Tag Archives: Elgen Long

Nauticos continues Earhart ocean-search insanity

One of the better-known definitions of insanity has been attributed to Albert Einstein, who described it as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I wonder how many times it would take Nauticos, or the rest of clueless crashed-and-sankers to search the Pacific floor without finding the Earhart Electra before they admitted they might be wrong about what happened to Amelia and her plane. Based on past performances, the answer is, sadly, “Never.”

I didn’t even know about the current search until today, when David Billings told me about it in an email from his home in Nambour, Australia. Billings, of course, has his own, far more credible theory about where the Earhart Electra lies, and it’s certainly not on the bottom of the Pacific. More about David in a moment, but this latest from Nauticos is just a bit too clever, a bit too slick, and more than a bit too much.

Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Thanks to Nauticos, we have a brand new example of modern-day insanity at work in the latest underwater search for Amelia Earhart in the vicinity of Howland Island.

Nauticos has fancied up its website for the new search, with lots of bells and whistles, and even sports a special Expedition Portal, wherein fans can get near daily updates on this latest foray into crash-and-sank futility, dubbed the Eustace Earhart Discovery Expedition.” Rather than further comment on this inane voyage, I’ll quote Dave Jourdan, Nauticos’ coordinator and publisher, as he describes his latest boondoggle in the lead paragraph on Nauticos’ Amelia page:

On February 18, 2017 a team from Nauticos with stratospheric explorer Alan Eustace and aviation pioneer Elgen Long departed Honolulu for the vicinity of Howland Island, 1,600 miles to the southwest, to complete the deep sea search for Amelia Earhart’s lost Lockheed Electra. Adding to the work conducted during prior expeditions in 2002 and 2006, the team plans to complete a sonar survey of about 1,800 square miles of seafloor, an area believed to contain the aircraft. The expedition will use autonomous underwater technology provided by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to image the ocean floor nearly 18,000 feet below.

“We left Honolulu February 18 and expect to be at sea for 30-45 days,” Jourdan writes. “I hope you enjoy sailing with us. This portal will be updated frequently and will be the best way to keep abreast of the progress of the expedition.” 

What is really going on here, one might ask. Can these otherwise well-educated, highly skilled men be so stupid as to actually believe their own press releases about the Electra lying on the bottom of the ocean? Not likely. As I wrote in Truth at Last (page 304 Second Edition), “Is it coincidence that the majority of Nauticos’ lucrative contracts accrue from the largesse of the Navy, whose original Earhart search report remains the official, if rarely stated position of the U.S. government? Here we see yet another establishment effort to maintain and perpetuate the myth that Earhart and Noonan ‘landed on the sea to the northwest of Howland Island’ on July 2, 1937.”

So what we have, in my view, is just another Earhart disinformation exercise wrapped up in a glorified ocean floor mapping project. Don’t forget, we’re rapidly approaching the 80th anniversary of Amelia’s disappearance, and the sheeple must be kept misinformed, lest they get any funny ideas.

Now, thanks to Nauticos and its intrepid team of high-tech adventurers, we have a new example of modern-day insanity at work — in the latest Pacific-floor quest for Amelia Earhart’s Electra. If anyone out there can tell us how many of these ridiculous searches have been undertaken since 1960, you not only have too much time on your hands, you’re a far better researcher than I’ll ever be.  With the exception of TIGHAR, of course, and its 11 fruitless excursions to Nikumaroro, it doesn’t get any worse than this in the Earhart hunt. 

The offshore supply ship Mermaid Vigilance, currently searching for Amelia Earhart’s Electra in the waters off Howland Island.  Don’t expect to see headlines when she returns empty-handed, with Nauticos members claiming to have made great progress in mapping the ocean floor. But Amelia’s plane will have eluded the intrepid Nauticos team once again, for the glaringly obvious reason that it’s never been there. 

On the other hand, David Billings and his New Britain theory stand alone among all so-called theories, in that it poses a real, unanswered question about a credible scenario, one that needs to be resolved with finality before we can proceed without second thoughts.  Let’s briefly return to my Dec. 6, 2016 post, New Britain theory presents incredible possibilities,” so that new readers can better understand:

Of all the various theories and searches regarding the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan, and their Lockheed Electra, only one endeavor has the tangible documentary evidence and eyewitness accounts to buttress the conclusion to their final resting place – the jungle floor in Papua New Guinea. In 1945, an Australian infantry unit discovered an unpainted all-metal twin-engine aircraft wreck in the jungle of East New Britain Island, in what was then called New Guinea.

The Australian infantry patrol was unsure of their actual position in the jungle and were on site for only a few minutes. Before they left the site they retrieved a metal tag hanging by wire on an engine mount. The Australians reported their find and turned in the tag upon return to base. The tag has yet to be recovered from the maze of Australian and American archives, but the letters and numbers etched upon it were transcribed to a wartime map. The map, used by the same Australian unit, was rediscovered in the early 1990’s and revealed a notation “C/N 1055” and two other distinctive identifiers of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra Model 10E.

Amazing, is it not? How can we possibly explain this C/N 1055 inscribed on a map case, and the string of numbers and letters, “600 H/P. S3H/1 C/N1055,” which remains the most significant historical notation found to date in the search for Earhart’s aircraft?

In an email today, Billings sounded more optimistic than ever, and says he’s getting closer to the plane wreck in the remote jungles of East New Britain that he’s been unable to locate in 16 searches thus far.

“We are in the middle of the planning stage for June this year,” Billings wrote. “The main target is a bare patch of earth I saw in late 1996 which wasn’t significant to us at that time, when we were looking for a wreck ‘on the ground.’  Now we know it is buried, and as the bare patch is in a very likely area from the description of the site by the Vets, it now becomes a principal target.  If not there, then we spread outwards East and West in this likely area. 

David Billings, an Australian adventurer of the old-school variety, is planning a June 2017 return to the remote jungles and waters of East New Britain in search of the wreck of Amelia Earhart’s Electra.

“One of my team keeps a diary,” Billings continued, “and he recorded that in late 1996 he cut his knee with his bush knife and I restricted him to the camp until the wound knitted, while we went out without him.  It reminded me that when he was not with us, we saw the bare patch where a bulldozer had been working and we remarked on it at the time but thought no more of it.  We now have been told that a bulldozer driver buried it out of ‘Tribal Jealousy’ (as described by the local people).  Different picture now. The diary, which I was transcribing into MS Word, jogged my memory about the bare patch.  There will be trees on it now, of course, but I will be able to find it as I know where it is.  I have already got quite a collection of SAT photos and they’re graded into Lat/Long very accurately.  I’ve had some help with that so our GPS units will be able to direct us to the plotted Waypoint.”

Billings said that donations to his cause can be made through the PayPal button on his website.

“Whatever the wreck is, it has to be eliminated,” he concluded. “If it is not the Electra, well, it will be someone else that has been found. That’s the pragmatic view I take on the matter.  If not hers, whose is it?”

Whose, indeed? We wish David Billings all the luck he’ll need to be successful in his forthcoming search, so that once and for we might answer this nagging question, one of the true “mysteries” in the Earhart saga.


How much flight time did Amelia Earhart really have?

Invariably, the main objection raised by critics of what has long been popularly known as the “Marshall Islands landing theory,” but which I prefer to call “Amelia Earhart’s Mili Atoll landfall,” is that the Electra did not have enough fuel reserves to fly another 600 to 800 miles to reach the southernmost Marshall Islands from an area presumed to be somewhere north of Howland Island.

The most well-known proponent of this idea is the renowned aviator and author Elgen M. Long, whose 1999 book, Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved, co-written with his wife, Marie, has become the bible of “crashed-and-sank” advocates.

Elgen M. Long, well known as the poster boy for the Navy's archaic "crashed-and-sank" theory, which became such an anachronism by the late 1980s that the establishment decided to adopt the TIGHAR-Nikumaroro "hypothesis" as its most favored Earhart disappearance theory.

Elgen M. Long, the well known public face of the Navy’s archaic “crashed-and-sank” verdict in the Earhart case, which became such an anachronism by the late 1980s that the establishment decided to adopt the equally erroneous  TIGHAR-Nikumaroro “hypothesis” as its most- favored Earhart disappearance theory.

The truth about the “crashed-and-sank” theory, which is nothing more than the original 1937 Navy and Coast Guard reports, is that  never has even the smallest shred of physical, eyewitness or even anecdotal evidence been found to support it. In fact, as the years passed and the Saipan witnesses grew from dozens of native Saipanese to include the 26 American GIs who came forward to tell Thomas E. Devine of their experiences on Saipan during the summer of 1944 that revealed the presence and deaths of Earhart and Fred Noonan, the establishment was forced to find another, more plausible theory to explain Amelia’s disappearance. The crashed-and-sank idea was simply no longer selling well among the masses, and had become an anachronism.

In his book, Long, who set 15 world records while flying solo around the world over both the North and South Poles in 1971, presents a lengthy and, at first glance, impressive analysis of the final flight. Largely echoing the conclusions of the Navy and Coast Guard searches, Long believes the Electra’s fuel ran out shortly after Earhart’s last message, and she was forced to ditch the plane somewhere within 100 miles of Howland Island.

Soon after The Mystery Solved was published, longtime AES researcher and retired Air Force Col. Rollin Reineck issued a scathing critique of its major claims. In his book, Long cites Earhart’s first intelligible message to Lae, at 2:18 p.m. local time, when she reported, “HEIGHT 7000 FEET SPEED 140 KNOTS,” which Long says meant that “they were already experiencing stronger headwinds than anticipated. The increased winds had made them recalculate their optimum speed.”

Reineck called Long’s interpretation of this message “totally wrong,” a mistake that is “the foundation of the Long theory. … Long knows, as all pilots know, that when you give a position, you report the speed you are making over the ground, or GROUND SPEED, not TRUE AIR SPEED. … It is more than obvious,” Reineck wrote, “that Earhart is talking about GROUND SPEED when she says 140 KNOTS, not TRUE AIR SPEED as Long would like you to believe.” (Emphasis Reineck’s.)

Instead of the strong headwind Long says was forcing Earhart to decrease her air speed, Reineck says the increased ground speed reflected “a tailwind component for that period of the flight,” a normal condition the Electra might encounter in the intertropical convergence zone where winds tend to vary. At 5:18 p.m. (0718 GMT), seven hours, eighteen minutes after takeoff, Earhart reported her position as 4.33 south, 159.7 east, at 8,000 feet over cumulus clouds with winds at 23 knots. Long claims the wind was a 26.5 mph headwind, but doesn’t explain how he knows that, Reineck observed.   

A very young Rollin C. Reineck, England 1942, as he prepares for another perilous mission over Nazi Germany.

Somewhere in England, circa 1942, a young Lt. Rollin C. Reineck prepares for another perilous bombing mission over Nazi Germany.

Throughout his analysis, Reineck demonstrates how Long’s erroneous assumptions conspire to exhaust the Electra’s fuel supply earlier than planned, preventing the fliers from reaching Howland Island. Reineck also debunked Long’s statement that the navigational chart Noonan used had missed Howland’s true location by six miles, when in fact Itasca had correctly charted the Line Islands, including Howland, in August 1936, and the correct charts were in Noonan’s possession during the flight.

“Long, by changing certain facts, using poor information and bad assumptions would have the reader believe that Earhart ran out of gas some 20 hours and 32 minutes after she left Lae, New Guinea,” Reineck wrote. “He changed GROUND SPEED to TRUE AIR SPEED. He said a wind reported was from a CERTAIN DIRECTION when in fact the radio communication DID NOT GIVE ANY DIRECTION. … The truth is that Earhart, maintaining a true air speed of 150 MPH and using the power settings provided her by Lockheed, had over 24 hours of flying time ahead of her. When she called in at 1912 GCT, she had flown approximately 2556 miles … at an average ground speed of 133 MPH.

“Maintaining a true air speed of 150 MPH would mean that she had encountered an average head wind of 17 MPH,” Reineck continued. “At 2014 [GMT, or 8:44 a.m. Howland Time], Earhart, in her last message said we are running north and south. At that time it can be reasonably assumed that she departed the Howland Island area and headed for the Marshall Islands. She would have had approximately four  hours of fuel remaining. Using maximum range true airspeed of 150 MPH (130 knots) and a tail wind of 17 miles per hour, she would have been able to travel some 680 miles. Would it be enough to get her to the Marshall Islands? Yes, she did make it to Mili Atoll, the closest atoll in the Marshalls to Howland.”

“There has been much controversy over the Electra’s ultimate time-in-air before fuel exhaustion,” Bill Prymak wrote in his analysis, “Radio Log – Earhart/Itasca,” which appeared in the December 1993 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter and was discussed in an earlier post on this blog.

“Let me set the record straight,” Prymak wrote.” This issue was discussed at length with Art Kennedy, who had overhauled her engines prior to the second attempt, and who calibrated her engines with PRATT & WHITNEY factory test equipment. We carefully went over his test cell engine records, and barring fuel cell leakage and gross mixture control mismanagement, she had between 4.5 and 5.5 hours of fuel remaining after her 20:14 [8:44 am Howland Time] transmission.

“This calculation by Kennedy is superior to any Lockheed literature,” Prymak continued. “Therefore, it is my conclusion that she had the range to reach either the Gilbert Islands, or the lower part of the Marshall Islands, notably Mill Atoll, where so many researchers have placed her landing site. Based on the above it’s tough to convince any serious researcher that she really intended to land at Howland Island.”

Amelia looks over the extra fuel tanks in the fuselage of her Electra 10E.

Amelia looks over the extra fuel tanks in the fuselage of her Electra 10E. Upon her departure from Lae, New Guinea, the Electra had at least 1,100 gallons of fuel and 26 hours of flight time, according to the most reliable estimates we have.

Four years later, another Prymak analysis, “How Much Fly-Time Did She Really Have?” appeared in the May 1997 edition of the AES Newsletter. In this article, Prymak approached the question of the Electra’s fuel consumption from another angle, applying the plane’s performance during its 2,400-mile Oakland to Honolulu flight in March 1937 to the 2,556-mile Lae-Howland trip.

Prymak found that the Electra consumed 617 of the 947 gallons it held during the fifteen-hour, fifteen-minute Honolulu flight, for an average per-hour burn rate of 38.97 gallons he rounded off to forty gallons per hour. At Lae, loaded with 200 more gallons (1,200 pounds) but with two less people than the Oakland-Honolulu flight, Prymak estimated the plane was about 800 pounds heavier, and added one gallon per hour for the trip. He added another gallon per hour in consideration of the plane’s climb to higher altitudes after leaving Lae.

“Thus, with 1,100 gallons departing Lae, at average consumption of 42 gph [gallons per hour], at 20 hours 15 minutes, she had burned 850.50 gallons of fuel,” Prymak wrote. “She had close to 6 hours left before fuel exhaustion. If we assume Amelia was over, or close to Howland, at 20:15 hours  [8:15 a.m. Howland Time], she had an average ground speed of 126 mph LAE-HOWLAND. ‘We must be on you but cannot see you’ is heard from Amelia at 19 hours 12 minutes into the flight; if we assume she was over or close to Howland at this time, she has an average ground speed of 133 mph over the entire trip. … [Clarence L.] Kelly Johnson was lavish in his praise of her careful and precise handling of engine power and mixture. … Six hours can get you to a lot of places – Phoenix Islands, The Gilberts, Canton, Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands.”

We should remember that no one knows where the Electra was actually located along the 157-337 line of position Earhart reported in her last transmission. Most believe she was referring to a sun line, the angle of the sun just as it broke above the horizon, and the July 2, 1937 Nautical Almanac confirms that at 1756 GMT in the area of Howland Island, the sun’s line of position was 157º – 337º.  But a line of position does not establish a location, and a precise “fix” is only possible if combined with a point of reference — a landmark or a radio bearing, for example.

As Vincent V. Loomis put it, “Flying a line of position was like driving an interstate highway without knowing which exit to take for the destination.” During his 1981 scale-model tests of the Electra’s transmission capabilities, Paul Rafford Jr. collaborated with Loomis, who wanted to know how far north of Howland Island the Electra could have been when her last messages was heard at a strength 5 of 5. Rafford’s computer analysis determined Earhart’s last messages would have come in full strength even though the aircraft could have been 150 miles north-northwest of Howland.

In his 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, Loomis suggested that the fliers, lost and turning westward for the Gilberts, were so far north of Howland they found landfall at Mili Atoll in the southeastern Marshall Islands. It was pure speculation, of course, based on numerous variables and guesses, but among Loomis’ greatest contributions to the Earhart saga are the eyewitnesses — Mrs. Clement, Jororo and Lijon — who told him of seeing the downed fliers near Barre Island. 

In March 2009, I asked Rafford if he still endorsed his findings as reported by Loomis. “Nearly 25 years have passed since the Loomis book came out and I lost my copy some time ago,” Rafford wrote in an e-mail. “However, I can say that today I wouldn’t stand behind a claim that Earhart was 150 miles north-northwest whenshe claimed, ‘We must be on you.'”  In the years following his early 1980s work with Loomis, Rafford developed a more radical theory, The Earhart Radio Deception,” which we examined in October 2014, and which Rafford presented in his 2006 book, Amelia Earhart’s Radio.

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