Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review: A Remote Viewer’s Take on the Fates of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan

Review of Evidential Details: Amelia Earhart, Takeoff to Oblivion, by Seeds/McMoneagle. Lisle, IL, Evidential Details Imprint, 2000?

This book posits – though it presents its hypothesis as fact – that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan ended their 1937 World Flight by crashing at Nikumaroro and dying without getting ashore. It reaches this conclusion through an exercise in “remote viewing” (RV) by Joseph McMoneagle. The book represents Mr. McMoneagle as an expert in RV. It implies but does not quite say that he was awarded the U.S. Army’s Legion of Merit Award (an image of which serve’s as the book’s cover art and which is described on the back of the title page) for his RV services to the U.S. intelligence community.

I became aware of Evidential Details during our 2010 expedition to Nikumaroro; SeaBotix remotely operated vehicle (ROV) expert Jesse Rodocker had a copy, and it was the subject of some discussion. I recently obtained my own copy from its publisher, and have had time to read it with care. It’s a very odd piece of work.

To begin with, there’s a question of authorship – who wrote it? The cover and title page ascribe its authorship to “Seeds/McMoneagle, but a note on page 5 says that “(a)ny interpretations or historical conclusions contained herein cannot be considered to represent the opinion of, or to be endorsed by Joseph McMoneagle or any other named individual.” It goes on to say that (t)he final manuscript was not submitted for approval” (by whom?). Whatever this note is intended to convey, it seems pretty clear that Joseph McMoneagle is not the author. This leaves us with “Seeds,” who is never identified or even given a first (or last?) name.

Another question is its publication date. Its copyright (“copywrite”) date is given as 2000, based on “RV session work” in 1998, but toward the book’s end, a scornful discussion of TIGHAR’s plans for the 2010 expedition suggests that it was published only this year, or perhaps in 2009.

Be all this as it may, the book has a prologue (“prolog”) attributed to H.E. Pruthoff of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin (Texas), describing the beginning, early successes, and history of RV programs carried out by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and other U.S. agencies between 1972 and 1995. This paper makes interesting reading, and provides a potentially useful bibliography for anyone interested in learning more about RV.

What is RV? Wikipedia defines it as “the ability to gather information about a distant or unseen target using paranormal means.” As described in Evidentiary Details’ prologue, it involves giving a skilled viewer the geographic coordinates of a place or thing of interest, whereupon the viewer visualizes, describes, and sometimes sketches the place or object. How the viewer prepares to perform this work is not discussed, but a short description on pages 155-156 of some RV sessions seems to suggest that the viewer enters some sort of light trance state.

Following the prologue is a 40-page discussion of events surrounding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. This seems like something of a digression, but appears to be designed to illustrate the utility of RV in historical research. In this case and in that of Earhart’s disappearance, the viewer is given a target date as well as the geographic coordinates of a target location. We are told that on October 29, 1997, two months after Princess Diana’s demise, McMoneagle was given an envelope containing the latitude and longitude of the Ritz Hotel in Paris, together with the date of the accident that took her life. McMoneagle’s visualizations are then woven together with Seeds(?) account of the accident, providing details said to have been confirmed through subsequent police work and allegedly evidencing that the driver of Princess Diana’s car, Henri Paul, was not – as widely reported – intoxicated.

With this preparation, we are taken to Mr. McMoneagle’s viewing of the world flight’s denouement. Apparently – the details are not provided – Mr. McMoneagle was given the coordinates of the Lae airfield and the date of Earhart’s takeoff for Howland Island. As with the Spencer example, his observations (in bold face) are interwoven with Seeds’(?) account of recorded events with which all Earhart researchers are familiar.

McMoneagle and Seeds(?) collectively posit that Earhart and Noonan were south of their intended course when they hit the line of position extending through Howland Island. They have them doing a good deal of maneuvering – accounting for Earhart’s cryptic reference to “circling” – and then coming up on Nikumaroro, very low on fuel, from the southeast. They attempt to land “between outside reefs” (p. 118), think all is going well, but then strike a coral head. The plane flips, crashes upside-down, and Earhart and Noonan are killed.

As part of his viewing session, McMoneagle apparently produced a sketch-map of the reef on which he visualized the crash to have taken place, with an X marking the spot and his estimates of water depths and ranges to landforms. Seeds(?) discusses his efforts to match this map with Howland and other islands, and his eventual discovery that it is a pretty good match for the lee side of Nikumaroro. Comparing maps and using McMoneagle’s estimates, he places the crash site off Aukaraime South, southeast of Bauareke Passage, 2283 feet from the southwest tip of the island, in 650 feet of water. He proceeds to provide instructions for finding the site and trolling for the plane’s remains.

In the course of his studies, Seeds(?) of course came upon TIGHAR’s research, though he doesn’t seem to have read much about it. His bibliography lists two 1996 issues of Tighar Tracks, and lists neither Amelia Earhart’s Shoes nor Finding Amelia. He assures us that the tide was high when Earhart and Noonan arrived off Nikumaroro, appearing unaware of Bob Brandenburg’s hindcasting indicating that it was not. He flatly says that all the post-loss radio messages were hoaxes, without addressing any of Ric Gillespie’s evidence that some or most were not. He scores TIGHAR for wasting money on our research rather than simply “reading a map” (presumably, McMoneagle’s).

So what about that map, and the scenario McMoneagle portrayed?

First, of course, if the scenario is correct we will have to find non-Earhart explanations for all the radio transmissions, the 1940 bones discovery, the sextant box, the shoes, the accounts of wreckage on the Nutiran reef, the Nessie and other imagery, and all our archaeological findings at the Seven Site. I’m not unwilling to give remote viewing the benefit of a doubt or two, but I’m hardly prepared to throw out a large body of historical, oral historical, archaeological, and radio data on the strength of one person’s reported visualization .

Second and more important, there are some things about the visualization that don’t add up.

A. McMoneagle has the landing attempt take place “between outside reefs” (p. 118). But there are no “outside reefs” at Nikumaroro between which to land. There is only one reef around Nikumaroro, with a broad reef flat extending from the reef’s precipitous outer edge to the shore of the island. The reef flat, lying between the reef edge and the island’s shore, is a very plausible landing place, and if one landed there one might hit a coral head, or more likely a block of coral thrown up by storm action. But a crash landing on the reef flat would not produce wreckage at 650-foot depth, except through some process of secondary deposition that McMoneagle does not mention. Nor would it produce wreckage 13-1400 feet off – that is, outside – the reef.

B. But what if McMoneagle was mistaken only in his “between outer reefs” observation? Could Earhart have attempted a wheels-up landing as he describes on open water 1300 to 1400 feet off the reef edge? Certainly, but she would not have encountered a coral head there. The water that far off the reef is hundreds if not thousands of feet deep .

C. Add to these difficulties the fact that TIGHAR divers searched the reef face down to 100-150 feet through the target area in 1989, and that TIGHAR had side-scan sonar sweeps through the same area to a much greater depth in 1991, all with negative results, and the McMoneagle map looks less and less worthy of serious attention.

On page 135, Seeds(?) quotes Ric Gillespie (who he refers to, rather irritatingly to this TIGHAR member, as TIGHAR’s “owner”), as saying “that psychic stuff is just hocus-pocus.” That’s probably an accurate quote; Ric is utterly dismissive of paranormal powers as displayed by anyone but his remarkable horse Gofer. Others in the organization (This one, at least) are not so ready to reject alternative views of reality. I don’t think Seeds(?) and McMoneagle have put forth much of a case in this odd little book, but they have advanced an hypothesis, generating an X on a map whose meaning can be tested. Time was not available during the 2010 expedition to apply the SeaBotix ROV technology to the McMoneagle hypothesis, but if and when TIGHAR gets back to the island for more deep-water searching, I hope such a test will be included in the research plan. Or someone else may want to take a stab at doing so, as Seeds(?) and McMoneagle (subject to the page 5 caveat) propose on pages 123-124. If anyone does pursue such an enterprise, I trust they will do so only with the permission and cooperation of the Kiribati government and the administration of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, employing all appropriate archaeological and environmental protection protocols. Neither Nikumaroro’s fragile reef nor its fragile archaeology need people grappling around for airplane wreckage as Seeds(?) and McMoneagle propose, and undertaking such an enterprise without the permission of Kiribati authorities would be flatly illegal.