The Nikumaroro Hypothesis proposes that Amelia Earhart, who in 1937 disappeared while flying her Lockheed Electra to a tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean called Howland Island, managed to reach Nikumaroro Atoll, a few hundred miles southeast of Howland, only to perish there along with her navigator, Fred Noonan.
A group called Tighar, led by a fellow named Ric Gillespie, is the main proponent of the Nikumaroro Hypothesis, and it is through Tighar’s web site that I became aware of the Nikumaroro Hypothesis. One of the most intriguing stories Tighar presents is the discovery in 1940 of remains of a castaway on Nikumaroro, also known as Gardner Island. Give or take a few short-term visitors, Gardner was uninhabited until 1938, when colonists from the Gilbert & Ellis Islands established a settlement there under the supervision of British colonial officials of the Western Pacific High Commission (WPHC). In September of 1940, a colonial official stationed on Gardner named Gerald Gallagher reported to his superiors that the partial skeleton of a castaway had been found on the island by a colonist work party; searches in the vicinity turned up a few artifacts including a sextant box, but no sextant.
Gallagher raised the possibility that the remains might have been those of Amelia Earhart, and this idea was taken seriously by officials at the WPHC. Gallagher was instructed to send the bones and associated artifacts to WPHC headquarters in Fiji for examination. There, the bones were examined by a Doctor Hoodless, who concluded that the castaway was a stocky male. Hoodless also offered the opinion (as had Gallagher) that the castaway’s bones had been exposed to the elements for too long to have been those of Earhart, who had been missing for 3 years. Meanwhile, the sextant box was examined by the air navigation pioneer Harold Gatty, who happened to be in Fiji at the time. Gatty's opinion, as reported in WPHC correspondence, was "He does not consider that it could in any circumstance have been a sextant box used in modern trans-Pacific aviation."
Gallagher’s superiors in Fiji decided that the castaway’s remains were not those of Earhart and the matter was forgotten about until Tighar came upon colonial-era correspondence about the finding of the castaway's remains on Gardner Island. Tighar makes the case that Dr. Hoodless’s analysis of the bones was flawed, and it has presented a re-analysis of the castaway's bones based on his examination notes that concludes that the castaway was a more likely a woman than a man. Tighar also argues, notwithstanding Harold Gatty, that a good case can be made that the sextant box belonged to Fred Noonan. Tighar has made numerous expeditions to Nikumaroro and it believes a place on the island it calls the Seven Site is the location where the castaway’s remains were found in 1940.
The sextant box, the castaway’s bones, and the Seven Site are key parts of the case for the Nikumaroro Hypothesis. And there's more--radio messages that Tighar suggests came from Earhart after landing at Gardner, bits of aluminum found on Gardner which are said to possibly be parts of her plane, etc. I’ve read much of what Tighar has written about these subjects, and I’ve even participated in debates about them on discussion forum on the Tighar web site. I’ve decided to branch out and create this blog as a way to further discuss these topics, and maybe eventually other topics as well. I think the blog format will allow me the space and the freedom to discuss these topics in a way that wouldn't be possible on the Tighar Forum. I know there are readers of the Tighar Forum with great expertise in subjects that make them well suited to offer informed commentary on the Nikumaroro Hypothesis, and I’m hoping that perhaps the example of my humble blog might inspire some of these folks to follow suit and create their own blogs as well.
If you’ve managed to get this far, thanks for reading and I hope you’ll find some of my upcoming posts interesting. I’ve decided that for now at least I won’t allow public comments, but private comments -- corrections, additional relevant facts, differing viewpoints, etc. -- are always welcome.
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