Niku IIIP (1996)

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"Knowing the location of a potentially historic site carries a heavy responsibility and we felt it was important that we examine and document what was there before we made the information public. We also recognized that the site might have nothing to do with Earhart and we didn’t want get everyone all stirred up just to be disappointed. Instead, we put together a small, unpublicized expedition funded by a single donor. The trip’s express purpose was to locate and identify the man-made object that appeared in the 1941 photo. For want of a better name, we called this trip Niku IIIP (P for Preliminary).

"We succeeded in finding the object and it was, indeed, a tank – but it was not an Electra fuel tank. It was a steel tank used for rainwater storage. Faded lettering on its side read “Police Tarawa.” We had seen several similar tanks in the abandoned village. There were a few other artifacts scattered around, all of them explainable as having come from the village. No airplane parts. Nothing that suggested a castaway, much less Amelia Earhart. The expedition felt like a complete bust but, before we left, and more or less for the heck of it, we carried out a small excavation in the village at a collapsed and washed-over structure which we believed had once been the carpenter’s shop. Nothing very interesting turned up except some electrical cables with connectors of a type we had seen used on aircraft radios."[1]

The location scouted in 1996 has since become known as the Seven Site and has been a major focus of recent expeditions. It seems likely that this is where the bones of a castaway were found in 1940.

Team Members

  • Richard Gillespie – Executive Director of TIGHAR and leader of the expedition
  • Patricia Thrasher – President of TIGHAR and expedition photographer
  • H. Donald Widdoes – TIGHAR #1033CBE
  • Joseph Hudson – TIGHAR #1689CE
  • John Clauss – TIGHAR # 0142CE
  • Veryl Fenlason – TIGHAR #0053CE
  • Russell Matthews – TIGHAR #0509CE
  • Manikaa Teuatabo - Customs officer