Personally I doubt it was AE & Noonan on Niku, nor that sonar scan is of an aluminum-skinned wing 1,000 feet below (I’ve seen aluminum cans disappears in less than 10-years on a tropical bottom and modern cola cans have far more protection while being much thinner – 80-some years more than make up for that!).
While I have read your book, I am still more convinced that the Navy’s search was a cover. I think crashing on Mille Atol in the Marshalls a more probable fate, with the Japanese vessel towing a barge there, and then flooding one end so it could be dragged aboard; refloating and taking the captives to Saipan. I say that because of both the ’87 issue Marshall-eze stamps, and other possibly accurate eye-witness accounts, and because crossing that much open ocean with the aircraft in a sling just doesn’t make sense….
I will tell you that on five occasions I e-mailed photos of the lagoon at Niku to TIGHAR, requesting they investigate several odd rectilinear large gouges which appear on the lagoon bottom opposite the main sea opening – these were ignored, but I still have the photos taken from about 600′ altitude in 2010… nature does not make rectangular shapes, dozens of them… nor would trawling the lagoon in pre WW II times. This may have absolutely no significance, however.
Amelia was an experienced, not necessarily an expert photographer, and if cameras under development prior to WW II Recon units were installed in Burbank, they are well-disguised, or simply we never had photos of the underside of the Electra 10, but if she had such she would have used them and perhaps hung around Japanese island territory too long.
So – you’re right there is still a mystery, and “Woody Rogers” (Peard) made his try w/o a lot of success.
It’s always interesting that the bones (those on Gardner, and those supposedly of both AE & Noonan dug-up on Saipan) just got lost! Nor why AE’s mother stated she finally was informed her daughter died at the hands of the Japanese after years of supposedly keeping secret the knowledge. Did our Admiral Nimitz really know? A year after her disappearance, a former neighbor/friend from Rye, NY enclosed in an anniversary letter a note saying she did not believe the Japanese had AE, and added that some things including a camera had been saved from the Putnam estate fire by a volunteer fireman… that’s exactly the story I was given along with her first Kodak 620 Duo camera, and it checked-out with Kodak. The second camera I have was one she obviously used on a tripod with self-timer, because both were with it – she left this in a case in a Hollywood shop for repair while she was making the 1935 HI to Oakland crossing, apparently never claiming it because her husband bought her a newer model (that which went on her final trip), which was inventoried at Luke Field when she crashed initially and the Army made sure the repairs were done in Burbank Lockheed’s earliest ‘skunk-works’ which should be a clue in itself. AE & Noonan had a survival raft in that inventory, as well as equipment they might have better used on a waterless reefy island – they had time to retrieve these even with Noonan’s knee and head wounds – no matter which atoll they landed on. Boy, what that late 1936 camera might have recorded (and the one or two aerial ones also)!
At least we agree on their final destination, and I’ve had some rather curious coincidences, almost as if her earlier personal cameras could talk….
Keep up the good work – maybe we’ll get luck and solve it!
~~Phil Van Zandt, Historian for the Flying Tigers Historical Org. (now AE’s cameras owner)
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