The Triangle Site

Jump to: navigation, search

Excerpt from: Search for the Nikumaroro Castaway’s Camp: Preliminary Report on Archaeological Investigations at the Triangle Site and the Seven Site, Nikumaaroro Island, Phoenix Islands, Republic of Kiribati. Thomas F. King, September 22, 2001, TIGHAR files

The Triangle Site is a roughly triangular patch of apparent pristine native vegetation on the southeastern shore of the island, surrounded by the dense masses of te Mao (Scaevola frutescens) typical of land that has been cleared but not successfully planted in coconut. It was investigated because it meets the general geographic description given by Gallagher (Southeast shore), and because its character suggested an answer to an otherwise rather mysterious question. Former U.S. Coast Guardsman Floyd Kilts reported in 1960 that he had been told about a discovery of bones on Nikumaroro, which the island’s “Irish magistrate” had associated with Earhart (c.f., King et al 2001:54-6). Since we now know that Gallagher was instructed to keep the discovery confidential – direction that it seems likely he would have passed on to his I Kiribati colleagues, why did a colonist tell Kilts about it? We speculated that if Kilts had been involved in land clearing operations (Veterans of the Coast Guard Loran Station on the island have told us that they did engage in such operations), he might have been warned not to disturb the site, and told about the discovery in order to explain the warning.

The Triangle Site was accessed from the lagoon shore by cutting a trail into what proved to be a grove of (apparently) rather young te Kanawa (Chordia subchordata)(Sic: See below), and then through dense te Mao to the ocean shore just west of the site. The site itself was found to be wooded in rather small Buka trees (Pisonia grandis), together with te Kanawa, te Ren, and te Uri. Elsewhere on the island te Buka have trunk diameters of up to a meter; at the Triangle Site twenty to forty centimeter diameters were typical. This is comparable with the diameter of te Buka observed growing through World War II-era corrugated metal at the Ameriki Loran Site.

The Triangle Site was first given a general surface inspection by John Clauss, William Carter, and the author. Subsequently Carter and James Morrissey swept the site with metal detectors and raked the surface clear of surface litter, permitting close visual inspection. The only human association found, besides contemporary flotsam in the shorefront vegetation, was a single 30 caliber rifle or carbine cartridge. Without anything of evident interest to investigate, and in view of the pressing need to devote resources to the Seven Site, the Triangle Site was not investigated further.

Addendum 2008: Biologist Joshua Gillespie examined the Triangle Site during the 2007 expedition and determined that its trees are not in fact te Kanawa but Island Walnut. A brief further inspection of the site revealed nothing new.