A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2014 Dec 21, 12:23 -0800
Jackson, you wrote:
"Am I the only who thinks the obsession with Amelia Earhart's tragic disappearance and death borders on morbid voyerism?"
First, I will say that the phrase "borders on morbid voyeurism" borders on undecipherable. I'm not sure what 'morbid voyeurism' would be in this case, and I'm not sure whether you've made any real statement here anyway since you're hedging your bets by saying 'borders on'. Know what I mean? :)
Certainly the obsession of some folks with the Earhart mystery qualifies as a literal obsession, and in fact, I would say that this is the point of this latest "meta" story in Smithsonian magazine. It's not about the mystery per se; it's a summary of the latest news and half-news from the world of the sometimes obsessive investigators. The article in my reading suggests a degree of impatience with the whole game.
Improbable deaths and unsolved disapperances are some of the best mysteries in the world. We're all attracted to them to one degree or another. The unique interest any one person finds in a particular case usually, in my estimation, hinges on whether there appears to be any real mystery to that specific person. In other words, if I look at the death of Marilyn Monroe (Sam mentioned that case) and see nothing interesting and nothing mysterious, then I find the fascination of those who obsess over the case rather bizarre, fanatic, and pointless. On the other hand, when investigators/archeologists recently dug up the bones of King Richard III under a parking lot in England and performed endless scientific tests on those bones and the trace remnants of DNA that they contained, I took great interest in the story because there were some mysteries and myths that could be cleared up by the results of that scientific analysis. Others found the whole business closer to grave desecration. Similarly in the case of Amelia Earhart, scientific analysis may, eventually, help to clarify what went wrong and of course it has the potential to convert a mystery surrounded by innumerable quack theories into a solved "closed case" for most rational people --but we are not there yet.
As for NavList, all discussions of the celestial navigation methods employed by Noonan and Earhart are obviously one hundred percent on-topic and welcome. No doubt about it. This is well-established by years of collective consensus. Discussions of related technical topics, like for example the flight characteristics of her Lockheed Electra, are normally on-topic since they directly affect the success of the navigation aboard the aircraft. When we begin discussing other aspects of Amelia Earhart's and Fred Noonan's lives and deaths, we are at that point "one step removed" from the main focus of NavList, but it has been traditional here that we don't worry too much when conversations have drifted one step from the original focus. Occasionally discussions among NavList members drift further afield. For example, a conversation might start with Fred Noonan's celestial navigation, then turn to Fred Noonan's flying background, and then drift to a general discussion of Pacific aviation in the 1930s. At that point, the discussion is "two steps removed" from the original navigation and, as a rule of thumb, that's when it's time to shut it down, take it to private email, or bring it back to navigation --the principal topic of NavList interest and discussion.
Each member of NavList comes to this group with a common general interest, but we have widely divergent special interests. This is normal. There's nothing wrong with a difference of opinion over those specialty topics. For example, some members are fascinated by artificial horizon construction. Others find that topic dull. Some members love lunars. Other members consider lunars irrelevant to a modern navigator. The list is long. And if we all had to agree on the exact list of topics that are permitted for NavList discussion, we would quickly discover that there is almost nothing that would make the cut. But the solution to this disparity of interests is simple. It's also obvious, and I hope no one will be offended by its "obvious-ness". If a topic doesn't interest you, please feel free to ignore it. Either don't read it at all, or skim quickly, roll your eyes, and move on. On the other hand, I also think it's important to speak up if any one topic has been labored for too long, and certainly speak up if a topic is "two steps removed" from the topic of traditional navigation. It's a balancing act: respect each other's special interests and different attitudes and respect each other's impatience with some topics. Obvious? Sure. But worth remembering.
Conanicut Island USA