Earhart search ends with sonar, video to sift through

Amelia Earhart was born 115 years ago today, July 24.
Amelia Earhart was born 115 years ago today, July 24.
Posted: July 25, 2012

The next few weeks might finally reveal what happened to the Amelia Earhart's attempted round-the-world flight 75 years ago.

A $2.2 million expedition to a remote Pacific island is on its way back to Hawaii after gathering "volumes of sonar data and many hours of high-definition video," according to Monday's online update from TIGHAR, the Delaware-based group that organized the search.

"Did TIGHAR's Niku VII expedition find the Earhart aircraft? It's far too early to say," reads the latest report at www.tighar.org. "Big pieces of airplane wreckage were not immediately apparent, but after 75 years in Nikumaroro's severe and unstable underwater environment, that is hardly surprising. Whatever survives is hard to find."

The hope is that experts will see, somewhere in the collected images, evidence of what remains of Earhart's Lockheed Model 10 Electra, which disappeared near Howland Island in 1937.

"We should have some results by the time the Discovery Channel show airs on August 19th," according to the note by TIGHAR founder Ric Gillespie, of Wilmington.

This expedition, funded in part by the Discovery Channel, earned the endorsement of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton after the discovery of a 1937 photograph showing what could be landing gear sticking out of the water off Nikumaroro, now part of the Republic of Kiribati.

Gillespie has been trying to prove for more than two decades that Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan crashed off the island, where Earhart may lived her final days.

A variety of tantalizing clues have been discovered, many from six previous expeditions, though no one claims any of the evidence so far could be called conclusive.

A 1937 report by Navy flyers spoke of signs of "recent habitation" on the island. Salvaged airplane parts have been found there. An American-style woman's shoe, consistent with ones Earhart wore, was discoverd during a 1991 TIGHAR expedition. Evidence of a campfire was found in 1997, consistent with reports that near the camp site, a bottle, a can and human bones were found. A doctor's 1941 analysis concluded those since-lost bones were from a man, but an expert told TIGHAR the measurements were more consistent with a woman.

A 2010 expedition found bone fragments, but DNA tests have so far proved inconclusive.

To see the latest TIGHAR expedition reports, go to http://ow.ly/csBki.


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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