Niku 7 findingtheplane

Click HERE to go to the first report on what we found.

Click HERE to go to the Niku VII Daily Reports page.

On March 20, 2012 at a special event in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the United States Department of State in Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that later this year TIGHAR will do the long-awaited search for Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra in the deep waters off the reef at Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati.

Sharing the dais with Secretary Clinton were Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood; Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Island Affairs Kurt Campbell; Kiribati Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Tessie Lambourne; National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Robert Ballard; and TIGHAR Executive Director Ric Gillespie.

group pic

Following the event at the State Department, Kiribati Secretary Lambourne and TIGHAR’s Ric Gillespie signed an Antiquities Management Agreement that grants TIGHAR an exclusive license and right to search for, study, recover and preserve objects, including plane parts or wreckage, relating to or which tend to suggest the presence of Amelia Earhart and/or Fred Noonan within the territorial boundaries of the Republic of Kiribati.

Gift of book

As with previous TIGHAR expeditions, funding for this search is being raised entirely through contributions from private citizens, foundations, and corporations. Lockheed Martin is leading a growing family of corporate sponsors. TIGHAR’s long-time sponsor FedEx is aboard with a major contribution of shipping services, and we are proud to announce that, in addition to helping sponsor the expedition, Discovery Channel is producing a television special to air later this year documenting the search.

Underwater operations will be conducted for TIGHAR by Phoenix International, the U.S. Navy’s primary contractor for deep ocean search and recovery. We’ll sail from Honolulu July 2nd – the 75th anniversary of the Earhart disappearance.

TIGHAR is deeply appreciative of the expressions of support voiced by Secretary Clinton, Secretary LaHood, Secretary Lambourne, Assistant Secretary Campbell, and Dr. Ballard.

On July 3, 2012 – the 75th anniversary of the U.S.S. Colorado’s departure to search for Earhart – TIGHAR’s Niku VII expedition will sail from Honolulu to conduct a search for the Earhart Electra in the waters adjacent to Nikumaroro. This is the hi-tech deep water search we’ve long wanted to do but could never afford.

Why Now?

Photo analysts at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research have examined a photograph of the island’s shoreline taken three months after Earhart’s disappearance. They agree with TIGHAR forensic imaging specialist Jeff Glickman that an object visible in the photo is consistent with Lockheed Installation 40650, one of the main landing gear assemblies on Earhart’s Lockheed Electra Model 10E Special.

Bevington PhotoThe photograph is not a smoking gun – at least not yet – but it is new and compelling support for TIGHAR’s long-standing hypothesis that Earhart landed the Electra safely on the island’s dry, smooth reef and sent radio distress calls for several days before rising tides and surf washed the aircraft into the ocean where it broke up and sank. The validation of Jeff Glickman’s research and the publicity generated by the announcement of the new expedition at a special State Department event on March 20th has enabled us to raise over 75% of the $2,000,000 it will take to carry out the search. As with our nine previous trips to Nikumaroro, no government funds are involved. The money is being raised from a growing family of corporate sponsors including Lockheed Martin and FedEx, but most of the funding to date has come as contributions, large and small, from individual donors. To complete the expedition budget we need what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called “Amelia’s spirit, that sense that anything is possible if we just roll up our sleeves and get to work together.”

fuel gauge

The Niku VII Expedition


The expedition vessel was the University of Hawaii oceanographic research ship R/V Kaimikai-O-Kanaloa (affectionately known as “K-O-K”).  TIGHAR’s contractor for the hi-tech underwater search will be Phoenix International, the U.S. Navy’s primary source of deep ocean search and recovery expertise. Experienced underwater archaeologists will oversee the investigation of any man-made objects encountered during the search. A film crew will record the expedition for a Discovery Channel television documentary.


Upon arrival at Nikumaroro we’ll use multi-beam sonar to construct a detailed map of the steep, craggy underwater mountainside that is the island’s western reef slope.  Understanding the topography will help us define and prioritize the area to be searched by an Autonomous Underwater vehicle (AUV) equipped with a variety of sensors, including high-resolution side-scan sonar.  The exact AUV has not yet been selected.

“Targets” identified by the AUV will be investigated using a Submersible Systems, Inc. (SSI) TRV 005 capable of depths down to 1,000 meters (3,300 feet)..


An AUV at work.


Submersible Systems, Inc. (SSI) TRV 005.

search areaOur objective on this expedition is to conduct a thorough search of the area we judge to be most likely to contain wreckage from the Earhart Electra. Any man-made objects found will be photographed and their location carefully recorded. No recovery of objects will be attempted unless necessary to confirm identification. Should identifiable wreckage from the Electra be discovered it will be documented as thoroughly as possible in situ so that a separate expedition can be equipped with the appropriate means to recover and conserve the materials.

It will take K-O-K an estimated eight days to cover the 1,800 nautical miles from Honolulu to Nikumaroro. We anticipate ten days on-site at Nikumaroro and eight days back to Honolulu for a total of twenty-six days at sea.

To help us complete the budget and carry out this important mission please click on the link below. All contributors will receive a Niku VII Certificate of Participation as sponsor of the expedition.

To make a donation to the Earhart Project, click HERE.

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


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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