Category: Expeditions

ECWG members organizing 2017 research trip to Nikumaroro.

ECWG members organizing 2017 research trip to Nikumaroro.

ECWG member Tom King FN’02 and colleagues including ECWG Vice-Chair Lonnie Schorer MN’98 and Andrew McKenna of the Rocky Mountain Chapter MN ’07 are organizing a research trip to Nikumaroro in the Phoenix Islands of Kiribati for the summer of 2017.

The research, to be carried out under the supervision of 10 to 15 experienced members of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) and other experts will be combined and coordinated with a tour of the island sponsored by Betchart Expeditions of Cupertino, California. Although the tour is firmly scheduled, King and a committee are raising funds to help cover the costs of participating specialists.

Nikumaroro, now part of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), is where TIGHAR hypothesizes that aviation pioneers Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan landed and died after their famous disappearance in 1937. In research to date, TIGHAR has found substantial evidence supporting the hypothesis, but plenty of conflicting data as well. Building on the results of a successful 2015 visit – the first-ever tourist cruise to the island, with a modest research agenda – the Betchart party plans to spend eight days on the island, investigating several specific locations on land and on the submerged coral reef slope. At the same time, the visit will give passengers the opportunity to get to know the remote, uninhabited island, famous not only for its possible Earhart connections but also for its giant coconut crabs (Birgus latro), abundant bird life, and flourishing though endangered coral reef.

While the research may uncover definitive evidence of Earhart’s presence on Nikumaroro, King does not rely on doing so. “I don’t believe that seeking ‘smoking guns’ is usually a good way to do scientific or historical research,” he says. The 2017 work will be focused on close examination of the archaeological site that may be where Earhart died, excavation of a newly discovered rock cairn that might mark Fred Noonan’s grave, and exploration of the deep reef slope using remotely operated vehicles supplied by Open ROV of Berkeley, California ( for possible fragments of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra.

For further information on the research and fundraising, contact Dr. King at

For further information on the tour, contact Betchart Expeditions at

For background:

PIPA and Nikumaroro:


Readings on TIGHAR’s Nikumaroro Hypothesis: Tom King’s Amelia Earhart Archaeology blog at, Tuesday November 10 2015.



A. McKenna MN’07 and L. Schorer MN’98 carry EC Flag 46 on Earhart search

A. McKenna MN’07 and L. Schorer MN’98 carry EC Flag 46 on Earhart search

Two Explorers continue the search for Amelia EarHart: Andrew McKenna, MN ’07 and Lonnie Schorer, MN ’98 carried Explorers Club Flag 46.

On June 6, 2015, a 15-member International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) Niku VIII team flew from LA to Nadi, Fiji, boarded a bus to Lautoka, loaded freight aboard the Nai’a, and sailed 1,000 miles NW to the equatorial island of Nikumaroro in the nation of Kiribati.

Flag 48 carried by Andrew McKenna MN'07 and Lonnie Schorer MN'98 Photo credit: Laurie Rubin
Flag 48 carried by Andrew McKenna MN’07 and Lonnie Schorer MN’98
Photo credit: Laurie Rubin


Land Team: search the area on the NW coast where Amelia might have bivouacked during the time her post-loss radio signals were received. Lockheed reported the plane’s right engine had to be turning over to operate the magneto for the radio. As time and tide studies confirm that her messages were sent at low tide, Amelia had to be going out to the plane on the reef at low tide and, therefore, must have camped nearby, bringing provisions ashore after each transmission. Using GPS, compasses, metal detectors, and drones, the Land Team conducted archaeological survey operations in places of interest as identified on old photography and on satellite imagery.

Dive Team: diving to a depth of 130’, set up, search, and metal detect lanes parallel to the shore NW of the Norwich City wreck to test the hypothesis that aircraft debris may have survived on reef slopes between 15’ and the first underwater cliff at 130’. Metal objects found were primarily bits of old fishing gear, encrusted in reef surfaces. Beyond 130’, reef cliffs drop off steeply.

ROV Team: investigate an anomaly at 600’, seen on 2012 side-scan sonar imagery NW of the Norwich City wreck. Unfortunately, the ROV, operable when shipped from the U.S., suffered multiple modes of failure in the field. The ROV team worked around the clock troubleshooting, replacing, and repairing many parts, but in the end without a redundant ROV, the deepwater search target could not be investigated. A makeshift ROV was lowered for a ‘Hail Mary’ pass over the area. The 170 high-definition images are currently being analyzed.

During the last onshore day of the expedition, TIGHARs coordinated with TIGHAR members and passengers aboard the Betchart Earhart expedition ship, Fiji Princess, who spent another four days on the island and carried out specific research activities (reference Dr. Tom King article).

The TIGHAR team arrived back in LA on 2 July. The investigation into the 1937 disappearance of aviators Earhart and Noonan during their around-the-world flight attempt is ongoing.

Text submitted by Lonnie Schorer, Vice Chair, ECWG



Robert Hyman and wife Deborah Atwood help to list hummingbird on endangered list.

Robert Hyman and wife Deborah Atwood help to list hummingbird on endangered list.


Honduran Emerald Hummingbird Added to U.S. Endangered Species List

Honduran Emerald hummingbird, Photo by Robert Hyman
Honduran Emerald hummingbird, Photo by Robert Hyman

Robert E. Hyman, and his wife Deborah Atwood, were recently interviewed by a reporter for Audubon Magazine regarding the approval of their petition before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Honduran Emerald Hummingbird under the Endangered Species Act (see EN, January 2009).

Hyman’s previous expeditions to Honduras have focused on the destruction of this endemic birds habitat. Both have been involved in biodiversity conservation in Honduras for more than a decade.

Courtesy: Honduran Conservation Coalition
Courtesy: Honduran Conservation Coalition


 To learn more about their efforts visit

The Audubon Magazine interview can be read at


The press release issued by USFWS can be seen here:


Yeomans conducts research in Turkey, Italy

Yeomans conducts research in Turkey, Italy

Sarah Yeomans,  FN 07, spent the summer of 2014 doing archeological research in Turkey and Italy.

In July she and a group of friends chartered a small ship to identify and survey previously undocumented Greek and Roman sites that can be accessed only by sea.

Yeomans emerging from a subterranean tomb structure located in the ancient city of Lydea, a site about a one hour hike up from the cove of Ağa Limanıb along the southwestern coast of Turkey.” Photo by Cenk Eronat

“Many sites from the ancient Classical world are located along the coastline, since the sea routes were the primary trade and transport highways “ Yeomans explained. “The result of this, especially in Turkey, is that there are many ancient cities of relatively substantial size that have no modern land access.

“It is not unusual to have an ancient site that once had a population of more than 20,000 that is partially submerged in the sea now, and with no other way of accessing it other than by sea and sometimes by helicopter.

She said those in the group “all had a slightly different scholarly agendas, but the sites were the same and it was a great way to see some of these places – many of them are impossible to get to otherwise (unless one has access to a small and nimble helicopter!)

“I must say it is a thrilling experience to be able to swim along an ancient Roman road,” she wrote. “We did casual snorkeling. Getting permits to do more substantial underwater survey by diving is a complicated process in Turkey, and they are very vigilant about patrolling these sites as they are, unfortunately, very vulnerable to looters and treasure seekers.

“The result is that some areas are off limits to SCUBA divers altogether, so our work was limited to those areas that are partially submerged and therefore shallow. These could be observed just by swimming along the surface of the water, where the coast guard could keep an eye on us.”

From Turkey she “spent a month in Rome, researching ancient Roman medicine for her dissertation prospectus research on the Antonine Plague in the 2nd century and the myriad ways it impacted the Roman Empire as a whole.

Lew Toulmin exploring original ‘Bali-ha’i’

Lew Toulmin exploring original ‘Bali-ha’i’

Lew Toulmin, MN ’04, of the ECWG has been carrying Explorers Club Flag 101 in an expedition in the southwestern Pacific island nation of Vanuatu to document Ambae island, which is the real “Bali-ha’i” in James  Michener’s 1946 book Tales of the South Pacific. The book was the basis of the Broadway musical and movie, South Pacific.

Toulmin has also identified a mystery airplane wreck on the north shore of Ambae. Through interviewing eyewitnesses to the crash, researching military records, and matching part numbers, he has established that the plane was an F4U-1 Corsair fighter flown by Lt. John Date, Jr., USMCR.  Lt. Date crashed on 17 May 1944, after developing engine trouble.  He survived the crash by parachuting out at the last minute, and lived until 1973.

The Corsair struck a village and almost hit a wedding party of 100, but luckily no-one was hurt.  Toulmin has tracked down Lt. Date’s family in Arizona, and is arranging to donate a part of the Corsair to the family.  Parts of the Ambae plane and six other planes are being used by an air museum in Adelaide, Australia in a six year project to re-create an accurate Corsair Toulmin’s expedition is donating its research, including a 220-page report plus extensive backup material, to the museum.

Toulmin is also studying other aspects of Ambae/”Bali-ha’i” — including central Mt. Manaro, one of the ten most dangerous volcanoes in the world; the island’s inadequate evacuation plans; the bizarre pig-killing ceremony that dominates the island; and a chief’s stone-moving ceremony that has previously been undocumented by science.