TIGHAR Earhart Project Expeditions

NIKU I: September/October 1989
  • Vessel: M/V Pacific Nomad, 115 ft dive excursion vessel
  • Port of Embarkation: Suva, Fiji
  • Destination: Nikumaroro (formerly Gardner Island) and McKean Island, uninhabited islands in the Phoenix Group, Republic of Kiribati.
  • Operations: General survey and evaluation of islands as possible landing sites of the Earhart flight.
  • Artifacts Recovered: McKean Island – nothing. Nikumaroro – several pieces of aircraft debris found in abandoned Gilbertese village at west end.
  • Results: McKean Island eliminated. Nikumaroro identified as worthy of further investigation.

See TIGHAR Tracks Volume 5, #3; Volume 5, #4; Volume 5, #5 for details.

NIKU II: October/November 1991

  • Vessel: R/V Acania, 125 ft research vessel.
  • Port of Embarkation: Honolulu, Hawai’i
  • Destination: Nikumaroro
  • Operations: Side-scan sonar search of atoll perimeter. Onshore search of eastern beach area for possible campsite reported seen in 1944. Excavation of small grave on southern arm of atoll. Further examination of abandoned village at west end.
  • Artifacts Recovered: Sonar search negative. Search for campsite negative. Grave found to contain bones of an infant. Remnants of shoes found near grave site. Additional aircraft debris found in village.
  • Results: Shoe remnants are consistent with shoes worn by Earhart. Some aircraft debris is consistent with WWII B-24 (probably brought from Sydney Island). Other aircraft debris is not consistent with any known WWII type and is consistent with Earhart’s Lockheed Model 10E Special.

See TIGHAR Tracks Volume 7, #4; Volume 7, #5; Volume 8, #1 for details.

Solomons Research: December 1995
  • Vessel: open launch
  • Port of Embarkation: Gizo Island, Solomon Islands
  • Destination: Waghena Island, Solomon Islands
  • Operations: Interview former residents of Nikumaroro. (Nikumaroro was originally settled by Gilbertese islanders under British authority in late 1938. The colony was abandoned and the residents resettled to the Solomon Islands in 1963.)
  • Results: The people’s folklore includes a story that the first work party on Nikumaroro in 1938 found the bones of a white man and woman, identifiable as such from the remnants of clothing and shoes they wore.

See the full report of this expedition: Solomon Islands Research.
See TIGHAR Tracks articles about this expedition: Solomon Islands Expedition

NIKU III Preliminary, Jan., Feb. 1996
  • Vessel: M/V Matagi Princess II, 85 ft. dive excursion vessel.
  • Port of Embarkation: Taveuni, Fiji
  • Destination: Nikumaroro
  • Operations: Update logistical data in preparation for NIKU III. Try again to locate campsite on eastern beach with help of newly acquired photographic evidence.
  • Artifacts Recovered: Additional aircraft components from abandoned village.
  • Results: Logistical data gathered. Search for campsite successful, but site proved to be associated with the Gilbertese settlement. Additional artifacts found in village are consistent with Earhart's aircraft.

See TIGHAR Tracks articles about this expedition: The Niku III Preliminary Expedition, Preliminary Findings, Part Number 40552.

NIKU III: February/March 1997

See TIGHAR Tracks articles about this expedition: Hell & High Water, Completing the Puzzle, I Saw Pieces of an Airplane, Back to Square One for 2-2-V-1.

The Kanton Mission: February 1998
  • Vessel: Chartered Gulfstream 1 Turbo-prop corporate aircraft
  • Port of Embarkation: Honolulu, Hawai’i
  • Destination: Kanton Island, Republic of Kiribati
  • Operations: See The Kanton Mission

See TIGHAR Tracks articles about this expedition: The Pilots Thought I was Nuts, Ate Another MRE

NIKU IIIIP: July 1999

Fiji Bone Search I: July 1999

Niku IIII: September 2001

Niku VP: July/August 2003

Fiji Bone Search II: July 2003

Niku V: July/August 2007
  • See Niku V for full details.

Niku VI: May/June 2010
  • See Niku VI for full details. To read the report to the Phoenix Islands Protection Area Committee, including artifact reports, click HERE.

Fiji Bone Search III: May 7 – 22, 2011
  • The search of the Colonial War Memorial Hospital and other sites in Suva, Fiji, for the bones discovered by Gallagher and sent to Fiji for identification. See Fiji III Final Report.

Solomons Research II: August 2011
  • From August 20-30, 2011, John Clauss, Nancy Farrell, Karl Kern, Baoro Laxton Koraua and Gary F. Quigg, of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) conducted a research expedition in the Solomon Islands consisting of oral history interviews with former residents of Nikumaroro Island (Kiribati) as well as a thorough examination of relevant archival materials in the Solomon Islands National Archives. See Solomons Islands Research.

Niku VII: June/July 2012
  • On July 3, 2012 – the 75th anniversary of the U.S.S. Colorado’s departure to search for Earhart – TIGHAR’s Niku VII expedition sailed from Honolulu to conduct a search for the Earhart Electra in the waters adjacent to Nikumaroro. Click HERE for more details.

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