An Airplane on Gardner Island?

26 Mar

airplaineIt seems that Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for TIGHAR is to put out a press release touting their new find first, and then start an investigation. Not surprisingly many of their press releases have been proven wrong; many of their assumptions have turned out to be wishful thinking. But Ric Gillespie continues to crank out publicity that endeavors to make the general public believe that anything found on Gardner/Nikumaroro Island that isn’t a coconut, a crab or a bird, came from Amelia Earhart’s Electra.

Thanks to Tom Pochick from West Virginia it looks like another bit of TIGHAR’s “research” is about to be turned against them. TIGHAR claims that there was aircraft wreckage on the reef near the SS Norwich City when the first settlers arrived on December 13, 1938. The native population talked about this aircraft in interviews, all of which are available on TIGHAR’s website. TIGHAR, of course, takes these remembrances as “evidence” that there was aircraft wreckage on the reef, and of course any aircraft on Gardner before the US Loran Station was built had to be the Electra. Naturally the eyewitness testimony advances their hypothesis that Earhart landed on Gardner. (We wonder why the eye witness testimony of the Gardner Islanders is believed while the accounts given by witnesses on Mili Atoll and Saipan are termed unsupported, most likely mistaken.)

On March 21, 2012 Tom Pochick sent Ric Gillespie the pictures shown here. Tom had indicated that the photos reveal a plane sitting in the surf off Gardner Island.  Gillespie emailed a response: “I guarantee you, that is not her plane”. We are glad that Gillespie is so sure this isn’t her aircraft. We agree with Tom. We also understand why another aircraft on Gardner Island isn’t what Gillespie and his minions want to hear anything about.


We can assume that there was no aircraft wreckage on Gardner Island when the three aircraft from the USS Colorado performed their aerial search on July 9, 1937. If, as the islanders testify, the aircraft was easily visible at low tide and the water only rises 5 feet at high tide, that means that a fuselage about four feet in diameter would be, at most, a foot underwater.  Isn’t it ludicrous to think that in water as clear as it was then, an aircraft one foot below the surface would be missed by the six men in the search planes, specifically looking for an aircraft?

The Maude-Bevington Expedition of the 13th-15th in October 1937 searched and carefully documented their entire visit to the island. They took a photo of the ship, SS Norwich City, shipwrecked on Gardner since 1929. (The photo contained an object which has been identified by Photek as possibly one of the Electra’s landing gear.) Eric Bevington documented everything he saw, including the fish and octopi in the hold of the derelict ship. We find it unbelievable that Bevington would have failed to mention the landing gear of an airplane sticking up on the dry reef flat.

Later, the New Zealand Expedition took place on November 30, 1938 and failed to find airplane wreckage (or failed to mention it). But, on December 15, 1938 settlers were brought to the island; they lived there until 1964. During that time no aircraft was reported to have crashed on or near the island. The islanders reported there was an aircraft on the reef near the ship. From the looks of the “artifacts” recovered by TIGHAR they salvaged what they could use from the

In conclusion, we can assume there was no aircraft wreckage present before October 15, 1937 and there was aircraft wreckage there on December 15, 1938. Logically it would lead one to the conclusion that the aircraft that the villages saw and salvaged arrived between those dates. If an aircraft crashed or landed on Gardner Island between those dates who did it belong to?




All photos courtesy of Tom Pochick

Are the two white dots located in the square engine nacelles?

Are the two white dots located in the square engine nacelles?

Tom did some contrast work on this image. If it’s not an aircraft, what is it?

Tom did some contrast work on this image. If it’s not an aircraft, what is it?


This image shows that the wreck is 347 feet from the tide line. What kind of investigator wouldn’t want to take a look at this up close and personal?

This image shows that the wreck is 347 feet from the tide line. What kind of investigator wouldn’t want to take a look at this up close and personal?


This is the same area on Virtual Earth.

This is the same area on Virtual Earth.

These images are 4 degrees 41 minutes 31.49 seconds south and 174 degrees 30 minutes 16.78 seconds west. They are 347 feet from the shore. It appears that the engines are still attached to the wing. If this is the aircraft that the villagers salvaged, it is conceivable that in the 70 odd years it has been there that it has migrated to the present location. According to experts, coral has a very difficult time growing on an aluminum aircraft that is subject to wave action. The aluminum is too flexible and won’t allow the tiny animals to hold on. Steel and iron, because of its rigidity, is perfect for the formation of coral. So an aircraft near the surface would not become encrusted in coral and therefore would look much like it did the day it sank.

It would seem that Gillespie isn’t interested in investigating the presence of an aircraft on Nikumaroro. His interests seem to lie in keeping the mystery of Amelia Earhart alive and producing income. Time after time, when it seemed he had failed in his mission to find AE’s Electra “something” is found to revive the public’s interest.


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  1. Bob


    January 10, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Again, Mr. Roth, we appreciate your comment. We do give an alternate theory of what happened to the ill-fated crew. We, like you, find the “Crash and Sink” theory very difficult to believe for many reasons. We believe that Amelia made several radio transmissions that only could have been made if she were on land and could operate the right engine.

    We disagree with your hypothesis when you state that “What TIGHAR and Ric Gillespie present are hard evidence all concentrating on one particular island.” There is no hard evidence that points to Gardner Island as the source of the transmissions. If you will read our article on this website titled “TIGHAR’s Questionable Bearings” you will see what we mean. You can get to that article by clicking “In-depth Research Articles” and then choosing the above title.

    I think that Mr. Gillespie has overlooked the fact that the aircraft was essentially a pontoon boat. The aircraft, as reported by TIGHAR, landed intact. Therefore it would have floated, a fact admitted even by Lockheed and the Navy. Why did it suddenly fall off the reef and sink?

    The second fact that has been ignored is the survival aspect. Why did they both die in seven days if the aircraft landed intact? There was plenty to eat and drink on the island in the form of birds, coconuts and coconut crabs; these facts were glaringly evident to Harry Maude and Eric Bevington’ during their expedition to the Island a hundred days after her disappearance.

    Lastly, your statement about no one having been on the island since the 1800 is slightly off. The SS Norwich City ran aground on the island at 2300 on November 29, 1929 and the last of the surviving members of the crew were rescued at 1415 December 4, 1929 approximately seven and a half years before Amelia’s disappearance. (Three men were buired on the island but the other eight men lost weren’t recovered.) The survivors left kegs and water and tins of food behind in a makeshift building “in case anyone else was marooned on the island.”

    If you wish you can also read our article titled “Tragedy of Errors” that will give you a full picture of what we feel happened. There is a group out of Washington State that have done an expedition to Mili Atoll and found aircraft parts that are alleged to belong to an Electra 10E. Their results have yet to come back from the lab. We feel that the aircraft parts that have surfaced where the witnesses say she landed and the weight of eye witness testimony from both Mili and Jaluit Atolls and Saipan are much more compelling that what TIGHAR has come up with.

    We believe in an investigation that uncovers facts that lead to a supportable conclusion. TIGHAR has failed to take into account all the facts they and other people have uncovered that point to possibility other than a landing on Gardner Island. Their conclusions are less than supportable. We wish them luck though but as we say in our article mentioned above. If Ric Gillespie wishes to find the “Any Idoit Artifact” he will probably need to look on Mili Atoll or Saipan.

  2. Terry Roth

    January 9, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    In all fairness, you present no alternate explanation besides dissing a possible plausible one. I guess you assume that Amelia “crashed and sank” in the ocean although no mayday or “I’m going down” was ever transmitted nor any wreckage found despite something like 400 ships intensely searching a quarter of a million or so square miles within hours of her disappearance. Yet over 100 reports of Amelia Earhart distress signals by not only amateur radio operators, but tracking stations like Pan Am, many who triangulated the source of those distress calls south of Howland Island. Lockheed immediately stated that the only way that AE could have operated her radio was on land, the propellers could not turn in the water to run the generator to power the radio. Perhaps 1,2 or 10 or 20 reports could have been ‘hoaxes’ but 100? And why would Pan Am falsely report a distress call? So chances were high that AE was on land somewhere. Ric Gillespie and TIGHAR present some
    What TIGHAR and Ric Gillespie present are hard evidence all concentrating on one particular island . When the Navy search fliers flew over Nikumororo, they flew no lower than 400 feet and this was 4 days after her last distress transmission. It makes sense that the plane which had no other place to land except on the beach, was swept off the coral reef after repeated high tides. All radio transmissions were clearly at calculated LOW tide times. Is it implausible to believe that the plane was wrecked on the island and was swept under the current which would have been pretty invisible to an observer at 400 feet ? In fact that observer clearly noted that the island did have ‘signs of recent habitation’ when in fact no one had been on that island since the 1800s. We are all skeptical of any theory unless hard evidence is proven, but there is indeed a great deal more evidence that Ric Gillespie and TIGHAR present as to this possibility than what you present for any alternative explanation. Until TIGHAR either solidly proves or disproves this particular fate of Amelia Earhart, I think they are doing a lot more and garnering much more support than any group presenting any other theories. They go back every second year and take the time in between to analyze and study what their last trip found. Why not wait and see if they either find something solid or declare that their theory was not possible.

    • Bob


      January 10, 2017 at 10:53 am

      This was supplied by Vanos, a fellow AE historian.

      Dispatches From TIGHAR HQ
      January 9, 2017
      Breaking News:
      The Engine Is Gone

      From TIGHAR: ” A Digital Globe satellite image taken on November 15, 2016 reveals that the 140 ton steam engine of SS Norwich City has finally been claimed by the sea. A new Research Bulletin, The Long Farewell of the Norwich City, traces the breakdown of the shipwreck with a gallery of historical photos, pictures taken during TIGHAR Expeditions, and satellite imagery. The ship’s deterioration over the years provides a model for what happens to a man-made structure exposed to the elements on that reef.”

      Looks like an excuse for not finding the aluminum aircraft, because as everybody knows a Coke can only last 14-months below the sea. Isn’t it amazing then that the White Star Line’s Titanic still rests in two sections on the N. Atlantic bottom (I mean it went down years before the SS Norwich City got beached on the Gardner Is. reef) – Oh, do you suppose it’s the storms, surf and oxidation that’s taken its toll… and just maybe no one’s been looking for or checking the condition of Coke cans 2,800 meters down.
      Get with it Gillespie – you know that Gardner had raw vegetable sustenance and plants who’s leaves trapped rain-water to add to what was aboard the Electra and/or might have been caught in a tarp, plus there was enough beach to spell out S O S – in more than one area, and they also had an inflatable dinghy meaning they could have traveled the lagoon at least. Don’t give us the grave injury bit either – they would have made a wheels-down landing – if only in the hope of keeping the starboard engine runnable to generate the electricity for the radio battery.
      Amelia & Fred never were there and neither was their Electra. Not even a single one of the 115 Lockheed Electras the Japanese made under license visited or ever flew that far east, because there was no place to refuel! Oh, you didn’t know the Japs made so many after buying a 10E in 1935… they ought to be all over the atolls, jungled-islands and shorelines further west as only two seemed to have survived the war – while the DC-3 the Japanese were licensed by Douglas to build survived in far greater numbers.
      But cheer-up… with this line of BS fed investors, you won’t have to rent the deep-diving Photo-taking submersible, just find Amelia’s camera… the leather case may have rotted away, the vinyl curled, the bellows vanished, but the aluminum, nickle-plated parts & lens probably have survived, BTW – the serial number will be found on the black coated interior next to the lens, but it won’t agree with the so-called US Army manifest… which only listed the spare lens housing number as Amelia was busy taking photographs & eating at Hawaiian Japanese food restaurants. She was quite good with chop-stix you know! Vanos

      • Bob


        January 10, 2017 at 4:41 pm

        Thank you for your comment Vanos. You have made several excellent points.

        Fred and Amelia hadn’t had any luck with the radio during the last leg of their flight and we are supposed to beieve that after they landed and tried to contact someone without success, they just sat down and died! They made no attempt to survive? Very difficult to believe. Anyone who had the courage to attempt a flight around the world in 1937 wouldn’t just give up.

        It is also strange that no one has noticed that the unidentified aircraft in the water is only 1800 yards(1.03 miles) from the Aukeraime site where the ladies shoe was
        found. The Aukeraime site is 4762 yards (2.71 miles) from where the Electra is said to have landed by TIGHAR.

        Why did Gillespie “guarantee that wasn’t her aircraft” ? One must ask why that door was closed so positively? Did he consider that she could have landed where he thinks she did near the SS Norwich City and when the aircraft floated off the reef it made it’s way to its current location before sinking? He would still be right. Oh well. there is an unknown writer that said “The ultimate ignorance is the rejection of something you know nothing about and refuse to investigate.”

  3. Terry Roth

    January 9, 2017 at 10:18 am

    TIGHAR’s announcements of items found may be timely of their discovery but they never claim that this comes from any part of Amelia Earharts plane.

    As a matter of fact, Mr. Gillespie consistently states that they do NOT have the “smoking gun” to prove that Amelia Earhart landed or was a castaway on that island, only that the items found are of interesting value.

    The TIGHAR team has found thousands of little bits of all kinds of items that they analyze individually to ascertain date and origin, and only maybe 4 articles have been pinpointed to having been manufactured in the 1930s, may belong to a woman and are not connected in any way to the Gilbertese who lived nor the US LORAN navy guys.

    Ironically TIGHAR was recently sued and won in federal court claiming that they actually FOUND the solid evidence and spent hundreds of thousands defending the fact that they never had any such thing.

    Do they need to raise money for their expeditions? Yes of course since no one else is paying for these expensive excursions that take place for weeks every two years. But no one is ever told that they had anything definitive, only that they are continuing the search.

    • Bob


      January 10, 2017 at 2:49 pm

      Thank you very much for your comment, Mr. Roth. You are correct about Mr. Gillespie’s contention that he hasn’t found the “smoking gun”. But in all fairness, his defense in Federal Court was against a lawsuit that accused him of finding the remains of Amelia Earhart’s plane and hiding that fact from his investors. Any other defense would have been an admission that the plaintiff’s suit was valid.

      The only piece of “evidence” that we are aware of (as far as there being a female on Gardner Island) is a woman’s Blucher Oxford shoe dated to the mid -thirties. Mr. Gillespie presents a picture of AE wearing such a shoe 10 days before she disappeared. She was in Austrailia at that time and not flying. She wore low heeled men’s Brogans when she flew.

      We don’t have any problem with Mr. Gillespie raising money to take a research trip to Nickumaroro to look for Amelia Earhart. We applaud his research and the website that he has provided . A great deal of his research has merit. What we object to is his tendency to draw conclusions from this research. Individuals who haven’t made a study of the subject,tend to regard these conclusions as fact.

  4. Anon Y. Mous

    August 15, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Speaking of Mr. Gillespie’s “interests”, I see that he has just announced a campaign on the web from which he hopes to gain $1.2 million(!!) in only two weeks(!!!). See:

    Not sure I need a t-shirt that badly . . . the reaction to this may be quite interesting . . .

    • Bob


      August 16, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      Good thought, Mr. Anon y Mous! We don’t need the T-shirt either 🙂

      • Anon Y. Mous

        August 19, 2014 at 6:17 pm

        Bob, not to worry! He has now updated the funding site with all sorts of Amazing Stuff besides T-shirts, surely you can find something there! . . . Actually it now looks like the souvenir shop at a Gator World or something.

        Meanwhile, funding has zoomed all the way up to almost 0.25% (1/4 of one per cent) of the goal!

        • Anon Y. Mous

          September 1, 2014 at 2:48 pm

          And now the time is up for funding, and TIGHAR received the amazing total of . . . wait for it . . . $4106. Maybe not too bad for a T-shirt store, but not too good for funding another Pacific ocean jaunt. It is about 0.3% of their ambitious goal. Actually not even very helpful paying Gillespie’s $100K annual “salary”. Is TIGHAR’s charmed life finally heading for some hard times ahead? I see also that Tim Mellon is appealing the decision on his lawsuit, there go some more legal fees out the door . . .

          I find it very interesting that a comparatively unknown “crashed and sank” proponent, Dana Timmer, did much better a few months ago with his fundraising on Kickstarter, over $33,000 was pledged. (If interested see

          • Bob


            September 3, 2014 at 5:02 pm

            Anon, sounds like his ship has sailed.

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