2007: Niku V

Expedition

Updates

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July 27
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Niku V Home Dailies Plan Team Press Grid Maps Research Support

The sea has kicked up in a major way. Transferring from Nai’a to the skiff and back has become hazardous, with the skiff hovering many feet above the dive deck, then plunging below. It’s easier to jump down than climb up, and it’s a good thing that the crew is strong and skilled, with many hands to catch and hold those who become airborne.

The total station is working at the Seven Site, and data are being collected at a great rate. It took several telephone calls to the distributor, and a thorough reading of the manual, but perseverance is all.

The Seven Site team spent most of the day digging metal detector hits and continuing with established units. A Springfield .303 cartridge was found at an 18cm depth (about 7 inches, very deep for this area). This is a British-made round which must have been left by the New Zealand survey. So questions arise: If they were at this site, why didn’t they see the bones? or if the castaway was still alive, why didn’t s/he pelt out of the bushes demanding rescue? A Springfield is not a pop gun and should have been audible a good ways.

frigateAlso found: part of a small pocket knife, and shards of a rectangular mirror.

In the Village, more hits being dug, more items being found. No details yet, as that group wasn’t back aboard when Ric called.

During the day the kite was flown over the Seven Site. It was not an unqualified success, primarily because it was immediately surrounded by swarms of boobies and frigate birds. “What is it? Look at the crazy colors! Is it good to eat? Is it a new kind of bird?” Perhaps they’ll get used to it and allow the team to get some photographs eventually.

The arrowhead team did serious scaevola hacking and found … nothing much. The position where the arrowhead used to be was on the ocean edge of the buka forest. They found dead buka, and no big scaevola roots, but now it’s solid scaevola with no openings. There was nothing on the ground, no man-made materials, no explanation on the ground for the feature seen in the 1938 photograph.

Ric and Josh did some work with the 1939 photograph that shows the arrowhead. In 1995, analysis by Photek seemed to indicate that there was some man-made material in the area. They will make an effort to pinpoint the spots and see what may be there, as 1939 is obviously too early for materials from the village to have made their way to the area.

The skull hole is fully shored up and excavation continues. John Clauss has the U.V. scanner operating. It’s very hot out of the breeze, inside the walls of scaevola. Metal detecting and digging of hits continues in the village.

It was a good day in the village yesterday. Very hard work, of course, especially given that everyone slept poorly. The boat dragged its anchor in the night and had to steam off and drift to avoid a sudden impact with the reef. There was a certain zombie-ish air to the entire team as a result.

But the unit at the Carpenter’s Shop has begun to reward the effort with metal artifacts. There are things that correspond to known substructures on the Lockheed 10, and some of them have part numbers on them. There are bolts, bushings, nuts, fittings, all sorts of things. There are assemblies that offer the possibility of certain identification, and items which are quite unique; high quality machine parts, all found in the same general area as was the elusive Wheel of Fortune.

So spirits are high and work is to proceed with cataloguing and collecting, as well as continuing excavation.

At the Seven Site additional burn features with bird bones have been found. This is also promising, as it speaks of a fairly long-term campsite rather than a quick one-time lunch.

The pig experiment has been fast-forwarded to the bone stage. The primary question to be answered is “Do the crabs go off with bones, and if so, where do they take them?” So Kar has disarticulated the bones and left them lying loose, rather than waiting for time, sun, and crabs to separate them from each other.

Kite flying has been put off until the wind drops some, as the whole rig was threatening to take a nose-dive into the ocean.

Today the Arrowhead Team was set to survey that area and see what might be there.

We’re happy.

A relatively slow day, with little organized activity. Some people slept, others pursued lines of investigation of interest to them. Ric, Tom King, Gary, Kar, and Robin visited each area of interest to discuss the progress and plan the next segment. Mark was along to film the High Level Meeting, which turned out to be a Good Thing: they were all sitting on a coconut log talking and the log collapsed, dumping them in the dirt – Caught on Camera. Perhaps we’ll stream it here when they get back.

Andrew and Walt took over-lay maps and metal detectors to the Nutiran side of the lagoon shore. That shore line has changed so much that it seemed to them to be worth checking for newly exposed (or newly buried) metal items that might be of interest. Barb, Lonnie, and John assembled the kites and took them off down the beach for testing. Today will be the day they try to get photographs of the Seven Site with the rigs.

arrowToday, Ric will take John, Bill, Andrew, and Josh into the bush to find the arrowhead. This cleared area appears in the 1938 photograph, just up the ocean side of the island from the Seven Site. Ric is interested in knowing if it can still be discerned on the ground, and if there is any chance it was man-made. Getting there will require careful navigation and serious cutting of scaevola.

On the evening of the 24th, the whole gang had a birthday party for Amelia. She was 110 years old, a good age. The crew was well prepared, and baked a cake on which her name was scribed. They even had a figurine with a leather flying jacket and helment, and a map. The only difficulty: who blows out the candles? So they opened one of the salon windows and called out, “Happy Birthday, Amelia!” and just then, a puff of wind came through … candles out.

An impromptu ceilidh* developed after dinner, with singing, poetry recitals, and kava, and a good time was had by all. A nice break in the grind, and it’s hard at it again today.

It was 113° at the Seven Site out in the open. In the Skull Hole they don’t know how hot it was. The thermometer only goes to 125° and the mercury was sitting on that mark all day.

Expanded clearing

Clearing has continued at the Seven Site with the area greatly extended from the 2001 perimeter (the map at right gives some indication; it isn’t accurate because it relies on verbal description). They are finding more artifacts as they expand the edges. Some of it is readily explainable, such as shot-to-pieces bottles, obviously the remnants of recreational shooting by the Coasties. More units will be established and work will continue on the units from 2001. There have been metal detector “hits” and additional bird bones and the like found.

The “G” feature has been obliterated by vegetation growth, although the remains can just be identified. One interesting find was a large sheet (or rather, its remains) of heavy iron corrugated sheeting like that found up around tank. There is no trail of pieces between the two, so apparently more was brought to the area than was needed.

In the village, more small pieces of metal, and a pulley. This caused some excitement until some of those on the team with aircraft experience looked at it: clearly too large and heavy to be from the aircraft, which had electric gear and flaps.

Today the team members had the option of standing down and resting, or spending time on shore investigating things of interest to them. Halfway through the time on the island people are too tired to be using power tools and need a day off. Tom King, Ric, and Gary planned to tour each of the important areas and plan for upcoming excavation and documentation.

People are acclimated pretty well now, learning to pace themselves, learning what to do and what to carry to stay comfortable and healthy in a challenging environment. The work is hard and the heat is harder, but you do get used to it.

The village site is still being cleared and metal detected. Two more small pieces of aluminum and a radio control knob have surfaced. The knob looks like it comes from the village, but has been collected for firm identification. The Carpenter’s Shop is on the agenda for today.

Ric was at the Seven Site yesterday and reports that the clearing operation has been incredible.

They have taken this: And turned it into this:
full scaevola cleared

Three of the members of Naias crew have done heroic duty cutting and hauling brush. The team has relocated the feature which had brown bottle glass in it, and have found more brown glass. Tom King will set it up as an archeological unit to fully excavate and understand the site. A long piece of thin copper wire has also been found, with one end of it deformed as if it had been wrapped around something. Otherwise, a good number of M-1 carbine cartridges, left by the Coast Guard men, are scattered around – perhaps as much as a full magazine’s worth.

Ric went to the “G” feature and found it pretty much obscured by the tree which was once behind it but has now grown over and around it. He will clear that back so it will be ready for work in the next day or so.

Nothing dramatic in the way of news or finds yet, but it’s early days. Spirits are high, the team is solid, and everyone is headed in the same direction.

villageWork is well begun in the old village. The team has cleared the area between the Rest House and the radio shack (WI15b) down to bare ground and metal detected the entire area. Only one item of significance has been found, a small piece of aircraft aluminum, cut at a right angle, very close to where a large piece, also cut, was found in 2003. This was collected.

As one can see from the maps there has been some question as to exactly which building was the carpenter’s shop. The team was able to get very good measurements and azimuth throughout the area, and with that information they will be able to pinpoint the exact location of the shop on the 1953 photo. Ric was planning to overlay that information on the 2007 satellite photo last night, and then be able to set up a clearing and surveying party at the carpenter’s shop this morning. We’ve been greatly interested in this site for years but have not been able to be sure we had the right place; this is excellent progress. The team will also finish “dado alley” and begin cataloging and sorting the data collected.

Clearing at the Seven Site is done and search work will begin today. Out of curiosity the team has put a thermometer out in the middle of the area. This was probably a mistake. It varies a little … between 110° and 115° F (43° – 46° C). It’s not information that really helps anyone feel better. The pneumatic loppers have done yeoman service; both sets are in use all day, going through about four tanks of compressed air (dive tanks). One suffered a structural failure late yesterday that is probably not reparable in the field, but with the clearing done the remaining set will be adequate.

Health continues good, with close monitoring of water intake for everyone. Dave acquired a three-stitch cut sharpening his bush knife, and Ric has some coral scrapes which are healing nicely (thank you Mr. Antibiotics!). Otherwise, except for the discomfort of the heat at the Seven Site and the humidity in the Village, all are well.


Niku V Home Dailies Plan Team Press Grid Maps Research Support

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