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 radio 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 plane 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 authenticated radio broadcasts from the Phoenix Islands originate without more evidence of the Electra crash on the islands of the region? 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
Ideal Candidate Radars 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. Theory on take-off : the communications wire "receive" antenna under the aircraft came undone at it's tie on the tail bottom during the thunderous take-off roll. Turbulent air whipped the wire violently over the wing where it entangled in the radio navigation loop antenna. Immediately, one of the propellers snared the wire and tore it from the loop with enough force to twist the loop on its shaft to the planes interior indicator unit. The wire was shredded, wrapped around the engine cowling, or fell into the ocean. This all happened in a few seconds and went undetected by the fliers, concentrating on the fuel laden takeoff. A mere stub of the antenna wire exited the cabin; a sensitive receiver could hear Amelia's transmissions from the "transmit" antenna atop the craft, but she could not hear anything. Many errors were made on this leg of the flight, but the mechanical inspection failure or runway clearance check by ground support, and Amelia's failure to achieve a good radio check prior to departure from the Lae area is considered primary. 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
Southern California Operations 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. 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. They felt confident that the 333Kc homing signal assigned to the Itasca at Howland would be just as accurate. But for some unexplained reason, no homing signal was ever transmitted by Itasca. Amelia had observed both the Wake Island radio and Honolulu radio bearings begining to merge towards thier destination. Of course, she was unaware of the error introduced by the errant cable during take-off. 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 far away East and South of thier intended landing place.
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. 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. 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 could not see the tiny raft upon the great ocean as it drifted away from Hull towards Gardner, eventually landing upon the SE shore of Gardner near a location designated "site seven" by investigators at TIGHAR.
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. Did they notice the sheared radio antenna stub sticking from beneath the cabin? 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 the Phoenix Islands. The radio operator at Naru island thought the voice was that of Amelia. 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. A young girl named Betty in Florida was listening on short wave and she recorded an hour and a half of 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". Towards the end of the transmissions, Betty had the impression the plane was slipping or sliding down. Repeated calls of "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday" were corrupted by the doppler shift of the ionosphere such that Betty heard "New York, New York, New York" or "Marie, Marie, Marie". The girl's father alerted the Coast Guard locally, but officials paid no attention. 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. With nothing much of value or use, they piled the sextant, the ship's log, and as many of the planes plastic observation portholes as they could dismantle into the raft. The plastic window parts and anything else that would hold water were in hopes of capturing rain of a passing rain shower. After watching the Electra slide and then slowly sink to the lagoon bottom and desperate for water and provisions, they struck out for the "green" line of trees on the western shore. In the failing light, without proper steerage, they ventured too close to a reef channel, and the tide that rips through the narrow passage pulled them out to sea. It's possible that Fred Noonan may have died in a heroic attempt to hold the raft to the reef. The Easterly winds carried the tiny raft away from Hull Island and directly towards Gardner Island. It was July 6. There is circumstantial evidence collected by TIGHAR that Amelia did make it to Gardner Island, washing ashore on the islands southeast reef shore at a place later designated by researchers as site seven, where she perished after a heroic struggle with the elements. Because other people were present on Hull island at the time, the Orona theory also opens up a pathway to another popular theory, the 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 1937and 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 Japanese then Saipan becomes a possibility. The stories about her airplane being there (Milli atoll?) are extremely speculative and probably 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. 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 Navy searchers from the Colorado did not arrive until the afternoon of the 9th. Amelia was still adrift between Gardner and Hull. Gardner today is called Nikumaroro and Hull is called Orona. The Navy flyers could not see the tiny raft adrift (Nikumaroro theory) on the great ocean and they did not see the Electra and raft (Saipan theory) lying on the bottom of the lagoon as their seaplane landed at Hull. 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.