Niku 7 findingtheplane

On July 3, 2012 – the 75th anniversary of the U.S.S. Colorado’s departure from Hawai‘i on the Earhart search – TIGHAR’s Niku VII expedition sailed 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.

daily reports

Reports are in reverse date order so that those who check every day don’t have to scroll down endlessly as the expedition progresses. If you are new to this page, just click on the earliest date to the left (down at the bottom of the list) and then scroll up to read each posting in order. For previous weeks, click on the “Week” links above.

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

Thursday, July 5
Wednesday, July 4
Tuesday, July 3
Monday, July 2 – no daily report
Sunday, July 1
Saturday, June 30 – no daily report
Friday, June 29

Actual position at 1400 EDT, 16°20′ N 161°11′ W making a blistering 9.4 knots. Weather is good with a typical scattered deck of cumulus clouds at est. 1,500 feet. Seas are two to three foot swells.

The day’s business was a meeting with the Phoenix team, primary contractors, about setting up the search grid for the AUV and planning the missions. At this time they are figuring on beginning with four to six hour missions to get the feel of the environment and do micro-planning. Once the lay of the land (sea floor) is understood, they’ll go to 12 hour missions which is much more efficient. It takes the same amount of time to recover, dump, change the batteries, load the new program, and re-launch whether the mission is 2 hours or 12, so it’s a lot better to run to the end of the battery life if possible. The ship will shadow the AUV to keep track of it and make sure it’s doing what it’s supposed to do during all missions.

At this time the estimated arrival on site is about midnight July 11, but of course this is subject to change as weather, wind, sea state, and so on combine in different ways.

Because they are anticipating arriving at night, the first order of business will be to do a mapping run with the SeaBeam standing out from the island. You do not want to tangle with that reef at night (see Norwich City). Then as dawn breaks they will be able to stand in and do more runs with the SeaBeam and start setting up the AUV.

Actual position at 1800 EDT, 18° 52′ N 159° 30′ W. Sea state 2 (6 foot waves). Making 8.3 knots. Good weather. Good

It’s a quiet day aboard K-O-K. Everyone is settling into shipboard routine, reading, reviewing equipment, testing this and that, working on video stuff, and generally chilling after the last few intense days in Honolulu. The seas have moderated, steaming along at a good rate with a nice smooth ride.

Home stretch. TIGHAR photo by Laurie Rubin.

The Discovery crew is going to everyone on the ship doing I.D. work for set up: Start camera, person looks into camera, states name, title (if any), position aboard (Chief Engineer, SSI technician, whatever), so when the editors start working with the footage at the end of the expedition they’ll know who everyone is.

Ric is working on depths and reef profile stuff for a meeting with the technical teams tomorrow to start discussing the specifics of the search and how they plan to execute the various phases. It may seem a bit late, but this is actually the best time to work on this information and refine what has been a general scheme into an hour-by-hour checklist. Now that the frenzy of getting ready is done and they are at sea, everyone is going to get a bit more sleep.

Seventy-five years ago today, the world learned that Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra had failed to arrive at Howland Island. In the last in-flight radio message heard by the Coast Guard, she said she was “on the line 157 337 – running on line, north and south.” Reasoning that she had flown south on that line toward the islands of the Phoenix Group, the U.S. Navy quickly decided to send the battleship USS Colorado from Honolulu to search along that line, but logistical necessities prevented the ship from sailing until the next day. In an ironic historical parallel, logistical necessities have also prevented R/V K-O-K from departing Honolulu until July 3rd.

An observer from the Republic of Kiribati must accompany the expedition. He’s coming from Kiritimati (Christmas Island) and there’s only one flight a week – on Tuesdays. As soon as he gets here we’ll leave. The current estimate is that we’ll cast off at 14:00 (2pm) local time.

This morning was spent resolving some technical issues and this afternoon we “bunkered” for the trip with 46,000 gallons of fuel. Everything is now set to go — or rather, whatever nearly-insurmountable difficulties remain to be resolved have not yet become apparent. :-)

Click on each photo to open much larger versions (with full captions) in a new window.
SSI team Wolfgang and Ric technical group
Malcom Griffiths, Ric Gillespie, and Wolfgang Burnside Wolfgang Burnside & Ric Gillespie The Niku VII technical team

At about 3:30 p.m. Honolulu time the ship cast off and they were on their way.

On the Way
Setting off for Nikumaroro. TIGHAR photo by Pat Webb.

Sunday, July 1st, started with a press event dockside hosted by expedition sponsor FedEx. Representatives of local and national media heard remarks delivered by expedition leader Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR member Col. Pat Webb, Discovery Channel Executive Producer Brooke Runnette, and Alexander “Sandy” Shor, Associate Dean of the University of Hawaii School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. Afterward, the film crews were given tours of the expedition ship R/V Ka’Imikai-O-Kanaloa whose Hawaiian name, we have learned, means Heavenly Searcher of the Seas. (How cool is THAT?)

The AUV and ROV were put in the water for the first time to test the launch and recovery systems. Everything worked fine and it was exciting to see the vehicles in their natural element. SSI technician Wolfgang Burnside allowed Ric to “fly” the ROV long enough to get the feel of the controls. Ric found the vehicle powerful, agile and easy to fly.

Click on each photo to open a larger version in a new window.
Out of the hangar on crane in the water
The Bluefin 21 AUV comes out of the hangar. Deploying the AUV The AUV and ROV go for a swim together.

So far it’s a quiet, normal expedition. Departure is pushed back one day (to July 3) because there is only one flight per week from Kiritimati Island to Hawai‘i, so the earliest the I-Kiribati Customs official can get to Honolulu is Tuesday the 3rd. He is expected mid-afternoon on Tuesday and they will sail as soon as he is aboard.

Meanwhile, the technical staff is very glad of the extra day. There are always glitches, stuff that doesn’t work quite the way it should, tests that need to be run, toothpaste to be bought, and the additional time will allow for these issues to be resolved while still in port where there are stores and cell phones and other markers of modern civilization.

We have a number of photographs up in different places for your viewing pleasure. One of the best places to check is TIGHAR’s Facebook page. Also, take a look at this graphic which gives the details on the incredibly complicated logistical arrangements involved in getting the technology assembled. Thanks to one of our major sponsors, FedEx, everything has arrived in Honolulu in a very timely fashion, transferred from freight dock to U. of H. dock to ship, or from airport to ship, without muss or fuss, and all is aboard. Below is the container which is the control center for the ROV, welded to the upper deck of K-O-K, and featuring the FedEx promotional slogan and our logos. We are so grateful to the entire staff at FedEx for making all this possible.

container There is a great deal of running about, fetching people from the airport, talking to media, and discussing (and fixing) technical bugs this weekend. The last of the TIGHAR staff arrives tomorrow, Sunday, and that’s also when the big press event will be held. Look for a lot of coverage on Monday in major outlets.

FedEx team

The FedEx team working aboard K-O-K in the conference room.

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.

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

About TIGHAR Join TIGHAR TIGHAR Projects TIGHAR Publications Contract Services


Copyright 2021 by TIGHAR, a non-profit foundation. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be reproduced by xerographic, photographic, digital or any other means for any purpose. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be stored in a retrieval system, copied, transmitted or transferred in any form or by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, digital, photographic, magnetic or otherwise, for any purpose without the express, written permission of TIGHAR. All rights reserved.

Contact us at:  •   Phone: 610.467.1937   •   JOIN NOW