Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Plan Comes Together

Just a tad over a week till we blast off for Apia, and thence to Nikumaroro. Things are coming together nicely; all up-front charter fees are paid, gear is shipped, the expedition ship Nai’a is refitted after a disastrous fire, and TIGHAR has executed an agreement with a major broadcaster that should result in a high-quality documentary on the project. Subject to Murphy’s Law, the work plan looks like this:

1. Remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) will search the reef face off the Nutiran land unit down to a depth of about 300 meters; if plane parts don’t turn up there, they’ll move on to the southeast along the reef face.

2. An autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) will search in the lagoon (We don’t think the plane is in the lagoon, but others do, and we think substantial parts may have washed in there). Divers will spot-check results.

3. We’ll trowel-strip an area exposure of roughly 15x30 meters at the Seven Site, down to at least 10 cm. (the depth of most cultural material found to date), followed up with a ground-penetrating radar survey of the entire site, and excavation of any anomalies. There’ll also be repeated metal detector sweeps, screening of selected deposits, and where it appears useful, ultraviolet scans. Recovery of anything that might contain detectable DNA will be done under sterile conditions. Documentation will include total station mapping and kite aerial photography.

4. We’ll explore transects to the southeast, northwest, and northeast of what we now define as the Seven Site to see if anything extends out in those directions.

5. We’ll excavate at least one cookhouse feature in the colonial village, for comparative purposes, and search its site for plane parts.

6. We’ll document various interesting features in the lagoon, and

7. We’ll search crab dens in the forest around the Seven Site for any bones or artifacts the crabs’ ancestors may have dragged off and abandoned.

We’ll have about three weeks on the island to do all this. Daily reports will be sent in by satphone to TIGHAR Central in Wilmington, DE, US, and posted on TIGHAR’s website ( We will not have direct internet access on the island or aboard ship.

That’s the plan, anyhow. But in 22 years on this project, no expedition has ever quite gone according to plan. We shall see. Or as Rudyard Kipling put it:

The Lord knows what we may find, dear lass,
And The Deuce knows what we may do—
But we’re back once more on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail,
We’re down, hull-down, on the Long Trail—the trail that is always new.

(Kipling: “The Long Trail”

Saturday, May 1, 2010

It's All Done With Mirrors

In case you've ever wondered how long it takes a mirror to lose its silvering (reflective backing), there's now a short paper reporting an experiment on the subject, on TIGHAR's Ameliawiki (or Ameliapedia) at The wiki is the vehicle we're using to develop, organize, and present a wide range of data pertinent to the Earhart project, including archaeological site reports, artifact and other analyses, historical data, environmental data, etc. etc. The mirror study was occasioned by finding (in 2001 and 2007 on the Seven Site) pieces of what we're pretty sure was the mirror from a woman's compact from the 1930s.