Earhart’s Freckle Cream Does a Vanishing Act

30 Dec

jarsYet another “hot lead” by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has fizzled under the bright light of logic based research. To TIGHAR’S credit, much of the undoing of the “2012 Dr. Berry’s Freckle Ointment Jar publicity storm” was due to their own research.  All the freckle cream that was sold in the type of jar uncovered at the “7 Site” on Gardner Island (Nikumaroro) was opal glass (opaque white). The jar uncovered by TIGHAR is clear glass.  The white film on the inside of the recovered glass was a compound containing Ammoniated Mercury, which was a major ingredient of freckle cream sold in the 1930’s. Ammoniated Mercury was also an ingredient of medicines dispensed by pharmacies for the treatment of Impetigo (a highly contagious bacterial skin infection); Tinea (Ringworm), very common in hot, damp climates; Pediculosis (head lice and crabs); Sub-acute and Chronic Eczema. Eczema is a skin disease that still calls for lotion to moisturize the skin. Ammoniated mercury has since been abandoned as a treatment for all the above problems. It should not be overlooked that a bottle that was used for hand lotion since the 1930’s was also found at the site.

The next fact TIGHAR presents that appears to kill the freckle cream theory, is the location of the recovery site:  the “7 site” (TIGHAR’s designation) is three quarters of a mile from the 1944-1946 U.S. Coast Guard Loren Site. It is located four and a half miles from the point where TIGHAR places Earhart’s landing. TIGHAR depicts Earhart and Noonan as dying of thirst and hunger and unable to signal the planes from the USS Colorado that did the air search of the island seven days after they landed. Why would the couple walk four and a half miles from where their aircraft landed to the “7 site”? TIGHAR makes a point of saying that Molly Laxton, the wife of the Gardner Island Governor, lived on the island from the late 1940’s to the early 50’s. She lived at the opposite end of the island from the “7 site”; coincidentally that is closer to the “7 site” than Amelia’s proposed landing area. Mr. Gillespie and his researchers made an assumption that the jar contained freckle ointment and have based all their investigation on that premise. If you make an assumption and it’s wrong, chances are all the results of the ensuing investigation are wrong. In conclusion TIGHAR once again shot themselves in their freckled foot.




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  1. Bob


    August 17, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Email from Filo Vance
    After answering “Anon” on both counts I decided to discuss several things, so this is quite long. I did ask a question at the end. I would like your opinion.

    The men in the Marshall’s Saipan dig have as yet to ‘look’ very thoroughly for parts of the Electra – beacuse of some legalities proposed by locals… but with it being “winter” there, this is their prime time for such ‘digs’. The weather begins to deteriorate in late September. Regardless of others like Mr. Peard, who held to the idea that the remains of the Electra were buried in an old Japanese bunker elsewhere on Saipan’s shores, it would seem more logical from official reports of the number of damaged Japanese & American aircraft found in 1944 by the Marines at Asolito airfield, that if as eye-witnesses stated the AE/FN Electra was flown in, kept over-night in a semblance of a damaged hangar, then destroyed by burning with what may have been a mix of thermite & aviation fuels – it’s remains, too, would have simply been bull-dozed under, in order to clear the area for larger US aircraft landing, and storage. The equipment to do so was then (June 1944) in use there by Naval Sea-Bees.

    The reported photo signed by Adm. Nimitz, deemed to have been taken from aboard a warship at anchor off Saipan, showing the island background with a twin-tailed aircraft seen in the distance above, has been de-bunked by ‘experts’ who state it is a C-45 (military Beech 18). So – another visual aid has been eliminated.

    We are left with sworn statements of 4 Marines, a single Naval officer, and very prominent cover-up by Dept. of Navy personnel at a later date, but with the descriptions of items found detailed enough to know that Amelia’s en-route “lightening of the load” did not include personal papers & photos, her brief-case, possibly some cameras & exposed film. Had not her pilots license been mentioned as being found at a different site (Japanese officer’s home), than the briefcase recovered from blown safe, it might appear less-believable. That camera, still owned by a New Zeelander, who states he purchased it from a Marshall Island native named “Eleiu”, and recently that name linked to a first-responder, who supposedly treated both AE’s minor scrapes, and Noonan’s head abrasions & knee damage, supplying a crutch – while serving aboard the Japanese seaplane rescue vessel “Koshu Maru” which reportedly “recovered” the wrecked aircraft approx 2 to 3 days after the ‘crash-landing’ on a reef near ‘Milli Atoll’, lending a bit of credence to the claim (one wonders if AE or the Japanesse gave the camera to Elieu). This time-lag also provides the break necessary for the radio transmissions by AE, which reportedly were heard in both Pacific & continental USA.
    As I previously mentioned the US Army never actually supplied the serial number of the camera AE used while on HI (they only had a lens & shutter ID common to a whole series of German Nagel-Werke Kodak cameras which Amelia favored), but their description did mention a case, which is no doubt similar to the one in which the camera now owned by the New Zeelander is in. All very circumstantial – unless there is a record by serial number of the original purchaser (doubtful, as is it’s recovery since all the records of film-camera sales are sealed by court-order from the bankruptcy Kodak underwent years back). Purdue University has no records within files of how many, or even what make camerass AE used.

    Marshall Island Stamp Info:
    What we have gleaned from the 1987 Earhart stamps issued by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, seems to fall right in line here… the first stamp showing the take-off from Lae; another of the waiting CG ship making visible smoke off Howland Island (“intended destination”); third stamp shows the back of 2 islanders semi-hidden from two figures on the crashed aircraft with a yellow raft in the water.
    Then we have Colorano silk cachets attached to First Day Covers bearing these stamps that show the Koshu Maru off-shore with an Island native; another of Islanders approaching the aircraft by canoe that shows engine well-above water, but R. wing broken-off outboard of this and landing gear down. This was the engine which had the generator supplying battery-power for the Electra’s radio equipment.
    Another cachet shows an islander pointing beyond the Koshu Maru and telling a Japanese officer of the wreck at Milli.
    But the 4th. stamp in the block is most defining – it details The Koshu Maru with aircraft visible in aft sling; on a beach foreground – a short Japanese military-dressed person, a taller man with his back turned wearing blue, leaning on a crutch, and a tall, possibly female person, in a side view, wearing a reddish tan shirt/jacket and dark pants – these two seemingly posed in conversation with each other… which would indicate their injuries had been treated, and of course, the aircraft’s salvage.

    Separately issued on the same date, June 15, 1987 at Majuro, is a stamp showing the red-dotted deviation to Milli Atoll E. of Barre Island, with a full 4-side surround depicting AE-FN’s route from Calcutta to Darwin Austrailia; Honolulu and Howland Island outside the stamp’s borders. This stamp with it’s surrounding is found on another CAPEX ’87 FDC which sports an oval photo of a somewhat younger Amelia Earhart. On the inside is a flyer which supplies many Islander names and describes how they missed Howland and ended up on the Milli reef. It does state that they were taken by Japanese seaplane from Truk on July 19th. to Saipan… meaning they were held at Jaliut for an undisclosed time.

    Much information was obviously available in 1987… one wonders why Gillespie’s TIGHAR missed it?

    Could it be he began with a premise of them dying on a deserted island??? Phil

    • Anon Y. Mous

      August 18, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      Filo, I hope you are not anticipating “informed” opinion from me personally! The “ended-on-Mili-then-Saipan” theory is not one I have really educated myself about to date. I started into the AE mystery with considerable interest in the TIGHAR-Gardner Island research, but over time (and numerous TIGHAR stumbles and blatant manipulations) have gradually grown convinced that AE and FN were never there.

      At the moment I would have mainly neophyte-level questions about the other possibilities, ones which you probably encountered and answered for yourself years ago. (Some of those are asked, or presented, in Tom King’s paper “Amelia Earhart in the Marianas” — I note that one co-author is the infamous Joe Cerniglia, an obvious Gillespie stooge with little credibility, but King at least has a brain.) Among my initial wonderings would be:

      Fuel? Is it credible that there would have been enough fuel to first get close to Howland, as the radio calls indicate, and then end up near Mili?

      Contradictions: Some accounts say the plane landed, but more say it crashed (or was shot down?). E.g. the stamps show a missing starboard wing. Yet there are accounts of the plane being flown at Asolito before its destruction? Of course there are many other contradictions in the accounts as to details of AE’s captivity, manner of death, disposal of the remains, etc.

      The King paper makes much of how eyewitnesses can be influenced into “false memories” by improper or repeated questioning, and I think there is some general truth there. Nevertheless, the wide array of accounts from both islanders and soldiers/marines does seem to me to indicate there should be some core of truth underlying them all? (Of course, the King arguments about unbelievability would apply equally to TIGHAR’s meager roster of Gardner witnesses as well, but that’s another story!)

      The famous Nimitz quote supporting AE on Saipan has recently come up again on TIGHAR. Apparently Gillespie’s refutation of that is that Nimitz initially knew nothing about AE’s fate, but was convinced by Fred Goerner that the Saipan theory was correct. So the claim is that there was no independent knowledge on Nimitz’s part.

      Re the stamps, a probably stupid question: has anyone ever done research into the archives of the Marshall Islands bureau that issued those 1987 stamps, to see what their original motivation, rationale, and sources were for designing and issuing them?

      You mention a currently ongoing “dig” on Saipan. Could you provide a link to where I can find out more about that, the background and the current status?

      Finally, as to Gillespie missing the data in 1987. It could be that he simply seized on Gardner as being his “private” entry into the AE investigation, one which no one else was pursuing at the time and where he might become a hero without sharing the glory. It would be natural then to brush off any evidence that led elsewhere than Gardner. Alternatively, it certainly could also be that his initial major funding was given on condition that he popularize the Gardner theory as a distraction from less politically correct theories — as I believe is being suggested elsewhere in these blogs?

      All food for thought, my horizons continue to expand . . .

    • Filo Vance

      August 19, 2014 at 11:28 am – this will get you to the “diggers” web-site and videos of those interviewed, to theory of where to dig, and the whys & wherefores… It’ll also give some revelations from Islanders as to how long the Japanese kept Amelia alive, and the presumed earlier execution of Fred Noonan. However, that said, it was MOL un-widely known that George Putnam, Jr., (acting on some information, and possibly that supplied to Amelia Earheart’s mother, Otis in 1939, when she stated for the local newspaper that she knew Ameilia was a prisioner of the Japanese)… traveled by MATS air to Saipan for his personal investigation in 1945, after his military service in WW II. In the book “WHISTLED LIKE A BIRD”, Sally Putnam Chapman goes into little detail, but does mention this trip.
      Much ado has been placed at Adm. Nimitz knowlege of Earhart’s disappearance; of an old photo which his signature appears on at the top, and it basically shows his flagship, off the E. coast of Saipan, making way – AND – a tiny speck of a twin-tailed aircraft above the fringes of the island in the distance. It is dated only 1944 but man have said that was the Electra being flown around the island as the Marines stated. It has since been disproven, stating that under close examination, te aircraft is a military C-45 (Beech 18), not an Electra… however Nimitz name has popped-up several times since before WW II in connection with the ‘disappearance’.
      Here, conspiracy theorists have had a field day – many believe the previous largest sea search (to MH-370) to have been undertaken as a cover-up for spy activities od AE, un-beknownst to Noonan by scouting Japanese-held islands and using photograpic equipment installed secretly at Lockheed between the two world-girdling attempts (an employee at Lockheed stated he saw ‘Gov’t men making special modifications while the aircraft was off-limits to regular Lockheed employess) – Perhaps, but no one mentioned seeing camera ports on the heavily-modified aircraft at any refueling or service stops enroute and they spent a couple days waiting out bad weather at rangoon; in fact AE stated on their first attempt the wind & monsoon rains beat so heavily that the orange-red paint on the leading edge of the wings was beaten off and the had to fly nearly on the deck to navigate back to the facility then owned by Langhorn Bond of Curtiss fame. There are two photos of the aircraft in his Rangoon hangar – one showing re-fueling and the other servicing either the hydraulics and/or electrics on the port wing & wheel-well under-carriage.

  2. Anon Y. Mous

    August 14, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    The Great Freckle Cream Hunt is a perfect example of how TIGHAR operates these days. Despite their claim to be strictly “scientific”, they are emphatically not. Obviously, the scientific approach would be to start from the fact, or at least factually-supported probability, that a given object was used by AE and could credibly have been with her on the airplane. In this case there is NO evidence whatsoever that AE ever used any freckle cream or similar mercury-laden product. The best they have come up with are a few self-deprecating quotes that show she was aware that she had freckles. Given the facts that (a) AE had acted as a nurse and had some knowledge of medicine; (b) AE was a “modern” woman who kept up with the world around her; and (c) public knowledge of, and reaction against, the horrible effects of toxic patent medicines was coming to a boil in the mid-30’s, it seems very unlikely she would have smeared mercury all over her face . . ? Also, as others have pointed out, would she really have left potentially useful operational and survival gear behind to save weight, but still carried glass jars of cosmetics? Really?

    All the furor over the jar and its contents and composition was beside the point. If it had had an intact label and a stamped date of manufacture, it would still make no difference if there is no evidence that AE ever used the product. The “investigation” did draw attention and provide considerable entertainment for the faithful forum posters and donors, which of course served the leader’s purposes very well. The big picture these days is that TIGHAR is merely trying to keep the interest level up and the donations coming in. When things hit a lull, they reach back into their pile of so-called “artifacts” and come up with new speculations about their meaning or provenance and try to drum up renewed interest.

    In this particular case, note that originally the leader only asked his followers to find an intact jar of freckle cream, presumably to be used as an exhibit in his tortured press releases. What he got was some serious digging by more rational forum members, and that appeared to show that the jar was made prior to 1917, not very supportive of the Party Line (and those forum members were eventually thrown off the forum as “trolls”, I am one of them). TIGHAR later put out a report which attempted to counter that conclusion via some incorrect and tortured interpretations of evidence. By then nobody cared, and in any case, as stated, it doesn’t matter what the jar was if a connection to AE cannot be shown.

    • Bob


      August 17, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Thank you very much for your comment Mr. Anonymous and your insight into the workings of Mr. Gillespie’s forums. We have seen and experienced examples of the tactics used by Gillespie and his minions. They usually start with ridicule and every attempt to discredit you as an individual. Like junior high school kids they ignore your logic and attack your credentials. We never followed any of the forums long enough to see what happens later, but you have enlightened us. If they can’t defeat your logic or denigrate your credentials they simply deny you any further input.

      We have also found that Gillespie’s methodology is exactly the opposite of good scientific practice. As you pointed out, an investigation starts out with a fact or a factually supported probability and tests that theory to see if it stands up to scrutiny. If, thorough investigation shows that it is solid, THEN IT IS PUBLICIZED!. TIGHAR does the opposite; they publicize first and then try to defend their theories against individuals who show them the error of their hypothesis. If they can’t defend their work, which they haven’t been able to yet, they “pick up their toys and go home.” We don’t doubt for a moment that Gillespie would give anything to find evidence of what happened to Amelia and Fred as long as the evidence showed they landed on Gardner Island. We feel quite strongly that if evidence surfaced that they came to rest somewhere besides Gardner Island, he would bring everything he had to bear to disprove it.

      In his recent lawsuit Mr. Melon contended that Gillespie had already found the Electra and covered up the fact. We fear that Mr. Melon missed the point. Gillespie couldn’t keep that a secret, if he had, indeed, found it. It would define his entire being. He would have to shout it to the world. “I SOLVED THE GREATEST MYSTERY OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY!” Mr. Melon would have been better off to have sued him for being nothing more than a modern day snake oil salesman.

      We find it very strange that Mr. Gillespie was able to finance a multi-million dollar expedition to Gardner/Nikumaroro less than a year after Tom Willi and Tom Gannon told him about their theory that AE and FN had landed on Gardner Island. Up until that time he had tried several “Operations” to get TIGHAR on the map to no avail. Where did he get the money for Niki I? Is 9 months enough time to conceive and fund an operation like that without a solid fund raising platform to work from? We smell a large infusion of money from an interested source. Who is Gillespie defending with his constant denial of any evidence of Japanese involvement in AE and FN’s untimely demise. A theory Fred and I are avidly investigating.

      Thanks again for your insights, Bob and Fred

      • Anon Y. Mous

        August 17, 2014 at 4:52 pm

        Bob, Fred: I really don’t mean to monopolize your “comments” section, but you raise such good points here that I have to say something more!

        Re the TIGHAR Tactics: Their first stage of defense is the abuse and chastisement you describe. Next comes “moderation”, meaning anything submitted must be reviewed and approved personally by Mr. Gillespie prior to being posted. Then there is a partial banning, meaning one cannot post but can view the forum, and may request reinstatement later. Lastly, the Nuclear Option is the Ban for Life, where they also attempt to prevent you even from VIEWING the forum based on your IP address. (Because of their primitive web technology level, that doesn’t work, lol.) In my time I saw the guy with the highest expertise in celestial navigation – including all of TIGHAR’s so-called experts – get put on moderation; and an experienced Ph.D. in Archaeology got the lifetime ban. A radio expert with Engineering degrees, again more knowledgeable than any TIGHAR minion, just quit posting because he didn’t want to waste time on their evasions, nagging, and abuse.

        Re the Publicity Machine: However sincere in their investigations TIGHAR may originally have been (more below), it seems clear that their sole ambition now is to keep Gillespie’s livelihood afloat by dragging in new members and coaxing donations out of them. As the earlier members continually get bored or get banned, haha, new blood must be found! And TIGHAR sees the key to that to be continual publicity; if nothing is happening then they make something up. If the media would wise up and realize they are parties to a tacky PR campaign, the whole house of cards would tumble down.

        Re the lawsuit: It is hard to know what Mr. Mellon is really thinking. Does he, for real, believe he sees the airplane in all the rocks and coral? Seems incredible. Or is this some kind of complicated trick he is playing out of vengeance for the $million that he wasted? In any case, he’s done some good with all the court documents that are out there now, by reading them you can get a clearer picture of how TIGHAR operates behind the scenes. Also there is humor there, such as the revelation that Gillespie suddenly realized that he had no exclusive agreement with the island government, and that Mellon was rich enough to send his own expeditions — there was frantic Gillespie negotiation with Kiribati in 2011 to try to plug that loophole.

        Re your last point, TIGHAR’s early funding: Hmm, that is a take that I have not really thought about, that perhaps behind the scenes some “entity” wanted TIGHAR out there as a going concern to be a red herring and distraction. While I am not generally much of a believer in “Conspiracy Theories”, the way you pose the question I have to admit that further investigation is probably warranted. Have you looked at the IRS Form 990’s that TIGHAR is required to file as a non-profit organization? Legally they are public information. I don’t know if they would be any help or not, though.

        Cheers, sorry to be so long-winded!

  3. filo vance

    April 12, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Actually, the take-off from Lae was filmed, and there was a puff of dust as the Electra reached the PONR. The info about the antenna wire was also in a news bulletin, sent the following day by wire services. While true, it’s not mentioned in the 3-week later report, the footage of the take-off, which BTW was not entirely on the main grass runway, having required a further distance run-up for the over-loaded aircraft, that, as witnesses stated, “used up every inch of available space and then dipped low before the aircraft was seen to rise slowly above the horizon and head eastward”. This info can most likely be retrieved from AP Wire Services’ We do know that when the Electra was serviced in Rangoon, the photo appeared to show the antenna in question, but where this re-installation was accomplished has not been fully stated.

    • Anon Y. Mous

      August 15, 2014 at 1:45 am

      Just rambling here, but there is another school of thought about the “puff of dust”. It seems to occur at about the same time that the plane runs over a strip of dirt that crossed the runway at one point, and so it could just be some of that dirt brought up by the tires.

      I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other. It is sort of emotionally tempting to think the belly antenna came off at Lae, because then one doesn’t have to assign ALL the disastrous communications problems later to operator incompetence.

      I’m not sure what is meant by “re-installation” of the antenna? It is visible in photos of the plane when she left Miami and at stops along the way until the final take-off at Lae.

      • Bob


        August 17, 2014 at 11:22 am

        Thanks for your comment Anon (if I may address you by your “first” name). In replying to Jim T, we pointed out that the Chater Report (completed 24 days after AE’s takeoff from Lae) fails to mention an antenna wire found on the runway. In viewing the film of her takeoff from Lae and aerial photos of the strip, the “puff of dust/smoke” could have been from patches of dirt on the grass strip or perhaps ashes from a pile of burned brush from the clearing and burning operation on the strip (evident in the film). We feel that the film shows much more than a “puff of dust”. It does a lot to dispel the rumors that AE and FN where at odds and that she looked exhausted and he was badly hung over. They look to us optimistic and ready for the task at hand (our factually unsupported opinion). The “re-installation” is a new one on us too. Thanks for your comment and interest. I sent a note to Filo to address the re-installation.
        Bob and Fred

  4. Bob


    January 17, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    E mail from Filo Vance
    If, in reading the published account of her Last Flight, her agent/publisher husband had left anything out it was not that along the way Amelia & Fred ‘ligtened the load’ – no, the exact contents of personal items alonside parachutes and by then AE’s signature scarves may have gone unmentioned in the story, but much was noted at and is available from the Purdue University archives.
    No one seems to be sure that they even left Lae 50-gallons short on fuel, and about the only thing we have learned is that the aircraft probably lost its RECEIVE antenna on take-off as it was still considered over-loaded, and a similar antenna wire was found there a week later.
    Freckle Creme would have been nice to have availabl at their intended HI destiation, but AE may never have taken such, since in her perspective this was her last good flight as age 40 approached. She was more practical in her choices of ‘spares’, in my opinion. f v

    • Jim T.

      April 11, 2014 at 9:14 pm

      “…. a similar antenna wire was found there a week later.”

      I’ve seen this mentioned before, but where is the hard evidence an antenna wire was found on the Lae runway?

      • Bob


        April 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm

        Good question, Jim T. We believe that Filo Vance’s information came from an article on TIGHAR’s website titled The Last Takeoff. As with almost all things TIGHAR there is NO hard evidence. The following is quoted from their article titled The Last Takeoff “One anecdotal account, related years later, alleges that a length of antenna wire was found on the runway at Lae following Earhart’s departure.” If you go to TIGHAR’s website and read the Chater Report you will notice that the report was written by the General Manager for Guinea Airways on July 25, 1937 (24 days after Amelia and Fred left Lae). It fails to mention an antenna wire being found in the middle of the runway at Lae that was used very often by his scheduled airline. We know from TIGHAR’s articles they don’t believe in any anecdotal accounts unless they support their views. Thanks for your post Jim

      • Filo Vance

        August 17, 2014 at 2:10 pm

        It is mentioned in the Island’s weekly newspaper under ” ‘Biscuit box’ Balu – Americans leave Lae”
        on Saturday the 10th. of July, but exactly when found was not stated other than “after the Americans departed”. The Lae, NG paper had no special edition noting the AE/FN aircraft’s disapperance; covering it matter-of-factly in the next edition 8-days after the take-off which was “50-meters before the prepared runway’s end” was also mentioned. Whether TIGHAR had a local news-filmed recording of the take-off mated to the Herald-Tribune wire which stated it was a “difficult take-off with ease”, I cannot say. Gillespie & I are not on speaking terms – since he 4X refused to tell me what had made the very prominent squares & rectangles on the lagoon floor at Niku (I have the photos and suspicioned they were using fair-sized dredging equipment; never mentioned – in an effort to locate some portion of the Electra).
        As for what was repaired or replaced at Bond’s Rangoon hanger enroute to Lae. there are a few photos indicating work by technicians on the hydraulic/electrical system beneath the port wing & fuselage while AE & FN were off visiting temples along the road to mandalay; any written records were most likely destroyed or lost in WW II. The Monsoons had begun, so any work took place in hangars. What we do know is that KLM and other local Dutch ailrines had excellent & meticulous mechanics, otherwise Amelia would not have entrusted the Electra to their care. She so stated in a cable to GP.

        • Bob


          August 17, 2014 at 4:28 pm

          Thanks, Filo. This seem s to answer Anon’s question about “re-installation”.

        • Anon Y. Mous

          August 17, 2014 at 9:39 pm

          Filo, that’s interesting about the possible dredging. They say that they had a dredge on one of the visits, but did not use it because no significant hits were obtained with metal detectors. Of course the truth could also be that TIGHAR’s agreement with the government did not permit dredging, so they would not talk about it even if they had . . .

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