The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery
2366 Hickory Hill Road · Oxford, PA · 19363 · USA
610.467.1937 ·

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Current Research and Analysis

As we prepare for the Niku 9 expedition there is still much to learn from on-going research.

  Earhart DNA Research

Three bones recovered during the 2010 Niku VI expedition may be human and are currently at the Molecular Anthropology Laboratories of Oklahoma University. The lab is also examining material collected during the 2007 Niku V expedition that has long been suspected, but only recently confirmed, to be fecal matter.

The bones and the fecal matter were found at the Seven Site, the place on the island’s southeast end that matches the description of where the partial skeleton of a castaway was found in 1940 and where TIGHAR has found artifacts consistent with an American woman of the 1930s.  The lab will attempt to find, extract, and sequence mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from the bones and fecal matter for comparison to a reference sample of Earhart mtDNA.

The Cost:

The more successful we are in extracting DNA, the more testing we’ll be able to do and the more it will cost. So far we’ve raised and spent $35,000 on DNA research. We’d like to raise at least another $10,000 for continuing work. DONATE.

Click HERE for a report from the Molecular Anthropology Laboratory on the DNA research.

  Noonan Genealogical Research

If we’re able to get DNA from the bones or fecal matter, and if it doesn’t match the Earhart reference sample we have, we’ll need to find out if it might be Fred Noonan, but we don’t yet have an mtDNA reference sample for Fred. Mitochondrial DNA is passed in the female line so we need to find a living Noonan relative in his mother’s line. Fred was an only child. His mother had a sister but we can’t find any record of her after 1871.

The Cost:

We’ve had a professional genealogist working on it but so far all the threads have led to dead ends. We’d like to raise at least another $2,000 to continue the search. DONATE.


  Fiji Bone Search III

The partial skeleton found on Nikumaroro in 1940 was last known to be at the Central Medical School in Suva, Fiji in April, 1941. In the official file the High Commissioner instructs the head of the school to “retain the remains until further notice” but the file ends in August 1941 with no further mention of the bones. Research trips to Suva by TIGHAR teams in 1999 and 2003 were not able to pick up the trail. A third trip was organized by TIGHAR Team Physician Dr. Jon Overholt. A report is pending.

  Artifact Analysis

A key first step in identifying artifacts is often laboratory testing to find out what they are made of. We currently have nine artifacts out for materials testing and we’ll certainly have more as we continue processing the many objects recovered during the recent expedition. Other artifacts need detailed physical examination by experts. We’re fortunate to have many forensic experts working as TIGHAR volunteers but sometimes we have to hire outside help. For example, eight pieces of broken glass are being examined by an archaeologist in Vermont with special expertise in identifying chipping on sharp edges that suggest secondary use as a tool.

The Cost:

Materials testing typically runs between $300 and $1,000 for a single artifact, depending upon what technologies are used – Scanning Electron Microscopy, X-ray fluorescence analysis, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, etc. We’ll easily have another $10,000 of lab work to pay for. DONATE.

  Faunals Analysis

Careful excavation revealed that the Seven Site is dotted with the remains of small fires on which meals of bird, fish, possibly turtle, and maybe even rat were cooked. There are also deposits of clam shells of several different varieties. We already know that the fish bones we collected at the site in 2007 are not typical of meals eaten by Pacific islanders. Veterans of the Coast Guard station tell us that when they had cookouts they brought hot dogs from the mess hall. Are all of the meals cooked and eaten at the Seven Site attributable to a western castaway or are some meal sites more typical of islanders? It’s an important question because if we can figure out how much food the castaway(s) consumed we can get a rough idea of how long they were there. Also, if we can find out whether any of the birds were juveniles we can get an idea of the time of year they were killed.

The Cost

Something over two thousand fish bones, most of them smaller than a house key, are now at the Anthropology Department of the University of Alabama in Birmingham for analysis. A similar number of bird bones are at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu to be identified and cataloged. The mollusks are in Guam with Micronesian Archaeological Research Services. The estimated cost of all professional faunal analysis contracted for so far is $10,600. DONATE.

  Solomons Expedition II

In late 1938, a year and a half after Earhart disappeared, the British Western Pacific High Commission established a small colony of people from the Gilbert and Ellice Islands on Nikumaroro.  In 1963 the colony was abandoned because of a severe drought and the people were resettled in the Solomon Islands. They named their new village Nikumaroro.  In 1995, a TIGHAR researcher visited Nikumaroro Village to interview surviving residents of the original colony.  A group of TIGHAR researchers went to the village again in August 2011. Click here for a full description. A full report is pending.




Click HERE to make a donation of support for any of these on-going research projects .

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

Photek Imaging
Digital Globe
Thursby Software
Sutton Inspection Bureau
Bella Energy


Whites Electronics

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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