Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Earhart’s First Aid Kits at the Seven Site? Well, Maybe

I was asked recently about whether we have evidence at the Seven Site on Nikumaroro of the first aid equipment carried by Earhart and Noonan aboard the Electra. Here’s what I know.

1.   The inventory taken after the Luke Field mishap that ended Earhart’s first World Flight attempt indicates that the Electra at that time carried two first aid kits:
a.    A “Bauer & Black No. 42” and
b.   A “Tabloid” produced by Burroughs, Wellcome & Co. (See http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Documents/Luke_Field.html.)

2.   Bauer & Black No. 42 kits I’ve been able to find on the internet appear to be metal boxes, ca. 30-40 cm. on a side (See http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/bauer-black-airplane-42-first-aid-kit-287930316)

3.   A possibly contemporary (but not Bauer & Black) kit acquired by Arthur Carty is a flat, square thin metal box some 33 cm. on a side (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Metal 1st Aid Box

5.   One “tabloid” box acquired by Art Carty is a rectangular, red-painted wooden box, 18x13.5x7 cm. in size, whose hinged top opens at the center and folds out. It contains bandages, including a tin of Band-Aids (invented in 1920; see http://www.band-aid.com/brand-heritage), tincture of iodine, a tourniquet, gauze, vials of iodine and Aminopylene, solidified Carron Oil for burns and scalds, Castor Oil for the eye, Protective Skin, and “Vaporole” (amyl nitrate, for angina) (Figures 2A&B).

 Figure 2A: "Tabloid" Kit
 Figure 2B: "Tabloid" Kit open. Note snap.

6.   One inside compartment on the “tabloid” box has a cover secured by a snap (Figure 2B).

7.   Next to the “SL” burn feature at the Seven Site, and also adjacent to Clambush 2, we documented a ca. 40x40 cm. rectangular deposit of thin ferrous metal, heavily oxidized and fragmented (Figures 3, 4). This appears to be about the same size as Art’s metal kit, and to represent a similar gauge metal, but it exhibits “bumps” (Figure 5) that I interpret as pins or rivets, which Art’s kit does not display.

Figure 3: Lonnie Schorer works on Clambush 2. Rectangular
ferrous deposit is midway down right side of the clam deposit

Figure 4: Schematic of SL Fire Feature, Clambush, & 
ca. 40. cm. ferrous deposit.

Figure 5: Example of ferrous fragment with "bump" suggesting
a pin or rivet, from unit SL-3

8.   The “WR” burn feature at the Seven Site (Figure 6) contained both halves of a snap (Figure 7) similar to the one on Art’s “tabloid” kit. It produced none of the other metal hardware found on the “tabloid,” however.

Figure 6: Schematic of "WR" Fire Feature


Figure 7: Snap from WR Fire Feature, Top: Male part; bottom: female part. Millimeter scale.

Do the artifacts recorded at the Seven Site represent Earhart’s First Aid Kits? Well, they might, but they might represent innumerable other things too, brought to the site by Earhart or Noonan, the colonists, USCG personnel from the Loran Station, or someone else.


  1. If the castaway really was Earhart (or Noonan) and had a first aid kit at his/her final camp site, don't you think Gallagher and his colonists would have found that kit back in 1940? Or any of the (many) other things that one can reasonably assume the Electra crew had available to them, canteens for instance, that would be essential to survival?

    Another question: as someone who has done field research, I can't understand why Tighar has raised millions of dollars to go to Niku and collect stuff, but that fundraising didn't include analysis of the objects/data collected. For instance, recently over at the Tighar forum, when a loyal forum member asked whether sonar data from past cruises would be analyzed, Mr. Gillespie sourly replied by asking where the money to do that would come from. Isn't the point of the expeditions to gather data for later analysis? Perhaps in your role as a Tighar Board member and senior archeologist you could press for a more balanced approach. If you agree with my comments, I think it would be your obligation given your role in Tighar to press for these kind of changes.

    Awkward questions to answer, I know, but fair questions I think.


  2. Mr.Beck is mistaken. Post-expedition analysis has always been a major part of TIGHAR's investigation and is included in expedition budgets. The TIGHAR website includes many published reports. We often have to pay for expert analysis but we've been fortunate in that some of the analysis has been done pro bono by experts who are eager to help. The National Transportation Safety Board Lab, the FBI Lab,and the University of Oklahoma Molecular Anthropology Laboraties are just a few examples. The side-scan sonar data collected during the 2012 expedition was initially analyzed by Phoenix International, the contractor who collected it. The cost of that analysis was included in the $860,000 they were paid. We later discovered that their data and analysis were flawed and misleading. Specific sonar data from the 2012 expedition was independently reviewed by sonar experts at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Odyssey Marine Exploration, and Oceanic Imaging Consultants. A more general analysis of all of the data collected would be a major unanticipated expense.
    Ric Gillespie
    Executive Director

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  4. A key selling point for Tighar’s last Niku Expedition was that it would be an opportunity to explore the ‘Conroy Anomaly’. This was an anomalous-looking location on a sonar scan from an expedition several years back that a Tighar forum member stumbled upon well after the sonar data was collected and put up on the Tighar Web site for general perusal. In a sense it is nice that a forum member was able to find something of potential interest on the other hand the fact that this anomaly was discovered in this way suggests to me that the Tighar’s method for reviewing the data it collected was flawed. How was the Conroy Anomaly missed if it had a strong post-expedition data analysis plan?

    So then, making a revisit to the Conroy Anomaly location a major selling point to the most recent Tighar Expedition. It was touted as possibly being a large piece of Earhart's Electra, was it not? If I understand it, some time AFTER that very unsuccessful expedition concluded (no useful imagery of the Conroy Anomaly area was obtained), Tighar let it be known that the Conroy Anomaly did not represent a possible piece of the Electra and thus never needed a second look. I presume Tighar didn’t know that beforehand, because if it did it would have been unscrupulous to make the non-existant Conroy Anomaly a selling point for the upcoming expedition. So for several years after the Conroy Anomaly was brought to Tighar’s attention, Tighar failed to make the effort to properly analyze it, even though it was being presented publically (e.g. in press accounts) as something tantalizing that justified another expedition. And, it would seem, Tighar had the data to know that prior to the expedition. So that is why I am suggesting more careful analysis of data/artifacts between expeditions.

    This isn’t simply a sonar data problem, it is more general than that. For example, many of Tighar’s arguments for the Niku Hypothesis rest upon photo analyses, all of which have been done for free by one single individual (yes, I am aware that this individual has, months later than expected, completed a report on Amelia’s height —an unimportant side issue, but that’s a whole other argument...). Its great that Tighar gets free analyses, but Tighar should have a budget to cover things like photo analysis or chemical analysis of artifacts rather than hoping the work will be done gratis or by small donations from individual members. Tighar has spent what, one million dollars on salaries** over the past five years? I imagine that ten percent of that amount would provide for a pretty good artifact/data analysis program that makes progress rather than just pokes along.

    Sorry for the diatribe Tom. My final word on the subject. Ric usually insisted on having the last word back when his forum was open to general members of the public, he can have it here if he cares to.



    ** Perhaps I should have used the singular here.

  5. Harold, this is one reason I tend personally to stay away from studies that are dependent on high tech equipment and specialist analyses. You're right, of course, that we should have a budget for analysis by multiple specialists, but unfortunately we can't print money, and the financial support for such analyses just hasn't been there. So we do the best we can, and sometimes we're wrong.

    1. Dr. King,

      I can understand that TIGHAR can't print money, but it seems the exorbitant salary allowed for the CEO is out of touch with size of the non profit entity. Maybe there would be more "support for such analyses" if the Board of Directors pared down the CEO's salary, say maybe about half. Then maybe he could get a part time job to afford the lifestyle of the Rich and Famous he so appears to have on the Gentleman Farm the public now pays for.

      Since the board 'supposedly' approves his salary, would it not be incumbent to adjust it to a more reasonable amount? You are aware of course just how much the board approves, are you not?

    2. The Board (on which I sit) does review budgets and expenditures at every meeting, including the salaries of employees. We haven't found the CEO's salary to be exorbitant. And believe me (damn, there I go sounding like The Donald), we do discuss it, critically.

  6. My final word on the subject. Ric usually insisted on having the last word back when his forum was open to general members of the public, he can have it here if he cares to. thanks for sharing!!!

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  7. Tom,

    I thought I saw a reply from you posted a day or two ago but it's not here now. Perhaps you needed to revise your post?...


  8. It has truly been a pleasure getting to know your post ! Since the board 'supposedly' approves his salary, would it not be incumbent to adjust it to a more reasonable amount? You are aware of course just how much the board approves, are you not.

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