Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Only Six Cabins Left!

If you've been thinking about joining the 2015 TIGHAR-Betchart Expeditions trip to Nikumaroro (also sponsored by AAAS Travels, Sigma Xi Expeditions, and the Planetary Society), now is about your last chance; there are only six cabins left to charter.

The trip will stage out of Fiji and feature stops at several islands besides Niku, with about four days at our favorite atoll itself.  We plan to spend some time in the remains of the colonial village and at the Seven Site, as well as the site where shoe parts were found in 1991.  The activity I'm most looking forward to is an archaeologically controlled search of the village site's eroding shoreline, where airplane parts have been found in the past -- washing out of the village, washing up from the reef, or both; we just might find some more.  We'll also have exciting(?) lectures at sea by Ric Gillespie, other TIGHAR experts, and me.

Hope you can join us, but if you want to you'd best act fast.  Go to for more information and to reserve a cabin.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pacific Gyre Meets Nikumaroro

We've all heard about, seen images of, the Pacific Gyres -- the great patches of noxious, toxic trash circulating in the northern Pacific, choking seabirds and turtles, poisoning fish (c.f.  Those of us who've been to Nikumaroro know that even that very remote, uninhabited atoll has not been spared the Gyres' attention -- or that of some great floating patch of human-produced toxic waste.

Thanks to my colleague Art Carty, here's an image of what's happening to Niku -- at least the superficial expression of what's happening.  This is just one random shot from 2010, taken from the location we call "Camp Zero" -- the likely location of Earhart's and Noonan's first camp if indeed they landed where we think they did.  Camp Zero is scheduled for a close inspection as part of the planned 2014 Nikumaroro expedition (whose main focus will be on searching the deep reef face for the Electra -- see for details).  Maybe those who inspect it will at least be able to relieve it of some trash.  For awhile.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Vanished: A Book Worth Discovering

I ordered Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II without expecting to read it myself.  I mostly got it for my wife -- her father, Howard Sires, like some of the book’s subjects, vanished piloting a Liberator bomber over the Pacific near the end of World War II.  I figured I really knew everything I needed to know about missing pilots and planes in the Pacific – with the obvious exception of the elusive Earhart – and my experiences with people who seek lost war planes didn’t lead me to expect Vanished to be either good history or good literature.

Then I pulled it up on my Kindle on a long plane trip, and boy, was I surprised!

The author of Vanished, Wil Hylton (, is an honest-to-god writer, who works for the New York Times Magazine and contributes to rags like Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Harper’s.  He knows how to tell a story, and in Vanished he tells several, all neatly interwoven:

·         The story of the aircrews who piloted B-24 Liberators into action over Yap and Palau in 1944, and in many cases went down with them;

·         The story of their families, and the multi-generational anguish they’ve suffered by their men being missing in action, unaccounted for;

·         The stories of some of the Palauans who lived through the war (and some who didn’t), who witnessed some of what happened to the Liberators and their crews, and who have helped solve the mysteries surrounding them (giving, I should note, quite appropriate credit to the Palau Historic Preservation Office);

·         The story of the dedicated volunteers who’ve come to comprise the BentProp organization (, a somewhat TIGHAR-like group that’s devoted to finding those MIA flyers and their aircraft, and bringing closure to their families;

·         The story of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint MIA-POW Accounting Command (, whose military and civilian (archaeologists, physical anthropologists) pursue a similar mission of broader scope with a lot more professional and bureaucratic constraints;

·         The story of Japanese and Allied strategies in the Pacific war, and how they led to the events that befell those Liberator aircrews;

·         And lots more, all skillfully recounted and interrelated, and grounded in excellent, well-referenced historical research.  I learned a lot from Vanished, and was both entertained and inspired.  It’s hard to ask for more. 

And yes, Earhart puts in a cameo appearance, but Hylton, thank goodness, doesn’t pursue what happened to her.    

Vanished:  The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II.  By Wil S. Hylton.  Riverhead, 2013 (