Friday, June 18, 2010

We're Baaaack

Some preliminary observations, etc. on the 2010 TIGHAR expedition to Nikumaroro, from which I arrived home at about 3 am yesterday -- was it only yesterday?

1. We all got home safe and sound. No major accidents or incidents. Great weather, good operating conditions.
2. The ROV searched down to about 300 meters in the primary search area, found the reef face to be more precipitous and uncluttered than expected, but depth soundings revealed a substantial sloping ledge beginning just BELOW the ORV's range (naturally) on which a plane could easily get hung up.
3. The AUV, augmented with towed side-scan sonar, did a pretty thorough survey of the lagoon, with negative results.
4. At the Seven Site, we pretty much carried out the agreed-upon strategy, excavating seven two-meter wide lanes along the ridge crest by trowel, plus a transverse lane and several 2x2 and 1x1 units in key areas (See attached KAP image).
Kite Aerial Photograph of Seven Site with excavations and major features marked

5. We found that fire features are much more numerous than previously understood, but the two big ones excavated in 2007 (and re-explored in 2010) appear to be the most likely to be associated with the castaway -- together with one new feature found to the SE.
6. We thoroughly explored the area under the Big Ren (Tournefortia) tree, with generally negative results.
7. We brought home a considerable collection of items that might retain DNA, all collected under sterile conditions. These include fragments of a cosmetic(?) jar, several possible human bone fragments, and much of the rest of the jackknife of which fragments were found in 2007, plus a number of additional pieces of probable rouge. Also a large collection of fish, bird, and turtle bones from fire features and elsewhere.
8. The possible DNA sources are en route to the DNA lab. Most of the remaining material (Lane-segment bags, etc.) are en route to me from Samoa via Fedex. I'll be making arrangements for faunal analysis.
9. Technologically -- KAP imagery worked great, UV scanning was once again a bust, and Ground-Penetrating Radar yielded many very interesting signals that when excavated proved to be nothing at all; very puzzling.

Everyone on the team worked their butts off; all the boats worked most of the time, the two expedition ships stayed afloat, and things went pretty much according to schedule.

General View of Excavations -- Lifesaving canopies courtesy Karl Kern

Be on the lookout for a documentary on the project on a major TV channel in the fall.

Now to get back to the real world.....