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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 24

Central Pacific Edition

Milestone Merriment

Halfway Day a Hit

It is a sailing tradition to celebrate the halfway point of a cruise, even if you’re not sure exactly when that point will occur. The Nautical Rodeo idea was conceived by Spence and Sue when they realized that the halfway point was just one day away. The timing was perfect to incorporate the event into our regular Sunday bar-b-cue. Some games and prizes were cooked up in a hurry. Bryan was asked to host the event as MC. A sound system and music was added and a firepit was concocted using the barb- cue grill. The program included dancing under the full moon, and a nightcap of smores.

We started the festivities with dinner at 5PM (a practical move as the Equatorial sun is quite intense at noon). Folks broke out their party attire (except the REMUS OPS team who were facing an imminent AUV recovery – the survey never stops!) Dave (decked out i n Hawaiian shirt and dreads) followed with a few remarks about the tradition of Halfway Day, and recognized the excellent service from the galley team, Pieter, Mardan and Susanto.

MC Bryan took over the mike to explain what an American Rodeo is all about: “The American cowboy after a long week of wrangling cattle out on the trail would be anxious for a bit of recreation. So they got together with other cowboys and show off their wrangling skills by roping calves, riding bulls and their horsemanship. It started out as recreational activity for cowboys, and today it has become a spectator sport, in which the competition is fierce and huge prize money i s awarded. There are not too many cowboys in these parts, but we have plenty of mariners. This Nautical Rodeo is a mariner skills participation event. Everyone is welcome to try.”

The first event was Competitive Knot Tying. Participants each had a piece of line in their hand, and upon the signal to start, judge Spence gave them a knot to tie. The quickest draw won.

The second event was the Heaving Line Toss. Participants each had three tosses of the heaving line in an attempt to drop the monkey fist in the bull’s eye, a trash can. The last event was the Jellyfish Throw. Teams of two tossed a water filled latex glove to their partner on the signal from the referee. After successful throws, one team member took a step backward, and tossed the glove back to their partner.

Prizes were awarded at the end of competition: an autographed photo of Pamelia Earhart, who regretfully could not be here.

The Rodeo wrapped up to much laughter and many splattered “jellyfish.” Unfortunately, clouds interfered with views of the simultaneous sunset & moonrise, but we were confident the events occurred anyway. Next was the bonfire. Music and dancing ensued.

A brief squall sent the revelers running for cover, and serving of Indonesian Style S’mores was postponed because REMUS operations and data analysis was started. They were served in the mess for snacks. Traditional s’mores, that gooey chocolatey marshmallowy thing between graham crackers was not possible. Chef Pieter has never heard of marshmallow before. He googled it and found that he didn’t even have the ingredients to make them. So instead he improvised a chocolate and peanut butter concoction between two wafer things. It was really quite good. He dubbed it “Indonesian style.”

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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 23

Central Pacific Edition

From Sea to Space

The Radio Guys Try to Contact the Mother Ship

November Alpha One Sierra Sierra … this is November Yankee Zero Victor Maritime Mobile, Region 3 aboard the Research Vessel Mermaid Vigilance calling…”

“Comm” Tom’s plaintive calls reached over the airwaves, trying desperately to make contact with the space ship whizzing overhead. It was our only chance … he just had to get a reply ….

“We must be on you, but can’t hear you … pretzels are running low …”

But it was useless. The orbiting space station dropped overr the horizon, leaving just a few meager “data packet bursts” t o tantalize us. Actually, this is not a science fiction story (though it may contain a few “alternative facts”). Inspired by our success during previous expeditions, the Radio Guys decided to see if they could get in touch with the Space Station. Turns out that two of the current residents, astronaut Commander Shane Kimbrough and Mission Specialist Thomas Pesquet are Hams, so they talk Rod, Tom, & Bryan’s language. They crafted a special hand-held antenna that could be pointed at the Station as it flew overhead (Don’t they have enough antennas already??), and with some help from Mermaid’s Electrical Engineer Sergiy, they got it working. They are also keen to speak with Peggy Whitson from Iowa, and we imagine our Russian-speaking friends on Vigilance may want to speak to the three cosmonauts on ISS.

A few emails to NASA (Kenneth Ransome at JSC Houston) got them the orbital transit times for our part of the world, and they were ready.

Marika and Sue held the antenna, Dave marked the transit times and azimuths (armed with Bryan’s green laser pointer), Tom manned the radio, and Rod-io supervised. Quite a crowd gathered for the 12:34 AM event, probably the largest congregation ever seen on the Mermaid’s bridge after midnight. Doc Pam was available (i.e., asleep in her cabin) in the event of injury. The Media Team was on hand to record the event, and a crowd of rubber-neckers hovered. It was probably just like waiting for Amelia on the Itasca!

As the transit began, Tom started his calls. “NA1SS” is the U.S. Amateur Radio Call Sign for the International Space Station. “NYØV” i s Tom’s call sign. “Maritime Mobile” identifies us as aboard a ship on the high seas. “Region 3” is the ITU (International Telecom Union) region of the world we are in, as agreed by international treaty.

Sadly, Tom’s calls were not answered, and we were all disappointed. Maybe the astronauts were asleep? Maybe they were afraid to be asked to teach a SEA School? Anyway, the Station will pass overhead regularly, and our Hams will try again.

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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 22

Central Pacific Edition

Class in Session

A New Meaning to “Distance Learning”

Our first direct contact with remote explorers was a success! Kathy Lamont and 14 of her gifted 5th graders from Antietam Elementary in Woodbridge, Virginia chatted with us via some complicated radio maneuvers. The equipment on board Vigilance communicated via HF (high frequency) radio link to a station on the Big Island of Hawaii; from there a system called “Echo Link” piped the audio onto the internet, and Kathy was able to receive it on her phone.

As prep for the talk, the kids had watched some of the videos from the Nauticos site, read articles and created a graphic about what they learned so they could share with the class. Some of the questions they asked us were:

“What does the REMUS 6000 run on?”

“Where did the AE doll go on the REMUS?”

“How far from land are you?”

Though it was admittedly a little hard to hear the kids, Tom gave excellent responses expanding on the answers: REMUS is powered by batteries; the AE doll rode in the battery compartment; and the nearest populated land (Tarawa) is about 600 nautical miles from us. Kathy told us, “I was impressed with how quiet my kids were. I told them the audio would be low so they’d need to be quiet, and they were. I got a few raised eyebrows with the answers, which was cute. When we were done a few kids said, ‘That was cool!’ which is fun to hear from 11 year olds just listening to audio.” A big thank you to Gary Belcher (KH6GMP) on the big island in Hawaii who helped the radio guys set up the connection.

Tonight at around midnight the radio guys will turn their antenna to the sky as they hope to make contact with the ISS (International Space Station) for a few minutes as they whiz overhead.

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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 21

Central Pacific Edition

Hemispherical Swim

A Cap’n Joe Sea Story

I had an interesting day last year working the far reaches of the Pacific tending tsunami buoys, and I thought I’d share it with you guys as you’ve known me since Moby Dick was a guppy. Well, like most plans at sea (and I suspect on land as well – but I can’t really remember), our idea for the customary, mortifying and abusing ceremony of crossing the Equator (for the Pollywogs on board) and the transiting of the International Dateline (for the wannabe Dragons) did not work out.

Here’s what happened: Instead of the humiliating aforementioned ritual – which definitely puts most sailors off their feed for a day or so – we decided to go for a swim. Not just any swim but a swim for the record books! At least for our recorded ship’s log book. The “plan” was to station our research vessel exactly at the 180 degree line and the Equator; thus, a lap around the vessel would allow a swimmer to travel from the Eastern Hemisphere to the Western and from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern. This would also take us from one day to the next (crossing the Dateline) and from winter to summer. We all thought this a capital idea and the timing was perfect as we were to be at this point at about 1200 UTC [Coordinated Universal Time – ed.] to further add to the allure. This can only be done at two places on earth and we figured that not many sailors have ever done it.

The crew and clients were all mustered at the Baltic door (an opening in the hull to allow access to the sea for pilot boats) on the main deck located just abaft of the beam to starboard. We set up a shark watch – an important thing in these waters. Everyone had a swimsuit on, except me – I had only some cut off dungarees – and we were just awaiting 2nd Mate Steve at the helm to get the vessel into final position for the swim. When Steve called over the radio saying we were “Here,” I, being senior man on deck, stood back a couple of fathoms from the opened Baltic door and paced briskly athwart ships and did (from what I was told later) an admirable dive for an ole sea dog into the Pacific Ocean. I was followed closely by R.W. (Rough Water) Watkins, one of our clients. He’s from Louisiana and he’s a good guy for a back deck bayou buoy boy; but I digress.

Photo of the Day — Sue Morris

We surfaced from the dive and were immediately swept forward. The current was brutal. It looked like we were steaming at about 5 knots with an old Evinrude outboard with a bad carburetor attached to our backsides. We weren’t prepared for this. I was treading water, which I’ve been accused of before but it took on new meaning.

I hailed the gang at the Baltic door telling them not to go in the water. Thank goodness they didn’t but they did not react to a potential rescue situation either – it being after all a historic swim. The ship’s bo’s’n, Paulie, finally determined that R.W. and I were indeed somewhat in distress and fastened a line around himself, jumped in and swam after us. He looked like a large Mark Spitz in the water with his long hair streaming astern and we were some happy that he had taken action. Old Paulie got to R.W. and me just as the line he was towing came to the bitter end. I managed to tie a bowline and made it fast to my left wrist. R.W. was ahead of me and he managed to hold on as the deck crew was now mobilized to haul us back to the Jacobs ladder.

All the while this scene was unfolding, deckhand Mikey was prattling on about life lines, buoys, radios, life jackets, etc. We call him Alligator Man – because he’s all mouth and no ears. I darn near let go of the line and set back adrift rather than listen to his drivel. It took a while and some hard work on the crew’s part, but we finally made it aboard , unceremoniously, I can assure you. The crew, except for Alligator Man, knew better than to say anything except “You O.K., Joe?”

“Finestkind,” I would reply. I proceeded to the wheelhouse and relieved Steve so he could go swimming after we turned the vessel side-to the current. R.W. brought me a cup of coffee with a knowing smile, and I said “Good day to be at at sea, by golly!”

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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 20

Central Pacific Edition

Target Practice

How the Sonar Guys Tell a Sweet Spot from a Rock

target not-targetThe Ops Center was abuzz the other evening with great interest in some new contacts imaged by the REMUS. After days of nothing, we can all be excused for getting pretty excited over a tiny bright spot on the screen! But how do the sonar dudes distinguish an interesting target, worth spending time to investigate, from an interesting pile of rocks? Well, they know that a “good” target has some special characteristics:

Size – The general size of the object is one thing. This can be measured on the sonar by a process called mensuration, which accounts for all of the geometric and speed distortions in the image.

Debris Field – Most catastrophic losses produce a debris field of some size. Sometimes there are secondary effects that disturb the bottom, like downblast waves, current vortexes (changing the bottom as currents move around the object), and the seepage of fluids or corrosion products from wreckage.

Reflectivity – Man-made objects tend to be significantly more reflective than naturally occurring materials. This has to do with several things, including the hardness and consistency of the material. For example a sheet of steel will have better reflectivity than a mound of steel. A long object (like a submarine hull) may echo much stronger if it lies parallel to the path of the sonar than if it were perpendicular to it. Also, an object that has some relief from the bottom may reflect more strongly, like a ridge compared to a flat rock. Other more subtle effects can arise from “resonant cavities”; with certain sonar frequencies, 55-gallon drums look like much bigger targets.

Geometric Patterns – Man-made objects tend to exhibit geometric patterns in the acoustic signature. Straight lines, right angles, parallel lines, etc…

Shadows – Man-made objects tend to have sharp, crisp shadows associated with them. Naturally occurring features tend to erode over time and therefore have fuzzy shadows.

We also consider the surrounding environment. Geology can mask a target, but often we are looking for something that is inconsistent with the trend of local geology, or standing out all by itself.

There is a lot of art and experience in this process. We are trying to pick a (hopefully) strong signal (our target) out of a highly variable noise environment ( random electronic noise, acoustic noise, biological noise, geology, vehicle stability, etc). The operators are constantly trying to tune the system correctly for the conditions so that the target will stand out against the background.

Finally, natural objects can look man-made … we see this in nature all the time. Piles of manganese nodules and volcanic rock can be highly reflective and take on suggestive shapes. We don’t want to waste time diving on a pile of rocks, but we don’t want to miss the real thing!



In recognition of International Women’s Day, all women on Mermaid Vigilance are granted 24- hrs. shore leave. Enjoy!

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Bryan McCoy, Tom Vinson, and Rod Blocksome pose with the REMUS AUV

Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 19

Central Pacific Edition

CARC Tackles Amelia

Rockwell Collins Engineers Help Solve the Mystery

As I look back on Rockwell Collins’ participation in the Earhart Discovery project I cannot believe it has been 18 years in passing. In October 1998 Collins Radio was then a division of Rockwell International. That’s when I received a phone call from my Defense Communications Vice President, Bob Chuisano, asking me if the Collins Amateur Radio Club (CARC) would like to take a look at the HF (high frequency) communications of Amelia Earhart’s last flight. Bob knew I was president of the Club. The guidance he provided was that all engineering labor would be on a voluntary basis, but that the Club could use the Company’s assets including computers and software.

At that time Nauticos thought that we might need one to three hours to be able to tell if she was headed towards or away from the island. By February 1999 we were on our journey. None of us could have anticipated what was going to occur over the years to follow!

I started by calling up the hams (amateur radio enthusiasts) that I knew in the HF communications area to see if they would like to participate in an Earhart communications analysis. My first call was to our HF Systems guru, Rod Blocksome (KØDAS). And it grew from there. The initial team included:

Bryan McCoy, Tom Vinson, and Rod Blocksome pose with the REMUS AUV
Bryan McCoy, Tom Vinson, and Rod Blocksome pose with the REMUS AUV

Tom Vinson (NYØV): Program Management, Advanced Data Links.

Rod Blocksome (KØDAS): HF Systems.

Dan Roesler (WDØHOJ): HF Propagation.

Roger Hatcher (WBØOMY): Antenna Design & Modeling.

Charley Snodgrass (KCØCD): Avionics Software, Navigation.

Don Grimm (WAØWJM): Avioncs, Navigation.

After I handed out the ship’s logs and the team convened to study the Earhart communications their first response was “It can’t be done!” I recall that I said “So that’s it? We go back to Nauticos and tell them it can’t be done?” Their answer was “Well, let’s think about it some more.” What was encouraging to me is how the team changed our thinking about the problem. We set aside the idea that it was impossible and instead asked “If it were possible, how would we do it?” That led us to start reviewing what information we knew and what we did not know. And for the information we did not know, how could we obtain it?

That is how we ended up recording simulated Amelia transmissions, finding an AR-60 (CGR-32) receiver in New York and driving there for tests. Driving to Canada for radio tests. Flying out over the Atlantic off Cocoa Beach at 1,000 feet altitude in the Rockwell Collins Cessna 206… twice. Traveling to the Pima Air Museum in Tucson to measure the L10A’s antenna impedance and conduct visibility analysis. And we cannot forget creating field tests on a 1/12th scale model Electra in an Iowa cow pasture and with a Beech 18 Tri-gear in Ankeny, Iowa to measure the antenna pattern on a cold 7 degree day in winter.

That three hour “look” became over 4,000 engineering hours involving over twenty radio amateurs from all across the country, two expeditions, over 180 STEM educational presentations, and 18 years. And we’d do it all over again if given the choice.

— Tom Vinson

Operations Update

It’s Groundhog Day. Another successful launch, REMUS flawlessly collecting sonar imagery, and a safe and uneventful recovery. Whether it happens to be the middle of the day or the middle of the night, it makes no difference. We don’t take for granted the skill and professionalism of all those on the deck, the crane, and the bridge that is tested every time. We can look forward to Groundhog Week just ahead.

The re-supply mission is on! Having experienced problems in past missions that required us to return to port, we made plans this time to have critical items brought to us if needed. We have had some unusual flooding of glass spheres used for transponder flotation. Though we have a working supply and continue to operate, we have chartered a vessel from Honolulu to bring more transponders and glass spheres out to us to ensure we can continue to survey at top efficiency. The sailing vessel Machias, an 82 foot schooner normally engaged in top tier vacation charters, will take a cargo delivery job for us. The ship is preparing for sea now in Honolulu, and will take about 9 days to reach us. We’ll be looking for her on or about March 21st.

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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 18

Special Itasca Edition

Tropical Tribune

tropical-tribuneMermaid Vigilance was not the first vessel to have a daily newspaper. Meridian Passages was published on the R/V Mount Mitchell and an earlier incarnation on the R/V Davidson in previous Amelia search expeditions. But the tradition of a ship’s newspaper goes way back. In fact, the Coast Guard Cutter Itasca, the vessel waiting for Amelia Earhart in July, 1937, published a paper with a hauntingly familiar theme. Reprinted here (with errors intact) is the June 29th, 1937 Evening Edition of the Tropical Tribune, from Howland Island, just days before the famous flyer disappeared. The tongue-in cheek humor is made poignant by the retrospective knowledge that the special guest they are waiting for will never arrive.

— editor.


Balta Bitchell’s Column

Miss Lotta Gall, Dean of Bassar, swank eastern college for women is credited for the script of welcoming musical pageant at Howland Island in anticipation of Ladybird Earhart. When questioned by a T.T scribe, she coyly admitted a primal urge to pioneer over dangerous air or water routes but her duties as dean prevented this chance of escape from a humdrum existence – however feeling the throes of composition stirring within her conceived and wrote the playlet recently published by the Pollywog paper. In a sudden burst of confidence she acknowledged that DONALD DUCK was the creator of the musical scores and blushingly admitted “that they were that way about each other.”

Sgt. Thacher, U.S.A. BATTLES MANEATING SHARK. “No Fish Story”

3 pts. off Starboard Bow, ITASCA.

shellbackEarly this afternoon Sgt. Thacher cast his line over the side using as a bait 2 pounds of raw meat and was very shortly rewarded with a terrific yank on his line. Thacher was pulled half way through [the] life chain before he was seized by quick witted Oscar Yoos and hauled back to safety. Slater Royal Police Chief saved the Sgt’s haul by quickly tying the line around the capstan. The fish was so large and powerful and made such a noise pounding against the ship’s sides that all the watch standers were awakened and hurried to the top sides. Steam was requested via bridge for the capstan to pull the fish in but was immediately belayed when Battling Perry, the “ ____ where angels fear to tread” struck the huge monster of the deep squarely b-tween eyes with a 8 pound bivit*. At this juncture of the proceedings James feinted [sic] and was dragged from the scene of conflict.

* We don’t know what the heck a “bivit” is. – M.P. ed.

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Packard muscles his way in the low post

Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 17

Central Pacific Edition

Hoops Showdown

Vigilance Victorious in Central Pacific B-Ball Challenge

Packard muscles his way in the low post
Packard muscles his way in the low post

The Mermaid Vigilance All-Star Team of Ikhsan “Shark Attack” O’Neil, Mardan “Blue Bear” Jordan, and Noe “El Capitán” Rodman streaked to victory today in a much anticipated and hotly contested matchup at the Aft Deck Arena. The undefeated visiting HooeyKnots may have suffered from overconfidence, as “Layup” Lorraine, “Not Michael” Jourdan, and “Pick & Roll” Packard could not match the scrappy play of the hometown favorites.

Mardan fakes Lorraine out of her sneakers
Mardan fakes Lorraine out of her sneakers

Lorraine scored first, and a second basket by Packard gave the ‘Knots an early lead. But it was not to last, as the All Stars kept up he pressure and soon took control. Coach “Spider” King called a timeout and pretended to draw up a play, hoping to trick his opponents into thinking the ‘Knots knew what they were doing. The tactic failed as the home team schooled them in what “home court advantage” means.

Jourdan drives in for another missed layup
Jourdan drives in for another missed layup

They cleverly bounced the ball off vent covers, railings, and even off the spectators to the frustration of the visitors, and finished off the “Knots with an 8-5 score. The record low tally was attributed to a particularly nasty swell and (face it) profoundly poor shooting as both teams missed repeatedly from point blank range.

Victorious All Stars name Mardan Jordan MVP
Victorious All Stars name Mardan Jordan MVP

In defeat, the HooeyKnots and their fans stood at center court and sang their chosen song of hope and redemption, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to the quizzical looks of the Mermaid fans.

In a post-game interview, ‘Knots power forward Jourdan attributed the outcome to bad coaching, improper ball inflation, and incompetent officiating. HooeyKnot fans were clearly not pleased; one complained the referee was dishonest. There was no comment from the league, though referee Joe “Popeye” Litchfield said in his opinion the HooeyKnots were a “bunch of half-witted high tide clam diggers.”

Jourdan blames coach and refs for loss
Jourdan blames coach and refs for loss

Noe “El Capitán” Rodman praised his teammates and graciously gave the HooeyKnots credit for a good effort and nice hair. Meanwhile, rumors swirled around accusations that some inducement was offered to the referee to “keep it fair.” The source went on to say he threw the money back after the game saying something about it was “not enough.”

What’s next for the HooeyKnots? Will there be a rematch? Will free agent Lorraine hold out for a bigger contract and a supply of styrofoam cups? Will Packard be traded for transponder floats? The coming weeks will tell.

In the end, we all were winners and make a great team
In the end, we all were winners and make a great team!

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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 16

Central Pacific Edition

Living History

Carl Panhorst, Itasca Helmsman

Carl-Panhorst_Tom-Vinson_Rod-BlocksomeIn June 2005, a documentary program on our Earhart project aired on the Travel Channel. After seeing that program, Rose Pierson contacted Nauticos about her father Rufus and her Uncle Carl Panhorst being crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Itasca during Amelia Earhart’s flight July 2, 1937. A few days later Tom Vinson and I placed a call to Carl.

Carl started the interview b y emphatically stating “Well, let me tell you boys something – I’m 91 years old and still have all my marbles.” I looked at Tom and we both knew this was going to be good.

Carl related how he was a crewman on Itasca that fateful day when Amelia Earhart disappeared somewhere near Howland Island. He had galley duty that morning and had to stay behind on the ship while all his mates went ashore to assist with Earhart’s anticipated landing on Howland. So when Carl finished in the galley, he went up and stood on deck outside the open hatch to the radio room and listened to Earhart’s radio transmissions.

We were incredulous at this tale unfolding over the phone for we realized we were most likely speaking to the last person alive to have heard those radio transmissions. Tom asked Carl a few more questions. Then, as Carl was describing the search activities of the Itasca, he said “I’ve got pictures too!”

“You do?!” I asked.


At this point I knew we had to visit Carl, so I asked “Can we come out and see you?”

“Sure …. I’m not going any place” was Carl’s response.

About 10-days later, I’m in Minneapolis attending my youngest son’s second college graduation ceremony when Tom called and said he has a business trip to Arizona in two days . Quickly he changed his ticket to leave a day early with a stop in Salt Lake City, Utah. I commandeered one of the college computers and quickly booked a ticket. After the graduation, it was a fast trip home to pack a bag and run to the airport.

On the way home, I stopped long enough to buy a video camera and a portable scanner to take along. I arrived at Salt Lake City on time, collected my bag and met Tom. We caught the shuttle bus to the hotel.

It’s deja vu all over again: the hotel is on Amelia Earhart Drive. In fact, we eat supper in the Amelia Grill at the nearby Holiday Inn.

The next morning, Carl’s niece Rose Pierson with her mother Marie, picked us up and we drove an hour to Carl’s house in Provo.

We were welcomed by Carl and Wanda, his wife of 65 years, their two sons, Dan and Chuck and Dan’s wife Hilda. Lee Benson, a reporter from the Desert News was also there. It was an atmosphere of high anticipation. Tom and I explained a just bit about our project but withheld details until after we interviewed Carl as we wanted his recollections untainted by what we think. Carl re-iterated what he told us on the telephone earlier: He’s over 90, has all his marbles, doesn’t wear hearing aids, nor does he wear glasses (never did). I also observed he didn’t need a cane to get around the house. This was even more remarkable after we learned what happened to him in WWII.

We videotaped the interview with Carl for nearly 2 hours then took a break for juice and muffins. During the break and with my video tape recorder off (unfortunately), I casually asked Carl if he stayed in the Coast Guard or what he did in the years afterward.His reply was “No, I got out and got a job with the US Postal Service in Los Angles.” “But then the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor and I got drafted.” This grabbed my attention and I asked “So where did you serve – In the Pacific?”

helm“No, I was in the Army Infantry and was sent to Europe” “And where in Europe?” I asked “Oh, I was all over….. I was in the battle of the Hurtgen Forest and was wounded there.” I asked how it happened.

Carl very nonchalantly replied “Well we were dug-in and the Germans were shelling us for two days. At one point a shell landed near a fellow in a nearby foxhole and severely wounded him. We could hear him screaming in pain so I says to my buddy ‘We’re probably going to get it next. We might just as well be doing something useful when it happens, so let’s go get him’!

“So we jump out of our hole, run over and pick him up and we’re carrying him back to the medics when a shell burst behind us. The next thing I remember is lying on the ground with a blanket over my face. I started yelling ‘I’m alive…. I’m alive!’ A medic came over and pulled the blanket off me. I had shrapnel wounds in my shoulders and back and spent the next 9 months in hospitals.”

I thought to myself “What a tough guy (and lucky) to be wounded so badly in his youth and yet walk around at age 91 without even the use of a cane.” Meeting people like Carl Panhorst and hearing their remarkable stories is one of the most fascinating aspects of the Earhart Project. Carl passed away on Jan. 6, 2008 at age 93. It was both an honor and privilege to have known this great man.

— Rod Blocksome

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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 15

Central Pacific Edition

Thanks to hard work and good performance by REMUS OPS, we are being treated to some amazing imagery from the bottom of the ocean. A particularly dramatic example of what is probably an undersea landslide is shown here. Several sonar passes were made over this area with each swath overlapping. After the REMUS collected the data, Jeff merged it together with navigation to make a mosaic, yielding the composite image shown here.

undersea-landslideTo get an idea of the scale of this feature, the spacing between the light stripes running across the scene is 1,100 meters (0.6 nm). That makes the pile of rubble at the top of the screen about a half mile across. The stripes represent the nadir of the sonar (line directly below) where imagery is poor. We overlap swaths to be sure to cover everything.

As interesting as this terrain is, we are hoping to avoid a lot of rough bottom, as crevices and craters can hide our target. Also, steep ridges can be a hazard for the AUV as we try to skim the sonar just off the bottom. However, we must take what the sea will give us, and these topographic features are not only interesting, but provide some geographic “tie points” to help us assess our navigation accuracy and to ensure we line up with older data. Fortunately, the vast majority of the seafloor in this region is quite flat and featureless, and the Electra should stand out clearly when we image it.

Operations Summary

Mission 007 concluded yesterday morning and Mission 008 started after a swift turnaround. Two notable improvements were achieved. The battery pack service life was extended to permit more lane coverage per mission, meaning more survey time available. And the on deck service interval was reduced by a significant amount, meaning more survey time available. All of this speaks well for the teamwork that is evident out here. Well done everyone!

S/V Sauvage Arrival Imminent:

The meeting at sea of the sailing vessel Sauvage and Mermaid Vigilance is planned for Sunday. A personnel transfer by small boat will occur in which explorer Alan Eustace will join the team and participate in the mission for a number of days. Alan has come all the way from California to be with us. Be sure to welcome him aboard.

We’ll also host a visitor, Nino Wattrelot, crewmember of Sauvage and licensed engineer in the megayacht industry. He asked for a tour of the Mermaid and to have a look at the technology we use. A lifelong sailor, Nino was raised on sailing yachts. He has traveled extensively around the Pacific. You are encouraged to chat with Nino – just remember security at all times, “You are not free to discuss details of the operation.”

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