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Contact from Space

Nauticos explorers during the 2017 Eustace Earhart Discovery Expedition enjoyed a rare opportunity to have a few minutes’ radio contact with members of the International Space Station via amateur (Ham) radio. (Incidentally, the astronauts on ISS were the closest humans to the explorers on the research vessel Mermaid Vigilance when it passed overhead about 250 miles up … compared to island inhabitants over 800 miles away and Honolulu about 1,600 miles distant!) Read more about this in Meridian Passages. It is customary among Hams to follow up contacts with “QSL” cards, basically a post card that confirms one amateur radio station’s contact with another amateur radio station. Tom Vinson (call sign NY0V) recently received a QSL card from astronaut Astronaut Shane Kimbrough (KE5HOD), shown here.

The ISS crew kindly took time out of their VERY busy schedule on two occasions to talk to us, conversations lasting less than 10 minutes as the ISS in low-Earth orbit dropped below the horizon as quickly as it appeared. A custom-built antenna was hand-pointed at the Station as it flew by. During those times various members of our team spoke with Kimbrough, Peggy Whitson, and Russian Cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov (with our Ukrainian crew members, in Russian!) It was a special and unique priviledge to connect explorers beyond the top of the biosphere with those working at its bottom.

73 (Best regards, in Ham-speak)

Finding Amelia at National Geographic

Amelia Earhart disappeared without a trace over the Central Pacific in 1937 while attempting an around the world flight. More than eighty years have passed, but the famous flyer, businesswoman, feminist, writer, and adventurer remains a popular figure. Her disappearance is the greatest aviation mystery of the 20th Century.

Dave Jourdan addresses crowd of nearly 400 at National Geographic’s Grosvenor Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

The National Geographic Society has long been fan of Amelia, and awarded her the Society’s Special Medal in 1932. The Society has followed expeditions and supported investigations into her disappearance over the years. Last week, National Geographic invited Dave Jourdan to speak at the Grosvenor Auditorium in Washington, D.C. about the quest to find Earhart’s Lockheed Electra plane in the Pacific near Howland Island. Dave has led three Nauticos expeditions to the area over the last fifteen years seeking the aircraft, thought to be resting at depths of 18,000 feet. A crowd of nearly 400 assembled for the talk, which also included speakers who discussed alternative theories about her demise. President of the Society, Gary Knell, led off the proceedings, and Senior Program Officer Dr. Aurora Elmore moderated the event. A panel discussion and audience Q&A rounded out the evening. Several members of past Earhart search expeditions were in attendance.

A New Idea About Amelia Earhart

Amelia wearing nurse’s aid uniform, Toronto, 1918

As many of you know, Amelia would have been 120 years old this week, had she flown off course, crashed on a reef, was captured and jailed as a spy, escaped to New Jersey via the Witness Protection Program, faked her death, moved to Florida, and discovered the Fountain of Youth. We can’t prove that none of that happened … yet!

Meanwhile, here is a very interesting take on the matter by none other than Garrison Keillor: A New Idea. In the July 25th Washington Post, he says:

“I need to know about Amelia. She was a sweetheart, a Kansas tomboy who was not out to make a statement so much as she simply loved to fly and feel the wind in her hair. In newsreels, she grins as she climbs out of cockpits, a dashing feminist in the Age of Dowagers. She wore pants. She was lithe and limber. She enjoyed her fame. She flew solo across the Atlantic, solo from Hawaii to California, she was the forerunner of the spirited feminists we’ve known and loved, who bore no grudge against men but prevailed thanks to wit and smarts and perseverance and a terrific smile.”

Please read the rest here. Meanwhile, we’ll keep trying!

Amelia in the News

Excerpt of artwork by Geraldine Aikman.
WCHS 6 News Anchors Lee Goldberg and Amanda Hill

Between bone sniffing pooches, bogus photos, and countless media posts, the 80th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance has spawned a lot of news. Echoes of the over-hyped Jaluit photo had hardly begun to subside before the image was soundly debunked. Meanwhile, Nauticos has been working steadily to scan the seafloor near Howland Island where Amelia was headed, seeking her lost Lockheed Electra in the deep ocean. Our last expedition, concluded in April, failed to find any trace of the plane, but eliminated another large area of the seafloor. Though we don’t make a big deal about what we haven’t found, local media has taken note of our efforts, including a very nice article in the local Southern Maine Tourist News, and an interview on Portland’s WCSH Channel 6. We appreciate the support of our friends and neighbors, and look forward to continuing the search.

The Tourist News issue, entitled Secrets of the Sea also included a great article about the coastal environment, threats and survival, featuring wonderful artwork by local artist Geraldine Aikman.

Click image for Nauticos article









The Jaluit Photo

There is a lot of Earhart news in the air between a dog-sniffing expedition and the photo that has surfaced suggesting that Amelia & Fred were captured and sent to Saipan. The former is comical. All we can say about the photo is it’s hard to fit with any real data, which clearly shows Amelia’s Electra to have been in the vicinity of Howland Island, the pilot sending increasingly desperate messages as she searched for her landing spot, running out of fuel. To have them actually at Jaluit atoll, over 1,000 miles to the northwest, one would have to assume that the Coast Guard and other elements of the government were in cahoots to fake the reports and radio transcripts. And it had to extend to all levels, as we interviewed the last surviving member of the crew, a cook, who said he heard the words coming from the radio room! Of course, that’s what the conspiracy theorists presume.


Others will soon jump to the task of trying to determine the provenance of the photo and second guess the interpretation. A site in the UK has already posted debunking the photo:

The article points out that the photo was taken in the 1940’s, long after Amelia and Fred were supposedly captured and taken eventually to Saipan, where (as the story goes) they died in prison in 1939. Note that the “captives” do not look like they are being guarded and are not wearing the same clothes as Fred and Amelia when they took off from Lae. I have been to Saipan and visited the jail there and talked to a historian who interviewed one of the jailers of the era. He said no Caucasian women were there during that time.


Of course, we’ll be among the first to congratulate anyone who comes up with real evidence. Meanwhile, we’ll continue the search for Amelia’s Electra in the deep waters off Howland Island, where we believe she went down.

Heroes of Midway

Roy Stanley Benson, Lt. Cdr., Executive Officer and Navigator

Roy Benson was born December 7, 1906, in Concord, New Hampshire, exactly thirty-five years before the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Class of 1929.

Lt. Cdr. Roy S. Benson, commanding USS Trigger (SS-237), receives a second Navy Cross from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. USN photo courtesy of Rick Connole.

Benson served as navigator on the submarine USS Nautilus (SS-168), which played a key role in the Battle of Midway. During the engagement, Benson manned the conning tower as the Attack Coordinator. Known affectionately to his crew as “Pigboat Benny,” Benson went on to command the submarine USS Trigger (SS-237) and won two Navy Crosses for valor, operating in enemy controlled waters in the Sea of Japan. Serving under him as a junior officer was Edward Beach, who went on to a storied career and eventually became the best-selling author of the classic submarine tale, Run Silent, Run Deep (1955).

After the war, Benson married the former Vida Connole, widow of Commander David R. Connole who was the last commanding officer of Trigger, lost off Japan in March 1945, just months before the war’s end. Benson went on to a distinguished naval career, rising to Pacific Submarine Fleet Commander (COMSUBPAC), and later serving as Assistant Vice Chief of Naval Operations. He retired as a rear admiral in 1969. Roy Benson departed on eternal patrol from Washington, D.C., February 7, 1995, at the age of eighty-eight.

Memorial Day commemoration

Richard Barr (Ozzie) Lynch, Torpedo and Gunnery Officer, USS Nautilus (SS-168)

Ozzie Lynch was born August 12, 1914, in Citronelle, Alabama. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Class of 1935.

During the June 1942 Battle of Midway, Lynch was stationed in the conning tower as the TDC (torpedo data computer) operator, responsible for computing the torpedo firing solution and launching weapons. Lynch was an avid photographer, and owned a 16 mm movie camera and a still camera which he brought on patrols, capturing scenes of life aboard Nautilus.  Lynch devised a scheme to attach his still camera to the periscope, and thus captured one of the most compelling photos of the war as the destroyer Yamakaze, torpedoed by Nautilus, slipped below the waves with the Rising Sun displayed on the forward gun turret and sailors scrambling to abandon ship. This image was published in the August 3, 1942, issue of Life Magazine, and as one of the year’s outstanding photographs, and in the December 1942 issue of U.S. Camera under the title “Doom of Jap Warship.” As related by shipmate Red Porterfield:

“After the battle [of Midway] we went back in and reloaded torpedoes and supplies and departed for the [Japanese] Empire.  Our first patrol was right off Tokyo. We torpedoed a brand-new destroyer that was out making trial runs. We had an officer on board by the name of Ozzie Lynch who was quite a photographic bug, so as this destroyer was sinking he put a camera to the periscope and we got a very good picture of it that made Life Magazine. Over a few years after World War II, I saw the picture several times associated with different subs!—but it was the Nautilus.”

Japanese destroyer Yamakaze photographed through the periscope of Nautilus by Ozzie Lynch, 25 June 1942. U.S. Navy.

When Nautilus was assigned to reconnoiter the beaches of Tarawa and surrounding islands before invasion, Lynch, unable to make navy-issued cameras work, used his personal camera to capture panoramic images of the enemy coastline. In later operations, Lynch filmed the submarine diving, and later recorded scenes of Honolulu, Midway Island, VJ Day celebrations, and other historic locales and events. His periscope photo of Mt. Fuji also appeared in Life Magazine in the May 1943 edition.

Lynch went on to command the submarine USS Seawolf (SS-197) and later USS Skate (SS-305) on which he won the Navy Cross for valor on patrol in the Sea of Japan. Leading Skate into the shallow waters of an enemy harbor, he succeeded in sinking five ships with torpedoes and evading enemy countermeasures. His patrol ended in July, 1945, just a month before war’s end.

Lynch continued his naval career after the war, in time advancing to rear admiral and serving with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His final assignment saw him coordinating the successful recovery of the first unmanned Apollo spacecraft on November 9, 1967.

Rear Admiral Ozzie Lynch died of a heart attack while on active duty and departed on eternal patrol on January 19, 1968, at the age of fifty-three.

Commemorating the Battle of Midway

June 4th-7th marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway. A momentous and consequential event in the history of World War II, it was an extraordinarily complicated affair that involved hundreds of ships, thousands of men, millions of square miles of ocean, and countless tales of heroism, tragedy, victory, and defeat. It is a model study of strategy, tactics, leadership, and the art of warfare. What began as a one-sided match in favor of the Japanese ended as a lopsided outcome in favor of the Americans. There were many heroes, and a few villains. It involved essentials of intelligence, engineering, planning, decision-making, training, and organization.

The Search for the Japanese Fleet tells the tale of the battle from the unique perspective of the submarine USS Nautilus which figured prominently in the engagement. Relying on detailed logs, diaries, tech manuals, navigation analysis, and interviews with veterans of the battle, the book breathes new life into the epic conflict. The following is an excerpt from the book, as Nautilus comes to periscope depth in the midst of the great Japanese fleet and duels with escort vessels out to sink her:

*  *  * Excerpt from The Search for the Japanese Fleet *  *  *

Lieutenant Commander William Brockman as he received the Navy Cross for heroism at Midway, Pearl Harbor, 7 November 1942. U.S. Navy.

A few minutes later, Brockman risked another observation. This time, he caught sight of Kaga, trailing the formation as her mates were still recovering aircraft. Smoke from air attacks beaten off minutes before still lingered over the ships.

0900 YST – Raised periscope and sighted aircraft carrier bearing 013° relative. Carrier was distant 16,000 yards and was changing course continuously. She did not appear to be damaged, but was overhung by anti-aircraft bursts. Nautilus was on a converging course. While making this observation the Jintsū type cruiser began to close again at high speed.

– Log of USS Nautilus (SS-168)

“New target: the Jintsū-class cruiser. Observation!” Brockman called. He was on Arashi, which was closing fast.

“Bearing … mark!”

“Three-three-zero relative,” called Graham.

“Range … mark!”

“Five-five hundred yards,” called Graham, reading the stadimeter dial.

“Angle on the bow … zero-one-zero, starboard. He has us. Firing point procedures. Flood tube two. Open outer door, tube two!”

The crew jumped to action throughout the ship, acknowledging the captain’s orders. Ignoring the misfiring tube one for now, Brockman was attempting to throw off the destroyer’s attack with a single torpedo. A hit on a high-speed warship approaching dead on was unlikely, and he wanted to save his “fish” for bigger targets.

In two minutes, the fast-approaching Arashi had closed another mile. Lee was calling sonar bearings to the plotter. Lynch was busily working the TDC with help from Chief Lange, while keeping the Is-Was current. Defrees was trying to follow the destroyer on his plot as it maneuvered towards them, while also keeping track of the receding Japanese fleet.

Up scope!” Graham had the periscope up and pointed at the latest sonar bearing of the destroyer. Brockman was on it, and made a quick adjustment.

“Bearing … mark!”

“Three-three-zero relative,” called Graham. The destroyer was on a steady bearing, on an intercept course.

“Range … mark!”

“Two-eight hundred yards,” called Graham.

“Dip the scope,” said Brockman. Squeezing his eyes tightly, he visualized the approaching enemy. “Angle on the bow … zero.” Arashi was coming dead on, approaching at her top speed of thirty-five knots, cutting the range to Nautilus by over a thousand yards a minute. Brockman waited a few moments, letting the target close. Then, to Lynch, “TDC, range to target?”

Lynch, who had been tracking the range intently, called without hesitation, “Two-six-seven-zero yards!’

Immediately, Brockman called, “Final bearing and shoot! Up scope!”

“Standby forward … bearing … mark!”

“Three-three-zero relative,” said Graham.

“Down scope!”

“Set!” said Lynch, then, “Shoot!” as the firing key was triggered. “Fire two!”

“Two fired electrically!” came the report from the torpedo room.

“Very well,” acknowledged Brockman.

“Torpedo running normal!” Lee did not wait to be asked this time. Then he heard the rattling sound of Arashi‘s sonar. “Echo ranging on automatic!”

“Very well. Shut the outer doors,” ordered Brockman. “Torpedo room, reload tube two.” Not waiting for acknowledgement, he called, “Look around. Up scope!”

Graham was surprised; with the destroyer fast approaching, he expected a deep dive. But Brockman kept his cool and wanted to see how the enemy reacted to his torpedo; he hoped to evade the persistent depth charge attacks while still following the main fleet. Graham recovered quickly, and had the scope up and pointed immediately.

Brockman looked for a moment, than crabbed around the circle. Handles up, he said, “Down scope. Diving officer, make your depth two hundred feet.”

“Two hundred feet, aye,” replied Hogan.

“The cruiser has maneuvered to avoid our torpedo,” announced Brockman to the attack party. Another miss. “He has broken off his depth charge run for the moment, but will be back. We will continue on course, go deep, and evade by silent running. All hands prepare for depth charging.”

Down went Nautilus, silent running, hoping to escape yet another barrage.

For more see The Search for the Japanese Fleet

Jonathan Blair — Photographer

Jonathan Blair 1941-2017

We just learned of the sudden passing of the accomplished photographer, former Nauticos employee, and member of the 2002 Amelia Earhart search expedition, as well as long-term supporter of the project. Jonathan was noted in the Fall 2001 issue of Meridian Passages when he joined the team, the same issue that featured Elgen Long’s world flight. Some highlights of his career are below:

Blair was born in 1941 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He began his career at Northwestern University as a darkroom technician where he took photos of stars for Dearborn Observatory. Later, he enrolled at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and received a degree in illustrative photography, graduating cum laude. One summer, he became the park’s photographer at Yosemite National Park. During his time there, he published many photographs for the United States Department of the Interior which helped him earn credits towards a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and photography, and helped him to secure a position as an intern for the National Geographic magazine. His first assignment for National Geographic was in 1966.

Jonathan participated in numerous expeditions to Africa, Asia Minor, and Europe. Since the 1970s, he has published more than three dozen articles with photographs in National Geographic, including The Last Dive of I-52, which he wrote after he took a 17,000 feet (5,200 m) dive in the Atlantic Ocean. In 2001, he became the Director of Media Development for Nauticos. His first assignment with them was at-sea photographer during their search for Amelia Earhart’s airplane.

Jonathan passed away quietly at home after an illness. His son Dakota, sister Kit, and brother Jeffrey were with him.