News

An Unsolved Ocean Mystery

The search for Amelia Earhart’s plane continues

July 25, 2012
AP

Amelia Earhart is pictured aboard her her Lockheed Electra plane. This photo was taken just before she flew from Los Angeles to Oakland, California.

Ever since Amelia Earhart vanished while flying over the South Pacific in 1937, scientists and historians have searched for the remains of her plane. On July 3, a group of researchers set out to look for the plane using the latest technology. On Monday, the team announced that they collected a great deal of evidence but did not find the plane.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) conducted the $2.2 million search. The group still believes that the plane crashed into a reef somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, and is already planning a voyage next year. Patricia Thrasher, the president of TIGHA, explained that a complicated search like this one could take a long time. "It's not like an Indiana Jones flick where you go through a door and there it is,” she said.

Ric Gillespie, founder of Tighar, examines equipment tests in Hawaii before beginning the search for Amelia Earhart's lost airplane.
OSKAR GARCIA—AP
Richard Gillespie led this month's voyage to search for Amelia
Earhart's plane.

A Dangerous Journey

Amelia Earhart was a pioneer for women aviators. She bought her first plane in 1922. In May of 1932, she became the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean. The trip took 14 hours and 56 minutes—a new record.

In 1937, Earhart set out to fly around the world with her navigator, Frederick Noonan, in her Lockheed Electra plane. The pilot and navigator disappeared on their way to Howland Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Navy searched for the pair, but they were never found.

Through the years, many explorers have searched for the missing plane. “The mysterious nature of the Earhart disappearance and the public’s desire for an answer to the riddle make it perfect . . .[for] test[ing] new technologies,” Richard Gillespie, the leader of the expedition, told TFK.

An Ongoing Process

The TIGHAR expedition began after the group spotted a clue in an old photograph. There appeared to be a piece of landing gear in a reef near the remote island of Nikumoro. The explorers wondered if the gear in the photo might be from Earhart’s missing plane.

The researchers planned to stay 10 days, but could only stay five because of equipment problems. The uneven terrain created shadows that made it difficult to see, but the researchers were able to collect evidence, and they took hours of video footage. When they reach Hawaii, they will examine the evidence.

TIGHAR will continue to search for Earhart’s plane. Even though the plane was not found, Gillespie considers the expedition a success. He believes the evidence collected by his team could contain valuable clues. “Our hope is always for a dramatic discovery, but . . . the value of the data we collect will only become known after careful analysis,” says Gillespie. “This expedition met our expectations, if not our hopes.”


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