Amelia Earhart and Lockheed Electra 10E NR16020 c. 1937 : Wiki Commons
A $2.2 million expedition with hopes of discovering the wreckage of the celebrated US aviator Amelia Earhart is returning to Hawaii disappointed.
Earhart, who was the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932, was en route to Howland Island on the 2nd July 1937 when the Electra 10E aircraft she and Noonan were in disappeared. Many experts believe that a navigational error which led to the pair running out of fuel over the sea was the cause of their disappearance.
“This is just sort of the way things are in this world,” TIGHAR president Pat Thrasher said. “It’s not like Indiana Jones flick when you go through a door and there it is. It’s not like that – it’s never like that”
Though disappointed by initial findings the group leading the project, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIHGAR), still believe that Earhart and her navigator Noonan crashed onto a reef off the Kiribati atoll Nikumaroro, in the Pacific Ocean and died soon after.
Indeed previous visits to the island have proven fruitful with artefacts recovered that could possibly have belonged to the pair, experts also say that a photo of the islands shoreline, taken in October 1937, could include a blurry image of the strut and wheel of a Lockheed Electra landing gear. This photo was enough for the Kiribati government to a sign a contract agreeing to work together with the group if anything is found.
The privately funded project to find the missing wreckage goes ahead with the backing of the US State Department and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton set sail from Honolulu on a ship belonging to the University of Hawaii and 75 years to the day after search teams began looking for the missing pair on the 3rd July 2012.
However the expedition was beset by repeated, unexpected equipment mishaps and treacherous terrain causing delays which led to the search being cut short, lasting only 5 days rather than 10 as was originally planned. At one point an autonomous underwater vehicle being used by the group became wedged within a cave and needed to be rescued, this happened only a day after the same vehicle squashed its nose cone against the ocean floor. Thrasher admitted that the environment had been tougher to navigate than expected.
Posted to the group’s website last week was an email from TIGHAR founder Ric Gillsepie.
“The rescue mission was successful – but it was a real cliff-hanger,” Gillespie said. “Operating literally at the end of our tether, we searched for over an hour in nightmare terrain: a vertical cliff face pockmarked with caves and covered with fern-like marine growth.”
The search continues…
Though THIGAR were not able locate the wreckage during the expedition they were able to collect a significant amount of video and sonar data which researchers will begin to closely analyse during the return voyage and will continue to do so afterwards.
Added to this THIGAR is planning a return expedition to the island for next year whilst a separate group working under a different theory is planning an expedition for later this year near to Howland Island, where Earhart should’ve landed.
Written by Katherine Collins
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