Search for Amelia Earhart Starts Again
- As we near the 75th anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, a high-tech search for the lost pilot will begin.
- There is evidence suggesting that Earhart may have survived as a castaway on an island.
- The new search will use deep underwater vehicles to scout for possible remains of Earhart and her plane.
off Nikumaroro, an uninhabited island in the southwestern Pacific
republic of Kiribati where the legendary pilot might have died as a
With support from the Discovery Channel, the expedition will be
carried out by the The International Group for Historic Aircraft
Recovery (TIGHAR), which has long been investigating the last, fateful
flight taken by Earhart 75 years ago.
The new expedition will use high tech underwater equipment to search for pieces of Earhart's plane.
The tall, slender, blond pilot mysteriously vanished while flying
over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937 during a record attempt to fly
around the world at the equator.
The general consensus has been that her twin-engined Lockheed
"Electra" had run out of fuel and crashed in the Pacific Ocean,
somewhere near Howland Island.
But according to Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR's executive director, there is an alternative scenario.
"The navigation line Amelia described in her final in-flight radio
transmission passed through not only Howland Island, her intended
destination, but also Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro," Gillespie
The possibility that Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan might have
made an emergency landing on Nikumaroro's flat coral reef, some 300
miles southeast of their target destination, is not a new theory.
"This was the oldest Earhart theory," Gillespie said. "This was the
theory the Navy came up with in the first days following the flight's
disappearance. And they did search the atoll, but only from the air,"
In nine archaeological expeditions to Nikumaroro, Gillespie and his
team uncovered a number of artifacts which, combined with archival
research, provide strong circumstantial evidence for a castaway
"We found archival records describing the discovering in Nikumaroro
in 1940 of the partial skeleton and campsite of what appears to have
been a female castaway," he said.
"We identified the place on a remote corner of the atoll that fits
the description of where the bones and campsite were found.
Archaeological digs there have produced artifacts that speak of an
American woman of the 1930s," Gillespie said.
He added that evidence on the island would also suggest that
Earhart survived as a castaway "for a matter of weeks, possibly more."In the forthcoming expedition, Gillespie and his team will be
concentrating on Earhart's plane. The underwater search will be carried
by Phoenix International, the U.S. Navy's primary deep ocean search and
On July 2, the 75th anniversary of Earhart's disappearance, the
TIGHAR team will sail from Honolulu aboard the University of Hawaii
oceanographic research ship R/V Ka Imikai-O-Kanaloa.
"When we get there, in about eight days, we'll survey the general
area with multi-beam sonar to create an accurate map of the undersea
topography and prioritize the search area," Gillespie told Discovery
"Targets will be identified using high resolution, side scan sonar
mounted on an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). Finally, we will
investigate suspicious looking targets using a Remote Operated Vehicle
(ROV) with dual manipulators and color video camera system and lights,"
The search relies on what Gillespie called "the most exciting
breakthrough" -- a photograph of the island's western shoreline taken
three months after Amelia's disappearance.
"It shows an unexplained object protruding from the water on the fringing reef," Gillespie said.
Forensic imaging analyses of the photo suggest that the shape and
dimension of the object are consistent with the landing gear of a
"We have reason to believe that the airplane went over the reef edge
near the spot where the object appears in the photo," Gillespie said.
"We'll do our best to find Amelia. During the painful recovery from
the Great Depression, Amelia Earhart inspired America with her courage
and determination. America needs Amelia again," Gillespie said.
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