Phoenix Islands, no "Catcher's Mitt"

TIGHAR  claimed that Noonan followed the 157º LOP  to the Phoenix islands

I have attached the relevant portions of an article written by TIGHAR's president, Ric Gillespie, and published in the April 1992 issue of "Life." On page 70 of the issue Ric wrote:

"Using celestial tables, Gannon [ TIGHAR's celestial navigation consultant ] pointed out that on the morning of July 2, 1937, the rising sun would have provided the precise line of position Earhart said she was running. By flying southeast along that line, Noonan could be sure that, even if he missed Howland, he would reach an island in the Phoenix group in about two hours." (To do this Noonan would have had to have had a chart that covered the Phoenix Islands Group and there is no evidence that they carried such a chart on this flight.)

Notice he did not say Noonan would just fly the 157 ° heading but that he would fly "along that line" clearly claiming that Noonan had some way to stay on the LOP and follow it to Nikumororo. Ric has now admitted that there  was no way for Earhart to ensure staying on the LOP and he claims now that he never said that they did and he now claims that he always meant that they would just fly a heading and use only dead reckoning to find Gardner. However, he did claim that they could follow the LOP and that they were "guaranteed" of finding if they followed that LOP. See how I outlined his deception here. And hear Ric make this claim on a television show here. It is not possible to follow the LOP, see: Why it was not possible to follow 157° LOP to Nikumororo.

See:Life 1 and Life 2.

TIGHAR also claims that the several islands of the Phoenix Island group provided a safer target to aim at, some called it a  "catcher's mitt," ensuring that Noonan would be certain to stumble onto at least one of these islands, that they were impossible to miss. This also is not true as these islands are spread very far apart from each other and the plane could fly through the entire island group without being close enough to any of the islands to be certain of seeing land. See chart gnc-20, (each square on this chart is 60 nautical miles on a side, 69 statute miles.) Also see:

ONC M-17 part 1

ONC M-17 part 2

ONC M-17 part 3

ONC M-17 part 4

Here is an analogy to help make this clear.

You are walking down a street. A black limousine pulls up next to you. Two big guys jump out, rough you up and throw you into the trunk. After a long drive the car finally stops and you are pulled out of the trunk. It is now dark. You look around and you realize you are standing in Yankee Stadium.

Vito Corleone walks up to you and says. "I've got a little proposition for you."
"What kind of a proposition, " you ask nervously.
"See the outfielders out there, right, center and left field?"
"Yes" you say.
"Here is my proposition" says the Godfather. "I will have my pitcher pitch one ball to you. You hit it, and if it is caught on the fly by any of the outfielders, I will give you a hundred thousand dollars."
"And if they don't catch it, what do I have to pay you?" you reply.
"Oh, nothing" say the Godfather, "My boys will just shoot you in the head and dump your body in the river where you can sleep with the fishes. Oh, I forgot to mention, the outfielders are not allowed to move."
"Gee, do I have any other options?" you ask.
"Tell you what" the Godfather goes on, "since I am such a nice guy I will make you another proposition but you will have to choose between just these two. I will have the pitcher pitch you three balls and you hit them back to the pitcher or to the shortstop and if either the pitcher or the shortstop catches one of the balls on the fly I will give you a million dollars."
"And if they don't catch one of the balls..." your voice trails off.
"Same deal, my boys shoot you in the head."

So which proposition do you choose?

This is the true "catcher's mitt" situation.

If you take the first proposition you have only one chance to hit the ball and the non-moving outfielders present very small targets to hit that are far away. Even if the ball is caught you only get one hundred thousand bucks. If the ball is not caught you sleep with the fishes.

If you take the second proposition you get three chances to hit the ball and the pitcher and shortstop have three chances to catch the ball and they are much closer and make much bigger targets to hit at this close range. If one of them catches the ball you get a million dollars, ten times more than the first proposition. If they don't catch the ball you are no worse off than with the first proposition, you still end up sleeping with the fishes.

So would Noonan and Earhart have flown 350 nautical miles across the sea, hoping to find one of several small islands which are spread so far apart that even with 20 mile visibility you could fly between them without seeing any of them, knowing that they would have only one chance since they would burn up all of their fuel on the way, leaving nothing left to fly a search pattern with? And they wouldn't know when to start flying that search pattern anyway. And even if they are successful in finding one of the islands, there they are, barely alive, with no water or food, the airplane destroyed, no round the world flight, AE and Putnam bankrupt. If not successful they sleep with the fishes. (See the chart at: GNC 20.)

Or would they turn around and fly a standard search pattern with three hours of fuel on board to allow a long search, with Howland and Baker, with twenty mile visibility, presenting a target 80 miles wide and only 50 to a hundred miles away, a target hard to miss. And if successful they win the big prize, the airplane is refueled and the round the world flight is completed, accolades and money roll in and AE and Putnam have fame and wealth. If not successful they are no worse off than if missing the Phoenix islands, they still sleep with the fishes.

What choice would you make?

Gary LaPook,
Jun 22, 2010, 12:07 AM
Gary LaPook,
Jun 22, 2010, 12:07 AM