U.S. ships search South Pacific for Earhart

July 07, 1937
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HONOLULU, July 7, 1937 (UP) - The battleship Colorado, carrying three swift airplanes, was steaming at top speed today toward the Phoenix Islands to search in a new area of the South Pacific for Amelia Earhart and Captain Frederick Noonan.

The Colorado was scheduled to reach Winslow Bank, on the north edge of the Phoenix group of small coral reefs and volcanic deposits, at 10:30 P.M. New York time today.

From this narrow line of shoals, if daylight and visibility permit, Captain Friedell, the Colorado's commander, plans to catapult his planes and launch the search immediately. Winslow Bank is 280 miles southeast of Howland Island, where Miss Earhart planned to land last Friday afternoon on her attempt to fly around the world in her $80,000 "Flying Laboratory."

The Colorado planes, two-seaters, have a cruising range of 200 miles from the mother ship. Captain Friedell planned to deploy them spokewise from the ship.

Also converging on the Phoenix Islands were the Coast Guard cutter Itasca and the Navy mine sweeper Swan. The British freighter Moorby was forced to give up the search because of fuel shortage.

Speeding to the rescue in addition were the airplane carrier Lexington, with sixty planes aboard, and four destroyers. They were due in the vicinity of the Phoenix Islands this week-end. When they arrive the complement of the searching party will include ten ships and 4,000 men. The Lexington is due at Pearl Harbor tomorrow to refuel.

"We will have made a thorough search of the northern Phoenix group by Friday," Captain Friedell said. "Then, if the search has brought no results, we will proceed to Howland."

Naval headquarters said that it did not plan to send planes directly from this base to the Howland Island vicinity. One seaplane sought to make the 1,800-mile flight Saturday, but was turned back 400 miles short of its goal by a sleet storm.

Additional reports, were received on the mainland today-from amateur radio operators-purporting to give information from or about the lost fliers, Charles Miguel, Oakland amateur who reported he heard signals Saturday and yesterday on Miss Earhart's wave length, said he picked up another message at 10:30 A. M. (New York time) today.

This message, in a feeble voice which Miguel could have been from either a man or woman, was :--"NRUI-NRUI-KHAQQ calling...on coral reef southwest of unknown island...do not know how long ...we are OK."

The message faded out, sputtering, Miguel said.

George Putnam, Miss Earhart's husband, placed no faith in this report. Navy and Coast Guard officials were skeptical.

NRUI is the call of the cutter Itasca. KHAQQ is the call of Miss Earhart's plane.

Another message, which officials said read like a fortune teller's prediction, was received at Oakland Airport from George Huxford, Washington. It said:

"Amelia landed exhausted small boat small reef fifty miles southwest of Howland. She was weak. Portable radio, food and water, but hardly strength use them. She will be rescued alive by ship, probably Japanese, and taken to Howland. Noonan not with her. Confirmation coming tomorrow."

Mr. Putnam said he did not know Huxford. He placed no credence in the message. Coast Guard and Navy officials also doubted its authenticity.

Mr. Putnam remained in seclusion at the home of a friend in San Francisco.

Five radio amateurs reported that they heard rippling signals this morning on the wave length assigned to Miss Earhart's plane. They said the signals-on a carrier wave-sounded as if they were powered by a motor generator.

Two of the amateurs were Honolulu men, two were in Los Angeles and one was in Whittier, Cal.

From Howland Island also came reports that new distress signals had been heard-signals that indicated that the flier was trying desperately to guide rescuers to her position.

The Itasca, which had been surveying the area around Howland Island since Saturday in the hope of finding some trace of the "Flying Laboratory," reported to headquarters that new directional bearings had been obtained.

Those indicated that Miss Earhart had been flashing SOS signals from a line running south-southwest or north-northwest of the island. Coast Guardsmen said this line coincided with the last position report broadcast by the flier before she and Captain Noonan disappeared.

Previous signals came on the same line, but those in charge of the search then believed that they indicated Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan went down in an area about 281 miles north and west of Howland Island. That section was searched for nearly twenty-four hours, however, by three ships. Now the search had been turned southward.

Transfer of the search to the area south of Howland Island cheered Putnam, who, in messages from San Francisco, had urged such a course.

Mr. Putnam is convinced that Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan landed short of their goal rather than beyond it. He believes strong winds threw them slightly off course and used up so much fuel that an emergency landing was necessary.

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