Niku VII (2012)

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Niku VII, TIGHAR’s 2012 expedition to Nikumaroro atoll in the Phoenix Islands of Kiribati, was planned so as to set sail on 2 July 2012, from Honolulu, on the 75th anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan.

Earhart Search 75 Conference

TIGHAR’s Earhart Project is testing the hypothesis that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan landed, and eventually died, on Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati. The 75th anniversary of their disappearance was marked by TIGHAR’s Earhart Search 75 Conference, held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, during the weekend of 1-3 June 2012. Approximately 100 people attended, and a brief newsclip with scenes from the conference is imbedded in a Voice of America report of the conference.

Niku VII Expedition

One month later, on 3 July 2012, TIGHAR’s Niku VII expedition departed from Honolulu, using a research vessel of the University of Hawaii, RV Ka’imikai-o-Kanaloa (“Heavenly Searcher of the Sea”). The expedition's mission was to perform a major search along the western edge of the fringing reef of Nikumaroro with side-scanning sonar and other advanced technology. This expedition was formally announced at the U.S. State Department in Washington, DC, on 20 March 2012. U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton spoke[1] during the televised[2] 45-minute briefing and lent her support to this effort to solve the mysterious disappearance of the famed aviator Amelia Earhart 75 years ago.

Also present at the announcement, and lending his support to the planned expedition, was famous explorer Dr. Robert Ballard. The final speaker at the announcement was the Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of the Republic of Kiribati, Tessie Lambourne, who pronounced a traditional Kiribati blessing upon the coming expedition. She said, "Te Mauri, Te Raoi ao Te Tabomoa", which means, "May good health, peace and prosperity be with you all."

Eric Bevington's October 1937 Photograph and the Nessie Hypothesis

TIGHAR’s decades-long efforts to discovery the “smoking gun” that would conclusively explain how Amelia Earhart’s world flight ended have long pointed towards the need to search for evidence of her aircraft somewhere along the western edge of the reef around the Pacific atoll of Nikumaroro. As explained by TIGHAR Executive Director Ric Gillespie during the State Department announcement, a major photographic discovery in 2010 led to the mounting of the Niku VII expedition. TIGHAR’s forensic analysis of a picture taken along the western reef of Nikumaroro just 3 months after Earhart and Noonan’s disappearance led to TIGHAR's “Nessie Hypothesis”, which is that a portion of the landing gear of their Lockheed Electra aircraft is visible in the photograph. Independent photographic forensic analysis conducted through the U.S. State Department supports TIGHAR’s conclusion about the object seen in the picture.


  1. Text of remarks by Secretary Hilary Clinton
  2. U.S. State Department televised event: "Celebrating Amelia Earhart and the United States’ Ties to Our Pacific Neighbors"