The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery
2366 Hickory Hill Road · Oxford, PA · 19363 · USA
610.467.1937 ·

Facebook icon utube icon twitter icon instagram icon

Lost Photos Discovered

A tin box has been found containing forty-five aerial photographs of Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro) taken just fifteen months after the Earhart disappearance and before the first official inhabitation of the island.

Matthew O’Sullivan, Keeper of Photographs at the New Zealand Air Force Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand recently stumbled upon an unlabeled tin box in the museum’s archives described in records only as “Unknown Island.” Curious, he opened the box and found five sheets of contact prints and a slip of paper with the words “Gardner Island.” We’ve worked with Mr. Sullivan several times over the years so he is well familiar with TIGHAR’s work. A quick comparison of the images on the contact sheets with Google Earth convinced him that the photos were, indeed, of Gardner Island. Some more checking confirmed that he has the original five-inch negatives. He immediately notified TIGHAR Executive Director Ric Gillespie: “I don't have a date but it will be early WW2 at the latest. … If this film proves to be of interest you may well wish to come here and examine it yourself.” He sent photos of the contact sheets and Ric replied:

These photos are a gold mine. I know exactly what they are. What you have discovered is the complete set of aerial obliques taken on December 1, 1938 by a Supermarine Walrus launched from HMS Leander in support of the New Zealand Pacific Aviation Survey. The scrapbook of photos you have shared with us previously are the photos taken by the land survey party.

We’ve had two of these images via the New Zealand National Archives in Wellington for a long time. We always reasoned that there must be more photos somewhere. You have found them. Some of these photos provide excellent views of areas on the island that are of particular interest to us. The fact that you have the 5 inch negatives is fortunate beyond measure.

We are delighted to accept your invitation to come and examine the negatives in person. Our forensic imaging specialist, Jeff Glickman, will want to take photos of the negatives with his own equipment. Jeff and I made a similar visit to Oxford University last year to copy-photo the Bevington Photo. We’re currently working out the logistics of a trip to Christchurch and I’ll get back to you with a proposed date as soon as we have one.

Congratulations on an amazing find.

Best regards,

TIGHAR members and supporters have been quick to step forward with funding to let us take advantage of this incredible opportunity. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

Click HERE to donate.

Click HERE for other links within the Earhart Project.

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, 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