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Gillespie, Ric

Finding Amelia - The True Story of the Earhart Disappearance (Naval Institute Press, 2006)

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) and the author have compiled a comprehensive and useful website, and this publication, including a resource CD containing AE-related information, research and data.

This work supports an alternate theory that AE landed the Electra on Gardner Island in the 1937 Phoenix Island Group. Gardner Island is now Nikumaroro Island in the Republic of Kiribati, approximately 400 statute miles southeast of Howland Island.

This theory emanates from essentially the immediate four-day period following the disappearance of AE, information for up to two weeks following the disappearance of AE, and multiple expeditions to Nikumaroro by TIGHAR personnel during which artifacts were found that are claimed to possibly be linked to the AE mission. These artifacts have not yet been validated or documented as coming from AE’s mission, however, the discoveries are interesting.

Main support for the theory comes from analysis of radio transmissions allegedly made by AE, and received by experienced radio operators at Honolulu, Wake Island, and Midway Island radio operator stations.

The signals and attempted direction finding (DF) bearings from these three stations converge somewhat close to Gardner Island, lending to TIGHAR’s theory that AE crash landed the Electra on Gardner or very near it, making landfall and transmitting radio calls.

Numerous challenges exist in these theories, not the least of which is whether or not the Electra could have flown to Gardner Island at all, or transmit any signal with inoperative engines and generators, or do so following an off-field landing or water ditching.

Interestingly, the best DF bearings on good, strong radio signals in 1937 contained some directional variance under the best conditions. If the DF bearing signals received by Honolulu, and Midway Island are adjusted by a 10 degree variability in directional reliability, and in the direction of common sense toward the area most likely containing the Electra, and the Wake Island bearing is given a +/-10 degree azimuth variance since it was reported as a strong signal and bearing, the area bounded by the convergence of these adjusted signal directions is a centroid approximately 90-123 nm southwest of Howland Island, and 260nm northwest of Gardner Island. Questions remain concerning whether or not the Electra could transmit these radio signals following a water ditching, if AE had any backup or portable radio transmitting equipment aboard the Electra on the Lae-Howland mission segment, or if a life raft was aboard the Electra, which AE may have occupied while transmitting and drifting towards Gardner Island. The research of many investigators indicates that flying a total of more than 4 hours fuel after 1912 GMT, is not likely. If AE’s last transmission was at 2013 GMT, an hour after arriving at Howland, and they commenced a divert to Gardner Island, then AE would have had to arrive at Howland Island with more than 5 hours fuel remaining.

Swenson and Culick’s thorough aerodynamic analysis precludes such a fuel state, and other researchers corroborate these findings.

However, the author makes some compelling arguments for TIGHAR’s theories, discusses interesting discoveries made on Nikomororo Island, and provides evidence to consider TIGHAR’s alternative theories.