Niku 7
Overview
The plan for Niku VIII is built on the hard data gathered and the hard lessons learned during Niku VI and Niku VII.
Dates: Thirty day expedition, September 15, 2014 to October 15, 2014.
Vessel: KOKUniversity of Hawai‘i oceanographic research ship Ka’Imikai-O-Kanaloa (aka KOK), the same ship we used for the 2012 Niku VII expedition.
Search Technology: Pisces IV Hawaiian Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) Pisces IV and Pisces V manned submersibles, each carrying a pilot and two TIGHAR observers. Each sub is also equipped with High Definition video and still cameras, Standard Definition video with time, depth, heading, and altitude off the bottom data displayed, mechanical arms and recovery baskets. Pisces V
Underwater Search Operations: A detailed “eyeball” and photographic examination of the entire mile-long underwater search area down to a depth of 1,000 meters, possibly deeper. “Live” searching by three people aboard each sub looking at wide vistas illuminated by powerful lights is far superior to searching by looking remotely via the toilet-paper tube view provided by a video camera on an ROV. With both subs in the water every day, the entire search area can be systematically covered in 7 to 10 days.
Onshore Search Operations: Detailed survey of the beachfront and forest area in search of evidence of an initial Earhart/Noonan campsite.
The Hypothesis

A broad and complex body of physical, photographic, analytical, and anecdotal evidence supports the hypothesis that Amelia Earhart landed her Lockheed Electra safely on the reef surface at the western end of Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro). She and her navigator Fred Noonan sent radio distress calls from the aircraft for the next five nights before the Electra was washed over the reef edge by rising tides and surf. Whatever remains of the aircraft is now somewhere on the steep craggy underwater mountainside off the west end of Nikumaroro.

During the five day period (July 2 – 7, 1937) when distress calls were being sent from the plane on the reef at night, Earhart and Noonan may have established a camp on shore to escape the heat during the day. Objects may have been brought ashore that were left behind when they moved on after the plane was lost to the sea.

Why Submarines?

The remote sensing technology used during previous underwater searches in 2010 and 2012, although safe in the sense that only the machines were exposed to danger, did not conduct a thorough search of Nikumaroro’s steep reef slope. The 2010 ROV search was plagued with equipment problems. In 2012, the primary search contractor failed to provide the ROV subcontractor with adequate support systems. It was only through the heroic efforts and ingenuity of Submersible Systems, Inc. that any ROV operations were possible. In each case, only a small fraction of the search area was covered. Safety has always been our primary concern and putting people deep underwater is inherently dangerous, but the HURL subs have an outstanding safety record and an in-person search appears to be the best way to achieve our goal of thorough coverage of the area for even small bits of debris.

Where To Search?

The best evidence for where the plane went into the water is the Bevington Photo, a photograph taken in October 1937 by British Colonial Service officer Eric Bevington which appears to show the wreckage of one of the aircraft’s main land gear assemblies on the reef edge at Gardner three months after the disappearance. The underwater search area is a one-mile stretch of reef slope offshore that location down to a depth of at least 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). The subs can go to twice that deep.

Land search areaWe have abundant evidence of a final castaway campsite (the Seven Site) at the other end of the atoll. The beachfront and forest area immediately opposite where the plane is believed to have been parked on the reef before being washed into the ocean is the logical location for a possible initial camp. The area was never cleared or developed during the island’s later period of habitation (1939 – 1963).

Funding

We don’t yet have a final budget but Niku VIII could run as much as $3 million. As in the past, success will depend upon widespread public support and major sponsorship. The important thing now is to fund the fund raising. Your contribution is essential. Please click HERE to donate.

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, 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 Ric@tighar.org).


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