In a Tighar publication titled Earhart Project Research Bulletin #21, ‘Signs of Recent Habitation', there is a discussion of an air photo of the Seven Site taken in December 1938. We are told:
“Of particular interest is what appears to be a network of trails or footpaths associated with the top of the 7 and a single winding path leading to a large white open area farther up the shoreline. Although vaguely airplane shaped, detailed inspection reveals that the white feature is not an airplane. It seems to be just a T-shaped sandy area”
In 2007, Tighar put out a ‘News Alert’ titled ‘A Short History of a Long Project', which discusses this same 1938 air photo:
“A curious anomaly in a 1938 aerial photo of the island might have been an attempt by the castaway(s) to signal any passing aircraft. A bare spot in the vegetation nearly fifty feet across appears as an unnaturally bright white arrowhead-shape a few hundred yards north of the Seven Site. The feature is not a flaw in the photo and is not present in later aerial photography, suggesting that it might be man-made, possibly by bringing white beach sand or coral inland. We’ll locate the spot and see what is there today”
But, when another version of the same 1938 air photo turned up in 2013, and other photos of the area, too, it became clear that the arrowhead-shaped feature that Tighar said was not a flaw in the photo was…a flaw in the photo. Ric Gillespie tells us in a post on the Tighar forum:
“In the recently discovered un-cropped contact print of the same photo, the "arrow" is not present but there are other white flecks that do not appear in the other print. Both of these photos were printed from the same negative. We've been chasing a ghost. There never was an "arrow." All of the white marks are nothing more than dust on the negative or lens”
And, the trails…were not trails; they were apparently photographic imperfections as well:
“The 'trails' that seemed to be present in the one image of the Seven Site area that we've had for several years are not apparent in these higher resolution images”
Tighar has expended a lot of energy and money investigating the Nikumaroro Hypothesis. Their investigations have taken them repeatedly to Nikumaroro, one of the most obscure, remote places on the planet, and they've diligently searched there for signs of Earhart, Noonan, or the Electra. They've conducted interviews and archival research elsewhere in the Pacific, and in England. Things of ambiguous provenance have been found; circumstantial cases have been made. Tighar has built a web site that contains a great deal of information about what they've found.
It's all very impressive in a way, but I think Tighar has been merely chasing a ghost. I'm afraid that believing that the Nikumaroro Hypothesis is true is just wishful thinking, as was believing that those 'trails' and the 'arrow' in the 1938 photograph were real. My guess is that Earhart and Noonan perished at sea somewhere a lot closer to Howland Island than to Nikumaroro.