Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Discussion about wrecks and losses as well as historic sites in the Pacific.

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Tom Maxwell
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Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell » Wed Feb 03, 2016 1:27 pm

I have held the belief for several years that the attached image is the wreck of Amelia Earhart's plane in the lagoon at Orona. The entire Earhart saga is never mentioned on this forum, it being something not in the main purpose of the forum. However, if permitted to reside here, I hope to introduce my idea that Amelia Earhart was a prisoner of war and that the loss of the flight is related to WW2 in a critical way. More in line with the forum's main purpose is the question: could this be the missing B25 patrol bomber version that went missing on flight from Canton to Samoa in 1944? Many will not see an aircraft outline in the attached image. The measurements that I have made using the Google Earth tools indicates to me that it is the L10E Electra flown by Amelia Earhart and lost July 1937. Some may have already seen this. If the post is permitted to stay, I can add more later and welcome all replies pro and con even if you have made arguments pro/con previously..
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RSwank
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by RSwank » Wed Feb 03, 2016 4:20 pm

Interesting idea.

If you take a line drawing of an Electra 10 and one of a B-25 and try scaling and fitting them to the points you have identified, particularly the nose and two engines, it appears the Electra is a better fit to include the tail location. A B-25 just does not fit correctly from front to back (assuming the "plane" in the lagoon is all in one piece.) Also the nose a B-25 would seem stick out more in the front.

Have you explored trying to get a better image from one of the commercial satellite companies? Such as:

http://www.satimagingcorp.com/contact/google_earth/

Tom Maxwell
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell » Wed Feb 03, 2016 5:06 pm

Yes RS I am always reviewing and attempting to find better sat images. The difficulty is that while most modern satellite images have the necessary resolution, the capture moment must have brilliant sunlight, sunlight at the correct angle such that the reflection is not targeted away from the lens, and a quite surface condition. The 2006 GE image meets the requirements. Earlier and later GE images at Orona do not. Very hard to meet that last criteria- the wind blows constantly and strong from the east in those latitudes creating large surface waves on the lagoon surface.. I agree with you about the L10E being the better candidate than the B25. The basics of your post agree with my analysis at aquariusradar.com/AmeliaEarhartsplane.html The airframe is covered by a sand covering (especially the wings and other flat surfaces) and a myriad of coral, sponges and sea critters that camouflage the airframe.

RSwank
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by RSwank » Wed Feb 03, 2016 7:20 pm

There was a survey done of the lagoon in 2000.

BASELINE MARINE BIOLOGICAL SURVEYS OF THE PHOENIX ISLANDS, JULY 2000

http://phoenixislands.org/pdf/00589.01.pdf

Some of of their dive sites (see page 39 of their report for the dive locations) appear to be very close to the location you give for the "plane" on your websiste (South 4º 29' 55" West 172º 09' 27").

They were doing coral (bottom) and wildlife studies so I would assume the would have had to cover some area around each locations they give. You think they just missed it?

Tom Maxwell
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell » Thu Feb 04, 2016 2:19 pm

I marked the (attached image) close dive site 4º 29.83 172 09.31 and it is about 1000 feet away to the northeast from the planes location. The airplane is going to be extremely difficult to see- very well camouflaged. The divers won't be able to see it till they are directly upon it. Can't upload this file too large 1.2MB. I'll try later with a smaller size file?

Tom Maxwell
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell » Thu Feb 04, 2016 5:25 pm

Here is that dive site location image. I just reduced its' size to 508 Kb. Ooops that is too large as well. Does 150Kb work. Yes -hope the resolution is not so poor. The airplane at the lower left and dive site is at upper right end of the red line- 1000 feet. I think all the other locations in the report are much further away.

Tom Maxwell
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell » Thu Feb 04, 2016 5:37 pm

Trying once again with acceptable file name.
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Tom Maxwell
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell » Mon Feb 08, 2016 1:59 pm

One aspect of WW2 history that the Orona-Saipan theory addresses is the dramatic change in the Imperial Japanese Navy's strategy. Historians agree that Yamamoto and IJN leadership was under enormous pressure to abandon the decades old defensive posture of the IJN and move to a aggressive offensive policy that resulted in the Pearl Harbor plan. That pressure included veiled threats of assassination from within Tojo's army. The Orona theory speculates that the IJA, after capture of the fliers, generated a complex hoax used to convince the IJN that America was already spying on the buildup of Japanese forces in the Pacific Mandated areas and was preparing for war. Yamamoto was a complex individual absolutely convinced that war with the US would be disastrous for Japan and was opposed to the pro-Axis movement in Japan. But years before the war began, Yamamoto, Nagumo, and the IJN leadership changed to offense as it would have taken several years to prepare for the Pearl Harbor attack. The spy charge must have struck at the core of Yamamoto's belief, especially as he was aware of who Amelia Earhart was; a fellow aviator for whom he had noted respect. Undocumented speculation indicates Yamamoto may have sat in on some classes as Amelia taught English for foreign students at Harvard University in Boston. In any event, Yamamoto was aware of her reputation as an aviator and an ad hoc representative of America.
The spy hoax was complex including a fake Electra that was destroyed at Al Sito field on Saipan after the island was Liberated by US forces. Yamamoto may have been convinced by the hoax or more likely merely perplexed by the situation. In any event, it was the final straw that pushed him towards the offensive strategy.
Investigation of the plane at Orona may answer many questions. Was the plane and raft scuttled by the IJA pirates? Were plane parts (windows and skin panels) removed to ensure the plane sank and stayed down? Is the briefcase Amelia carried on the flight still there? Or did USMC Wallack really find it on Saipan? These speculations may turn to real clues as to what happened to Amelia Earhart once the investigation of the plane is completed.

RSwank
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by RSwank » Mon Feb 08, 2016 2:57 pm

There have been other expeditions to Orona since 2000. In fact it appears that a New England Aquarium team was there 2012, 2014 and 2015.

2012: http://pipa.neaq.org/2012/06/orona-island-topside.html
2014: http://pipa.neaq.org/2014/08/sea-2014-o ... ly-28.html
2015 Blog: http://pipa.neaq.org/2015/09/2015-exped ... ng-to.html

They may make more trips in the future. If so, it seems to me that they would be the people to approach. Hopefully, they might be willing to just look at the location you have indicated. Since these are scientific expeditions, the less speculation the better. So... do you have any examples of other Google Earth satellite photos at the same resolution that show a known WWII wrecked plane in any Pacific lagoon? I would think it would strenthen the case if there are other examples of photos which show an actual known wreck. You could then provide similar measurements on those satellite images.

The argument would be: Here are a couple of examples of known lagoon wrecks seen on satellite images and here is an example which be an unkown? wreck at Orona. Would you be willing to take a look?

Tom Maxwell
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell » Tue Feb 09, 2016 11:35 am

RS,

Yes, several years ago- 2010- I emailed PIPA/NEAQ and PIPA/Kiribati with the location of the plane. Several more followed over the years as the trips by the NEA to the Phoenix Islands came along. Prior to 2012, the Kiribati/PIPA representative would reply to my e-mails. But after the TIGHAR and Kiribati agreement, that rep no longer answers back to e-mails. My applications for research in the Phoenix Islands have never received a reply. TIGHAR determines who gets to search under the terms of that very long (10Yrs?) agreement. And TIGHAR has been aware of the image as I informed them in 2011. The image experts there say it's light and shadow and my imagination.

There are two ways that I used to analysis the image; the direct measurement of dimension(with the GE ruler) divided by the index of refraction of water and the other method is the comparison of ratios of distances between recognized components of the airframe (symmetry) vs those same components of a scaled drawing of the L10E.

Engineers argue that the magnification created by the refraction is reduced as the altitude above the underwater object is increased such that at the satellite height (80miles?) the magnification is essentially zero. I argue back that nowhere in the science literature discussions of refraction, virtual images, and Snell's law does it say anything about the height making a difference to the calibrated lens. Not being an optics engineer, I stopped arguing about that and adopted the symmetry argument. I established 7 recognizable features of the airframe in the image. These 7 points establish 21 measured lines from which 210 comparisons can be made. The overwhelming majority of those comparisons (ratios) match ratios of the same points of the L10E drawing. Symmetry-the image and the plane look the same- is just easier for most of us to understand.
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RSwank
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by RSwank » Tue Feb 09, 2016 7:37 pm

The Landsat satellites orbit at 438 miles altitude. Many of the Google Earth images are from Landsat.
Have you used any of the USGS sites to get additional images? Such as their satellite data?

Examples:

https://lta.cr.usgs.gov/get_data

http://landsat.usgs.gov//Landsat_Search ... wnload.php

Tom Maxwell
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell » Wed Feb 10, 2016 11:53 am

Yes, I am unable to find another suitable image at those sites. While lots of images with different dates are available at the Landsat site, none appear to have sufficient resolution to see close up. I am not sure if the photos don't have the necessary pixel resolution or the viewer zoom provided by the site just doesn't zoom in to the maximum. Even if I had a densely packed high resolution photo, I don't have any software that could zoom in and dynamically adjust the pixel size and count for the display as GE does. The USGS site offers only the current Digital Globe image of Orona which lacks adequate lighting to illuminate the airframe- it looks dark. Interestingly, the Landsat site offers digital clipping as an option on the images it has available- the brightest and the darkest pixels can be removed. I speculate that may be what has been done to the current Google/Digital Globe image of Orona. All the commercial sites that sell sat photos seem to be stuck with that same dark photo of Orona from Digital Globe.

I would be thankful for any help from viewer members of the forum. If you know the exacting GPS location of airplanes underwater that could seen and studied via sat photos (Goggle Earth?) that would be very helpful as well.

spoerjm2
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by spoerjm2 » Sun Feb 14, 2016 10:30 am

I have long followed the Earhart controversy and am still completely mystified. I don't have maps in front of me. Is Orono in the area of Howland Island and the other suspected crash areas? Even though you point out that Japanese spread word that she was a spy was a falsehood, I have my doubts of the American version. Times were tense in the 30's, with Japanese imperialism quite apparent. It seems odd that Earhart's route would be straight through areas being fortified. She certainly would have been warned by the State Department, if not encouraged to take photos and notes. I do totally understand the issue of logistics, that Howland Island was probably the only place to refuel. With all of the bizarre legends (She was taken prisoner, that a body was found- brought back to the US and lost, that her plane is on a ledge next to a giant drop-off, that lipstick was found, etc, etc, etc), I am unsure what to think. I would like for everyone to weigh in on this, so that I may learn of more details. Bring it on!
JMS

Tom Maxwell
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell » Mon Feb 15, 2016 4:31 pm

Yes, Orona is one of the Phoenix Islands and lies 90 miles east of Nikumaroro, the island frequently associated with the mystery. I agree spoerjm2. The forum members have a lot of information on the Amelia Earhart disappearance and all the different theories that attempt to explain what happened to her. Here is a re-cap of current ideas

Nikumaroro theory- The flight turned south after failing to find Howland and crash landed on the reef at Nikumaroro- the western most of the Phoenix Islands. The flight crew died there and were consumed by crabs- leaving some scant circumstantial evidence.

The Marshall Islands/Saipan Spy capture theory- The flight was spying on Japanese military buildup in the Mandated Islands, crashed on Mili Atoll, captured by Japanese and then tortured and executed on Saipan. Some small circumstantial evidence but a boatload of eyewitness testimony by native Marshallese and USMC WW2 vets that says Amelia was there.

The flight crashed and sank theory- The flight exhausted all the fuel in searching for Howland Island and crashed and sank near Howland leaving absolutely no evidence of the crash.

The PNG theory- Amelia doubled back or otherwise died in the crash landing in the mountainous jungle of Papua New Guinea. Anecdotal scanty evidence only.

The Orona-Saipan theory employs the best of the other theories and +plus the Google Earth image discovered in 2008; The flight turned south after searching for Howland Island and crashed in the lagoon at Orona (see the image). Several days later, the aviators were taken captive by IJA pirates who realized an opportunity to create a spy hoax they needed to influence the IJN Admiral Yamamoto. The hoax was complex and included a fake L10E airplane at Saipan's Al Sisto field. This hoax plan apparently succeeded in changing the IJN defensive strategy to an offensive attack strategy ( Pearl Harbor attack). After being prominently displayed at Milli Atoll as a "spy" so that numerous Marshallese Islanders witness her "capture", Amelia was held on Roi-Namur at the Kwajalein Atoll. Roi-Namur was a total military camp so that no Japanese civilians knew of her capture. Her imprisonment was kept secret from the Japanese public back home. The conditions during the the five years she spent on Roi-Namur were spartan but adequate for the maintenance of her health. After the IJN defeat at Midway Yamamoto's influence waned and certainly after his death in spring 1943, the measures he had in place to care for Amelia were stripped away by the IJA and she was removed to harsh conditions in the prison at Garapan on Saipan. Her health declined and without antibiotics, the rudimentary care of the Saipan medical staff could not save her from the numerous bacterial infections rampant in the tropical war zones. The theory speculates Amelia died in late summer or fall of 1943.

The Orona-Saipan theory will prove very valuable to US Navy historians if the basics of the theory are proven. Numerous investigators have accused the Navy/US Government of employing Amelia as a spy and aggravating the pre-war tensions between the US and Japan. Those investigators have simply got the spy story upside down. Later, I will discuss what best ideas from the other theories support this extended speculation. I do not consider the image as speculation.
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Tom Maxwell
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Re: Plane in the lagoon at Orona

Post by Tom Maxwell » Thu Feb 18, 2016 5:41 pm

The best of Nikumaroro: The research group TIGHAR are the primary supporters of the Nikumaroro idea. A great deal of volunteer money has funded several expeditions to Nikumaroro. The best ideas of Nikumaroro theory that can support the Orona idea are: the aircraft L10E had the necessary flight endurance to continue on to the Phoenix Islands after reaching and then searching around Howland. The evidence is pretty good; primarily the flight test data prepared by Lockheed design engineer Kelly Johnson said the plane could fly 3500-4000 miles with proper fuel management in flight. Kelly Johnson of course went on to contribute to the design of famous aircraft with long range capabilities; the P-38, U-2, and the SR-71. This supports the Orona idea that the plane could reach Orona.

The TIGHAR research documents the aircraft change to only one rear window when it left the US. This corroborates the Orona idea that the complex spy hoax included a fake L10E at Al Sisto field destroyed by US forces after Saipan was liberated. More on this when the best of Saipan theory is discussed.

The TIGHAR research documents the search of Nikumaroro by air conducted by USN Lambrecht in which the pilot saw "signs of recent habitation" but no sign of the missing fliers. This supports the Orona concept that IJA pirates operated a listening post on Nikumaroro, intercepted the feeble radio broadcasts the fliers made after the crash, and went to Ortona to capture the fliers. After leaving Orona with the imprisoned fliers, the pirates returned to Nikumaroro, and left via submarine with only "signs of recent habitation" for the US air search to find.

The TIGHAR research documents the discovery in 1938 of a human skeleton on Nikumaroro. The Orona and Nikumaroro theories depart on the question of where the skeleton originated. TIGHAR wants to make the skeleton that of Amelia Earhart. The doctor who first examined the bones determined that the remains were those of a native Pacific Islander male. The Orona theory speculates that the man was a victim of the IJA pirates who murdered the man to make it clear to other copra workers at Orona that death awaited those who talked about the capture of the fliers. To avert suspicion as to where the plane might be if searchers came ashore to investigate, the pirates removed the body to Nikumaroro.

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