Earhart Project Making Waves As TIGHAR Sails For Nikumaroro
July 6, 2012

Earhart Project Making Waves As TIGHAR Sails For Nikumaroro

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

It has been three days since the Niku VII Expedition left port in Honolulu, Hawaii aboard the Ka´imikai-O-Kanaloa research vessel carrying high-value sensitive equipment and the TIGHAR crew to the small uninhabited island of Nikumaroro where the hunt will begin for the lost wreckage of Amelia Earhart.

Each day of the eight-day journey to the island, the team, headed by TIGHAR Executive Director Ric Gillespie, are “testing gear, meeting in planning sessions, and resting up” before the actual hunt begins, Gillespie´s wife, Pat Thrasher, tells redOrbit.com.

Reports from the vessel and crew come in on a daily basis and as of 2:00 p.m. EDT on July 5 (July 6 for the crew) the crew was making great time, traveling in fairly-smooth seas at 9.4 knots.

TIGHAR´s website explains that since the team is now on the other side of the International Date Line, they are actually a day ahead and to avoid confusion, have geared the reports to coincide with Eastern Daylight Time.

The TIGHAR team met with the Phoenix team and primary contractors to discuss how they will set up a search grid for the AUV Bluefin 21. The team reported that they will try to implement “four to six hour missions to get a feel of the environment” in the craggy waters off the coast of Nikumaroro.

Once the team can get an understanding of the sea floor they said they will move into 12 hour missions which should be more efficient. “It takes the same amount of time to recover, dump, change the batteries, load the new program, and re-launch whether the mission is 2 hours or 12, so it´s a lot better to run to the end of the battery life if possible,” said a spokesperson for the team.

When asked about the actual role Gillespie plays during the mission, Thrasher tells redOrbit that he is pretty much frontline when it comes to running the show. “The technical crews will be working 24/7 and there will be a TIGHAR representative present during each shift. Ric is the primary on this because he is the one most intimately familiar with the aircraft and its structures, inside and out,” she said.

“He will be on call 100 percent of the time to look at images, both digital and real-time, and has the ultimate responsibility for the planning and execution of the search,” she continues. “He will not be programming the AUV nor "driving" the ROV, as we have experts in both worlds to do those incredibly important jobs; but the buck definitely stops on his desk,” she tells redOrbit.com

The team expects to arrive on site by about midnight on July 11, but depending on the weather, wind, sea state, and other factors, the timeframe may change. Because the crew is anticipating a nighttime arrival, their first order of business will be to do a mapping run with the SeaBeam standing out from the island.

The Discovery Channel is aboard the vessel as well, filming the expedition. It will televise the results and findings of the expedition in August, after the month long journey comes to a close.

FedEx also continues to play a major role in the expedition and has a logistics crew aboard the KOK as well.