Amelia Earhart Search Forum => The Islands: Expeditions, Facts, Castaway, Finds and Environs => Topic started by: matt john barth on July 25, 2014, 12:40:00 PM

Title: Wells on Niku
Post by: matt john barth on July 25, 2014, 12:40:00 PM
I think I am starting to learn how to use this forum. I have posted things in the wrong spot a few times, so this is my attempt at making things right. I am an licensed Electrical Contractor here on the Rocky Mountain Front Range. I get involved with water wells around this area a lot. Over the years I found that water wells are interesting, so hooking up the pumps and instrumentation helped create my interest in water wells. I don't understand why I get into this sort of thing  but I do. I was wonder how did they dig wells on Niku? Did they just dig a big hole and hope water seeped into it? Did they actually bring a drilling rig on the island to drill down? How far down is water at Niku. Did they sleeve the drilled hole with a steel casing that goes straight down into the ground? When water is found is it heavy in mineral? How does it taste? Do you still have to boil it or is it ok to drink out of the well when water is available?

Matt Barth
Title: Re: Wells on Niku
Post by: Chris Johnson on July 26, 2014, 03:51:39 AM
Hi Matt,

I can answer some of your questions and also point you towards some things to research.

You may want to start with water lenses.  Atols trap rain water below the surface that "floats" on top of the salt water to make the lense.  Depending on rainfall and other stuff this cap of fresh water can rise and fall.

I believe the two main methods of making a well were by either digging a very large hole until they hit water (or it seeped in) or by dynamite.

The water was brackish and not to European taste.

I can't say if the wells were ever lined in the future but the main source of water once the colonists were established was a cistern used to collect rain water.
Title: Re: Wells on Niku
Post by: matt john barth on July 28, 2014, 01:38:37 PM
Thanks for the lesson. I have been wondering this for years. Done a few google searches but didn't put in the right key words I guess.

Title: Re: Wells on Niku
Post by: Andrew M McKenna on July 28, 2014, 06:31:55 PM
Apparently several wells were attempted by the colonists with relatively poor results.  Seems Niku doesn't have much of a lens of fresh water in the coral like many other atolls.  Tom King could probably give a much more specific answer about how many wells and where they dug them.

The cistern they built was relatively functional until about 2007 when it started to degrade pretty badly, and in 2010 when we were there the collection system was in bad shape, but the containment still holding water.

Title: Re: Wells on Niku
Post by: Monty Fowler on July 29, 2014, 07:27:38 AM
I think that, too, we have to keep KISS in mind - Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Remember where these islands were, and what the time period was. Getting a few bags of cement to one of these isolated islands was one thing, but hauling in enough construction materials and machinery to build a "proper" water well, or proper anything for that matter, wasn't going to happen. It was not the British way. It was "make do with what you have" as opposed to the American way, "overwhelming mechanized assistance." In the grand scheme of things, if NZ had decided to build an airfield on Niku, you can bet that a ship loaded to the gunwales with construction supplies and equipment would have appeared off the western reef in short order, much as happened at Wake Island right before the war.

Niku's colonization was a satellite operation designed to disperse natives from overtaxed islands to hopefully more fertile fields beyond. Even the Brits eventually realized that you can only do something with nothing for so long before the effort collapses under its own weight.

Monty Fowler, TIGHAR No. 2189 ECSP