Earhart vanished on a trip across the Pacific Ocean some 75 years ago.
Ric Gillespie, executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), said a new enhanced analysis of a photograph snapped on the Pacific atoll of Nikumaroro, formerly Gardner Island, three months after Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan went missing, may show the landing gear of her Lockheed Electra airplane protruding from a reef.
“We found some really fascinating and compelling evidence,” Gillespie said at a press conference in Washington today.
“Finding the airplane would be the thing that would make it conclusive,” he said.
According to Gillespie, the picture was taken by a British survey team back in October 1937 and had been viewed by Earhart experts several times, but investigators decided to take another look at it 2010. They had the photo checked by U.S. State Department experts and they ascertained that the component in the frame is the landing gear of a Lockheed Electra.
“This is where the airplane went into the drink,” Gillespie said.
On July 2, 2012 – exactly 75 years after Earhart was last heard from – Gillespie will leave Honolulu on a University of Hawaii research vessel to try to find that aircraft in the waters off a flat reef on Nikumaroro.
The team will utilize robotic submarines from Phoenix International, the U.S. Navy’s primary contractor for deep ocean search and recovery, to comb the area. The Discovery Channel will be filming the entire exploration for a TV presentation, Gillespie said.
Gillespie knows there will be a few skeptics, given that his 23 years of searching for Earhart haven’t yet turned up anything conclusive.
“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,” he said.
Earhart and Noonan vanished on a flight from New Guinea to Howland Island during the summer of 1937. The flat reef off Gardner Island, which is located 300 miles off their course, has long been a suspected landing spot.
At today’s press conference, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell called the disappearance of Earhart “the last great unsolved mystery of the 20th century.”
If the mystery is finally solved this year, Earhart’s aviation trailblazing will have played a part, said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
“In no small part because of Amelia Earhart our world is smaller,” LaHood said. “This very voyage to recover her remains in some ways is doable because of Earhart herself.”
“We take a special measure of pride in an expedition that is as enterprising and inspiring as the woman with which it will unite us,” he said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also paid tribute to Amelia Earhart’s memory.
“Her legacy resonates today for anyone – girls and boys – who dreams about the stars,” Clinton said. “She gave people hope and she inspired them to dream bigger and bolder.”
- Hillary Clinton wades into mystery of Amelia Earhart (csmonitor.com)
- Amelia Earhart search continues (examiner.com)
- Clinton Wades Into Amelia Earhart Mystery – ABC News (abcnews.go.com)