Harry Maude’s classic 1990 letter to Ric Gillespie: “Nobody saw anything worth reporting”

Henry HarryEvans Maude, an anthropologist and British Colonial Service officer, is well known to many with even a passing knowledge of research into the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.  In October 1937, Maude visited Gardner Island, now Nikumaroro, and other islands in the Phoenix Group with associate Eric Bevington, and saw nothing related to Earhart, Noonan or Electra NR 16020 only 100 days after their lossMaude and Bevington’s non-findings have always flown directly in the face of the phony claims of Ric Gillespie and TIGHAR, as we all know.  (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)

Maude, whose 1968 book, Of Islands and Men: Studies in Pacific History recounts his three visits to Gardner between 1937 and 1939, and several others in subsequent years, wrote to Gillespie in 1990 to express his wonder at all the Earhart-at-Nikumaroro noise Gillespie was making in the international media.  In his letter, below, Maude respectfully questioned Gillespie’s theory that the fliers must have died of starvation or dehydration shortly after crash-landing on a reef.  I think it’s appropriate to remind readers about the early days of the Nikumaroro farce, so that they can better understand just how badly they’ve been misled by Gillespie, and by our dependably dishonest media, who have been protecting the Earhart myth for nearly 80 years.

Henry Maude's 1968 study of

Henry Maude’s 1968 classic recounts his many visits to Gardner Island, now Nikumaroro Atoll, including his first, just 100 days after Amelia Earhart and  Fred Noonan went missing.

42/11 Namatjira drive,
Weston, A.C.T. 2611,
4 May, 1990

Dr [sic] Richard E. Gillespie,
Executive Director, TIGHAR,
1121 Arundel Drive,
Delaware 19808,

Dr. Dr Gillespie,

Sorry about the delay in replying to your letter of 15 March.  Blindness is not helping me to cope with the correspondence, as it means that I cannot see what I am typing so I must ask you to excuse the numerous errors. Things will be, I hope, a lot better when my new gadgets arrive from the Royal Blind Society, who are truly marvelous people.  At 83 one cannot afford to give up, or one dies very rapidly, so I have a book just published, one at the publisher and one on the eve of completion.

I must admit that the sensational reports in the press on your recent expedition to Nikumaroro were greeted with a good deal of incredulity and mirth: an Irish magistrate working for New Zealand embarking on a rowing boat from the Phoenix Islands for Fiji and clutching a sacking bag full of bones. Such stuff as dreams are made on [sic].

Our opinion was not changed by the arrival a bit later of an article called “Tracing Amelia’s footsteps” in a Journal entitled This WorldTo comment on some of the statements in this gem of journalese would take pages.

I am bound to say, however, that my strictures do not apply to your own article entitled “Bones,” for here you have detailed the earlier versions of the Nikumaroro story, which appeared in the newspapers, but end with a critical appraisal which I find unexceptional except for one or two minor points.

Dr D.C.M. Macpherson was our best friend (I speak for my wife, Honor, as well as myself).  We came out from England together in 1929 and our close friendship continued until he died.  I visited him frequently when we were both lonely in Suva during the war: his wife lived in Scotland and mine was evacuated to Rotorua when the Japanese were expected.  I find it difficult to underestimate therefore, why he never once, in our interminable reminiscences, spoke of [Gerald B.] Gallagher’s “Bones.”  Incidentally, Mac was the Assistant Director of Medical Services for the Colony of Fiji and not Chief Pathologist for the Western Pacific High Commission.

Gallagher was presumably an Irishman by descent. as you are, but he was English to his fingertips.  I doubt if he had ever been to Ireland; his mother lived in England and his brother was a Clergyman in the Church of England.

I took a prospecting group of Gilbertese to Gardner Atoll, where we stayed from 13-16 October 1937, our task being to explore the island thoroughly, dig wells and evaluate its potential for colonization.  It seems curious that nobody saw anything worth reporting when going round the island so recently after Earhart’s landing, or on my subsequent visits to land the first settlers, and later still to see how they were getting on and arrange with them to return to the Gilberts and bring back their wives and children.

Henry Evans "Harry" Maude, a former British colonial administrator, head of the Social Development section of the South Pacific Commission, and Professor of Pacific History at the Australian National University, and of his wife, fellow researcher and string figure expert, Honor Maude.

Undated photo of Henry Evans “Harry” Maude, former British colonial administrator, head of the Social Development section of the South Pacific Commission, and Professor of Pacific History at the Australian National University.  Maude visited Gardner Island, now Nikumaroro, in October 1937, 100 days after Earhart’s last flight, and saw no trace of the Electra or the fliers.

You might think it advisable before embarking on your second expedition to send someone reliable to interview any ex-Nikumaroro settlers now resident in the Solomon Islands.  With any luck he ought to obtain some information of value; and it is possible that he might even find someone who remembered where the bones were buried.  For a reasonable recompense he might even be induced to accompany the expedition and point out where to dig.

What baffles me is why Amelia Earhart or her companion should have died.  There was plenty of food on the atoll, any amount of fish on the reef and in the lagoon, and coconuts to drink or eat on the ground or on the trees.  The succulent leaves of the boi (Portulaca) makes a very nutritious vegetable salad and can be sucked for moisture.  The mtea [sic], the ruku and the wao are also, I believe, growing wild on the atoll. The water is brackish, but drinkable for a period in an emergency.  The climate of Nikumaroro is excellent, despite Linda Puig [author of “Tracing Amelia’s footsteps”]; not hot like Enderbury and indeed cooler than some of the Gilberts, where I lived for some 20 years and found the temperature delightful.

One wonders too why, as she apparently sent radio messages for three days, she did not say where she was.  Presumably she had a chart.  Taking all factors into account it would seem that if Earhart and companion crash-landed on the Nikumaroro reef one was killed on landing and the other too injured to do more than send a few messages before dying.

I enclose a copy of some historical notes on Nikumaroro which I wrote in the late 1930s or early 1940s. You will see from these that the skeleton found on the atoll if pre-1937 was almost certainly that of a Polynesian man, as Goerner states, for the islanders known to have resided there were Polynesian workers from Niue Island.  I also send a list of documentation of the early days of the Settlement Scheme, including a number of letters from Gallagher, in case you want to check everything for a mention of a skeleton (or bones).  The only correspondence we went to the Resident Commissioner on Ocean Island, for transmission to the W.P.H.C.  [Western Pacific High Commission] and eventually to London were formal Progress Reports, thus what you were looking for would not be among the material in the Colonial Officer archives, but might quite possibly be contained in one of Gallagher’s chatty letters — which were anything but formal.

Nikumaroro, or Gardner Island, is part of the Phoenix Islands, Kiribati, in the western Pacific Ocean. It is a remote, elongated, triangular coral atoll with profuse vegetation and a large central marine lagoon. It's approximately 4.7 miles long by 1.6 miles wide and has gained international notoriety as the "most probable" landing place of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. No real evidence has ever been presented to support this false idea.

Nikumaroro, formerly Gardner Island, is part of the Phoenix Islands, Kiribati, in the western Pacific Ocean.  It is a remote, elongated, triangular coral atoll with profuse vegetation and a large central marine lagoon. It’s approximately 4.7 miles long by 1.6 miles wide and has gained international notoriety as the “most probable” landing place of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.  Not a shred of evidence and not a single witness has ever been presented to support this false idea.

This Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme material is in the archives of the University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, 5001, and the archivist in charge is Susan Woodburn.  Access is restricted.

Yours sincerely,

H.E. Maude.

Writing to Fred Goerner more than a year later, Maude was a bit less reserved in appraising Gillespie’s claims. “You ask what I think of all the TIGHAR razzmatazz: I regard it as bull, to use an Australian term,” Maude told Goerner.  “Gardner is such a small atoll and was inhabited for so long that every inch of the place must have been walked over many times; anything out of the ordinary would have been reported and be on record.”

Educated at Jesus College, Cambridge, Harry Maude spent the years 1929-1948 working as a civil servant and administrator in various Pacific Islands, in particular the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, and as Resident Commissioner from 1946 to 1949.  His many years spent on Pacific islands in various stages of development apparently were of great physical benefit to Maude, who died at age 100, on Nov. 4, 2006.

35 responses

  1. TIGHAR case closed- how do they continue to perpetuate this myth?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mr. Gillespie has certainly bilked a lot of investors out of big money. Having done a short search and excavation on Tinian, I do firmly believe, as so many witnesses have presented, that Amelia & Fred died on Saipan. I highly recommend Mike Campbell’s books, “Amelia Earhart, The Truth At Last”, for an accurate account of their demise.


  2. I wish I owned a yacht that I could sail to these islands. I was unaware that anybody was living on Nikumaroro prior to 1937, but apparently some people were. I would imagine all they could do was tend coconut palms, I don’t think there was any other paying occupations there. Apparently nobody was living on the island when the “Norwich City” ran aground there in 1929. I have read that a company was it John T, Arundel? farmed coconuts in the Phoenix group but I didn’t think they had any permanent workers on Niku for any length of time. So, if anybody wants to gift me a yacht, I will accept it and sail off for Niku and Mili Atoll and report on what I find.


    1. Coming right up, Dave. And how do you want your yacht delivered, COD or postage paid?


  3. I realize that it’s probably irrelevant to you, but I corresponded with Harry Maude for several years after 1990 until his death, and after his colleague Eric Bevington published his book and told Ric Gillespie about seeing what he thought were signs of someone’s “overnight bivouac” on Nikumaroro during his and Harry’s 1937 visit, I quizzed Harry about it. He said he recalled seeing some “piles of rubbish,” but couldn’t recall what they were. Harry DID believe that AE and FN were most likely captured by the Japanese, but acknowledged that he had no particular reason for thinking so. He also did say he thought that surely the colonists would have found evidence of AE if she’d been there, and he was perhaps even more astonished than we were when the WPHC documents showed up in 1997 indicating that they HAD found bones and suspicious artifacts. Harry was on Pitcairn at the time of the bones discovery, and apparently was not regarded as needing to know about it.

    I do wish you’d quit presenting our research as just Ric Gillespie’s con job. There are a few others of us involved, so you ought at least to acknowledge that we’re ALL parts of the racket.


    1. I don’t see Maude’s letter on the TIGHAR site, or I would have acknowledged it. If I missed it, let me know and I will do so. Otherwise, your crap is still crap, strongly implying that some “rubbish” that Maude saw on Gardner might have had some connection to Earhart. The “bones” are another despicable deception, not even worthy of discussion here. Anyone smart about this knows the bones were originally ID’d by Dr. Hoodless as coming from a male, non-European. Now take your snake oil and peddle it elsewhere. You’re not welcome here.
      Mike C.


      1. Thanks, Mike. We can always count on you to be open-minded.


  4. After reading Tom King’s reply in re: to Ric Gillespie, I can only say one thing: “God help us, they’re breeding.” Thank you, Mike, for your reply to him — straight, & to the point! I believe the FACTS speak for themselves, NOT Ric Gillespie or the TIGHAR Club. I loved this re: Maudes letter, just one more thing to gather. Maybe someday, Mike, we can only hope.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ric Gillespie’s INVENTION of Amelia Earhart crashing on Nikumaroro, reminds me of the Bone Picking Machine in Chaplin’s – Modern Times.

    “I’ve got a new machine,” said the Yankee pedlar, “for picking bones out of fish. Now, I tell you, it’s a little bit the darnest thing you ever did see. All you have to do, is to set on a table and turn a crank, and the fish flies right down your throat and the bones right under the grate. Well, there was a country greenhorn got hold of it the other day, and he turned the crank the wrong way; and I tell you, the way the bones flew down his throat was awful. Why it stuck that fellow so full of bones, that he could not get his shirt off for a whole week!”


  6. Great post, Mike – I think you should consider awarding Continuing Education credits to your readers …. I have learned so much from your posts and all the excellent comments of others with relevant details!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wolfspecter13 –

    Thanks for the PRAISE – as *YOU so well deserve!

    I wish more KIDS today would get onboard Mike’s blog. They could break this W I D E O P E N, the Media’s gone missing jargon, by text & tweets.

    All hands on deck/ or fingers on board!


  8. Another interesting book about the Pacific islands is “A Pattern of Islands” by Arthur Grimble. Nothing about AE in it, that I recall. I did read Tom King’s book, “Amelia Earhart’s Shoes” and found it not convincing, but I like to keep an open mind. Now, when Tom says we are in the same racket, he has a good point. On balance, he and Ric are keeping the search for Amelia in the news. It may be that more money has been made from these islands with Gillespie’s racket than from the copra and guano trade combined. You might say the islands have been repurposed. The natives of these islands never made any money from any scheme of the Colonials, and I say why not carry on the tradition, as Ric does. Who knows, someday there may be a Trump Tower on Nikumaroro.

    While it is satisfying to be a member of the intelligentsia as we are, basking in our smug superiority, I don’t know of any benefit we obtain. When I present the truth about AE to some hapless audience, I know now to keep it brief lest I convince my audience that I went on too many bad acid trips in the 70s. Hmmm, maybe I did. This is how the world works. The CIA/neocon/powers that be know that the misinformation they convey will be believed by the majority. There is no concerted effort to conceal the real truth because all that is required is to label the folks that can see it as deluded conspiracy theorists. It works every time. The best I can do is promulgate my “colorful” stories and then let my listeners go back to their important issues like watching the Red Sox game.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for another of your unique takes, David. I have no problems with most of your current missive, with one glaring exception. For Tom King and Gillespie, misleading sheeple about the Earhart disappearance is indeed a “racket,” but that word has no relationship to the truth and an honorable commitment to it. They are the only ones who have reaped real profits from their commercial interests in perpetuating their false narrative. For me, it is no “racket,” with all the negative connotations that word implies, and I was fortunate to even have Truth at Last published by a real publisher instead of the vanity press variety as so many other Earhart authors have been forced to do. As you say, being labeled as a “deluded conspiracy theorist” is not a profitable position, but the establishment always tells us the truth by labeling it in such negative terms.

      Mike C.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. David — while I don’t think the Japanese Capture Hypothesis has much to recommend it, and while I doubt if any of us really has “the Truth” about what happened to AE and FN, I share your disquiet about how all we colonialists have exploited the residents of places like Kiribati. I, too, fret about what “benefit we obtain,” or more importantly what benefit we convey to anyone, particularly those who live in the area. I console myself with the notion that we help some of them make a living, and I know that we provide them with a measure of entertainment, but beyond that, I dunno. I do devoutly hope that we’ll never see a Trump Tower (or even a towerlet) on Nikumaroro, though.


  9. Tom –
    What are we to expect from Ric Gillespie’s next adventure on Nikumaroro? Talking eggs & singing bones?

    David –
    I find the *TRUTH far more enlightening & interesting than a baseball game or listening to those with more money than sense.


    1. I’m afraid I can’t speak to Ric’s next adventure; he handles that and I handle my own approach to the work. Which at the moment involves taking a tour group to Nikumaroro next year and doing some focused archaeology. Plus I’m working on a novel (FICTION, OK?) that doesn’t have talking eggs or singing bones but does feature a sarcastic coconut crab.

      As for “truth,” I suppose it’s “enlightening” sort of by definition, but I’ve found it to be a tricky thing to ferret out. Which DOES make it more interesting than baseball games or listening to senseless people — rich or not.


  10. Tom –
    Thanks for the LaUgHs! Why don’t You & Ric take a tour group to Saipan and speak to the locals? I’m sure they will ENLIGHTEN you’s with the *TRUTH. You’s should invite Tom Crouch & his Smithsonian colleagues.

    You GUYS just won’t ADMIT to the *TRUTH; because it would damage the media & government’s credibility, Tom Crouch’s job, Ric’s friendship with Hillary, etc. etc. We do ENJOY the ENTERTAINMENT you provide, so keep the LaUgHs coming!


    1. Glad to make you happy, Doug. I lived on Saipan between 1977 and 79 and talked with lots of people, heard quite a few 2nd and 3rd hand Amelia-stories. Heard them in Chuuk and the Marshalls, too. Can’t think of much reason to take anyone there to hear more. For more laughs, see https://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Research/ResearchPapers/AEinMarianas.html


      1. Let me begin by saying that last month I read Goerner’s book (for the 2nd time) and having been a student of most of the other books and the TIGHAR point of view, my belief is that Fred “nailed it” in that first book. Moreover, I think he in fact knew more than he let on in order to protect his many sources. Yes, I accept the spy theory, too. King is correct in saying that no author makes much of this theory. Here’s my point: They were not at any time LOST whether Noonan was sober or not. They may not have been able to sight Howland, but that’s a different matter.

        As I understand LOP, they could have been off by what? Maybe 50 miles or so for the sake of argument? I believe the Navy had tables of percentage of accuracy of your sight, less accurate if the sun was close to the horizon or some such. So, OK, they are 30 miles away from Howland and they can’t sight it. But one thing they do know for sure is the latitude of Howland. Noonan has a sextant, or octant. It will give him their latitude and I understand that sextants are quite accurate. So they know they are either west or east of Howland on the right latitude. If they were on the latitude of Nikumaroro they sure would know that and would simply fly north back to the correct latitude.

        Additionally, I believe they have a fix on the Jaluit radio station and can easily triangulate their position with their primitive or not DF. In any case, they could simply fly west to the Gilberts where at least most of the islands are inhabited. That’s not to say this proves they didn’t crash on Niku, but it makes it highly implausible. Also, let me add here that I believe the only possible valid reason for flying from Lae instead of Rabaul is that if you are going to Truk it makes sense, if you are going to Howland it makes no sense as it increases their distance by 400 miles, I think.

        As for Mr. King’s paper, they go to great scholarly lengths to prove nothing. The theme (and I didn’t read every single word) seems to be that there is no proof the witnesses are telling the truth. Then reasons are advanced why they may not be truthful. All well and good. I don’t think it was mentioned where they might have been motivated by money. But Mr. King, to be more honest could have inserted a footnote saying that the author DOES have a money motivation to the extent that he is making money from an alternative hypotheses, just like stock analysts nowadays say “I do own shares in company XYZ.”

        So, we have a bunch of foolish native speakers who have trouble saying or knowing the truth because of their untrustworthy ethnicity and presumably backwardness. Be that as it may we at least have witnesses. Where are the Nikumaroro witnesses? They’re not suspect because there very definitely aren’t any. So we don’t have to question their motivation. But we do have Mr. Maude as a witness saying nothing was found concerning AE. As well as scores of others who say the same thing. In fact even Mr. Gillespie has found nothing. I would say the weight of the evidence points to the Marshall/Saipan point of view.

        Another clever trick, I thought, was setting up the landing on Saipan hypothese as a credible theory (and it isn’t and it is a wacky theory on its face) and then easily shooting it down. (Pun intended) THEREFORE, by association all other hypotheses of the not crashed and sank variety must be also equally implausible.

        So now I am ready for my refutation. Let some experienced navigator tell me where my thinking about not being lost is wrong. I will concede I have no good reason for them to fly to the Marshalls, but obviously they landed somewhere because of the radio messages they sent. That right engine might be needed to CHARGE their batteries, but I figured out a while back that their fully charged battery should transmit at least for a total of one hour time before it died assuming the radio drew 50 watts. So they could have sent many short messages slowly growing weaker. So why Ric makes a point of making a big deal of this engine running point makes no sense unless to demonstrate his lack of electrical knowledge. So that’s my story for now.


      2. Well, we can all “believe” what we want to “believe” and “say” what we want to “say.” Your opinion is as good as mine, and you’re welcome to it. But let me just respond to a couple of things:

        “But Mr. King, to be more honest could have inserted a footnote saying that the author DOES have a money motivation to the extent that he is making money from an alternative hypotheses, just like stock analysts nowadays say “I do own shares in company XYZ.””

        But DO I have a money motivation? AM I making money from an alternative hypothesis? I kinda wish I were, but I’m not, at least in any direct sense. except the tiny royalty payments I get on my novel, “Thirteen Bones.” Such meager royalties as my other Amelia-Niku book (“AE’s Shoes”) gets go to TIGHAR. And they are truly meager. Where did you get the idea that I’m making money off the Niku hypothesis?

        “So, we have a bunch of foolish native speakers who have trouble saying or knowing the truth because of their untrustworthy ethnicity and presumably backwardness.”

        You certainly HAVEN’T read our paper. The “native speakers” weren’t and aren’t “foolish;” they’re as bright as anyone else. But when they’re interviewed by people intent on finding Earhart, who ask leading questions, and who represent government power in the “native speakers” eyes, there’s every motivation for them to tell their interlocutors what they seem to want to hear. And if there WERE Europeans, including women, in Japanese captivity on Saipan and maybe elsewhere, it’s likely to be pretty easy for connections to be made that aren’t quite accurate. “Oh yes, that woman in the hotel, she must have been the lady this guy is looking for!”

        “Be that as it may we at least have witnesses. Where are the Nikumaroro witnesses?”

        Niku was uninhabited in 1937, and is uninhabited today. It’s real hard to find witnesses when there aren’t any people. We do, however, have anecdotal accounts of aircraft wreckage and human remains from the colonists who arrived there in 1937. Have you not read ANYTHING we’ve published?

        “But we do have Mr. Maude as a witness saying nothing was found concerning AE.”

        We also have Mr. Maude, with whom I corresponded for several years, subsequently recalling that he, like his colleague Eric Bevington, saw signs of someone’s “overnight bivouac” (Bevington’s term). And of course, they weren’t looking for anything “concerning AE” — that wasn’t their job, and they were on the island only for a couple of days, during much of which time Maude was incapacitated. Maude is a witness, all right, but he didn’t have the opportunity or motivation to witness much. And when evidence turned up that bones and artifacts had been found on the island in 1940, he evinced great surprise and, I think, some chagrin upon learning that he’d been left out of the loop by the colonial government.

        “As well as scores of others who say the same thing.”

        Uh… who?

        “In fact even Mr. Gillespie has found nothing.”

        Well, if you’re talking Mr. G. personally, that may be true, though he did find most of the jackknife at the Seven Site and his wife Pat Thrasher found Artifact 2-2-V-1. But if by “Mr. Gillespie” you mean TIGHAR, I can only conclude that you haven’t read anything we’ve published about our research. We haven’t found Amelia’s diary or the Electra’s ID plate, but we’ve found a good deal of other evidence — historical, archaeological, and other. You may not think it’s worth anything, or worth as much as second-hand anecdotes about a woman imprisoned on Saipan, and you’re certainly entitled to your opinions, but it’s simply not accurate to say that we, or even Mr. G., has found “nothing.”

        Here’s one more item, since you seem so impressed by anecdote and opinion. My father was in military government on Saipan at the end of the war. He thought that Amelia and Fred crashed and sank somewhere near Howland. Should credence be given to this opinion, since he was closer to the time and place than we, and in a position to know (maybe) if they’d really been on Saipan? I can’t think of any earthly reason to. His opinion was his opinion, nothing more. Likewise with the opinion Mr. Maude expressed to Mr. Goerner.


      3. Yes, Mr. King, I did read a lot of the TIGHAR forum up until 2 or 3 years ago. I put a lot of thought into the Nikumaroro hypothesis and contributed some posts which were very unpopular with Ric. I got the impression that when disagreeing with Ric that if I did not post in a scholarly manner with citations, my opinion was shot down automatically. But even if I did use the correct form, Ric was not under the same rules and could and did declare, “THat’s not true.” to my post. Sure, some of my ideas were way out, same as on Mike’s Blog. I don’t mind them being shot down, in fact I may learn something by that. But after a year or more of thought, I decided that the Niku Hyp. was simply not believable for me.

        I had my own theories, including discovering on Google Earth what was apparently the wreck of a twin engine airplane on Nonouti. I even made inquiries about going there as I was headed to New Zealand at the time, but i ultimately didn’t go. Just too much trouble. Soon after, I read Mike Campbell’s book and I felt his views made perfect sense for me. In fact it inspired me to seek out other “cover-ups” by our US government at that time and up until the present. As for “signs of habitation” on Niku, Ric’s idea seemed to me to be that nobody ever went there up until the colonization, so any signs of human activity had to be AE and Noonan. Maude’s story seems to be that the island was occupied by Polynesians from Niue at some point, and I would think that others visited too, although of course that’s just a belief of mine, but anybody at any time could have put together a shack or left signs or even died there. Like from the Norwich City shipwreck.

        I’m not accusing you of profiting handsomely from the Niku Hyp. I believe you when you imply your books weren’t high on the best seller lists. I don’t know what Ric pays you, I would think you would get something for your efforts in supporting his view like on this forum. Maybe not. I guess the expression that comes to my mind is you do have a dog in that hunt. Mr. Campbell, I would say, has nothing to gain by any particular theory, he is just trying to present the most sensible and compelling story of AE based on the testimony of others. That is why I imagine he does not indulge in spy theories or plane switch stories because they would distract from his basic evidence.

        I find it interesting that you lived on Saipan for a while an/ or that your father did. I’m not sure if I have that right, but I get the general idea. It might make a very good article if you described how all this came to be, what were your impression of the Islands, how you fell into Ric’s orbit, what particular stories you heard and from whom. Like how you developed your opinions. I would read it for sure. Maybe you could elaborate on who else of European appearance could be proven to have been present in Japanese mandated territory in those days. Saying you heard of or heard stories of some of these purported people is no more proven than Amelia’s presence.

        As my parting shot, I would still like to hear your or anybody’s refutation of my belief that they could not have possibly flown to Niku without being aware they were far south of Howland. As I said, Noonan would have had to be passed out drunk not to have noticed that. I know what Ric would say, he would remark that we all know what a competent navigator would know and “would do” but there is no way of knowing what he actually did. I think Ric is implying that when they couldn’t find Howland they decided to keep flying south into an area of scattered small atolls or islands hoping to find one they could land on (because of course they were on LOP 157/337) instead of doing the only thing with a good chance of saving themselves by flying to the Gilberts which were a pretty big target. It is for reasons like this I cannot take seriously the Niku Hyp. Now your turn.


      4. OK, first, Ric doesn’t pay me anything; the money (not much) flows the other way. I pay my dues to TIGHAR, and make occasional charitable donations.

        Second, I don’t participate in Ric’s forum for much the same reason you don’t, though the parting in Ric’s and my case was mutually agreeable; I just kept arguing with him and we decided it was doing nobody any good. I maintain my own little blog (ameliaearhartarchaeology.blogspot.com), serve on TIGHAR’s Board of Directors, handle TIGHAR’s end of the Betchart cruises to Nikumaroro, and try to help make sure the archaeological end of the work is organized, but the forum is Ric’s thing.

        Third, I don’t see why you think I have more of a dog in the hunt than Mike Campbell does. Each of us subscribes to an hypothesis; each of us pursues it. Each of us more or less thinks he’s right. Each of us has written a book or two. What gives me a dog that he doesn’t have, and why does it matter?

        Fourth: my father, Cdr. T.T. King, was on Saipan in 1944-45, in military government. He was a close drinking and poker-playing pal of Capt. Gordon Finley, who stayed in the Navy after the War and was later tasked with investigating some of Goerner’s allegations. My recollections of my father on AE are just of passing comments at the dinner table.

        I was on Saipan (and in Chuuk and elsewhere) in 1977-79 as “Consultant in Archaeology and Historic Preservation to the High Commissioner” of the then-Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. My schtick was helping the governments of the soon-to-be FSM, RMI, and ROP set up mechanisms to take care of their historic places; chasing Amelia was very peripheral to my duties and interests.

        Returning from Micronesia, I went to work for the feds in DC. My boss had been a Marine Corsair pilot at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, so I knew he’d be interested when a guy named Gillespie called for advice about preserving old aircraft. We met, and a couple of years later when I was packing up to leave government and Ric told me about the Niku hypothesis, I said “well, I’ve done archaeology on WWII sites in Micronesia, and I’m at loose ends, so…” And the rest is history.

        Fifth: other Europeans in the Japanese mandated islands included quite a few German missionaries, and an interesting group of White Russians who’d escaped the Russian Revolution and fled to Yap. Plus quite a few people of mixed Spanish, German, and Chamorro or Carolinian heritage in the Marianas, and German-Marshallese planters and traders in the Marshalls. You have to remember that the Japanese had taken control of the islands from the Germans, who had taken them from the Spanish. There’s a pretty extensive literature on Spanish and German heritage in Micronesia. Just the other day I happened to come upon the report that the Navy prepared describing the Japanese surrender of Chuuk; it included a kind of census that listed several European residents there.

        Finally: I’m not a navigator, but my guess is that when AE and FN got their LOP advanced to where it should have bisected Howland, either:

        (a) They didn’t know whether they were north or south of the island, and since the closest land to the north was the Kamchatka Pennisula, 4000 miles away, they decided it was safer to fly south (assuming they knew there were SOME islands down there); or

        (b) They figured out that they were south, knew they were low on fuel, and knew that the Phoenixes were the closest things they might be able to land on or near, and so went south.

        But that’s my totally uninformed guess, nothing more. I got no “truth.”

        Liked by 1 person

      5. What you say about other “white” people living in the Mandates rings true to me. I recently read about the DeBrums and the story of the original DeBrum coming from Portugal, also I think I remember reading that one or more missionaries were executed by the Japanese. But then again, some eyewitnesses described seeing an American or white woman flyer with a white man and I don’t believe there are any credible accounts of other white women flyers being held by the Japanese. So if one takes those accounts seriously, it would have had to be Amelia and Fred.

        But moving on, here’s my take on their navigation. First, I believe the 157/337 LOP is a red herring, As I understand it the LOP is always perpendicular to your flight path. That implies that they were flying a 67 degree true bearing. For the benefit of their Japanese listeners, of course and they certainly were aware they were being monitored by them. So to make the Japs believe they were flying in from Lae that would be about their correct flight path. They were doing no such thing. But even if they were, they have no obligation to follow that LOP. They had maps too and they knew very well if they flew north far enough on 157/337 from Howland, Kamchatka is next landfall. Of course they knew within a few miles on that heading if they were north or south of Howland’s latitude. If they seriously were having trouble sighting Howland and they were low on fuel, they would simply fly due West until they came to an island in the Gilberts or the Marshalls. I know I wouldn’t keep on flying south until I perhaps sighted one of the Phoenix group which they must have known were uninhabited. If they couldn’t sight Howland, why would they believe they were going to sight Gardner which is hardly any bigger? And their lives depended on it? Amelia and Fred could not possibly have been that stupid, in my view. The irony is that their 157/337 LOP didn’t fool the Japs for a minute but it did fool generations of researchers. It fooled me for a long time.

        Yes, this is all speculation and anyone can believe it or not. But in my estimation you had one of the world’s best pilots and likewise the navigator and I give them credit for acting in a rational and intelligent manner. I think they knew exactly what they were doing. Maybe they were not in the same league as Lindbergh, Rickenbacker, Doolittle, but very close.

        I rest my case.


      6. The trouble with those reports of white female flyers is that they tend to have been collected by untrained interviewers who were actively looking for Amelia, so their questions may well have been along the lines of: “Have you ever heard of a woman pilot being here?” One also has to consider (a) the very strong ethic in many Micronesian cultures that favors telling an outsider what he or she seems to want to hear, and (b) the fact that word gets around really fast in a Micronesian community (“That American is looking for a woman pilot…”). I think there IS decent evidence that there was an American woman imprisoned or under a sort of house arrest on Saipan for a time, who either died naturally or was executed as a spy, but she was described as “mestiza,” i.e. of mixed ancestry, which hardly seems like AE. What it DOES suggest to me is a Japanese-American who got caught up in events — and who perhaps WAS a spy — and wound up in captivity on Saipan. A fascinating story in itself, but not an AE story.

        As to the LOP, I’ll remain fooled for now. I agree with you that Earhart was a fine pilot and Noonan an excellent navigator; I just don’t see any reason to think that they were trying to trick anyone with their transmissions. And I think you need to fly over the Pacific a bit for yourself before suggesting that it would have been easy just to turn around and go find one of the islands of the Gilberts. We’re talking VERY small islands in a VERY large ocean. Same thing with the Phoenixes, of course, but they ARE on the LOP, and Earhart’s “157-337” message is the last indication of a course we have. I think it ought to be accepted unless there’s some real good reason to think it wasn’t correct, and speculations about tricking the Japanese don’t strike me as great reasons.


      7. I’m going to begin by supplying this link https://tighar.org/wiki/Line_of_Position.
        OK now everyone can study LOP navigation according to R. Gillespie. It is curious as it leaves out some pertinent details, I don’t know if that was intentional. OK so now Tom King is the pilot of the Electra. He arrives at the LOP, takes a sextant sight to determine his latitude, that is correct, he flies down the line to the correct latitude of Howland and he can’t see the bleeping island. He can’t see the Itasca smoke signal, either. So what is wrong?

        The Navy says your LOP is accurate to plus or minus 20 miles 90% of the time. They have tables. Well, if Tom is off 20 miles east, maybe he wouldn’t be able to see the island. Or 20 miles west. Or Tom might have flown directly over the island and not sighted it because of all those pesky dark clouds causing shadows. He doesn’t know. Well, McKean and Gardner are almost on that LOP but 15 miles west of it. So he could fly down that line and be 35 miles east. Or he could calculate a new LOP for Gardner and hope it comes closer to Gardner than his Howland calculation did. But what if he doesn’t sight Gardner either? Now he has to fly patterns to find it and now gas is really low. If he doesn’t find it in another hour he runs out of gas and crashes. Now he is nowhere near anything.

        Why not fly patterns around the Howland area instead? Or the other choice is to fly west or southwest and head toward the Gilberts. If he does that he can’t miss seeing an island if he flies over the Gilberts. (I believe that is right) And even if he falls short, he gets in his life raft and the east winds will blow him toward land and he knows they will search for him there because like Amelia, he was quoted as telling someone if he got in trouble he would fly toward the Gilberts. But no, Tom will go looking for Gardner which he has no idea if he can ditch there or not. If I had to decide, I would not go with Tom. I’m going to go with Amelia and Fred even though Fred still has his hangover. Amelia knows what her best chance is because she’s a world class pilot. Tom thinks different and he is welcome to go look for Gardner.

        I should qualify this by saying I am writing this in a spirit of good humor.


      8. And in a spirit of good humor I’ll say that I’m not a navigator and don’t “know” what Noonan would have done (or much of anything else, either).

        But if, for whatever reason, you think you’re in the Howland vicinity but you don’t know your actual position, I suspect that there are several things you’d want to factor into your decision about what to do next.

        1. Howland is a very, very tiny island, with no bright, reflective lagoon. Niku is a much bigger island WITH a lagoon, but you don’t know that, so this probably wouldn’t influence your choice of where to steer. Unless, in the course of exploring Clipper routes, you’d seen the place, but that’s probably unlikely.

        2. You know there are no islands north of Howland, or east for quite a way.

        3. The Gilberts are to the west, but widely scattered, and do you now have the fuel to get there? You may very well think not.

        4. You don’t know if you’re north or south of Howland.

        5. You know (maybe) that the Phoenix Islands are not far south of Howland.

        So it strikes me as the rational thing to do to turn south. If you’re north of Howland, maybe you’ll find it. If you’re south of it, with luck you’ll come up on one of the Phoenixes.


      9. After I wrote all that speculation, I thought it is becoming like a classroom exercise to guess what AE would have done if she was in that situation and it looks like Tom King’s choice would be to go looking for another tiny speck with no support from Itasca with gas running out. I don’t think AE would do that, seeing as how she was quoted as saying she would fly to the Gilberts if in trouble. I believe I once saw an opinion by a pilot that you could not miss seeing some island if you overflew the Gilberts because they are big enough and close together. But I don’t know if that’s true. You kind of brushed that off. Of course the Truth is she was not looking for Howland at all, while she was giving out that 157/337 message she was near or at the Marshalls.

        She never called for help which she would have if she were lost and in danger of ditching in the ocean. I think Ric thought her. radio might have “blown a fuse”. Yah, right. A very thin excuse. So our argument about what she would have done is academic and irrelevant. I don’t know if an island with a lagoon is easier to see. Maybe it’s the opposite with the glare from the lagoon water matching the ocean glare. Anyhow, enough of that. You did motivate me to look up last night celestial navigation, LOPs, sextant use, so I learned a lot in a superficial way. The pertinent info Ric leaves out in the post on TIGHAR is that sextants give a very accurate position of latitude and you WOULD know within a small range whether you were north or south of Howland. I guess you and Ric would like us to believe she wouldn’t know because that would fit your concept much better.

        The issue of the “mestiza” woman being in jail? in Saipan I never heard of. Where did you get this info? Can you cite me a mention in the press? Do you have testimony from a reliable source? I know a man of your integrity wouldn’t just make this up. It’s possible that there were many foreigners on Saipan in those days. I have no idea. You lived there so you should know better than me. I was under the impression there were few if any expatriates of the white persuasion in those islands in those days except missionaries. Can you bring me up to speed on the situation in Saipan in mandate days? Did the Japs tolerate Caucasians? Had they lived there a long time? This opens up a whole new issue. Maybe there were many white/mestiza women imprisoned. Did you get this info from a native?

        Previously in these exchanges you rebuked me for considering that the natives were anything but exactly like us white folks and no suggestion of their possible unreliability because they were inferior should be countenanced. But there is one big difference or deficiency you have clued me into, which is “They tell you what you want to hear.” I might have known. So did you get your mestiza info from some of these people? We all know that white folks are always upfront and never tell people what they want to hear.

        Which brings me to the questioning, I am put in mind of Gorner’s book, where he had 3 priests question the natives because “They would not lie to a priest.” I think this is about as far as anyone can go to get good info from the Saipanese. If this is not sufficient why bother to question them at all? What more can be done? What would Tom King do different being the skilled investigator? What HAS Tom King done in this regard?

        Over and Out


      10. David, I do so wish you’d read some of the pertinent literature, like our paper on the Saipan hypothesis, a link to which I’ve sent you. And please stop putting words in my mouth; I did not say that the “natives” (Chamorro and Carolinian people) were either “like us” or not, or “inferior” in any way. They, like everyone else, simply respond to what goes on around them in ways that make sense in their culture, under the circumstances that exist at the time. For this reason as well as the fact that interviewers often led them toward particular responses, and that extensive psychological experiments in the last 50 years have indicated that you can’t trust even direct “eyewitness” accounts, means that you can’t take what they say at face value. And yes, they, like other people under the thumbs of colonial authorities, tend to tell those authorities what they think they want to hear. Especially when the authorities have guns, cigarettes, candy, and have just whomped the tar out of the PREVIOUS colonial authorities.

        I’ll send you a copy of the original transcript of Fr. Arnold’s interview in which he’s told (but ignores) that the woman in question was “a little meztisa.” You may also note that Fr. Arnold starts right off identifying the woman as Amelia, strongly implies that the US government if real interested in what the informant has to say, and helpfully supplies her with the year in which she doubtless met “Amelia.” Perhaps the informant wouldn’t “lie to a priest,” but I daresay she could be led by the priest to say what the priest wanted to hear.

        As for what happened on the 157-337 line, you can speculate, I can speculate, and in the end it’s all speculation.


      11. Tom,

        I do accept the line of thinking that many natives were afraid to speak about the Japanese times, but I would think that they would withhold info about what they had seen of fliers or white women wearing pants instead of telling the interviewers about such people. So only the braver ones would come forward with information they could get in trouble for.

        Yes, of course my theories about what AE was actually doing is just speculation for now. I attribute much more clandestine motives for her flight than you do. I believe the flying to Howland story was just a front for her real activities. There are many witnesses in the Marshalls with credible stories of her landing there, I don’t think they were all made up to please the colonial oppressors.


  11. I have known Dr. King for over 20 years, took several courses in Historic Preservation law from him, and always found him to be an honest, and very knowledgeable professional individual. In 2004, he kindly assisted in excavating and overseeing, along with two other professional archaeologist/osteologist, a project on Tinian. Although he did tell me that he did not believe that AE &FN were buried on Tinian, he set that aside, and provided the professional presence necessary for permits from CNMI, Saipan. We all have our opinions, our beliefs, as to Amelia & Fred’s demise. Dr. King is no exception.
    Thank you,
    Jennings Bunn, retired (thank God))


    1. Why, thanks, Jennings. Good to hear from you, and I’m glad to see that I have you thoroughly bamboozled. “Honest?” “Professional?” I dunno…


      1. Good afternoon Tom, at least that was the impression I always had of you. You certainly know your subject when talking about/teaching HP laws & regs. Learned much from you. Hope all is well with you and family. I live near small town of Live Oak, FL, and still most interested in the history around me. Much prehistoric as well as Spanish, British, French, Seminole, etc., in this area. My interest inspired me to join some of local history, genealogy groups. Also much into kayaking the several rivers & lakes here in Suwannee County.
        Best regards,


  12. The TIGHAR report does a good job of casting doubt on the Amelia in Saipan story. Not a great job, though. If TIGHAR has a financial interest in discrediting the story it should be stipulated, but it is not. Of course I had this in mind . I didn’t see any blatant example of trickery, though. It sounded fairly reasonable, as it should have, given the background possible motivation for writing it. I will have to read it over again much more closely. Just because the priest evidently asked this particular woman a leading question doesn’t discredit every other account. I am very confused that you mention she was a “mistiza”. Where does this fit in? Is this a reference to the mistiza who you thought might have been imprisoned at Garapan Jail? I don’t like going back through all our posts to see exactly what you said when maybe you can clear it up. I have to admit that I am not as confident of Devine’s sighting the Electra at Aslito Field as I am of other related stories. Even with prompting from a fellow Marine nobody has corroborated Devine’s account of the plane which supposedly sat burned near a runway for months while Marines were continuously on high alert for any signs of AE.

    These posts do make me think about my basic theory which is this with my latest insights. All the conjecture about her fuel supply, how far she could have flown at what speed is irrelevant. Brink has it almost right but not quite. She flew from Lae to Truk to the Marshalls, plain and simple. Much less mileage than Lae to Howland. When I read of the mystifying radio transmissions the Itasca received and pondered them a while and the purported distance she could be heard at what frequency I momentarily believed it. It would destroy my theory. Then it hit me. That wasn’t her at all. It either was a recording of her voice or someone that sounded just like her. Probably the former. Those signals were being transmitted from Howland and they were simply turning the radio power up and down. They must have had a good laugh when a transmission made the Itasca crew jump out of their seats because they turned it up too high. Who was it, Miller doing that? Then I thought that scheme sounds silly even though her responses never seemed to respond logically to the Itasca’s questions. Then my next thought was, of course! The Navy was broadcasting dummy signals to fool the Japanese the whole time. What could possibly be more obvious? Any spy outfit worth its salt would have done that. It’s Spycraft 101. And those Navy codebreakers and FDR and his gang were experts at fooling the Japanese. It always worked, just read about the naval battles the US won because of that. Except Amelia couldn’t quite pull it off. Something tipped off the Japs after a couple days she was spying.


    1. It’s all trickery, David, if it makes you happy to think so. But since you gave me your email address I’ve sent you the original, undoctored (“Right,” he says, “like I’ll believe THAT!”) transcript of the “mestiza” interview; you can read it for yourself. That’ll be $4,000,000, please, payable directly to the US Government for which all we tricksters work.


  13. Tom & David – you both are ImAgIninG things! Mestiza? Turtle bones? Nikumaroro? Spies? I’m AFRAID the next comment will be about the OLD HEN laying a square [EGG] and her CaCkLinG “OUCH!”

    Doug Mills, Michigan


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