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Author Topic: Time on Site  (Read 2864 times)

Jon Romig

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Time on Site
« on: November 07, 2017, 03:58:40 PM »

Apologies if this topic has been already been sufficiently discussed. I have searched for relevant terms (time on site; duration of visit; etc.) without success.

One of the greatest constraints in the search has been the limited time available for TIGHAR to be on Nikumaroro - we can manage just a handful of days every couple of years. With the cost for the boat, the lease of equipment and the limited free time of the participants, we can't seem to support the sustained durations that I believe are more typical of successful archaeological digs. I realize that we haven't identified a site or sites that are obvious candidates for a major long-duration effort, apart from the Seven site which appears to have been successfully explored in a few weeks time on site - over multiple visits. So we haven't really needed to be on the island for extended periods.

Still, that maybe a causal fallacy - our lack of clear targets for extended investigation may in fact be due to the fact we haven't had enough time on site to identify them.

I can imagine a small group from TIGHAR camping on the island with a desalination rig, photovoltaic power, satellite internet, and scheduled drop-off and pick-up by ship. With weeks of time available instead of days, a much more thorough exploration/investigation could be accomplished, hopefully achieving new discoveries. On the face of it, a month or two's stay would now seem to be practical. It is worth noting that the technology that might make this kind of stay practical (or livable) hardly existed 25 years ago.

So my questions are:

1. Would there be significant benefit to the project from longer (perhaps very much longer) visits to Niku?

2. Could a longer stay be done more cost-effectively (in $/person-day on site), and how could a longer stay be achieved?

3. What is getting in the way?

4. Could a related project such as a detailed study of the village, or of the island's ecology, be developed and allow us to piggyback or collaborate? Niku is after all fascinating for a number of reasons unrelated to AE.

Thank you for your interest,

Jon
Jon Romig 3562R
 
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Time on Site
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2017, 05:38:16 PM »

3. What is getting in the way?


It seems to me that one factor that has complicated TIGHAR's work is the need to have a representative from the Phoenix Islands present with them at all times.


The longer the stay on the island, the harder it may be to find the requisite overseer.


"Difficult" does not mean "impossible."

The Seven Site does seem to me to be pretty much played out.  Years ago, Tom King spoke about doing a proper survey of the villages.  Lots of aluminum artifacts have come from that part of the island, notably 2-2-V-1 and many combs.  But that would be a pretty huge undertaking--millions of dollars, I would think.

I like the underwater searches.  They don't need the land-based technology that you are interested in.  The costs for a long expedition are prohibitive.  I was jealous of the clarity of the images obtained by the recent expedition to survey the deep reefs.  Truly impressive!

LTM,

           Marty
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Andrew M McKenna

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Re: Time on Site
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2017, 06:40:19 PM »



So my questions are:

1. Would there be significant benefit to the project from longer (perhaps very much longer) visits to Niku?

2. Could a longer stay be done more cost-effectively (in $/person-day on site), and how could a longer stay be achieved?

3. What is getting in the way?

4. Could a related project such as a detailed study of the village, or of the island's ecology, be developed and allow us to piggyback or collaborate? Niku is after all fascinating for a number of reasons unrelated to AE.

Thank you for your interest,

Jon

1- Yes, I believe there would be benefits if we could stay longer.  Every time I've been there (now 5 times), we've run out of time before getting all the things done we'd like to do.  Being able to be there for an extended time is attractive from an expedition point of view, but....Nikumaroro is a tough place to work, so it will take a team of extremely hardy and resourceful folks, and robust technology (almost every technology we've brought there has failed in some way at some point).  Food and water would both be an issue.  Extended periods of time in such a difficult environment is taxing, so productivity would also decline over time.

2-  Good question.  The largest obstacle is that we'd have to pay to have a ship first deliver us, then come and get us some weeks/months later, so we'd have to pay for two round trips from either Fiji or Samoa, and that double cost would probably not add up to a cost effective solution.  The only way it could be more cost effective is if there were a planned expedition after delivery that could "pick up" the TIGHAR team after whatever time period.  The odds of any ship arriving at Nikumaroro with empty berths is pretty small.  It isn't like empty freighters are passing by on a daily basis, they don't get anywhere near Nikumaroro.  Anyone who intentionally goes there has to go full up to make their own trip as cost effective as possible.   It is worth thinking about though.

3-  What is in the way is the remote nature of Nikumaroro which makes everything both hard to accomplish and very expensive, and then layer on top of that the fact that Nikumaroro is in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area which means that any on shore expedition has to be approved and permitted by Kiribati, and executed in accordance with the PIPA environmental guidelines.  Put all that together, and the biggest obstacle is always money.

4-  Piggybacking on another project is probably the only way to make a long term stay, but again you'd be faced with issues of logistics and transportation, personnel and technology. 

Is it all possible?  yes, absolutely, but not on a shoestring budget.

I for one, still think that the 7 site holds many secrets.  In addition to the 13 bones found in 1940, there were an additional 193 or so bones there at some point, and we need to expand our search area to see if we can find some of them, or even part of one of them.  An extended search period would greatly help such a search.

Best

Andrew
« Last Edit: November 07, 2017, 06:42:10 PM by Andrew M McKenna »
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Randy Jacobson

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Re: Time on Site
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2017, 07:42:43 PM »

I've always argued that the TIGHAR expeditions don't use the time efficiently on Niku.  They go ashore in the mornings and leave late afternoons.  Yet, the early mornings and late afternoons are cooler and offer a few more hours of work.  To make the expeditions more efficient, plans should be made to camp on land and stay on land overnight.  Food and water can still be transported from the boat on a daily basis, and exchange of personnel can also be made.  Yes, it is a little more uncomfortable, but time is money.  Little additional costs over current expeditions would be needed, mostly for tents, cots, and critter prevention, but I estimate at least a 25% increase in time available for archeology over current practices.

I suspect TIGHAR is not keen on camping on land with no boat nearby due to one very important reason: a medical emergency.  Niku is not terribly hospitable and if someone was injured with no boat nearby, a qualified medic or doctor would be needed to be ashore at all times with an extensive medical kit.  Telediagnosis and medical help would be available via satellite phone, but it is a real risk to undertake with potential dire consequences.  I, for one, would not recommend that approach. 

Ahhhh...but not having been on the island, it is easy for me to Monday Morning Quarterback, eh?

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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Time on Site
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2017, 08:17:14 PM »

Apologies if this topic has been already been sufficiently discussed.

Not on the Forum, but it has often been suggested.


One of the greatest constraints in the search has been the limited time available for TIGHAR to be on Nikumaroro

In the ten expeditions to Nikumaroro I have organized and led I have not found that to be the case.  Typically we have had between 12 and 15 volunteers working on the island for two to three weeks.  It takes about a week to acclimate to the heat and adjust your clothing, footgear, and equipment to deal with the environment.  For the next week people are at peak efficiency.  By the end of the third week the land team is pretty well used up.  Divers not so much, but a diver's day of two or three dives with rest periods aboard the ship in between is very different from a land team day of walking, bush-whacking, and digging.


With the cost for the boat, the lease of equipment and the limited free time of the participants, we can't seem to support the sustained durations that I believe are more typical of successful archaeological digs.

What we do on Niku is not analogous to a typical archaeological dig.

I realize that we haven't identified a site or sites that are obvious candidates for a major long-duration effort, apart from the Seven site which appears to have been successfully explored in a few weeks time on site - over multiple visits. So we haven't really needed to be on the island for extended periods.

Episodic searches of sites like the Seven Site, the Aukeraime Shoe Site, the village, the NW coastline, etc. are far more efficient than a single extended search. Each time we sample a site we collect data, and if we're lucky, artifacts, that must be analyzed and researched before we can assess their significance.  Sometimes the data and artifacts tell us that the site is worth further attention.  Just as often, post-expedition research and analysis tells us that a site is not worth further work.

Still, that maybe a causal fallacy - our lack of clear targets for extended investigation may in fact be due to the fact we haven't had enough time on site to identify them.

We don't identify targets by wandering around the island hoping we'll stumble across something interesting.  We develop hypotheses based on logic, anecdotes, historical documents, and historical photographs.

I can imagine a small group from TIGHAR camping on the island with a desalination rig, photovoltaic power, satellite internet, and scheduled drop-off and pick-up by ship. With weeks of time available instead of days, a much more thorough exploration/investigation could be accomplished, hopefully achieving new discoveries. On the face of it, a month or two's stay would now seem to be practical. It is worth noting that the technology that might make this kind of stay practical (or livable) hardly existed 25 years ago.

With enough money it would certainly be possible to do that, but for the reasons stated above I don't think we'd gain anything by doing it. More importantly, Nikumaroro is a dangerous place.  Even with a ship on-site, if somebody is in more distress than the expedition physician can deal with (heart attack, illness, compound fracture, severe machete or chainsaw wound, shark attack, etc., etc.) definitive medical care is more than a full day away if the ship immediately departs for Canton Island (24 hours away) to meet a Coast Guard C-130 dispatched from Oahu.  (We make these arrangements with the Coast Guard before every trip).  A ship from Samoa would take three and a half days to get to Niku.  Fiji is five days.
We're not fighting a war. The expedition leader's primary responsibility is to bring everyone home in one piece.  In our many expeditions to Niku we have had some close calls but we've never had an injury beyond a few stitches (the record is nine in 1991). We have never, and I would never consider, leaving people on the island without a ship standing by.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Time on Site
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2017, 08:29:03 PM »

I've always argued that the TIGHAR expeditions don't use the time efficiently on Niku.  They go ashore in the mornings and leave late afternoons.  Yet, the early mornings and late afternoons are cooler and offer a few more hours of work. 

I've always been firmly against camping on the island unless there was a particular need to do so. I'd rather people have a hot shower, a good meal, and get a good night's sleep in an air-conditioned (crab-free) cabin. They're more efficient the next day.
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