AquariusRadar Amelia Earhart Mystery
Amelia Earhart's flight: this sketch of the flight path and radio bearings show how an error of the direction finding equipment would lead a person who trusted the technology to say, in a very desperate situation, "we are on you, but cannot see you!" The sketch shows how Noonan's celestial fixes were used until shortly before the approach to Howland, just as the sun came up. The LF homing beacon from the Itasca was missing as a result of some unknown command communication failure, so Amelia then began to use the LF radio navigation RDF loop to find Wake Island and Honolulu and to triangulate a position fix. While all "solutions" to Amelia Earhart's disappearance, including this one, are mostly conjecture and speculation, this mystery won't be resolved until divers investigate the object on the floor of the Orona (Hull) Island lagoon. The airplane will not be found at Nikumaroro, but rather at Orona.
Satellite Photo
L10E model
Many hypothetical explanations of the disappearance and demise of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan and the Lockheed Electra aircraft with which she hoped to circumnavigate the globe have been proposed. This is another, very similiar to some others, but different in that it answers one important question; how did the radio broadcasts from the Phoenix Islands originate without more evidence of the Electra crash on the islands of the region? How could the fliers and aircraft completely disappear. This island group is now part of Kiribati with new names for all the islands; but the old names are used here for reference to the history of the times.
Google Earth measurements
of the L10E
Cloud Seeding Augmentation
What happened
to Amelia?
Takeoff: Some researchers think that Earhart and Noonan were not too proficient with the radio navigation prior to the global flight. This author believes otherwise: they both grew to appreciate the LFR "range" RDF capabilities as they traveled 1/2 around the world. The loop antenna on top of the aircraft had proven reliable and accurate enough for thier purpose. Both low frequency beacons and regular AM broadcasts were available for the greater part of the trip. When they left Lae, both agreed to use it as a backup to Noonan's celestial and dead-reckoning skills. Telegrams prior to take-off :The Coast Guard Headquarters telegrammed Itasca to alert them that RDF frequencies would be forthcoming once AE got to Darwin and told the headquarters what frequencies to use. On the 26th of June, having received the frequencies to use from Amelia, the CG Headquarters SF telegrammed the Itasca to use 333 KC and do so on a continuous basis once the flight came within radio range. The fuel laden take-off was nerve wracking for both the fliers and those observing the incredibly slow rise of the aircraft as it started its long trek across the Pacific. After diverting to avoid bad weather and midway through the flight, a successful intercept of the USS Ontario, an ocean going tug on station for that purpose, using the RDF loop antenna at 400Kc and/or Fred's navigation, gave them a successful checkpoint and confidence to continue. They most likely would have turned back had this checkpoint intercept failed. Does the Electra rest on the lagoon bottom? Is the radius of the deep blue wingtip shadow at the far right of the image the same as a L10e? Interested mystery fans can judge for themselves on my next page:Amelia Earhart's plane on the lagoon floor.
Hail Suppression
Radio Frequency data from the stations along the world route that Amelia used. Note that 900 meters=333kc is always used for radio homing; The aircraft radio transmitter was fixed at 3105Kc for nighttime voice; 6210Kc for daytime voice. While the flight could listen on the higher 45 and 22.5 meter bands, there was no transmission on those frequencies.

Lockheed provided these flight endurance capabilities for the L10E, more than enough for the Lae-Howland leg plus 400 miles of search in the Howland vicinity. Also the remaining 400 miles to Orona before fuel exhaustion.
Orona to
Approach to Howland was behind schedule by 1 1/2 hours and the last celestial fix was getting old and the Itasca homing signal wasn't working for her. But the sun was coming up and they still had 1 1/2 hours to go. A sun shot with the sextant now would be futile. For greatest accuracy, the officer of the watch always takes the sun shot at high noon. A hazy horizon with low cumulus clouds and a tiny sun angle could result in significant errors. Amelia could correlate the lightning flashes in the distance with the crackle of static on the radio tuned to 3105 Kc and the previous daytime flight from Darwin to Lae had proven 6210 Kc good; a simple band switch to 3105 Kc should not be a problem. That and the radio traffic at 6540 Kc ( 45.5 meters as shown on the image) she monitored as they departed Lae gave Amelia confidence that the radio was working properly.They had been impressed by the accuracy of the long range low frequency radio direction finder over the greater part of the circumnavigation. At just short of 1000 miles of the trip, the team had zeroed in on the bright search lights of the ocean going tug Ontario using the loop antenna at 400Khz. Amelia saw the intense search lights of the tug miles away and reported "Ship sighted ahead". They felt confident that the 333Kc homing signal assigned to the Itasca at Howland would be just as accurate. But an unexplained command decision aboard the Itasca, resulted in no homing signal being transmitted. Amelia radioed to ask that the DF steering (333Kc) be turned on. " Give me DF steering " was interpreted by Itasca to mean "Give me a DF steer". It is tragically ironic that 333Kc at Christmas Island today is the homing beacon used for aviators traveling across the Pacific. Itasca simply did not fulfill it's mission of providing a guiding beacon for the flight. The radiomen aboard the Itasca certainly prepared properly according to the ship's log. The 333Kc was tuned on the transmitter and matching antenna for testing. But sometime later, a faulty command decision was made to not transmit the signals as the flight approached.

Amelia had observed both the Wake Island radio and Honolulu radio bearings begining to merge towards thier destination. Low Frequency Radio homing using a loop antenna is good for relatively modest ranges. However, at very long ranges triangulation errors can be significant, even using powerful ground based transmitters such as Wake Island DF and Honolulu AM radio. According to the radio direction finder, Fred's last celestial fix and extented dead reckoning had placed them North of thier intended path. Amelia thought stronger than forecast Easterlies had not only slowed thier progress putting them behind schedule but had also pushed them to the left (North) of the intended path. Amelia began to fly to the right while looking for the Honolulu radio null, probably just missing tiny Baker Island in the early morning light. She found the bearing null at just about the same time as the erroneous 137 degree Wake Island radio null. The radio triangulation was in error, but Amelia was unaware. She turned and was flying the supposed and pre-planned "157/337 line", which was the Rhumb line passing equidistant between Howland Island and Baker Island on the aviator's chart and if extented passes directly to Gardner Island. The islands had been surveyed and charted incorrectly decades earlier. A modern rhumb line calculator shows the direct line between the two islands to be 165. So 157 would be close, but in the Pacific, the closer the better. But it didn't matter, for they were on a 157/337 line far away East and South of thier intended landing place.

The message from the CG Headquarters ordering Itasca to transmit a homing beacon on 333Kc and to do so on a continuous basis once Amelia came within radio range. Amelia requested that the radio homing be turned on, but the Itasca command misinterpreted that to mean she wanted a DF steer command from Itasca.
Frequent Questions "We are on you, but can not see you." Possibly the most famous voice transmission in civilian aviation history was broadcast by Amelia from the crossing of the two erroneous bearings that are shown with red lines of the sketch. A very pragmatic person, Amelia would only say this if she had some definitive indicator, in this case the RDF triangulation. If the extended dead reckoning had been used, she most likely would say something like, "We are in the area and searching for you". The communications being impossible, the RDF was used to try and locate the Itasca. Amelia chose her backup daytime frequency of 7500Kc because she had spent hours trying to find the 333Kc LF beacon she had requested. Desperate for guidance, Amelia was aware that 7500Kc was not well suited for her DF loop antenna and said so in her telegram to the Itasca. Many investigators claim Amelia was inept at the radio work and they purposely leave out important "periods" or "stops" when quoting the telegram traffic in order to make it appear that 333Kc was merely a suggestion by Amelia rather than an order by the CG Command office. While LF long range signals arrive at essentially zero degrees making the loop RDF practical, short range HF signals must arrive at an upward angle; the wings, the nose, and tail assembly block the incoming radio waves. Sky wave interference or the night effect can make proper reception impossible. The feeble and unstable signal delivered by the loop antenna made proper reception and "null" detection impossible. But it proved once again that the radio receiver was working properly. The State Department liaison officer Mr. Black did not understand low frequency homing. He was confused by a follow up telegram from Amelia for a frequency request of 7500 Kc ( for the Itasca ) and 9000 Kc (for the Swan). Mr. Black thought these were homing frequencies; they were not. Amelia chose them for the Howland to Hawaii leg such that she could monitor and be aware of her radio operability without switching bands. First 7500 Kc as she departed Howland, then simply re-tuning to 9000 Kc as the flight approached the position of the Swan, and finally turning the dial to 6210 Kc as she approached Honolulu. The radio crew of the Itasca were not confused about radio homing as they set up and tested 333 Kc per the instructions from Coast Guard headquarters. Nonetheless, per the orders of Black and the ship's captain, no low frequency homing signal was ever transmitted from Itasca to the flight. And Amelia had told the Itasca so; ..."have been unable to contact you by radio....". Even in 1937, aviation professionals knew radio included communications and navigation. Unable to see any evidence of smoke that the Itasca laid down, Amelia abandoned the northern leg of the search pattern, and when she decided to follow on the 157, after the final southern leg, Amelia made her final, but "questionable", transmission; "We are on line north and south". What she really said was "We are on line North to South". From the erroneous radio fix, bearing 157 leads directly to Hull Island. At 8:43, when she made that last transmission, they were once again well South of the equator.
The Navy air search covered all of the Phoenix Islands, and even though the Navy landed a sea plane at Orona (Hull), the L10E underwater on the lagoon bottom remained hidden from view. The Japanese military scuttled the plane and the raft which lies near the tail of the aircraft. The deep blue color of the oval raft is due to the rapid absorption of the orange/yellow colors of the raft, leaving only blue in the satellite image. Note that the raft carried by the flight was a two person raft and somewhat larger than the single person raft pictured above. In-situ forensic evidence will show that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were the first American combatants of WWII.
The Phoenix Islands were familair to both Amelia and Fred. It had been a potential route during the trip planning. Especially Fred as he had worked with Musick at Pan Am on the trans-Pacific routes for the China, Samoa, and Pacific clippers. He knew that Pan Am was planning a sea landing strip and facilities at Canton. Plus, being a navigator and up to date on all things solar, he knew that Samuel Mitchell had just lead a large scientific party to Canton for the solar eclipse three weeks earlier on June 8, so logistics support was probably still on Canton. Turning south to follow the 157/337 line was a natural because they might still be North of Howland and it put them closer to Gardner or Canton if they were south of Howland. As Amelia zig-zagged down the erroneous 157 line, searching for Howland and possibly Gardner Island, Fred was averaging increasingly accurate early morning sun shots, and realizing where they were (too late to turn back to Howland), he urged her to turn east and strike for Canton. There is confusion about the "line"; many think it is a great circle line of position (LOP) that Fred determined just at sunrise with the clock or later with the clock and sextant. The 137/317 line is the radio (great circle) bearing of the line passing through Wake Island, Howland Island, and Hull Island. It is only coincidental that the sun line on July 2 would be very nearly the same as the line of search. Due to the absence of the radio beacon, getting on the line of search was necessary by dead reckoning, sextant and clock measurements, long range radio direction finding, or some combination of all three methods. On the old (incorrect) maps of the time , the 157 bearing passed midway between Howland and Baker, putting them both in visual range. Having both Baker and Howland "on the line" and relatively close to each other assured a shorter search if it became neccessary. It really is confusing, but really not important in the end because Amelia was forced to use radio nulls from two distant stations, which she finally got for the position fix. She just didn't know they were in error until it was too late. It is presumed by many navigation experts that had Amelia continued on Fred's established dead reckoning course, they would be on or very close to the true 157, and that she would have found Howland after a brief search of the area, especially with with billowing smoke put out by Itasca.. The popular disappearance theory put forth by the investigation group TIGHAR places the aircraft on the correct 157/337 line of search. This author disagrees with the TIGHAR argument because these skilled fliers would have spotted the islands and or the Itasca (and the smoke screen the ship lay down) had they been on the correct 157/337 line. Despite Fred's arguments, Amelia continued down the "line", following the erroneous 157 rhumb line. Just as they calculated 15 minuets of fuel remaining, out of the blue Pacific appeared a beautifull coral atoll, awash in white surf. Fred thought it might be Canton. Amelia thought only about the choice of water or jagged coral reef flat as a landing; she chose water. With the engines at half power, Amelia began a left turn into the wind as she crossed over the northern reef edge of the island. With a minimum landing speed of 68 mph into a stiff 22 mph easterly wind, Amelia figured a 46 mph impact on the quiet eastern lagoon surface. In slow flight, the tail touched down just as Amelia killed the left engine. The belly first and then the big engines tore into the water, the plane almost flipped over, the water spraying 100 feet into the air. Did they both survive? This analysis shows that they did. It was all over in a few seconds. It was 10:36 in the morning, July 2nd, 1937. The Electra began immediately to sink. Update July 28, 2012: The investigation group TIGHAR has completed a deep water search with the latest remote submersible technologies off the steep reef face of Gardner (Nikumaroro) Island. No airplane parts were found.
The Hull Island lagoon is guarded by the cresent of sand that is the eastern part of the island. No waves here and a bottom, like the rest of the lagoon, about 25 feet to 35 feet deep. But coral heads loom over the sandy bottom everywhere. As the right wing of the Electra went down 6 feet, it struck and was mired in the elkhorn coral growth atop a coral tower. The tail assembly also wedged among giant brain coral only slightly further down the slope. The extra empty fuel tanks could now support the weight and the upper part of the cockpit and portions of the left wing were above the water line. Standing from the wing tip, Amelia and Fred could see the fringe of coconut palms on the western lee shore about 3 1/2 miles away. But help did not arrive. That, plus the multiple passages into the lagoon convinced Fred that they were not on Canton. Feeling that they were on Gardner Island and absolutely alone, they knew the radio was thier only hope. After several shallow dives, Fred retreived the tool kit from the rear cabin. He disconnected and cut cables, including some of the transmit antenna wire. He fasten the wire from the nose, 4' above the water, over to the tip of the wing, 2' above the water, and hence back to the radio. With heads barely above water, Fred and Amelia wrestled the radio transmitter from the back, the heavy dynamo required for transmission, and battery from the soggy cockpit. Because of the steep angle of the wing, everything had to be lashed down on the few square feet of dry working space. Somehow, using all of thier talents, lucky experimentations, and a day of drying out in the tropical sun, they finally got a indication of transmission from the modulation current meter. Over a period of several days, they broadcast the flight's call sign KHAQQ and the Gardner Island position from the chart. But the effort did not work. The transmissions were weak, distorted, and garbled and the only thing determined by most receiving the signals was that the modulation was a human voice and the signal was coming from direction of the Phoenix Islands. Lacking any intelligence, the weak signal contained the unmistakable cadence of the human voice which people recognize and want to make coherent. Thus, they record what they think they are hearing. Several people claim to have been listening on short wave and recording the transmissions as the sky wave radio hop waxed and waned. As Fred struggled with the radio equipment on the wing, Amelia was heard to say "look out for that battery", "put your ear to it" and "it's fading". Repeated calls of "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday" were corrupted by the doppler shift of the ionosphere such that the listener heard "New York, New York, New York" or "Marie, Marie, Marie". Some alerted the Coast Guard locally, but officials paid no attention. One of the most reliable reports came from the radio operator(s) at Nauru Island; they thought the voice was that of Amelia, having monitored the flights 50Watt 3105Kc radio during the early morning approach. It's interesting that Nauru radio was never able to contact the Itasca, which had a much stronger transmitter, on 3105Kc. Amelia could not hear Itasca nor could anyone else in the Pacific. Except for a very weak signal picked up by the HMS Achilles, there are no radio log books that record the Itasca calling the flight on 3105Kc. Earlier checks by Itasca with morse code dots and dashes at long range had proven successful. But no voice checks were ever done. The Itasca transmitter operated class C meaning it had a tuned plate circuit and a tuned grid control circuit. The morse coded dots and dashes had a separate tunable resonant circuit from the voice grid control circuit. Apparently the voice control circuit was never tuned for 3105 Kc. Many of the remote amateur radio and shortwave listeners that picked up the weak signals at harmonics of the 3105Kc from the downed flight never heard Itasca repeatedly calling. Itasca had a much more powerful transmitter than the low power unit aboard the flight aircraft. They were not alone on Hull Island. Mr. Jones and a crew of copra workers were on Hull Island. All the evidence to date points to the fact that Mr. Jones was a Englishman who wanted to be alone. While he apparently had a radio, he did not listen to the BBC and had no knowledge of the world record flight. If he or the workers with him had heard the Electra momentarily, they would not be surprised; planes had flown by before without stopping. From thier position among the palm trees of the lee side, they wouldn't feel compelled to search the eastern horizon for a ditching plane and would never see the plane once it was down. The Navy investigators found that there was no motorized craft on the Island with which to search or explore.
The life raft was readied well in advance, as they could detect the slow slip of the plane down the coral head by the ever decreasing dry area on the wing. As they prepared the raft, a small boat appeared coming from the lee side against the backdrop of a thin green line of coconut palms. Both Amelia and Fred recognized that the people in the boat were not South Pacific Islanders but rather Japanese sailors. Without expressing their purpose the men in the boats seemed merely to observe and remained silent. As Amelia could speak and understand Japanese, she grew fearful of their intentions; no blankets, first aid, or water presented. Nothing in the boat to indicate rescue. She demanded a separate boat be be provided from shore. Knowing they understood, she waved them away with the revolver she carried on the flight. The boat returned in the late afternoon. Each sailor aboard carried a rifle. Their gestures with hands over heads was clear; surrender. Amelia didn't want the "flying laboratory" to fall into the control of a foreign power, so she fired a dutiful pistol shot across the bow of the small craft. The Japanese pirates peppered the aircraft with rifle fire. Fred and Amelia reluctantly tossed the revolver in the lagoon. Later, restrained in the small boat with AE's briefcase and Fred's charts and navigation gear between them, the fliers watched as the sailors scuttled the L10E aircraft and the rubber life raft. Knowing a sea and air search was in progress for the Americans, the Japanese pirates knew the craft must be hidden from view immediately. The raft is visible in the image even today, resting near the tail of the aircraft on the starboard side. After watching the Electra slide and then slowly sink to the lagoon bottom, the gas tanks punctured to ensure the plane stayed down, the fliers were taken ashore and later transferred to a Japanese submarine. Because other people were present on Hull island at the time, the Orona theory opens up a pathway to the popular Saipan Island theory with its very dark scenario; i.e., Amelia and Fred were executed on Saipan by the Japanese military. Crime investigators tell us that in cases of disappearance without a clue (Jimmy Hoffa, Madelaine Macain), the missing go missing on account of other people. No one realized the intent of the Japanese military in 1937 and if some member of the copra working party was an unwitting agent of the Japanese navy (-you will be well rewarded for any valuable information you may provide-), and somehow alerted the Imperial Japanese Navy, then Saipan becomes a possibility. The stories about her airplane being there (Milli atoll?) are extremely speculative and some aspects of the story fabricated to bolster the many eye witness accounts of the fliers being imprisoned on Saipan. This eye witness testimony must somehow be accounted for. How else would the fliers have arrived without having flown the plane there? The Orona theory provides a possible answer; a look-a-like airplane at Saipan. An intensive forensic examination of the plane and raft which lies near the tail will tell if the aircraft and raft were scuttled. Such a finding would point to the Saipan theory. The Orona/Saipan theory substantiates the testimony of USMC Wallack that he found AE's briefcase on Saipan. Conspiracy stories about a US Government cover-up at Saipan are without any proof. If the US Government wanted to conceal anything, it would be the failure of the Itasca to provide the homing beacon and inadequate investigation in the Phoenix Islands. There was immediately, at the time of the loss of the fliers, an attempt to absolve Itasca of all responsibility for the loss of the flight and to blame Amelia alone as responsible. That effort continues even today. The Navy searchers from the Colorado did not arrive until the afternoon of the 9th. Amelia and Fred had already been held captive 3 days aboard the Japanese sub as it approached Roi-Namur in the Marshall Islands. The Navy flyers could not see the Electra and raft (Saipan theory) lying on the bottom of the lagoon as their seaplane landed at (Orona) Hull. The air search covered nearby Nikumaroro as well where "signs of recent habitation" were reported. The "recent inhabitants" were of course the Japanese pirate shore party that took Amelia captive. Amelia's plane may be observed near the dark spot on the lagoon floor at West 172 degrees 09 minutes and 28 seconds and South 4 degrees 29 minutes and 53 seconds. Using modern aerial photo and satellite imagery, we can estimate the size of the dark spot by comparing the 510 foot length of the President Taylor, near the Canton Island lagoon entrance, from a software "eye altitude" of 500 feet. We note that the hull of the sunken ship fills the view completely. Returning to the dark spot in the Hull lagoon, we find that the dark spot fills but 1/4 th the view from the 500 foot altitude. That equates to a diameter of the circular spot of about 150 ft. While larger than the 55' X 39" feet of the Electra, the dark circle can be used as a size reference and location guide for finding the downed craft. The circular spot is radically different than the "open channel" or "maze" nature of the coral growth in the larger part of the lagoon. Zoologists don't know how coral animals communicate this "don't fence me in" message to insure adequate flow of fresh seawater. It's darker color indicates greater depth at the lagoon bottom. About 175 feet Southeast of the center lies a long narrow silhouette that might be a sailing vessel. Upon close examination, details show the symmetry of major components whose shape fits the classic design of the Electra. The nature of the analysis is contained in the Next page.

If the fliers were Northwest of Howland in an area of reported
dense clouds, they would have flown South out of the clouds to find smoke from Itasca.
Reporting "we are on you but cannot see you", and signal level 5 (strong and clear) radio transmissions means they were flying in relatively close proximity to Itasca and most likely in clear air.