It’s beginning to look a lot like Amelia

Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Electra 10E NR16020

Amelia Earhart and the Lockheed Electra 10E NR16020 in which she and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared in July 1937.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

It started quietly,  but the mainstream media have picked it up now.  TIGHAR’s Nikumaroro thesis on the fate of Amelia Earhart received a significant boost with the publication of a 16-page paper in the March 2018 issue of the scholarly journal Forensic Anthropology (not Forensic Pathology as stated in some sites), published by the University of Florida Press. See the article itself at this link: http://journals.upress.ufl.edu/fa/article/view/525

The author of the article is Richard L. Jantz, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, and Director Emeritus of the Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  According to his Wikipedia entry, Jantz’ research focuses primarily on forensic anthropology, skeletal biology, dermatoglyphics, anthropometry, anthropological genetics, and human variation, as well as the development of databases to aid anthropological research. Jantz is a prolific author,  and his research has helped lead and shape the field of physical and forensic anthropology for many years.   In the paper in question, he concludes that the bone fragments found, analyzed and subsequently lost in the 1940s are most probably those of Amelia Earhart.

The paper is a significant work, drawing on Jantz’ own expertise and a re-evaluation of the data recorded in Fiji in 1941, the last (and probably only) time that the bones were subjected to scientific analysis. Jantz says that additionally, information concerning Amelia Earhart’s body dimensions came to light in 2017 through a new study of Earhart’s clothing,  held in the George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers at Purdue University.

The article challenges two assertions. Firstly that the bones were those of a stockily built male about 5’5″ in height.  Secondly,  notwithstanding speculation at the time, the skeletal remains were not considered to be those of Amelia Earhart because she was always thought to be tall, slender, and gracile (a word I have never used or read until now). The re-evaluation of the bone data, and measurements taken from her clothing, suggest that despite being 5’7″ tall and presenting a fairly elfin figure, Earhart was apparently a little more stocky in build, and around 20 pounds heavier,  than contemporary accounts and the evolving legend (courtesy no doubt of George Palmer Putnam)  would have us believe.

Jantz states in his conclusion: “Until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers”

UTK (University of Tennessee at Knoxville) wrote a news release on the article here:  https://news.utk.edu/2018/03/07/researcher-new-forensic-analysis-indicates-bones-were-amelia-earharts/

It’s comforting to this part-time academic that the article itself was received by the journal in August 2017, was revised in October, and accepted for publication in November 2017, finally appearing in Vol.1, No. 2 in March 2018. The academic publishing process is as tortuous as ever.

I await with some interest the response of the supporters of the other theories.

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Amelia Earhart – Quotes, Pictures, and Silence.

I must have said something about 2017 being the anniversary year of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance.  I lectured a couple of times about her (the first time was in 2011) and even gave a Pecha Kucha presentation a couple of years ago to a bemused audience at the First Christian Church in Pittsburg on the topic.

What brought Amelia back to my consciousness was the fact that one of my students this semester prepared a short presentation on Earhart for an extra credit project.   She apparently visits Atchison, KS quite regularly for the Earhart celebrations.  It was nice to see that Amelia isn’t forgotten by the younger generation.

Inspired by this,  I had a riffle around the TIGHAR (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery) website to see what has developed recently.

An entry in TIGHAR Executive Director Ric Gillespie’s blog  caught my attention. The article “Crickets and Corrections” discusses a photo which I had forgotten about, despite only being revealed five or six months ago in June / July 2017.

Is this Amerlia's Airplane?

A Japanese ship  docking in the Marshall Islands, allegedly towing a barge upon which is the remains of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra. Earhart and Fred Noonan are supposed to be shown among the people on the dockside. Earhart is said to be seated with her back to the camera,  and Noonan is the very tall man  on the left. (National Archives / History Channel)

You may have seen this photo which is preserved in the US National Archives. A program on the History Channel supposedly blew away much of the conspiracy theory and the detailed research of TIGHAR by stating that the picture shows conclusively that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan’s flight actually ended in the Marshall Islands,  and that they were taken prisoner by the Japanese.   This would have been especially aggravating to TIGHAR,  who have spent many years and a a considerable amount of money trying to prove their theory that Earhart and Noonan crashed and eventually died on Gardner Island in the Phoenix Islands, now known as Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati.

Ric Gillespie says that some other information has come to light about the picture.   Another copy has emerged in a Japanese book  published in 1935, and Gillespie / TIGHAR take much trouble to examine and translate the bibliographic information showing that the photo may have been taken two years before the  famous pair disappeared.   Gillespie says the History Channel have pulled the show from its schedules, and indeed the History Channel website mentions that new information has come to light and that they’re investigating.   Gillespie’s blog post is the equivalent of a crowd of British football supporters singing “It’s All Gone Quiet Over There”  to their previously raucous opponents’ stands when their team scores.

I have no doubt we’ll hear more about this.  TIGHAR’s investigation has been going on since 1989, according to their website, and will no doubt continue as funds permit.  They have amassed an absolute wealth of circumstantial evidence. All of it is very highly plausible, (Personally I think their explanation is the best one and the most likely) but as they admit,  there is nothing which can prove the hypothesis beyond reasonable doubt.

We will keep watching and waiting.

Dragon Lady

1 May 1960 is the anniversary of Francis Gary Powers being shot down somewhere over the Soviet Union in his U-2A  by what I call a SAM-2  and everyone else calls an S-75. I assumed the event took place earlier in the year and have to thank my regular engagements with Bryan Swopes’ blog for reminding me.   Funnily enough I mentioned the U-2 incident to my American History class last week.  Every so often I get close to an anniversary like this, but mostly it’s coincidence.   In March 2014 I happened to hit the 70th Anniversary of the “Great Escape” and subjected my class to a few minutes of Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough.

The engine of the downed American Lockheed U-2

The engine of the downed American Lockheed U-2 plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers on view in Gorky Park. (RIA Novosti archive, image #35173 / Chernov / CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

I had a quick riffle through the pages of Wikipedia to find a Public Domain picture of an original U-2 and read briefly that another U-2 was shot down during the Cuban Missile Crisis.   I didn’t managed to teach that part and will have to look it up.   I will also have refresh myself on the clandestine overflights that were carried out by Canberras and RB-45s flown by RAF aircrews (and the RB-45s had RAF markings) a few years previously.

Lockheed U-2A

Lockheed U-2A at the National Museum of the US Air Force

Many years ago I saw a TR-2 (I think it was)  derivative of the U-2 climbing out of RAF Alconbury  and watched as best I could while I was driving down the M11 Motorway at the time. I believe I did see the NMUSAF example (basking in the sun in the picture above)  at Dayton some years ago.   I’m looking forward to going again sometime soon.

This Day in History – 14th February

This Day in History – 14th February

Anthony W. "Tony" LeVier (February 14, 1913 – February 6, 1998)

Anthony W. “Tony” LeVier (February 14, 1913 – February 6, 1998)

I just wondered what might have happened on Valentine’s Day so I looked at This Day in Aviation.  I was rather happy with the results as I got another link to another article about which I’d already written.   You know how I like connections. On this day in 1913, Anthony W. “Tony” LeVier  was born.  Tony LeVier (February 14, 1913 – February 6, 1998) was an air racer and test pilot for the Lockheed Corporation from the 1940s to the 1970s, says the “W” website. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_LeVier

I happened to notice that LeVier flew the XP-80 (see the earlier article about XP-80A, 44-83020 Lulu-Belle elsewhere in this blog)  but it’s a little better than that. According to This Day In Aviation,  Lulu-Belle was first flown by LeVier at Muroc Army Air Field (now  Edwards AFB)  on 8 January,  1944.

As a test pilot for Lockheed, LeVier was also involved with one of my favorite aircraft of the 50s and 60s, the F-104.  I can’t describe why I like it, and certainly in the “missile with a man in it” competition, my heart also belongs to the English Electric Lightning,  (and having said that, I feel another article may be on the way) but the polished silver F-104s with bright USAF markings and heraldry appeal to some part of my aesthetic sense. I’m sorry I never managed to get a big F-104 model from my local Walmart when they were on sale.  Actually I never saw them in my local Walmart.

Here’s Tony LeVier pictured on the XF-104 53-7786

Tony LeVier with the XF-104

Tony LeVier with the XF-104 53-7786 – USAF Photograph

And (below) here is the beast in its element.  I have no idea who’s flying it in this picture but no doubt I will find out.

Lockheed XF-104

Lockheed XF-104 53-7786 – USAF

Another couple of F-104 snippets courtesy of “This Day” author Byron Swopes.  XF-104 53-7786 was destroyed on 11 July,  1957 when the vertical fin was ripped off by uncontrollable flutter. The pilot (not LeVier on this occasion) ejected safely.  Tony LeVier died at the age of 84 on February 6, 1998, having  survived eight crashes and one mid-air collision in his flying career.  Today’s post is dedicated to his memory.