12 Number 2/3
||Smithsonian naturalists return, this time aboard a U.S. Air Force helicopter.
It is believed that the now completely abandoned island was under consideration
as a possible test site for biological weapons. Fortunately, that never happened.
||On October 24-27 a party of geologists employed by Geomarex Corp. surveys
the lagoon for exploitable minerals. None are found.
||Gardner Island becomes part of the new Republic of Kiribati
and is officially renamed Nikumaroro.
||From September 17 to October 6, TIGHAR’s Niku I expedition
ranges far and wide over the island hoping to find the Earhart aircraft in
the underbrush. Scuba divers scout the edge of the fringing reef on the chance
that the Electra rests somewhere on the first shallow shelves of coral. In
the last days of the expedition, exhausted, disappointed and empty-handed,
the team puts aside dreams of dramatic success and content itself with whatever
scraps the abandoned village might offer. Of the nineteen village artifacts
deemed worthy of collection, only one – Artifact 2-18, the dado – ultimately
emerges from the analytical process as a probable relic of the Lockheed.
||From October 10 to 19 TIGHAR’s Niku II expedition team
targets specific areas on the island while the ship conducts a side-scan sonar
search of the deep water off the reef. As in 1989, the underwater search is
fruitless while, onshore, the search for a possible campsite seen on the atoll’s
remote northeastern arm by Coast Guardsmen in 1944 is also negative. The excavation
of a suspicious grave near Bauareke Passage on the south coast produces the
bones of an infant, not Amelia Earhart, but coincidentally encounters shoe
fragments and other interesting objects nearby. Again, in the last days of
the expedition, an inspection of the abandoned village turns up aircraft debris,
including a torn section of aluminum skin. Research would eventually show that
the artifact could be part of a unique repair patch known to have been installed
on the Earhart aircraft in May 1937.
||Interviews with former residents of Nikumaroro now living
in the Solomon Islands corroborate the story that bones were found by the first
work party in 1938/39. No one knew a story about an airplane having been on
||From February 2 to 5 TIGHAR’s Niku III Preliminary expedition
tries again to locate the campsite on the northeastern shore, this time guided
by early aerial photos which have been digitized and enhanced to reveal the
presence of metal debris. Hopes that the campsite is that of Earhart and Noonan
are dashed when the debris is at last located but proves to be comprised of
objects from the Gilbertese settlement two miles away. For a third time, the
apparently defeated expedition ends with a walk through the abandoned village,
and once again, aircraft parts are found. This time the recovered artifacts
include a fragment of Plexiglas which subsequent analysis shows is probably
from Lockheed Part Number 40552, the cabin window of an Electra.