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: Twenty-four day expedition, June 2015. Nai'a
Vessel: M/S Nai’a, 120 foot research motor sailer out of Fiji.
Search Technology: Small ROV for deep underwater search; SCUBA for shallow underwater search; metal detection and Mark I human eyeball for on-shore search.
Underwater Search Operations: Focus on known sonar targets.
Onshore Search Operations: Detailed survey of the beachfront and forest area in search of evidence of an initial Earhart/Noonan campsite.
Budget: Approximately $500,000.
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.

We have long suspected that 2-2-V-1 was a shard of aluminum torn from the Electra as it was battered apart in the surf, but if 2-2-V-1 is the Miami Patch we need to ask why it is that we have only that unique piece of the plane. Why have we not found other torn shards of aluminum, either onshore or underwater? The artifact shows signs of human action. Could it be that the patch was removed from the aircraft while it was still on the reef and the plane was largely intact when it went over the edge? Did it then float away and sink where we’ll never find it, or is there now a greater chance that the sonar anomaly is a largely intact Electra? Thus the change in focus from a detailed search for bits and pieces (been there, done that) to a focused inspection of the anomaly.

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.

Where To Search?
side scan image overlay

An anomaly detected in side-scan sonar data collected during the 2012 Niku VII expedition is the right size and in the right place to be the fuselage of the Earhart Electra. Although remote operated vehicles (ROVs) have proven to be a poor way to search a large area, they work well for investigating known targets if the supporting vessel can be stabilized over the target. Nai’a will be positioned over the anomaly for our investigation with an ROV.

Land search area We 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 should come in at under $500,000. 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.


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

Federal Express logo Photek Imaging
GeoEye White's Electronics Thursby Software
FAK logo Bella Energy

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 Ric@tighar.org).


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