On June 8, 2015, TIGHAR’s Niku VIII expedition sailed from Fiji to conduct three types of search operations at Nikumaroro, Republic of Kiribati: ROV investigation of the anomaly seen in 2012: scuba search for any small items just off the Bevington Object location; and a land search for the initial campsite just in shore of the Bevington Object location.

Daily Reports, Week 3
Week 3

Click HERE to go to the preliminary report on activities and results for Niku VIII.

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 right (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.

Funding for this expedition is still a little short due to changes in travel and shipping. Your support is critical at this stage. To make a donation to the Earhart Project, click HERE.

Sunday, June 28
Saturday, June 27 – no report
Friday, June 26
Thursday, June 25
Wednesday, June 24
Tuesday, June 23
Monday, June 22
Air Pacific bumped the entire team from the flight they were schedule on. They are now due to arrive LAX this morning, and proceed homeward from there. Ric will be back in the office tomorrow, July 3, and will be writing a quick update at that time. Further reports, more in depth, will follow quickly.

In Fijian waters, inside the archipelago, and the seas have dropped significantly. Sorting and packing has begun and will continue through tomorrow. With an extra day in hand, there should be just enough time to get everything done and to the FedEx and UPS depots before catching flights home or onward.

The next report will be July 2, from TIGHAR headquarters.

Seas are high and rough. It’s no place for a landlubber. Things go flying across cabins, coffee is deposited in thin layers throughout the salon, and in general it’s unpleasant. Not as bad as 1997! That was a tropical cyclone – hurricane, to those of us bordering the North Atlantic. This is a bogi walu (pronounced “bongee waloo” if you are interested), roughly equivalent to a nor’easter. Ric said it translates to “ain’t good” — I’m not sure I believe him. But Nai’a is a sound ocean-going vessel, steel hull and big engine, and they are soldiering on, rolling 45° and more.

Discussion of findings: there are no judgements to be made yet about the underwater work. The data acquired must be analyzed. The Camp Zero hypothesis is not provable because of the drastic impact of storms on the island. It’s a good, logical idea, but there is no way of confirming or denying it.

The view from the porthole, 1997. TIGHAR photo.

Land Team

Nutiran beach
The Nutiran beach, taken in 2007.

On Wednesday Ric took a small group from the Fiji Princess ashore and up to Nutiran to look at the environment they've been working in. By moving slowly and resting frequently, everyone was able to make it there and back without injury. It’s a long way to walk in difficult conditions after five rough days at sea.

Tom King and Lonnie took another group into the Village to see the layout and history there. One person was not able to return under his own power.


ROV

The ROV team ran a Hail Mary pass.

The attempt to get the framework of the ROV to act as a sled failed. There was one more thing left to try, and they did it.

Every waterproof camera available was tied, physically, onto a powered line, with the HD camera with laser scale at the bottom, pointing down. A further line was added, about 1.5 meters long, with a dive weight on the end. A skiff was positioned carefully over the anomaly (using GPS lat/long), and the camera string was lowered 200 meters. Once at the bottom, the HD camera took shots every five seconds while Ron carefully raised the line a few feet, lowered it again, raised it, lowered it, walking it along.

In all, 432 images were captured. Topography and details are visible in 100 to 150 of them. Some interesting things are visible, and no geological explanation for the anomaly was seen. This is high definition imagery, with a scale included. A “snail trail” can also be generated from internal information on the camera. We look forward to the analysis.

Departure

By 2 p.m. everyone was aboard except the ROV team, who worked until sunset. Nai’a was underway by 6 p.m. Seas were moderate and expected to remain so for another day or so; but the closer they draw to Fiji the rougher the weather is going to be. We may not be able to get a good satellite link but if possible I will track their progress here.

See Thursday, 25 June; no report due to power outage at TIGHAR headquarters.

Land Team

Yesterday Ric, Gary, Andrew Sanger, and Rodney went back to Nutiran and covered the intersection between the beach and the buka, from the top of the berm to about 50 meters inland, and from the northwest tip down to just past Norwich City. A few manmade objects were found but nothing that could have anything to do with our primary search.

Meanwhile, Lonnie, Mark, and Andrew McKenna walked from the landing channel along the south shore, crossed Baureke Passage, rounded the tip at the Coast Guard station, and ended up at the Seven Site, filming as they went.

The Seven Site is, predictably, a disaster, grown in with scaevola nine to ten feet tall. The ren tree which figured so largely in our work there has fallen over. The camera platform Mark made out of ladders and plywood is a mess; the ladders are there, but the plywood has rotted out. But they got great video.

Lonnie performed an experiment with the inverting eyepiece from Lee’s sextant, and was able to start a fire with it. It wasn’t easy, but it worked. So one piece of speculation is proved in theory, although not, of course, in fact.

They walked back, arriving at the landing just before dark, dead beat but successful.

Today, Gary will take a land team into the old village to re-locate a particular site, a house known as “John Manybarrels” because there were a dozen or two large metal barrels there. We found some interesting things there in the past, and it’s worth trying it again. However, given the condition of the rest of the island, it won’t be too surprising if the house is unfindable or simply gone.


ROV

We could not re-locate the fender target. The focus is now on the anomaly.

The motherboard is toast. Apparently a power surge occurring during the course of the repairs killed it. It is now rigged with all the gear and functioning as a sled for instrumentation and cameras. Nai’a can take station over the anomaly and hold with her engine – necessary because the wind has dropped off and will no longer hold her out against the moorings. We should get the coverage we need, although there are variables that can’t be controlled. The dive team will support this work today as their formal mission is finished.


Notes:

Fiji Princess arrived at 2 p.m. local time.

This is the last full day of work. By tomorrow lunchtime breakdown will start.

The remains of Norwich City: steam engine and tanks. TIGHAR photo by Laurie Rubin.


The TIGHAR Burgee, flown on every expedition since Niku I. Somewhat battered but still there... TIGHAR photo by Laurie Rubin.

 

Land Team

The channel was again too rough for safe operations. Everyone was suited up, laden with necessary supplies, and ready to go, but Rob nixed it. Just not worth the risk, and Ric had to agree. There were some unhappy campers for sure. However, the direction and force of the breakers is changing for the better and today will allow ops to resume as normal.


Dive Team

The Dive Team has completed their planned survey of the official search area. Organized and disciplined, it covered the reef from the NW point to the Norwich City from the surface to 120′. Nothing of interest was found. Either nothing is there, or it is too well camouflaged by coral to be discoverable. This is not surprising given the decades and the environment.

Today they will work the shallow area off the NW point where there is an anchorage. Some current runs north around the tip of the atoll and while a long shot, conceivably something could have fetched up there. They will also check out the area just off the landing channel.


ROV Team

Walt’s ROV was deployed and about 45 minutes of video was recorded, using Mark’s GoPro camera. It got hung up on something, a coral snag probably, but they were able to free it and retrieve it. It arrived back at the surface in pieces, but much is salvageable and we have that video.

Meanwhile, the team is working on hanging all the hardware onto the Seabotix ROV and lowering it down to the anomaly: cameras, laser scale, GPS, everything. The motherboard for one of the onboard computers seems to be bad, and there is still a chance the unit can be made fully functional, but this is the next best thing.

Walt Holm with his home-built ROV rigged to go. TIGHAR photo by Laurie Rubin.


Looking at the video. TIGHAR photo by Laurie Rubin.


Mangled ROV. But it did its job. TIGHAR photo by Laurie Rubin.


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

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The Members of the TIGHAR Board of Directors.

And the loyal membership of TIGHAR.

Donate to the Earhart Project.


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 Ric@tighar.org).


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