Niku 7
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     Team member selection for Niku VIII was based on a number of criteria. As always, we’re looking for bright, knowledgeable team players who can handle the rigors of an expedition and get along with their shipmates for a month at sea. Hands-on familiarity with Lockheed Electra wreckage increases the chance that they’ll be able to recognize components that may be obscured by coral growth, as is experience with the underwater environment. For this expedition there is also a physiological/psychological requirement. Team members must be able to fit through the narrow hatch of the Pisces subs and endure eight-hour missions in the cramped, cold Command Sphere.
     At a press conference in Washington, DC on March 12, Executive Director Ric Gillespie introduced the TIGHAR team for Niku VIII. They are:
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Kelly GleasonKelly Gleason, Ph.D.
Underwater Archaeologist
Honolulu, Hawai‘i

TIGHAR member Kelly Gleason will be the underwater archaeologist on Niku VIII. As the NOAA Maritime Heritage Coordinator and Maritime Archaeologist for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Kelly has first-hand experience with 70+-year-old aircraft debris in the coral reef environment around Midway Atoll. Her participation in Niku VIII is as an individual TIGHAR volunteer, not as a NOAA representative.
Jim Linder Jim Linder
Business Executive
Siler City, North Carolina

Jim is an experienced diver and a former U.S. Navy pilot with a strong background in missing aircraft investigations. He completed the Aviation Archaeology Field School in 2013 and has first-hand experience with Lockheed Electra wreckage.
Lee Paynter
Lee Paynter
Business Executive
Atglen, Pennsylvania

Lee is an experienced diver and has a strong aviation background, including long-distance ocean flying in light twin-engine aircraft. He completed the Aviation Archaeology Field School in 2013 and has first-hand experience with Lockheed Electra wreckage.
Andrew SangerAndrew Sanger
Real Estate Manager
Brooklyn, New York

Andrew completed the Aviation Archaeology Field School in 2011. He was a Sponsor Team Member on the 2012 Niku VII expedition and, as such, has many hours of experience searching the underwater reef slope at Nikumaroro.
Mark SmithMark Smith
Jersey City, New Jersey

Mark is an award-winning cinematographer who has been documenting TIGHAR expeditions and research trips since 2001. He has been to Nikumaroro four times, and his work has been featured in two Discovery Channel specials about TIGHAR expeditions. Mark too has hands-on experience with Electra wreckage. His long association with the Earhart Project makes him a valuable member of the research team as well as a cameraman.
Gary QuiggGary Quigg
Crawfordsville, Indiana

Gary has been a member of TIGHAR since 1990. He runs TIGHAR’s Contract Services division and is an instructor for our Aviation Archaeology Field Schools. His TIGHAR expedition travels have taken him to Maine, Newfoundland, Alaska, Idaho, Yap, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and five times to Nikumaroro. He has first-hand experience with Lockheed Electra wrecks in Alaska and Idaho.
Ric GillespieRic Gillespie
TIGHAR Executive Director
Oxford, Pennsylvania

This will be Ric’s eleventh trip to Nikumaroro but, as with the other TIGHAR team members, it will his first experience with manned submersibles and his first foray over the underwater cliffs and into the deep, dark depths that hold the answer to one of the history’s greatest mysteries.

The University of Hawai‘i oceano-graphic research vessel Ka‘imikai-O-Kanaloa (known for obvious reasons as “K-O-K”) can legally accommodate a maximum of nineteen passengers in the scientific party. For the Niku VIII expedition, seven of those places will be taken by the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) staff led by Chief Sub Pilot Terry Kerby. The ship’s complement will include a Republic of Kiribati Customs officer and representative of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). Of the remaining eleven berths, seven will be occupied by the TIGHAR team members profiled.
The final four places on the expedition team are reserved for sponsors, whether individuals or media, who will make a significant contribution toward the expedition's $2,000,000 budget. For more information about Niku VIII sponsorship opportunities, email Ric Gillespie at or phone 610-467-1937.

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Does your photo fit in one of these spaces? Call (610.467.1937) or email to find out how to participate in this year's Niku VIII Expedition.

Special Offer – The Niku VIII Search Reference Kit

The Niku VIII Search Reference Kit offers maps and photos in both print and digital format, including a NEW Grid Map based on the new GeoEye Foundation satellite photo. Click HERE to learn more.

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Our special thanks to the corporate and individual sponsors of The Earhart Project, without whom nothing would be possible:

The Members of the TIGHAR Board of Directors, and the loyal membership of TIGHAR.


To make a donation to the Earhart Project, click HERE.

The Earhart Project is funded by charitable contributions. Donations by check (payable to TIGHAR) or credit card (Visa, Discover, American Express or Master Card) may be sent to TIGHAR, The Earhart Project, 2366 Hickory Hill Road, Oxford, PA 19363, USA, or click on the link above to make your contribution. Confidential inquiries regarding sponsorship opportunities for individuals or corporations should be addressed to Executive Director Richard Gillespie (email

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