Forum artHighlights From the Forum

September 1 through 8, 2001

(click on the number to go directly to that message)
1 Report From the Expedition, Day 2 Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher
2 Lamb Experiment Roger Smith
3 Time Zones Stuart Allsop
4 Report From the Expedition, Day 3 Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher
5 Divine Providence Doug Brutlag
6 Report From the Expedition, Day 4 Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher
7 Report From the Expedition, Day 5 Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher
8 Island vs. Atoll Marjorie Smith
9 Report From the Expedition, Day 6 Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher
10 Surviving Electras Herman De Wulf
11 Report From the Expedition, Day 7 Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher
12 Tatiman Passage Roger Kelley
13 A Question From Ric for the Forum Pat Thrasher
14 Answers to a Question From Ric for the Forum Roger Kelley, Randy Jacobson
15 Report From the Expedition, Day 8 Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher
16 Report From the Expedition, Day 9 Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

Message: 1
Subject: Report From the Expedition, Day 2
Date: 9/1/01
From: Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

Yesterday's work continued setup and logistical arrangements, and began the process of defining the problems.

Everyone went ashore except the Dive Team (who were diving) and Bill, who was getting over his cold. This was not Bill's choice; Ric and Jim ganged up on him and insisted that he not over-extend himself this early in the expedition. With luck he will be rarin' to go tomorrow.

The first task was to locate the grave sites. Grave three was fairly easy to find, and after examining it and doing a small-scale preliminary excavation it's quite certain that it is a grave. There are signs of a ring of small coral rocks arranged around it – definitely human intervention. There may be another grave nearby, and the remains of a Gilbertese house; if so, the possibility is raised that this was part of the village, with family members interred on the property as is the custom.

However, Grave 3 has a different orientation than the other possible grave. It is oriented North/South, and traditional graves are always oriented East/West – which the other one is. So the possibility still remains that it is, in fact, an "outsider's" burial. Excavation will commence tomorrow.

After lots of bushwacking Grave 4 was located, some distance from the location indicated by the coordinates shot in in 1999. GPS is indeed a wonderful thing! No more hacking around in the bush, shouting back and forth, lost most of the time.

Chris Kennedy found the site, and although he was clearly audible, most of the team could not get to him directly, the scaevola was so thick; they had to go out to the beach and follow the trail he had cut in. The consensus was that this site is not a grave, but is simply a coral slab tipped up when a ren tree fell over. No more time will be spent at this site.

After lunch Ric, Tom, John, and Jim took a boat down to the Seven site, and used GPS and the satellite photograph to locate it. They found it without any trouble even though the scaevola was very heavy: they cut across from the lagoon and intercepted the top of the short "arm" of the seven, then backtracked and found the artifact site. No trace of the clearning done in 1996 remained save some tattered remnants of surveyors' tape, still faintly orange.

Something John noticed which no one else ever had was a couple of places where there were piles of clam shells. They didn't walk there, and they didn't grow there, so someone brought them there to eat. This leads to the inference of residence – if you're simply grabbing a quick snack, you don't roam back into the bush but stay down by the lagoon shore where you harvest the clams.

The Seven Site did produce the first casualty of the expedition. John was cutting his way in when he started hollering and cussing. He'd disturbed a bee's nest, and they were not happy with his presence. He was stung right on the tip of his nose. Everyone else scattered and was unstung.

Tom was very impressed with the degree of scaevola at the Seven Site. It is far thicker and more difficult to work through than he had anticipated, and that means walking a tightrope. You never want to disturb an archeological site before you set it up and search it... but you can't set up and search this site without clearing scaevola (think multiflora rose and honeysuckle and kudzu and everything else grown up lush and thick and tough) so you can see what you're doing... and clearing is a destructive process. Tom did, though, get a look at the hole from a distance of about five meters (so as not to walk about on anything delicate). He feels it's about the right size and shape to have had a skull dug out of it. Operations will commence at the Seven Site tomorrow. The Seven Site artifacts are in the NW corner of ER29. See The Seven Site Project Bulletin for more information about this site; see also Gallagher's Clues Part 2 for the full analysis.

The Dive team got a lot done. They found the diving to be not difficult at all except for the canyons, where there is a lot of surge back and forth. They were able to search the reef face along WB7 and 8, including the canyons, and found nothing. They had marked the site of the rust-colored pixels with a buoy, guiding to it with GPS and the satellite photo. When they arrived at the spot, Andrew yelled MARK and Walt looked down and said, "Yup, this is the place, there it is." "It" was a big blodge of red algae, unfortunately; from the surface (approximately 30 foot depth) it did indeed look like rust colored metal, but was not. No one was surprised; it has always seemed completely incredible to us that something metallic could survive and be visible from 300 miles up in that environment.

Some of the canyons are as much as 20 feet deep and 50 feet long. They are also pretty murky, because the surging tends to stir up the silt and sand. Walt was swimming up a particularly long one when, in the murk, he came face to face with a large black tip reef shark. It's hard to know who was scared more; both of them turned and swam hard in the opposite direction! The dive team isn't having any problems with sharks; they are seeing gray whalers, leopards, and blacktips, but so far nothing to give them any pause.

Tomorrow's plan:

The Grave team will begin the excavation of Grave Three.

The Seven Site team will begin the awesome process of clearing the area so archeological work can be done –- veeerrrrryyyy carefully, to avoid messing up the site.

The Dive team will continue to dive along the reef north of the Norwich City, and (as time allows) the ledge.

Message: 2
Subject: Lamb Experiment
Date: 9/1/01
From: Roger Smith

The report mentioned two kinds of flies on the meat so far. There's no living thing on Niku but crabs and they die in the water. How do flies live on Niku with nothing to eat or to lay eggs on? The occasional bird that might die there?


I dunno where you got your information about life on Niku. The place is dirty with wildlife – birds, rats, lizards, seven or eight different kinds of crabs, at least two of which are land crabs, and then there's the normal washup detritus any beach accumulates. Lots for flies to live on.


Message: 3
Subject: Time Zones
Date: 9/1/01
From: Stuart Allsop

This is kind of off-topic, but an interesting curiosity nevertheless. Looking at those maps, I just noticed that since the Kiribati change to the International Date Line, it is now possible to fly in a straight line (or rather, on a great circle), from French Polynesia to a point north of the Marshall Islands (or vice versa), and cross the international date line SEVEN TIMES along the way! And it would only take you a couple of hours to do it.

So, in theory, you could leave after you already arrived, cross several checkpoints both before you left and after you arrived, then end up arriving before you left!

If that doesn't confuse you about this issue, then nothing will!


Message: 4
Subject: Report From the Expedition, Day 3
Date: 9/2/01
From: Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

Each of the three teams worked separately yesterday. The Dive team continued northward along the reef face, making slow but steady progress towards the ledge. So far no results, but even that is a result.

The Grave team began excavation in earnest, and got to the 70 centimeter level by quitting time. There is no sign of bones or other remains yet (no coffin, etc.) but in 1999 a similar grave was dug to the 150cm level before anything was found, so they're only halfway.

The Seven Site team set to work clearing the search area, and a dreadful job it is. The sun is a hammer, the labor brutal, and the care needed extreme. They began clearing start at the tip of the short arm of the seven, nearest the lagoon, and got about 30 meters in on a path about 15 meters across, using the seven itself as a brush dump. This got them to the point where the shingles were found (see Gallagher's Clues Part 2 for a sketch map of the site).

They hoped to get in to the tank and to the area of the hole today, but may need to stand down for a day after that to recover before continuing on. The Seven Site artifacts are in the NW corner of ER29. See The Seven Site Project Bulletin for more information about this site.


Ric was working with the Grave team after lunch, and about 1:30 they began to hear a strange sound. At first they assumed it was the skiff with the divers, but it didn't sound right. So they went out on the beach, and of all strange sights to meet one's eyes out there: a Hughes 500 helicopter on floats coming right at them! (The Hughes 500 is a very small craft.)

The chopper obviously didn't see the gang, but circled around and landed apparently on the Nutiran mudflat. Ric raised Fritz on the radio, and asked him if he knew anything about this, but he didn't. The only way a helicopter of this small size could possibly arrive at Nikumaroro was to have made most of the journey on the deck of a ship, and sure enough, before long here comes a purse seiner over the horizon.

Fritz raised them on the radio. They were a U.S. flagged vessel called Janine, 28 days out of Pago and headed back with eleven tons of tuna in the hold. They were just stopping in, they said, to let the guys stretch their legs and maybe do a little fishing; they didn't know anything about the search or the expedition.

Fritz took the opportunity to inform them that there was a representative of the government of Kiribati aboard... and there was a long and awful silence, then some quick backtracking on the subject of fishing – "Only if we can get permission, of course." With this ace in the hole, Mr. Teuatabo helped us cut a deal. They got to do some fishing; Ric and the camera man got to go for a picture-taking ride in the helicopter. (Janine also donated three enormous tuna to the larder.)

They got stills and video of the entire island, all the approaches over the Norwich City, full views from all directions, details – everything we could possibly want. The Hughes is really a tiny thing; it has room for four people in a pinch if the back seat is in, but it's really a two place critter and anyway the back seat was not in. That didn't stop Ric, though; with a quick nod to his days in the Army, sitting in Hueys with his legs dangling out the side, he commandeered the rear bay and hung on while Mark, the cameraman, shot from the front seat. They acquired 22 minutes of fabulous aerial footage which is already dubbed onto our 8 mm digital video tape, including tape of a whale shark from 1200 feet that the pilot estimated at about 20,000 pounds. As Ric said, it was a very surreal experience; there was absolutely no way to get this sort of imagery, the logistics of setting it up would kill it before you got very far. But by purest chance, we were able to grasp the opportunity of a lifetime. Nei Manganibuka was surely looking after us!

The only downside is that the rest of the team is very seriously P.O.ed at Ric for hogging all the fun. John is especially severe on him, and indicates that there will be no sympathy nor mercy. As penance Ric was planning to join the Seven site team and clear brush today.

In general, everything is going fine. No sunburns, no dehydration, Bill's cold is much better. The steering problem is fixed, or apparently so (they won't know for sure until it's stressed); but just in case Nai'a got a large amount of hydraulic steering oil from Janine so as to be able to top off the system if it leaks again.

We can hardly wait to see what happens next.

Message: 5
Subject: Divine Providence
Date: 9/2/01
From: Doug Brutlag

Wow Pat! Talk about divine providence! I say let's add a new nickname for Ric....... Monty Hall would be appropriate (you know the, the "let's make a deal dude?) A chopper tour, hydraulic fluid, and 3 tuna. Cool! The windfall of this scenario would rank the cost of another expedition-and that doesn't include the hydralic or the fish! A fortunate turn of events indeed.

You are going to put together Niku IV--The Video for the rest of us aren't you? This I gotta see–good debt retirement material!

Hope Ric & company enjoyed some good barbequed tuna.

Doug Brutlag #2335

I suspect there will be a highlights film, yes. And forget barbecue. Can you say sashimi?


Message: 6
Subject: Expedition Report, Day 4
Date: 9/3/01
From: Ric Gillespie/Pat Thrasher

Yesterday the Dive team finished diving north of the Norwich City with no results.

The Grave team got to the one meter level, and began to see a stain consistent with some sort of interment. But the "gravestone" is aligned lengthwise along this stain, like a marker rather than a headstone. Until the excavation is finished we won't know what this signifies, but it is certainly rather odd.

The Seven site team cleared a swath from the tip of the seven closest to the lagoon to the water tank. The swath is about 10 meters wide and 100 meters long -- brutal work in the heat and sun. Several more artifacts were found, including a rusted out metal box of some kind and a piece of clear broken glass the right thickness for a bottle that was very weathered, as if it had been in the beach for some time before it was found, and then brought to the site. One possibility is that the castaway found it beachcombing and used it for a knife, but other explanations are possible too. None of the artifacts have been collected; they are left in situ until they can be recorded correctly. The Seven Site artifacts are in the NW corner of ER29. See The Seven Site Project Bulletin for more information about this site.

Yesterday there were problems with the propellor on the outboard on the aluminum boat which slowed movement down considerably, and the work itself was difficult and frustrating – quite typical, in other words.

There is a consensus that the sensible thing to do today is to stand down and rest. Predictably, "resting" means going ashore and taking care of a myriad of small personal projects for the entire team. A "spring" tide is predicted for today – high highs and low lows – and at low tide, Skeet, Gary and Ric are planning to go out on the reef flat north of the Norwich City and look at it as a landing area. They plan to collect data including measurements, smoothness, water puddling, and so on, to see just how feasible a landing would be in that area.

Message: 7
Subject: Report From the Expedition, Day 5
Date: 9/4/01
From: Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

Yesterday was supposed to be a day off, but – predictably – that only meant everyone worked harder than ever on projects of their own.

Skeet, Gary, and Ric (with the camera man, Mark) went out on the reef north of the Norwich City. They were planning to catch the very low tide predicted for 1133 and examine the reef surface with an eye to landing an airplane there. The tide actually went out and turned at 1240. The surface of the reef was not completely dry, but there was about a two hour period when there was less than one inch of water on the reef.

The entire stretch of reef from the wreck to the point, out near the reef edge, showed as a decent landable area, approximately 2400 feet long by 100 feet wide – about three times what you actually would need to land an Electra. The tide would have to be within one hour either side of low water, and there could not be any surf running past the engine of the Norwich City, because the surface is not nearly as good farther in towards the shore, but land an airplane there you could.

Jim, Chris, Walt and Andrew went exploring in the bush in Taraia, an area we've not covered in the past (WP12 & 13; WQ 12 & 13). They found extremely dense scaevola and not much else. When they emerged, Chris looked like they'd buried him and dug him back up, and Jim looked like an escapee from the latest Survivor episode.

John and Van installed the plaque on Gallagher's grave. They'll do the one on the Norwich City in a day or two; that promises to be much more difficult just because of the location.

Bill is still fighting his cold and is miserable. No one else has had any symptoms except Andrew, and he threw it off in a couple of days. Not anyone's idea of a good time...

Today the plan was for the Dive team to stay out of the water and help with the land work. Walt was planning to join Gary and Kar in the grave excavation, and they were hoping to reach the level of the interment and begin the analytical work.

Everyone else was going to the Seven site to finish clearing and begin actual operations. They were taking the pulse laser with them to establish a datum and shoot in the artifacts found in 1996, preparatory to collecting such items as seemed interesting.

Today's weather seemed promising: partial overcast and some showers. The sea is very calm, which helps a lot in the transfer of people to and from the ship. More of the same is in the forecast and the team is hoping it will stay that way.

There has been one schedule change: the day will now begin an hour earlier. The first boatload will go over the side at 7 a.m. local time, and pickups from the landing will begin at four.

Message: 8
Subject: Island vs. Atoll
Date: 9/4/01
From: Marjorie Smith

An advance reading copy of Amelia Earhart's Shoes serendipitously fell into my hands and I read it coincidentally as the newest expedition sailed from Pago Pago to Nikumaroro. I thoroughly enjoyed the book--it took me far from my current Rocky Mountain existence back to the Pacific where I lived more than 30 years ago (1963-1970, Guam, Saipan and travelling throughout Micronesia). I am also the author of an about-to-be-published novel that is very loosely tied to Amelia's disappearance, so have read most of the earlier books on the subject.

I have only one small point to cavil with in King, etal.'s book: In my days in Micronesia there was little if any use of the word "island" to refer to an atoll. "Island" was interchangeable with "islet" and the whole shebang collected around the lagoon was "atoll." For instance, if you were on Ebeye in the Kawajalein atoll and someone said they were going across the island or to the north end of the island they meant they were going across Ebeye or to the northern edge of Ebeye, not across the atoll or to the northern part of the atoll. Granted, this usage makes more sense in a huge atoll like Kwaj, where there are long spaces on the reef with no connection between islets, at least during high tide.

But what if this was the usage on Nikumaroro in the 1940s, particularly by Gallagher? What if when he said the skeleton was found on the southeast end of the island he meant that piece of land between the two channels into the lagoon, the piece of land (island?) on which the village and the government center were located? Then you folks should be looking there instead of way down in the Ameriki area.

Probably a thought you've already had and discarded and I, as a writer and editor, am only led astray by editorial decisions made in putting King's book together. But just in case this is a new idea...

Best wishes for success!
Marjorie Smith

Message: 9
Subject: Report From the Expedition, Day 6
Date: 9/5/01
From: Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

The new schedule causes some yawning and slow starting... but works out well in the long run. Ric tells me he has not had time to look at a movie, listen to a CD, do anything except focus and work and fall into his rack. The three days' down time on either end of the expedition are, in fact, very welcome.

Yesterday at the Grave site Kar, Gary, and Walt got down to two meters without finding an interment. The dark stain seen the day before petered out without result and the site seems to be a blank. Tomorrow Kar, Gary and Ric will extend the excavation to the north to see if anything is there; however, if another full day of work goes by without result the site will be abandoned. (Site reference is WD10.)

Tomorrow it is also planned that the divers will go back in the water at the channel and work northwards towards the Norwich City. One reason for this is that Ric, in flying over the area in the helicopter, saw light colored ... things ... at the base of the reef. Obviously, this could just be sand, but it's worth checking out.

The real news is from the Seven Site.

First, let us recall one of the Laws:

TIGHAR's Fifth Law of Expeditions:

No matter how you set the boundaries of your search area, artifacts will be found just outside of those boundaries, usually in an area which has been used heavily as a footpath by the entire team.

Everyone had been putting all their equipment down in an area which appeared to be uninteresting. Around lunch time, Tom reached for his day pack and found the strap tangled on something. When he dislodged it the "something" came with it.

"What does that look like to you?" he asked.

Ric repressed his first answer (a moose antler) and came up with – "a turtle bone?"

Yup. Skeletal structure of a turtle, no doubt about it.

So the "uninteresting" section was declared interesting, and it was cleared and gridded into two meter sections. The site is near the plate shard and asbestos fragment; it's the most seaward face of the "hill" – a storm surge washup – facing the ocean. The area was dirty with turtle bones, bird bones (some blackened by fire), fish bones, some crustacean shells.... exactly as Gallagher described in his messages to headquarters. This is very exciting, but of course the big question is: Is this the castaway, or is this the work party taking a lunch break? One way of finding out is to id. the fish bones. Are they deep water fish – favored by the I-Kiribati – or are they the sort of reef fish that would be readily accessible to a castaway?

One of the main things the team will be looking for is anything that might be a beachcombed object fashioned into a tool. The shard of glass found September 1 may well fit into this category. It looks, on superficial examination, like it may have been chipped into a degree of sharpness along one edge. The plate shards are being reexamined for similar chipping in case this is incidental to normal wear in this environment.

The team really likes the Seven site at this time. It fits the descriptions, and if all those critter bones are there, well, human bones could have survived too. It really looks like a castaway's campsite.

Plans for today include:

Bill and Chris will be dropped off at Baureke Passage (WW24) to walk down Aukaraime to EO34, which is a site Tom feels is a possibility for Gallagher's references, and then around the tip by the Loran station (EV37) and join up with the rest of the team at the Seven site at ER29.

In extending the search at the Seven site, it's worth detailing what this means. The area chosen is divided into blocks two meters on a side. A bucket is placed just outside the boundary. A team member sits inside the block, and picks up every piece of coral rubble and every piece of organic debris and places it in the bucket.

The team is finding not just fish bones but individual fish scales this way. Andrew is the best at finding stuff – his father is a paleontologist and he has spent many a summer doing just this sort of work. He is also a wonderful teacher, and can show the others how to "tune" their eyes and see what is there to be seen.

Today's work will back off the brute force/massive ignorance clearing effort and set up for an excavation of a complex site of unknown dimensions.

Very exciting stuff.

Message: 10
Subject: Surviving Electras
Date: 9/5/01
From: Herman De Wulf

I just had a look at the list of surviving Lockheed Electras on the TIGHAR website and I haste me to announce that the # 10 aircraft, of which TIGHAR believes the status to be unknown, is in fact alive and kicking and flying. I just bought the latest issue of Air Enthusiast, a high quality British aviation publication which has a feature story with beautiful pictures on it and by the way says there are "at least 13 examples (Lockheed 10) known to be in existence, of which three are in airworthy condition." The magazine's story is on the one airworthy Australian Lockheed 10A the July/August issue (no 94). The aircraft is VH-UZO and is one of the original Lockheed 10B delivered to AnsettAirways. It is one of only two surviving "down under" and the only one flying. In all 15 have been delivered by Lockheed down under to Guinea Airways, Ansett Airways, MacRobertson Miller Airlines, Quantas, Union Airways of New Zealand and Trans Island Airways. Eight aircraft were eventually written off in accidents. One was destroyed in a hangar fire. Of the six that survived, three were withdrawn from use and scrapped. One was exported to the US.

Of the two surviving "down under" today, one is ZK-BUT which is preserved in the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, New Zealand. The other is VH-UZO. It was acquired by Sydney based businessman Laurie Ogle around 1981, who undertook a time consuming restoration job which was a work of love. It included the re-engining the aircraft since spares for the original Wright Whirlwind engines were hard to come. Receiving Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Juniors the Lockheed 10B became a Lockheed 10A. Acording to the magazine it played a role in a TV movie that paid tribute to Australian pioneer Sidney Cotton. He was the guy who flew covert spy operations over Germany in a Lockheed 12A Electra Junior, converted into a "spy plane", in 1938-39. Anyone who loves Electras should read the story. If the magazine is hard to find in the US or Australia, give my a shout. I'll let you know Air Enthusiast's address. Their website is

Herman (#2406)

Message: 11
Subject: Report From the Expedition, Day 7
Date: 9/6/01
From: Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

The Grave team continued work on Grave Three yesterday without result. Excavating to the two meter level (a square 2 meters by 2 meters by 2 meters) found nothing but dirt. They then extended the northern wall of the excavation an additional meter, and when that also turned up empty they decided to call it off. The hole will be backfilled. The coral slabs could be property markers.

Because of the negative results they were done by noon. The engine on the aluminum skiff is only 20hp, and not very reliable, so rather than attempting to join the Seven site team Kar, Gary and Ric went back aboard Nai'a to do paperwork. Ric caught up on his photo log and Kar was able to write up the results of the excavation.

Speaking of engines in poor condition – yesterday morning when Kar, Gary and Ric were heading out in the aluminum boat, Ric went to twist the throttle and the whole thing disintegrated in his hand. Well, Ric isn't a mechanic. Unfortunately, neither is Kar nor Gary... so Ric enlisted the rich vocabulary provided by his Army years and managed to put the thing back together. Make it do or do without at Niku, and anything was better than drifting around that lagoon all day.

Bill and Chris did their walkabout, generating negative results and many jokes about marooning lawyers on a desert isle. Bill's ok now.

At the Seven site the process of final clearing and set up as an archeological site was completed. Not a lot of searching was done, but John did some prospecting with a metal detector and found a few M-1 carbine shells (left by the Coast Guardsmen). Tom also found a metal artifact. It is a clip sort of thing, about three inches by two inches, semicircular, a spring-type thing, lightweight and thin. Definitely not ship stuff which tends to be heavy and bronze or brass. Certainly technological, and lends further credence to the idea that the castaway was not a languishing Polynesian but someone with access to technology. We should be able to get a firm id. on it once it is back here and we can circulate photos.

They also found another plate shard, which tends to make one think that a plate got broken and abandoned, rather than a piece or two being salvaged as a possible tool.

The divers dove the reef edge from the landing channel to the Norwich City. Today they are planning to work deeper water and look at the sandy ledge which is down about 20 meters.

At the Seven site today's activities will include further cleanup and careful clearing around the hole. Tonight, John, Tom and Kar will remain ashore and examine the area around the hole with the ultraviolet light brought along for this purpose. Bones and teeth fluoresce in UV, which coral rubble and other non-bone stuff does not. It is hoped that this will help find additional bones (since Gallagher and his crew found only 13). Without the light it would be extremely difficult to find small bones, especially, as coral rubble looks exactly like most of the smaller bones in the human body to the untutored eye.

Stay tuned.

Message: 12
Subject: Tatiman Passage
Date: 9/6/01
From: Roger Kelley

Are there any projections as to when the Dive Team will venture into Tatiman Passage?

Diving in Tatiman Passage provokes several questions.

  1. During what point in the tidal cycle will the dives be made?
  2. During high tide, how deep is the most shallow point?
  3. Where is the most shallow point?
  4. What type of currents are anticipated in the Passage?
  5. Will the entire passage be searched?
  6. How far into the lagoon will the search proceed?
Roger Kelley
Wow, a whole list of questions to which I do not know the answers. However, I know that they are planning on moving in that direction soon so perhaps I can learn the answers and pass them on to you. I don't think *anyone* knows the answers to 2, 3, or 4 yet.


Message: 13
Subject: A Question From Ric for the Forum
Date: 9/6/01
From: Pat Thrasher

Research time, gang.

In doing metal detector work around the Seven site the team has come upon some .22 calibre shell casings, longs, with a "P" on the base. Gallagher had a .22 pistol. Could someone who has a copy of the inventory of his effects please look at see what make it was? We think we remember it was a Colt.

Also, if someone could look into .22 Longs with a P on the base we would be very appreciative. Post to Forum.


Message: 14
Subject: Answers to A Question From Ric for the Forum
Date: 9/6/01
From: Roger Kelley, Randy Jacobson

The "P" on the base of the .22 cal shell casing may indicate the ammunition was manufactured by Peters. The manufacture of the pistol or revolver has no bearing on the manufacture of the ammunition fired so long as the ammunition was designed for that specific weapon.

For example, a Colt .22 cal revolver will fire .22 cal short, long and long rifle ammunition. These three types of .22 cal. ammunition have been manufactured in the past and are presently manufactured by at least a dozen companies. Most important, .22 cal weapons are one of the most popular small arms in the world and have been popular for at least 100 + years.

The fact that Gallagher is reputed to have owned a .22 cal revolver or pistol is moot unless Gallagher's weapon is available for examination and firing. By firing the weapon, shell case markings can be compared to the markings on the artifact recovered. If the markings on the artifact match those on the expended shell of a cartridge fired by Gallagher's weapon, under controlled conditions, the only statement or deduction absolute is that Gallagher's weapon fired the cartridge which produced the expended shell casing found at the 7 site.

We would still be faced with several questions. Who fired Gallagher's weapon? Why was Gallagher's weapon fired? When was Gallagher's weapon fired?

However, my optimism prevails. Based on 30 years of police experience which involved numerous investigations involving firearms and my own personal experience, I can't think of a better weapon to use when dispatching small game such as large birds, (gulls on land or in flight), turtles and fish in shallow waters. The .22 caliber pistol, revolver or rifle fits the bill to a "T".

The abundant remains of small game in the vicinity of where the artifact was recovered leads me to believe that a .22 cal weapon was used to dispatch some, if not all of the game.

Roger Kelley, 2112CE

Look in Niku Source Book #2, effects of Gallagher:
.22 Colt Automatic, 3.5 boxes .22 cartridges.

Randy Jacobson

Message: 15
Subject: Report From the Expedition, Day 8
Date: 9/7/01
From: Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

Yesterday the divers worked about half the distance between the channel and the Norwich City, looking at the sand ledge which runs between about ten and 20 meters deep. There is only about six inches of sand on the ledge – not enough to cover anything important. They still have negative results. They will continue up the reef to the Norwich City today, and tomorrow will begin in the lagoon.

One of the benefits of diving the reef at Nikumaroro is the great clarity of the ocean water surrounding the island. The lagoon is another story – murky, visibility about two feet, and not exactly a recreational experience.

The campers did not camp last night because it poured buckets. That was shifted to tonight instead.

The Seven Site continues to produce Stuff, some of which makes sense in the context of our hypothesis, and some of which does not (so what else is new?).

Item: A piece of very heavy glass, so heavy it looks like it might be from the lens of a ship light (maybe the Norwich City?). It has one very sharp edge that looks like it has been fashioned to be sharp. Tom says that, under the poor magnification available in the field, he thinks he sees signs of wear on this sharpened edge. This is an artifact that will take expert analysis back home, but can be defined by the proper expert.

Item: Two .22 caliber long shell casings, stamped on the base with a P. The Forum says that that is the mark of the Peters Co. of Connecticut. Gallagher had a Colt .22 automatic pistol.

Item: More plate shards, and one of them is clearly marked "U.S. Coast Guard." We suspect the guys were down there doing a little target practice with (it is to be hoped) already broken crockery.

Items: Numerous, that can't be identified in the field. It is obvious that there are at least three layers of use on this site: the castaway, Gallagher and his team, and the Coast Guard fellows.

One truly odd thing was found by Ric. He was trying to figure out if a particular tree in the Seven Site was the one he could see from the lagoon, so he was casting around towards the lagoon in search of places to take a sighting on the tree. He broke into a clearing that is not part of the Seven site, but is much closer to the lagoon, and found a ... marker? hard to know what to call it ... that someone had made, using white coral harvested from the open area, and laid out on the gray coral rubble pretty much in the shape of a lower case g. A g like this one, as if a typeset letter, two loops with a small connector between them. It was certainly deliberate. It is also the sort of thing that could easily be interpreted to death. Gallagher, by the way, did not make his g's that way.... Who knows what it means?

The plan for the next few days is to grid and map and pick over any concentration of artifacts, and to do metal detector searches for such concentrations. Additionally, the team will be picking through the fill from the hole, which Tom says is as likely to contain teeth as the hole itself.

Everyone is getting tired, and people are going to bed earlier and earlier. Not exactly a Party Boat. But ten hours' sleep or so sets you up for the next day pretty well.

Message: 16
Subject: Report From the Expedition, Day 9
Date: 9/8/01
From: Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

Yesterday the Dive team concluded their ocean-based search. They have worked the reef face and down to a depth of about 60 feet from the landing channel to the northwest tip of the island, and have found nothing.

Today they were to begin moving their gear to a base on the lagoon shore so they can get started in there. Operations in the lagoon will be more technologically based, because visibility is so poor – for one thing, they will have to place markers that can be seen at the surface and left for some days, so as to know where they've been. A challenging environment, to be sure.

They plan to get started diving tomorrow. Map references are WL13, WL14, and WJ15.

By chance, a new member of TIGHAR has been corresponding with me here in Delaware concerning the dynamics and structure of islands such as Nikumaroro. Without going into the technical analysis here (that is a subject for a future Project Bulletin), he feels it is very likely that any debris from an aircraft would, in fact, be swept through Tatiman Passage and into the delta at the head of the lagoon. This is where dive operations will be centered.

Things are moving slowly and methodically at the Seven Site, with no new dramatic discoveries. The entire area is being treated as an archeological site, which necessitates an approach characterized by caution and close observation, rather than dashing about.

The clam shell site (see the daily report for Saturday, September 1) was gridded, mapped, and recovered by Tom King. He found 15 clams, and a good number of them had been opened by being smashed with a rock... not a characteristic of the way I-Kiribati (who have knives) open clams. This tends to make one think of a castaway making do.

The 1996 bird bone site was cleared, mapped, and collected. Kar now has the bones and will be examining them to figure out how many individual birds (one, more than one?) the bones represent. (See Gallagher's Clues for more details about and photos of the site.)

After lunch Ric and some of the others took a tour up through the buka forest. It is an amazing place, almost cathedral-like. There is some indication of human activity evident – a small glass bottle, some discarded plastic, that sort of thing. They have not done any metal detecting there yet. The map reference is EQ28.

One result of the early work of the expedition is clear: coconut crabs do indeed go off with bones. Very aggressively, in fact. Most of the lamb laid out the first day on the island is gone. Tom King also brought cooked bones (leftovers from dinner) ashore, wrapped in an old shirt and tied up with a belt, and left the bundle out. Within a very short period of time the bundle was a ball of juvenile coconut crabs, with dozens more in the surrounding trees waiting to see how it went. Shortly thereafter the bundle was in shreds and all the food was gone.

Tom, John and Kar stayed ashore last night to do the UV search. There'll be a report on that tomorrow, one way or the other. They were planning to concentrate on the backfill from the hole discovered in 1996, which they had dug and screened yesterday.

During that process, one of those OH NO incidents came up... "Looks like we've got another can label, guys." (See Dating the Label Fragment.) Groans all around... paper labels mean recent technology. But a little while later they figured out that the label was from the new shovel they'd bought in Pago. Ooops.

Ric had another look at the g feature. It was not only deliberately formed by gathering of white coral to place against the darker gray coral; the materials were gathered right there in that clearing. If the person fashioning this feature had gone out to the beach, there is a lot of white coral that could be gathered very quickly there. Back in the central part of the island, white coral is rare, and gathering it is a tedious and painstaking operation. The difference is clear: the beach coral is much smoother, more eroded. Why would someone expend all that effort?

Today is day 10 of the island work, midway. Usually on this day the work is to break down and retrieve and leave. This time the team has the luxury of just getting well started. Everyone is acclimated. The truly hard work (clearing, mostly) is done, and they have a valid archeological site on which they can use their brains. We don't know, of course, if the site is for real, but with a team this good and the time to spend on it we can surely find out.

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