Forum artHighlights From the Forum

September 16 through 22, 2001


Contents:
(click on the number to go directly to that message)
1 Report From the Expedition, Day 17 Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher
2 Recent Habitation Patrick Gaston
3 Report From the Expedition, Day 18 Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher
4 Report From the Expedition, Day 19 Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher
5 Maine and Nikumaroro Rollin Reineck
6 Re: Lambrecht Search Ron Bright
7 Report From the Expedition, Day 20 Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher
8 Re: Lambrecht Search Ron Bright
9 Re: Lambrecht Search Kenton Spading
10 Reports for the next two or three days Pat Thrasher
11 Report From the Exepdition, Final Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

Message: 1
Subject: Report From the Expedition, Day 17
Date: 9/16/01
From: Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

The home stretch. Everyone is really tired, but holding up all right. The only real injury has been to one of the crew, who cut his hand fishing. Jim stitched it up and it's healing fine.

It was another long hot day at the Seven site. They are finding more animal and bird bone deposits, and more small camp/cooking fires, but not very many human artifacts. In a way this is encouraging. The bits of fashioned glass and so on that were found earlier are not simply parts of bigger things that ended up there somehow, because the rest of the bigger things haven't been found. The inference can therefore be drawn that these are utilitarian objects, beachcombed and perhaps made into tools by a castaway, rather than simply being the casual detritus of storms.

Another batch of the roofing material was found grown in among/rooted into a tree root system. More was found about three meters away. Because it had been in the sun it was almost dust, but the outline and the remnants were visible.

The Waders (formerly the Divers) covered the areas mentioned in yesterday's report with no meaningful results --- no airplane-esque stuff.

Today they will dedicate the Norwich City plaque around 10 a.m. -- that's in sector WB09. Then they will go to take a close look at the Arundel structures in WE11 to see if any of the construction type materials found at the Seven site can be matched to items there.

Additionally, they will be filling in the hole left by the excavation of Grave 3, which turned out not to be a grave.

Tonight, John, Andrew and Kar will stay overnight at the Seven site to do U.V. screening. Jim has rigged some very nice hammocks, which should make things much more comfortable... or at least a little less creepy-crawly.

Tomorrow, everything will come off the Seven site and the process of withdrawal will commence. The last day will be spent in the village in an effort to match any artifacts from the Seven site that might provide clues as to layers.

Reported by Ric Gillespie
Written by Pat Thrasher


Message: 2
Subject: Recent Habitation
Date: 9/16/01
From: Patrick Gaston

Lambrecht's remark about "signs of recent habitation" has always been troubling, but perhaps his report provides a clue. In the section on Canton, after noting the shacks and "constructions" left over from the [June 1937] eclipse expedition, he writes that "no signs of contemporary habitation were visible." This suggests that Lambrecht may have been making a distinction between "contemporary" and "recent" habitation, as in "currently inhabited" vs. "inhabited at some time in the not-too-distant past." I admit that's reading a lot into two words, but it's no worse than TIGHAR's interpretation of "low on fuel" as "low on fuel, not counting my four-hour reserve."

More likely, in my view, is that the "signs" on Gardner were incompatible with a rude castaway campsite -- probably some sort of "constructions," like shacks or huts left over from the Arundel days. I believe that in one of his later interviews, Lambrecht spoke of "crumbling walls." Unless you're a dedicated Lambrecht-basher, it's hard to accept that the senior aviator in charge of the Earhart search party would disregard any evidence that suggested, even remotely, Earhart's presence on Gardner. He certainly was not averse to landing in order to check things out, as he proved that same day on Hull. And if he ever had second thoughts about those "signs," it's hard to see him writing about them a week later. Talk about putting your head in the noose!

For Kurt Thompson and Charlie Sivert: Of course it's possible that Earhart was in dire straits, or dead, by July 9, which would explain the lack of an "answering wave." But there remains the problem of the Electra. Which leads into a discussion of how likely it is that the airplane was swept off the reef flat so completely, in the space of one week or less, that nothing remained for Lambrecht & Co. to see. Which I ain't touching with a ten-foot pole because it's been hashed and rehashed till there's no hash left.

Still, it's a shame Lambrecht wasn't more specific about what he saw on Gardner. I wonder if there is a more formal "official report," and if it will ever be found.

Pat Gaston


Message: 3
Subject: Report From the Expedition, Day 18
Date: 9/18/01
From: Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

Slowly the expedition is winding down. Last minute tasks and housekeeping are jostling elbows with final excavation work.

Yesterday the gang spent a lot of time out on the reef flat at a very low tide, taking advantage of the opportunity to examine the sad remains of Norwich City. Lots of photographs were taken, and the plaque looks great. A brief on-shore ceremony was held in memory of those who died there, and a verse of the Navy Hymn was sung. A tape of an appropriate reading and prayer by a Muslim cleric was played in honor of the six Arab firemen who perished in the wreck.

The entire team turned to to fill the (as it turned out) non-grave site excavation. Backbreaking, and unbelievably hot, people just took turns with shovels and gritted their way through it. Picking up and putting away is the most difficult part of the expedition, but putting away a "dead" unit is the worst of all. Ric commented that the scene resembled some of the chain gang scenes in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" and immediately sparked a song-fest, which made the time go much faster.

The next order of business was a walking tour of the "European house site." A lot of debate has been generated by this excursion, with widely varying opinions as to dating the structures. One thing is clear: this was a heavily used site and there are a lot of layers to understand before being sure of dating anything there. One nail was recovered from a board. Gary Quigg is a museum professional working with a living history museum, and he thought he recognized the nail as 19th century. This should be readily identifiable stateside. Samples of copper screening and corrugated metal were also collected to compare to artifacts found at the Seven site.

Last night Kar, John, Andrew, and Mark stayed ashore to do ultraviolet screening at the Seven site. Their activities will be reported on tomorrow, since no one has seen them yet.

Today, everyone but Van and Walt will be finishing up at the Seven site, digging one or two more units and making sure everything is picked up and put away. Van and Walt will be securing dive gear and packing aquatic things for shipment. Ric will be trying to trace the 1938 trail from the site to the clam beds with the help of the photographs. All supplies and equipment must be out of the site by the end of the day today, as the Naiad leaves the lagoon on the high tide.

Tonight is the traditional banquet and sing-sing thrown by the crew for the team aboard Nai'a. The buffet is wonderful and the music is great, and a good time is had by all at these events. Spirits are still good; the grave-filling-in songfest lasted into the evening last night, and the cook marched out when they quieted down and said, "No music, no supper!" so they had to start up again.

Tomorrow, everyone will be looking around the village for any items which might be matched to things at the Seven site in order to try and establish dates/times for artifacts.

Reported by Ric Gillespie
Written by Pat Thrasher


Message: 4
Subject: Report From the Expedition, Day 19
Date: 9/19/01
From: Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

Yesterday the team wrapped up work at the Seven site, almost literally – tarps were put out and weighted down over the excavated units to discourage scaevola growth and protect the site, as much as is practical, from the worst effects of weather. That site is now shut down.

John took a small team down to the Loran station and found the site of the "headquarters" quonset hut, where they looked for green roofing material and didn't find any. We still don't know where that stuff came from.

Andrew, Kar and Ric tried to trace the trail from the Seven site to the clam beds. It was an interesting experience; going out was rough, lots of scaevola chopping and they came out 40 meters off goal. But going back, they struck a finger of higher ground where the buka forest was still intact, and found it led directly into the Seven site. A trail there made all kinds of sense.

Last night, the crew threw a party for the team. It was, by all accounts, an incredible experience. To begin with, there was an impromptu sea mammals show – the resident dolphin pod (who seem to find our activities fascinating) decided to put on an aquabatic display that would rival that of any of the aquatic theme parks. The entire crew and team hung over the rails, cheering and applauding, and the dolphins showed off for fifteen minutes.

When the group retired to the salon, a ceremony was held honoring those who died in last week's attacks. After a minute of silence, an American flag and a Fijian flag, folded into triangles, were held high as first the U.S. national anthem and then the Fijian national anthem were sung. Simple, but very moving, Ric describes the singing as "inspired."

Fritz then addressed the group in highly complimentary terms, speaking of how easy they had been to work and live with for the trip, and hoping to work with the team again. A crew spokesman echoed these sentiments on behalf of the staff. Then the crew chaplain said a grace for a safe passage home and an end to terror.

A huge spread of traditional Fijian foods was laid on and everyone ate a lot and drank kava and sang and played their instruments and a wonderful time was had by all.

Today the team will be working in the village in an attempt to match any of the building materials found at the Seven site to things that were used during the colonial period. Points of particular interest will be the radio shack and rest house at WI15, the cistern at WH16, and the new village at WH20. They leave tonight with last light.

Reported by Ric Gillespie
Written by Pat Thrasher


Message: 5
Subject: Maine and Nikumaroro
Date: 9/18/01
From: Rollin Reineck

TIGHAR made 21 trips to the northeastern part of the U.S looking for the White Bird using the same type of reasoning that what is need is more time and money. If my math is right he has 15 more trips to Niku to find 16020. Good luck.


From Pat

Well, the analogy is poor but the question is not irrelevant. After exhausting the possibilities of anecdote in Maine, we finally wised up and figured out that old woodsmen's tales are *NOT EVIDENCE.* Any more than old Polynesians' tales are.

We are reasonably convince that l'Oiseau Blanc ended up in Newfoundland; whether the remnants are findable, no matter how much money and time one poured into the search, is a different question entirely... just as it is on Nikumaroro with Earhart.


Message: 6
Subject: Re: Lambrecht Search
Date: 9/18/01
From: Ron Bright

In view of the recent revival of the controversial Lambrecht search, the following may not have been seen by some of the researchers. It seems therefore appropriate to have Lambrecht himself have the final word on his search over Gardner. Longtime researcher Fred Goerner was quite interested in the Lambrecht search and in the 60 and 70s he conducted numerous interviews (taped) with Lambrecht and the two other pilots that made the flyover on 9 July 37 (Short and Fox). In a private letter of April 1993 to J. Gordon Vaeth, also an Earhart researcher, Goerner quoted John Lambrecht:

As far as Gardner is concerned, we[ Short and Fox] saw absolutely nothing except the wreck of a fairly large ship [the Norwich City]...I'm sure there was no one there in 1937. We saw nothing to lead anyone to think the island occupied. I want you to know we took that search seriously. There's nothing we would have liked better than to find her and Noonan. If we had seen anything on any of the islands that was possibly connected to Earhart, we would have recommended landing a making a ground search..." (circa 1970)

Whether he and the other five could have missed seeing some sign of Earhart or of the Electra can be debated forever. In my opinion we shall have to find some conclusive evidence that AE ended up at Niku to show his search was perfunctory, and/or evidence that AE, FN , the Electra and or any kind of SOS signal (kites,raft,etc) were not visible on 9 July mid-morning, seven days after she went down.

LTM,
Ron Bright


Ron, do you understand the difference between what Lambrecht wrote *at the time of the search* and a thirty year old memory, overlaid by whatever thoughts and conclusions had been seeded in his mind in the meantime? Lambrecht wrote, *at the time*, that he saw clear signs of recent habitation. The end.

Pat


Message: 7
Subject: Report From the Expedition, Day 20
Date: 9/19/01
From: Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

No real report on the last day at the island, because as soon as they left they ran into heavy seas and driving rain squalls. Ric called from the foredeck, drenched, hanging onto equipment to keep from being tossed around, and we kept losing the connection because the phone was getting wet.

So we decided that discretion was the better part, and he'll call again tonight and see if we can get the last bit of news.

Reported by Ric Gillespie
Written by Pat Thrasher


Message: 8
Subject: Re: Lambrecht Search
Date: 9/19/01
From: Ron Bright

"Clear signs of habitation" does not make evidence of Earhart as it is certainly clear in Lambrecht's original report that what he saw was not connected to Earhart. Believe me, if he thought it was signs of Earhart as compared to the other "signs" he saw on the other Islands, Lambrecht would have returned. No way Earhart just left ambigous signs of "recent habitation." Where were her kites, flares, SOS msgs,.I just can't buy she and Fred were incapacitated and unable to respond or set up a clear SOS signal within a few days. Her top prioriity seven days later was to be seen. Time does not always diminish the accuracy of a memory. I'll bet you know exactly what you were doing when JFK got shot.

Ron Bright


From Pat

OK, I'll try again.

  1. "Clear signs of recent habitation" is what Lambrecht wrote in his report.
  2. He apparently did not think *at the time* that those signs of recent habitation pertained to Earhart.
  3. He could easily have been wrong in that judgment. It was simply his opinion, an opinion formed without benefit of full knowledge of the situation --- for instance, that no one had lived there since 1897.
  4. I agree that if he seen something he thought was an airplane, or some clear sign that the habitation was Earhart, he would have done something about it. However, just because you think she should have had kites, flares, SOS messages and so on, does not mean she had them or had access to them.
  5. You may be right in your assumption that AE and/or FN would not be incapacitated and unable to respond one week after arriving on the island. You may also be wrong. I've experienced that environment and it is quite easy for me to believe that yes, someone could be sort of dead in one week, or very nearly so.
  6. I don't know "exactly what I was doing when JFK got shot." I know what I remember; that does NOT mean I remember correctly. I remember I was sitting in my third grade classroom, teacher Mrs. Myers, when the principal came on the loudspeaker and said, "The president has been shot. School is dismissed. Please wait in your classroom for your bus to be called." Note: this is what I remember. If I were to run into someone who sat beside me in that same class, s/he might remember something quite different. Human memory is not an automatic recording device, it is an impressionistic artwork, constantly overlaid by new experiences and new perceptions.

LTM, who likes the artistic analogy
Pat


Message: 9
Subject: Re: Lambrecht Search
Date: 9/19/01
From: Kenton Spading

Once again the Forum has revisited the issue of what did Lambrecht's crew observe at Gardner Is.? I have posted some of the following information in the past but it seems the Forum needs to review the whole picture again. I offer the following information to help ponder the basic Lambrecht question: Why was no land search conducted if "signs of recent habitation" were reported?

To answer the Lambrecht question we first need to ask ourselves: could there have been anything on the island that may have looked like "recent signs of habitation". One answer is.....yes, Earhart and Noonan could have been there. But there are also many other logical possibilities. Let's take a closer look.

Reports of various people seeing signs of previous habitation on Gardner/Nikumaroro Island are discussed below. Lets examine what other visitors saw and what they reported both contemporaneously and during later interviews or correspondence. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of visitors to the island nor is it meant to exclude what Lambrecht saw as being Earhart related. It is meant to provide the interested reader with a full menu of items from which to draw conclusions about what Lambrecht may have observed on Gardner/Niku and thus speculate as to why a land search was not conducted.

Reference No.

  1. NIKU Source Book, TIGHAR Archive
  2. TIGHAR Tracks, March 12, 1992, Volume 8, Number 1/2
  3. Tom King's personal files and email messages to Kenton Spading (and others)
  4. Kenton Spading's field notes and pictures from NIKU III and various Email messages to TIGHAR members and the Forum.
  5. TIGHAR Tracks, June 15, 1993, Volume 9, Number 2

1. 1891, John T. Arundel's Project

Mr. Arundel obtained a coconut (copra) license for Gardner/Niku Island from the British government on Feb. 1, 1891. A group of natives were left on the island that year (some were reported to have arrived prior to 1891....). Apparently the project was abandoned sometime in 1892. This project resulted in the construction of buildings with galvanized steel roofs and a large water tank all of which were later observed and described by the Norwich City wreck survivors (see below). Later, in October 1937 Harry Maude reported 111 coconut bearing trees on Gardner/Niku gone to riot from the Arundel period. See Reference No. 1, Tab No. 3, Doc. No. 15.

2. 1892, His Majesty's Ship (HMS) Curacoa

When the HMS Curacoa visited the Gardner/Niku island on May 28, 1892, 20 Niue natives (under the command of an Englishman) were working on the Arundel coconut project. The British made a point of placing a Union Jack flag on the island as they were very concerned about documenting their claim to the island. See Reference No. 1, Tab No. 3, Doc. No. 15. We can speculate that, given the manpower and materials on the island, and with the possible knowledge that Arundel was preparing to leave later in 1892, that they may have constructed some sort of a permanent concrete marker or monument to hold the flag. They probably did not just stick it in a tree.

3. November 1929, Norwich City Wreck

Mr. J. Thomas was a survivor of the S.S. Norwich City which ran aground on Gardner/Niku Island in November 1929. Mr. Thomas states in a hand written note, (original spelling and grammar left intact): "[On Gardner/Niku] Near the palms we found two desused galvanised roofed huts and a large water tank which were in a state [of] collapse, but which indicated to us that the island had at one time been inhabited most probably with a view of growing coconuts......." See Reference No. 1, Tab No. 3, Doc. No. 14. The huts and water tank Mr. Thomas refers to were undoubtedly left behind by the aforementioned John T. Arundel group. In addition, the Norwich City crew left behind two life boats and a substantial stack of provisions covered with a tarp. All of the above was in the vicinity of the wreck, a landmark which Lambrecht would have undoubtedly been drawn to. As an aside, in 1989, TIGHAR team members John Clauss and Veryl Fenlason photographed some very dilapidated wooden framing along the northwest shore of the island just north of the shipwreck. Upon reflection, these buildings probably dated from the Arundel period as opposed to the British 1938-1963 habitation of the island. TIGHAR also found the 1940 era British-built wood-framed COOP store in 1989 in a relatively intact state (although in a "desused" state). This suggests that Arundel's buildings and water tank may have survived fairly intact until Lambrecht's overflight in 1937 (only 8 years after Mr. Thomas observed them). Arundel's structures would have certainly looked "Recent" from the air (i.e. galvanized roofing) as opposed to the very "Old" adobe type walls Lambrecht saw on McKean (see Lambrecht's comments below).

4. His Majesty's Ship (HMS) Leith, February 15, 1937

The HMS Leith visited Gardner/Niku on February 15, 1937 just long enough to erect a flagpole and placard proclaiming the island to be the property of His Majesty the King. (Niku Source Book, Section 2, Item 2). Earhart disappeared and Lambrecht flew over the island, of course, roughly 5 months later. As Lambrecht observed, someone indeed had visited the island "recently" in 1937.

5. Colorado Search Planes, July 9, 1937

The following are some quotes from Lambrecht's report. Most of Lambrecht's comments are quoted out of context on the Forum. In light of that, I hesitate to list them here as it is difficult to absorb Lambrecht's writing style, and therefore the overall theme of the report, without reading the entire thing. At this point I am going to assume that the serious readers will carefully read the entire report on the TIGHAR web site in order to place the selected quotes in their proper context. Lt. John O. Lambrecht (and crew) reported the following (these are excerpts) after the flight over Gardner Island on July 9, 1937. See Reference No. 5, Page 6. [quotes below listed in the order that they appear in the report]

".........Enderbury, although a bit larger, was much the same as Phoenix. Here and there were what appeared to be oases with a few surrounding palm trees... no signs of habitation were evident and an inspection did not disclose the object of our search......"

"........M'Kean did not require more than a perfunctory examination to ascertain that the missing plane had not landed here, and one circle of the island proved that it was uninhabited except for myriads of birds. Signs of previous habitation remained and the walls of several old buildings apparently of some sort of adobe construction, were still standing.........."

".......Here [Gardner] signs of recent habitation were clearly visible but repeated circling and zooming failed to elicit any answering wave from possible inhabitants and it was finally taken for granted that none were there........." [note the reference to "recent" on the heels of his reference to "old" at McKean]

"........There [Sydney] were signs of recent habitation and small shacks could be seen among the groves of coconut palms, but repeated zooms failed to arouse any answering wave and the planes headed northeast for Phoenix Island........"

During an interview Fred Goerner had with Mr. Lambrecht in 1972 regarding what he observed on Gardner Lambrecht stated that he saw "markers" (See Reference No. 5, Page 6). The "marker" Lambrecht remembers could have been a concrete monument/marker claiming British ownership from either the 1892 or the very recent 1937 British visit or something from Arundel or the Norwich City camp.

6. Eric Bevington and Harry Maude, October 1937

British subjects Harry Maude and Eric Bevington visited the island in October of 1937 to conduct a survey as part of a colonial resettlement project. Mr. Bevington stated in his diary that he saw "signs of previous habitation" on the island. During an interview in 1992 he stated that (as best he could recall) "it wasn't much.....like someone had bivouacked for the night" He indicated (without knowing where TIGHAR had been) that the place was near the area where TIGHAR found the shoe artifact in 1991 (SE part of the island). See Reference No. 2, Pages 6 and 7. Eric, however, could have easily seen something from the Arundel period or any of the later visitors.

Dr. Tom King (TIGHAR member) corresponded with Mr. Maude. He asked him about the "signs of previous habitation" that Eric mentions in his diary. Maude remembered it as being [a] "pile of sand" (see Reference No. 3). During the 1997 Niku III expedition, TIGHAR found relatively large piles of sand/coral on the SE end of the island near the shoe artifact site in the area indicated by Bevington. It looked like a Babai pit or an abortive well from either the British or Arundel periods. (see Reference No. 4). We don't have evidence that the Arundel group was in this area (the British colony was) but we have no evidence that they weren't and a search for well water could take you anywhere.

Wrap Up Thoughts:

Anecdotes aside....a lot of the information was recorded contemporaneously. I will say up front that Lambrecht could have seen Earhart related habitation. I will also add that I am offering some speculative thoughts here. My goal is to get people thinking about the issue which could lead us to a better Earhart hypothesis.

We do not know what Lambrecht told his fellow shipmates and commander if asked....."What do you mean by "recent signs of habitation" However, it is not too hard to imagine that he told them he saw:

  • the flag and/or marker left behind by the British only 5 months earlier or
  • the life boats and stack of provisions left behind by the Norwich City crew...or
  • the corrugated steel roofs of the huts or the water tank or other debris left behind by the Arundel group earlier and noted by the Norwich crew in 1929...or
  • some or all of the above

We can speculate that Lambrecht told his commander: "We checked out the island as best as we could. Repeated circling and zooming failed to elicit any answering wave. We tried hard, commander, to get the attention of anyone who might have been there. We saw no signs of an airplane and, in my opinion, what we saw was not related to the lost fliers." The key words here for the commander were probably.....no signs of an airplane. The Colorado was sent to the Phoenix group on the strength of the post-lost signals/bearings. And the commander was told....the plane must be on land to broadcast. No airplane....no problem....lets move on. I am not prepared to fault the commander for this decision (there were also other good reasons to move on). It is much too easy in hindsight and from the comfort of our homes to do that. Lambrecht's description of what he saw on Gardner and Sydney as "signs of RECENT habitation" may be an attempt to contrast them to the obviously much older "stone" ruins he had just seen at McKean Island. Indeed, in my speculative opinion, his report can easily be interpreted that way. Thus he uses the word "recent" to describe Gardner after viewing the older stone ruins on McKean.

Whatever Lambrecht saw, it obviously was not a smoking camp fire, clothes hung out to dry or footprints in the sand. Clearly, he and in turn his commander, would have acted on that type of evidence. On the other hand, after seeing some old huts or life boats etc.. and getting no response from repeated zooming, it would not be worth the risk to life and limb to put a landing party ashore. Getting a landing party on to and off of the island is a very dangerous affair as is positioning the Colorado anywhere near the island.

There is an additional piece of very speculative evidence that suggests Lambrecht saw but did not mention Arundel's huts. A Colorado crew member took notes as the ship visited the various islands. He had some artistic talent and as such drew pictures to accompanied his notes. For Hull he drew a canoe and people...and of course Lambrecht landed there and was visited by the locals in a canoe. For Gardner he drew a picture of native huts/houses.

Summary:

"RECENT" visitors to the island prior to Lambrecht's flyover include: 1) the Norwich City crew (8 yrs. before) and 2) the HMS Leith (5 months before). Earhart notwithstanding, it is not surprising to me that he observed signs of recent habitation.

Love To Mother
Kenton Spading
1382CE


Message: 10
Subject: Reports for the next two or three days
Date: 9/19/01
From: Pat Thrasher

I just heard from Ric. He was standing on the foredeck in the driving rain with his arm wrapped around a post to keep from being flung overboard when the ship lurched in the seas which were high.

I will post a report on the web tomorrow morning, and then there probably won't be one until Saturday because the phone was getting wet and we were losing the connection and anyway it would be majorly not cool to lose the expedition director overboard.

....for those in peril on the sea, indeed.

Pat


Message: 11
Subject: Report From the Expedition, Final
Date: 9/22/01
From: Ric Gillespie, Pat Thrasher

After three and a half days at sea, Nai'a turned the corner into the harbor at Pago Pago about 1 p.m. local time on Friday and was finally still for the first time since leaving Nikumaroro. While the passage did not rival that of 1997, when forty foot seas were the order of the day, it was very rough indeed, and everyone was heartily glad to go ashore. Watching water tower above one's head is not really so much fun.

The last day on the island was spent in the village, by both necessity and plan. Both boats were out of the lagoon, which meant no intra-island transportation; and the team needed to look at the village carefully to try to match artifacts and materials found at the Seven site.

Remember that the Seven site is multi-layered. There is possibly some prehistoric activity; certainly castaway activity; certainly Gilbertese/Gallagher activity; certainly Coast Guard activity... and so on. In order to understand the layers and units correctly, it's important to know, if possible, what came from where and even how.

Things found in the village that appear to match artifacts or items found at the Seven site are:

Fine mesh copper screening.

The screening found in the village is very similar to that found at the Seven site. It is not, however, in context --- it is simply lying about, not part of anything. Possible uses for screening in the village would be to cover windows; to cover water barrels; in cooking; and so on. However, because none of these uses were seen in the village, we can't know for sure that it is actually part of the village life. It may be that there is some cache of screening somewhere on the island that both the castaway and the villagers found and made use of. There is some copper screening at the Loran station, but it is much heavier gauge.

Green roofing material.

This stuff is an old fashioned kind of roofing material that incorporates tarpaper and shingling into one unit, and comes in rolls. It's the sort of thing that might be used to roof a shed. Two pieces of it were found in the village, nailed to the side of the radio shack... which was built in the early 1950s. There is no evidence that more of it was nailed to the shed and is now gone. Quite a lot was found at the Seven site. Definitely one of those Nikumaroro mysteries.

Corrugated metal sheeting.

There is quite a bit of this around the village; it was a popular roofing material. It is found both in the lighter and the heavier gauge.

Asbestos sheeting.

This is incorporated into a number of buildings in the village, including the cistern which was one of the earliest structures on the island. It also was used to make shutters for the cookhouse. We think we can say that it is likely that the search party brought some of this to the Seven site for whatever reason.

After working in and around the village for several hours, the team sat down to eat some lunch near Gallagher's grave, where there were still some palm fronds scattered about from the memorial service. One by one they laid down, "just for a moment," and about an hour later decided that the expedition was over. Everyone packed up, called the ship's boat, and went aboard, the adrenalin rush thoroughly spent.

On Saturday, the FedEx folks came over with a truck and loaded up everything to go to their warehouse. Today the team was going to spend the day packing everything – EVERYTHING – for shipment home, leaving everyone, if possibly, with only one or two smallish carry-ons with which to tackle the airlines. The flight out is at 2340 local time tonight, heading for Honolulu. If all goes well, everyone will be home either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on their individual travel arrangements.

Reported by Ric Gillespie
Written by Pat Thrasher


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