Friday, March 7, 2014

This Year’s Expedition, Next Year’s Visit

Next Wednesday, March 12th, at noon, there’ll be a TIGHAR press conference at the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, in Washington DC, announcing plans for the late 2014 search of Nikumaroro’s NW (Nutiran) reef using manned submersibles.  More info is on TIGHAR’s website,

And plans are progressing nicely for June of 2015, when Ric and I look forward to guiding about 120 of our closest friends on a visit to Nikumaroro, with the opportunity to do a little focused on-land research.  Betchart Expeditions has just published and is now distributing a detailed trip brochure; you can get one from their website,

The Betchart trip will run from June 17 to July 3.  We’ll start and return to Fiji, aboard MV Reef Endeavor, and make a couple of stops en route to Niku.  On Niku, besides giving people the chance to see the sites (Seven Site, Shoe Site, likely landing site on the reef) and sights (Coconut crabs, boobies, spectacular lagoon, lovely sunrises and sunsets,scaevola), we want to try to do a small survey project or two that have a chance of turning up a piece of the Electra.  We’re kicking around three ideas:

1. Systematic intensive survey of the eroding shoreline of Ritiati, the land unit containing the colonial village and government station.  The reef flat here is one of the places where plane parts would most likely wash up if the plane wound up where we think it did, AND it’s where plane parts would likely wash out if they’d been picked up and used in the village.  We know, of course, that plane parts WERE used in the village; we’ve found them – we just haven’t found any that are absolutely positively without question from a Lockheed Electra.  So, an intensive survey of the Ritiati shoreline – which is constantly eroding due to rising sea levels, so what wasn’t visible last year may be lying right there in plain sight this year – may be productive.

2. Search for the “Wheel of Fortune.”  The WOF was noted in 2002 by a biological survey party from the New England Aquarium, in Tatiman Passage, but neither recorded in detail nor collected.  TIGHAR made a vigorous effort to find it in 2003, to no avail.  It may have been blown away in a storm, but then again, maybe somehow we missed it.  It was apparently about the right size to be an Electra wheel.  We could do a systematic wading survey to take another crack at it.

3. Show ourselves the door.  During the 2011 interviews with Niku veterans now living in the Solomon Islands, our team was told about what people thought might have been an airplane’s door, found and played with by kids on Aukaraime South SE of Baureke Passage – that is, in the neighborhood of the 1991 Shoe Site.  It’s a long shot – looking for something that elderly people today recall playing with as kids – but maybe worth a close look.

Those are the major candidates for survey projects, but I’d be very interested in getting additional suggestions.  Any ideas?

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