Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The OHNP -- Whether and Why

The possibility of funding the Oral History of Nikumaroro Project (OHNP) through pledges collected via Kickstarter is looking pretty faint.  We've only a week left before the deadline for pledges and we're only just over 10% of the way to our $35,000 goal.  We will, of course, seek other ways to fund the project, and we do have some prospects, but I hope readers of these posts will consider pledges, and encourage others to do so.  Following is something I just posted on the OHNP's Kickstarter web site.

Why This Project?

By Tom King

There would be excellent reasons for the Oral History of Nikumaroro Project (OHNP) even if it had nothing to do with the mystery of Amelia Earhart's disappearance. The Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme, which brought I Kiribati and Tuvaluan colonists to Nikumaroro and other islands, was a brave, pioneering effort by its people and administrators alike, and it deserves to be documented as a part of humanity's consultable record.

But there is also that Earhart connection -- or non-connection, because the OHNP gives us what is perhaps our best chance to DISverify some important elements of the Nikumaroro Hypothesis for Earhart's disappearance, and trying to disverify one's hypothesis is the very heart and soul of scientific investigation.

We have a lot of stuff at the Seven Site that we just can't explain -- big chunks of sheet metal, for example, and we're hoping that the erstwhile colonists can tell us how they got there and what they were for. But we also have stuff that we tentatively associate with the castaway whose bones, we think, were found there in 1940, and it's just possible that someone in the Solomons can give us an alternative explanation for some of them. An example has come up this week.

Lithic specialist Geoff Cunnar has completed an analysis of glass shards from the Seven Site and found several that appear to have been used as impromptu cutting/scraping tools. There's much speculation in the Earhart Project Advisory Council (EPAC) about what the castaway might have done that would produce such tools. But what if they're not castaway productions? We know that the colonists made very fine feathered fans out of plant material, and traded them to the Coast Guardsmen at the loran station. This required stripping stems, splitting leaves, and the like. Other makers of basket-like containers and tools -- California Indian people, for example -- use small flakes of stone, like obsidian, to perform these tasks. Were the colonists doing the same thing at the Seven Site, with fragments left by the castaway or by the target-shooting Coast Guardsmen during World War II? Does fan-making also account for the scatters of bird wing bones at the site? One fan we've seen, definitively from Niku, has colors on it that are very similar to the color of the apparent rouge we've found on the Seven Site. Does that provide an alternative explanation for the rouge?

Based on current data, we can't say, but we owe it to the integrity of our research to try to find an answer, and the most obvious place to seek one -- albeit an anecdotal one -- is with the former colonists and their descendants now living in the Solomons.

Here's hoping we can get a team out there to ask people, and here's hoping it's not too late.

Tom King

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