Entries in Amelia Earhart (5)


Amelia Earhart Plane Wreckage Possibly Spotted in Sonar Image

Photo by New York Times Co./Getty Images(WILMINGTON, Del.) -- A team of historical sleuths believe they have found a clue to what happened to famed aviator Amelia Earhart, claiming sonar may have picked up an image of her wrecked plane off an underwater cliff in the Pacific.

The sonar image is the right shape, size and in the right place in relationship to where some researchers believe the wreckage of Earhart’s doomed flight went down in 1937.

The image, taken during an expedition on July 15, 2012 by a company contracted by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), depicts a narrow object, similar to the shape of an airplane wing, nearly 22 feet long lodged in the side of a steep underwater cliff off the coast of Nikularoro Island. The island, in what is today the Republic of Kiribati, is believed by some to be the site of Earhart’s crash.

“When you are looking for man-made objects in a natural environment, it is important to look for things that are different, and this is different. It is an anomaly unlike anything else in that underwater environment,” says Richard Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR.

Gillespie and his team uploaded the images taken from the July 2012 expedition onto their online forum in March 2013 for the public to see. “It was somebody online who noticed the object and directed our attention to it,” says Gillespie.

“The object makes for the best target to check out with an underwater vehicle,” he said.

TIGHAR cannot confirm that this is a piece of Earhart’s wreckage, but the sonar image fits with what  Gillespie believes happened to Earhart.

“She landed the plane safely on a reef off Nikularoro Island,” says Gillespie. “The wreckage washed into the ocean with the high tide and broke up in the surf. There is archaeological evidence on that island that we believe indicates that Earhart was marooned there until her death several days later.”

Gillespie is hopeful that a future expedition to investigate the finding will be fruitful, but some are unconvinced.

Lou Foudray is the caretaker and historian of the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchinson, Kans., and is familiar with Gillespie’s work.

“This has been going on for years, it probably doesn’t mean anything. I’ve been to the Marshall Islands, I live in the museum, and I’ve heard testimony from Amelia Earhart’s family members, researchers, and historians and these things rarely become anything,” Foudray says.

Foudray believes Earhart survived the crash and lived the rest of her life secretly.

“There are testimonials from her friends that Earhart said before she took off for her final flight that when she came back she wanted to live a life away from the public eye. Of course, we will never know,” Foudray says.

Earhart was the first female to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and famously disappeared in the early morning of July 3, 1937 en route to Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Researchers May Have Found Amelia Earhart's Plane Debris

New York Times Co./Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Forensic imaging specialists have found what looks like a wheel and other landing gear off the coast of Nikumaroro Island in the Pacific Ocean, right where analysts and archeologists think Amelia Earhart's plane went down in 1937.

"We don't know whether it's her plane, but what we have is a debris field in a place where there should be a debris field if what we had put together based on the evidence that we had is correct," said Ric Gillespie, executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which led the $2.2 million expedition last month.

During the trip, Gillespie said he was "bummed" because they didn't see much in the coral reef from their standard video camera. The high definition camera footage couldn't be viewed in real time, so they had to process it and send it over to forensic analyst Jeff Glickman before they could get any answers.

"On Tuesday afternoon, he calls me and says, 'You know, there's stuff here. It looks like manmade debris," Gillespie said.

So Gillespie compared the logs to his maps and said, "Whoa. What he's seeing is right where we reasoned things should be."

Based on the last thing Earhart ever said over the radio, she was on a navigational line called 157337, which has two other islands along it other than Howard Island, which was where Earhart was aiming to land. Although the Navy began looking for her along the route initially, the idea was forgotten until two retired Navy officers approached Gillespie in 1988.

Gillespie said he and TIGHAR began looking for Earhart's plane "reluctantly," but this is its 10th expedition to date. Earlier this year, the State Department confirmed analysis of what's become known as the "Bevington Photo," which TIGHAR says depicts landing gear floating off Nikumaroro.

TIGHAR's analyst identified manmade debris that resembled a wheel, a fender and other landing gear, all of which is consistent with what is depicted in the Bevington photo, Gillespie said.

"At first blush here, it appears that in this debris field, it may be a component of that same object we saw in that 1937 photo," he said.

But it's not realistic for researchers to expect to find a whole plane in the waters around Nikumaroro, Gillespie said, because the underwater topography is hostile and plagued by mudslides.

TIGHAR isn't releasing information about exactly where they found debris for security reasons.

In past expeditions, archeologists found and chemically analyzed a few other clues, including freckle cream and hand lotion women in America would have bought in the 1930s that Earhart may have had with her when she disappeared.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


75th Anniversary of Amelia Earhart's Disappearance Prompts New Search

New York Times Co./Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In honor of the 75th anniversary of Amelia Earhart's disappearance, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) is setting out to search for Earhart's plane, the Electra, at Nikumaroro, an island in the western Pacific Ocean where they believe Earhart was stranded and later died.

Seventy-five years ago on July 2, 1937, Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, mysteriously vanished somewhere over the Pacific Ocean during her attempted flight around the world.  Her two-engine plane, Lockheed Electra, was never found and neither was Earhart or her navigator, Fred Noonan.

TIGHAR, with the help of FedEx, plans to travel from Honolulu on Monday to Nikumaroro.  There, they will use advanced technology to search underwater off the west coast of the island for signs of manmade objects.  They hope to find wreckage of Earhart's plane.

"That's what should be down there based on the research and clues we have," Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR's executive director, said.  "We think it should be down there, whether it thinks so is another question."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Renewed Amelia Earhart Discovery Effort Announced

New York Times Co./Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An exuberant Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "thrilled" to welcome the group of scientists launching a new exhibition into the disappearance of aviator Amelia Earhart 75 years ago.

"Wow," Clinton said in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. "This an exciting day. We haven't had an event quite like this one before and that's what I love about it."

The privately funded half-million dollar effort is expected to begin in July.

The secretary spoke of how Earhart was one of her childhood heroes, introduced to her by her late mother. "Her legacy resonates today for anyone, boys and girls, who dream for the stars," Clinton said, comparing Earhart's journey during the Great Depression and cusp of World War II to today's unsettling time for America and the world.

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"She embodied the spirit of an America coming of age," Clinton said. "So here we are to mark a time that's particularly rich in symbolism and opportunity, like Amelia Earhart."

Clinton also gave a special welcome to Tessie Lambourne, the foreign secretary of the island nation of Kiribati, where the exploration is to take place. Lambourne's presence not only symbolized the importance of the search for Earhart, Clinton said, but also the relationship the United States has with the Pacific islands.

As for Earhart, an analysis of a photo uncovered in 2010 of a plane wreck off the Kiribati islands has led specialists to believe there is a "possibility" that the wheel in the grainy photo could be from the airplane the Electra, the plane Earhart flew, a senior State Department official said late Monday night.

The official added that it was enough to warrant exploration but "a very healthy dose of skepticism must be in play."

"We're not making any bets," the official said, adding that Earhart's disappearance remains one of the world's greatest unsolved mysteries. "It's not what you find, but what you're searching for."

The actual picture was not unveiled until the event and presentation, which took place Tuesday morning.

Tuesday's event was meant to "underscore America's spirit of adventure and courage, as embodied by Amelia Earhart, and our commitment to seizing new opportunities for cooperation with Pacific neighbors founded on the United States' long history of engagement in the Asia-Pacific region," the State Department said in a written statement.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, also known as Tighar, which works on the Kiribati islands, has launched a mission to try and search the area where the picture was taken, and use sophisticated sonar capabilities to see what might be there.

The State Department and Tighar are also working with undersea explorer Ballard, of Titanic fame, on the project.

The search will focus on the remote Pacific atoll called Nikumaroro, which is approximately half way between Australia and Hawaii, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The deserted island of Nikumaroro, which lies 1,800 miles south of Hawaii, was in the line of Earhart's flight path as she flew from New Guinea to Howland Island in July of 1937, when she and navigator Fred Noonan might have gone down during an attempted around-the-world flight.

Tighar champions the theory that the Elektra ended up on the uninhabited Gardner Island, where Amelia landed safely on the island's fringing reef, but after a week of distress calls, rising tides and surf swept the Electra over the reef edge. The group believes that Earhart and Noonan lived for a time as castaways and that the aviator died in a makeshift campsite on the island.

Researchers at Tighar also uncovered a mirror from a woman's compact, buttons and a zipper from a flight jacket during their $500,000 expedition in 2007. All of the found items are American-made and from the 1930s, and all were part of Earhart's inventory.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fragments of Evidence Suggest Solution to Earhart Mystery

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NORMAN, Okla.) -- Researchers at the University of Oklahoma are trying to extract DNA from tiny bone fragments found on a Pacific island near where famed aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, are believed to have vanished in 1937.

Earhart was trying to become the first woman to fly around the world when her plane disappeared.  New evidence including the three bone chips, along with some shoe fragments and a bottle containing traces of lanolin and oil, which could have been part of a lotion, suggests she and Noonan may have landed on a reef beside the island and survived for some time as castaways.  Other items found over the years include remnants of fish and animals prepared more as a Westerner would than a South Sea Islander, a panel that could be from a Lockheed Electra -- the aircraft the pair was flying -- and other bones.

If researchers can get mitochondrial DNA from the bone fragments, they will compare them with material from a relative of Earhart to try to determine whether there is a relationship.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, in charge of the project,  is trying to manage expectations, warning the bone chip now being tested could have come from a turtle.

The Earhart mystery has fascinated many for generations after Amelia Earhart was declared dead in 1939.  Earhart was a celebrity in her time because of her exploits and her beauty.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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