Researchers mount new mission to solve Amelia Earhart mystery

WASHINGTON Wed Mar 21, 2012 10:16am EDT

1 of 4. Amelia Earhart in a 1928 photo.

Credit: Reuters/Library of Congress

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists on Tuesday announced a new phase in the search to resolve the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, saying fresh evidence from a remote Pacific island may hold clues to the fate of the renowned U.S. pilot who vanished in 1937 while attempting to circle the globe.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined scientists and aviation archaeologists to unveil the expedition, which will set out from Honolulu in July to probe underwater areas around the Phoenix Islands in Kiribati where they believe Earhart may have crashed 75 years ago.

"When she took off on that historic journey she carried the aspirations of our entire country with her," Clinton said, calling Earhart one of the "fearless optimists" who defined 20th century America.

"Even if you do not find what you seek, there is great honor and possibility in the search itself," Clinton said.

The July mission is part of an effort by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) to uncover Earhart's fate, an abiding mystery since she and navigator Fred Noonan left Papua New Guinea en route to Howland Island in the South Pacific on July 2, 1937.

TIGHAR Executive Director Ric Gillespie said that new analysis of a photo taken in 1937 near Nikumaroro island in present-day Kiribati appeared to show what could be the undercarriage of a Lockheed Electra airplane such as the one that Earhart was flying, emerging from a reef.

"It's a strong case, we think, but its circumstantial," Gillespie said.

The July phase will see TIGHAR researchers return to Nikumaroro aboard a University of Hawaii research ship equipped to map and investigate the underwater search area with small robotic submarines.

"There are some very smart people who think we're wrong about this. But there are some very smart people who think we're right about this," Gillespie said.

"The only thing we can do is make a best effort to go and search and look and see what we can find. And it's the searching that's important. It's the trying that's important."

Oceanographer Robert Ballard, made famous by his discovery of the wreck of the Titanic in 1985 and who reviewed the latest Earhart project, said Gillespie's TIGHAR team appeared to have narrowed the "box" in which Earhart's wreckage might be found.

"If you ever want a case of finding a needle in a haystack, this is the top of the list," he said.

"He's got a reasonable box now and he's certainly got all the technology to do it. So all I can say is I wish him a fair wind and a following sea -- and a little luck."

(Reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

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Comments (4)
RandallBrink wrote:
This information—an “analysis” of very old information—is not a “clue” in the Amelia Earhart story. This is but the latest in a long series of specious statements issued by this organization, TIGHAR, intended to draw attention to itself and its for-profit “research” into anything Amelia Earhart related.

The image in question is well known, and the area was fully searched at the time of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, in July, 1937. There was a British colonial settlement on the island throughout much of the mid-twentieth century, as well as U.S. military installations there during WWII. Any evidence of Amelia Earhart’s having ever been there would have been discovered decades ago. Earhart and Noonan were never closer than approximately 600-800 miles from Gardner Island.

The TIGHAR organization has fixated on Gardner (aka “Nikumaroro”) Island, because it suits their profit-making tour business, which escorts its customers on paid expeditions every year or so, and has for many years. A simple check of the press history of the organization will reveal many instances of so-called “discoveries” of “evidence” (airplane parts, shoes, etc.) from this same location, all of which have been swiftly debunked by actual historical experts, not “experts” of the commercial, profit-oriented variety.

This latest publicity-seeking ploy will die down quickly, and will re-surface in 12-18 months with new “evidence” to compel adventurers to pay handsomely for the TIGHAR “historians” to escort them on another two-week expedition to the Central Pacific.

Randall Brink

Mar 21, 2012 2:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
gregbrew56 wrote:
Mar 23, 2012 10:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
gregbrew56 wrote:

Mar 24, 2012 3:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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