speculation follows. Fred's right leg is injured and bound to the pole that he clutches ; the Marshallese (witnesses) matriarch intently studies the injured leg. One of the stamps depicts a dressing tie just above Fred's right knee as can be seen in the dock photo. The doctor looks directly at the camera. Bilimon Armaron, the Japanese/Marshallese who helped the doctor fix Fred's leg, stands nearby. He, with a headband only, and the Marshallese witnesses to the "spy" rescue/capture all are normally bareheaded. The two light skinned persons AE and FN are without hats or parasol- a very unusual circumstance as all visitors would have normal dress with hats and long sleeves. The Japanese secret place posing as fishermen/rescuers all wear hats as would be expected. Billion and the Marshallese elders and other witnesses later submit their oral history for the creation of the commerative stamps. Amelia sits to the right in a favored short sleeve of her own design with extra length in the back to prevent exposure when bending forward.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell »

The two images, the Orona lagoon GE image and the Jaluit dock ONI image, are meaningful clues discovered since the disappearance in July 1937. These images are clues, not evidence of Japanese capture. Investigators follow clues to find evidence. When the aircraft at Orona is investigated, that will become evidence.

More details of the 2006 GE Orona image:

The GE measure of the nose to tail is 52’/1.33=39’. The L10e is 39 feet long.

The left wing tip is located by drawing a straight line from the nose through the left engine/prop hub. Another line is drawn perpendicular to the center line starting about 3’ aft of the pilots position and extended until the line intersects the extended nose through engine hub line. The intersection denotes the wing tip location. The measure wingtip to centerline is 36.5’/1.33=27.5’. This matches the L10E which has a 55’ wingspan.


The wing(s) are concealed by coral sand and marine growth. But the tip of the left wing is revealed by a blue reflection that extends to port, indicating the plane is rolled slightly to starboard (left wing up). Sunlight streams down and is reflected by the white coral sand beneath the wing. The wing underside is free of sand and growth and reflects the specular rays back to the sand at an angle to the port where the sand then bounces the light up to the camera. The resulting reflection is extended to the port side because of the starboard roll. The blue color is the result of additional path length and greater adsorption of the red and yellow components of the light by seawater. The diameter of the blue hemisphere is 4 feet; the same as the wingtip of the L10E. The extreme fine resolution of this image indicates it is a aerial photo rather than a satellite photo. At low elevations above the surface, Google earth frequently switches to and uses aerial photos.

Further indication that the plane is rolled slightly to the starboard is the sand covering the pilots (port) side of the windscreen and the dark interior is seen from the right side. The coral sand piles up on the port and falls away on the starboard.

The leading edge of the door is denoted by a change in lighting to a deep blue light. Additional light enters through the starboard window
or is somehow reflected from the interior to show the straight edge of the open doorway.

The brightest specular light is from the combination of the peak of the cabin dome, the open cockpit hatch, and possibly the DF loop antenna.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell »

I messed up and entered the image as a link. I meant to insert the image on the page. For those whose browser won't allow non secure sites (http: vs https) or don't like to visit non secure sites, I post the image now.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell »

The edit function is still under checkout by the moderator. Until the edit function is restored, I'll continue to post about those missing images on the early pages. RS discussed the fact that PIPA/New England Aquarium, the caretakers of the protected area, have done some SCUBA work in the area of the wreck. RS posted one such dive(s) in the area of the wreck and I marked it's location relative to the wreck. See the earlier pages for that discussion.
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell »

The Orona idea is generally rejected by the "experts" of Earhart disappearance. Yet Orona theory has the only good clue- the 2006 GE image of the L10E in the Orona lagoon- and it is just as logical to think the events pictured below is as likely as any other idea. The red line is the 157 bearing flown as AE and FN left the Howland search area.The lagoon image is annotated with major components of the airframe and how the image matches the overhead view of the L10E.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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The research team aboard the EV Nautilus is scheduled to conduct a deep water examination around Howland Island in the summer of 2021. Many extensive and expensive surveys have been made over the years around Howland without finding a single clue. I hope that the expedition will look at Orona this time around. The ship passed very close by Orona during the 2019 expedition but didn't stop to look. The time and money to examine the wreck location at Orona would be a minuscule part of the overall expense of the expedition. I have lobbied the expedition with the following plan: idle the Nautilus off shore for an afternoon and send the Autonomous Surface Vessel (ASV) through the Northeast channel to the wreck location within the lagoon and once the discovery photos have ensured the presence of the plane, use the Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) Hercules to record the investigation of the wreck by SCUBA. The Hercules is equipped with excellent real time cameras. While designed for operations at great depth, I think it would make a stable platform operating a few feet below the surface. The image shows a possible configuration; I estimate the neutral buoyant tether length would be 9,000 feet.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell »

More clues that the Jaluit dock image found in the National Archives by Les Kinney is a post 1936 (most likely 1937) image is the 2010 image that appeared in the Marshall Islands Journal. While this 1936 dock has been refurbished at the same location, the horizon disparity is clearly visible. As in the 1937 image, a person on the dock obscures the exacting location of the dramatic fall in elevation to actual sea level. The previous discussion about earth curvature from the location in the image makes the tops of palm tress some 65 feet tall visible. No trees would be visible from the old 1935 dock as it points across the lagoon to the far shore some 16 miles away. The Pacific Islands Monthly of Sept. 1935 makes it clear that the dock in use during the Japanese naval visit in July 1935 was the old German dock of the "Gesellschaft" period of German government control.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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No good explanation exists for the US Navy failing to make a more intensive search of the Phoenix Islands as it was known that co=pilot and navigator Fred Noonan had knowledge and experience with landing in the quiet waters of the Pacific aboard the big Pan Am Clipper sea planes of the era (S-42). Fred had aided Musik in the initial exploration of Pacific routes before leaving Pan Am. He also knew that Pan Am had Canton Island under study for sea plane runway preparation. Fred also knew that the larger Phoenix Islands had quiet lagoons with long landing approaches directly into the nearly constant and brisk easterly breeze. This meant greatly reduced landing ground (water) speeds. Turning back to the Gilberts did not make sense as the distance was greater (650 miles vs 400 to the Phoenix group) plus the Gilberts did not have closed lagoons. The near shore waters of the Gilberts could be subject to large ocean swells and the landing approach might have to be crosswind. Fred also knew about an expedition to capture the complete solar eclipse on June 8 at Canton and that support people might still be at Canton. Making Canton or one of the other two large lagoons the alternate landing was probably part of world flight planning. In the picture, lanky Noonan stands at the center with Musik at the far left. Noonan at work on the navigators table aboard a Pan Am clipper flying boat. Some time after Musik's and crew of the Samoan Clipper tragic deaths, Pan Am employees on Canton put up a small lighthouse monument with plaque. It was still there when I left in 1975.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

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With regard to the AE an FN mystery, a question always arises when Japanese capture theories are discussed; what could possibly be the motive for kidnapping the fliers? The Orona-Saipan theory finds motive in the Japanese implementation of the naval strategy that American's call the Mahan principle. The British Admiralty have always employed this principle; Alfred Mahan, US Navy strategist, put it to paper: The nation that wins the sea wins the war. British Navy was instrumental in teaching the essentials of the principle to the Japanese. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) used the principle in a defensive way; looking north-Russia. Not a problem. Looking west China- no navy. Looking south Australia and detached UK forces- still no problem. But looking east the world's largest sea power-US Navy. The IJN assumed the great distance of the Pacific and the superior Japanese sailor assured victory by attrition by sea battles far removed from the home islands. With carrier based air power, the long US supply line would be easy to destroy. With regard to the US it was the strategy the IJN adopted and would not change. The strategy completely overlooked the island hopping tactics employed by US forces later in the war.
By the middle thirties the empire of Japan had lost all characteristics of democracy as the surging militarism swallowed up the society and government. General Tojo, the commander of the secret police Kempetai, and other leaders of the pro-axis movement wanted a powerful Navy with first strike capability. The Japanese expansion in the Asia Pacific could not survive without a navy offensive strategy. Admiral Yamamoto and others in the IJN had brought modern carrier and air power to bear but still rejected the first strike capability. Yamamoto knew the US could float much more steel than Japan and any long war meant defeat for Japan.
Many factors where involved in the campaign to change IJN strategy. When Tojo learned the fliers were lost and received a following report from his listening post on Gardner Island (Nikumaroro) that the fliers had been located on nearby Hull Island (Orona), he sent his secret police, members of the radio listening post at Nikumaroro, to kidnap the fliers. Tojo had the propaganda tool he needed to promote war- a spy. The capture was kept secret to the upper echelon of the military. A leak to the civilian press that reported the pair being rescued by Japanese fishermen was quickly squelched. The IJN's own intelligence service quickly saw through the hoax but the spy propaganda had already started to circulate among the cadre of soldier and sailor-they now had another reason to attack. Yamamoto saw that it was to late to counter, and under political and personnel pressure that included assignation fears, he and other IJN leaders relented. The Pearl Harbor attack planning and training was underway by early 1938.
Yamamoto did broker a deal with the IJA to be the warden for Amelia's confinement. For propaganda purposes, she was safely transported to Saipan, Truk, and Kwajalein for faux military tribunals (kangaroo courts) and that's why so many personnel identifications were reported at these places during the war. Most time was spent at Roi- Namur in spartan but healthy and protected quarters. After Yamamoto died, the IJA took her permanently to Saipan where conditions were poor and her health failed.
Most other versions of the Japanese capture theory of today term Amelia a spy. Nothing about that makes any sense. But the spy hoax by Japan's IJA was so well performed that many AE mystery investigators call Amelia a spy. She wasn't, of course.

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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell »

Both Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan had experience with extreme long range flying. Noonan had recent experience just 2 years before with the harrowing 21 hour return flight from Hawaii as navigator aboard the S-42 Pan Am Clipper. After Musick sat the big sea plane down on the bay at San Francisco/Alameda, measurements of the fuel tanks showed absolutely dry. Strong headwinds had prevented normal cruise ground speeds. In the image below, S-42 Pan Am crew, Musick, and Noonan talk to reporters after the flight.

Noonan was familiar with the general facts known about the larger islands of the Phoenix group: size 3-5 miles long and totally enclosed lagoons. Noonan knew that meant smooth surface conditions required for a safe landing. Knowing what Wake and Midway looked like from the air, having flown in and out of those island atolls a number of times, he knew the brilliant white surf line upon the reef of the 3 larger islands Canton (Kanton), Hull (Orona), and Gardner (Nikumaroro) could be seen at a great distance on a sunny day. Once the fliers spotted Orona, they flew directly in over the reef and splash landed in the lagoon. A stiff easterly breeze allowed a slow speed splash landing.
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