The scene is harrowing. A famous young aviator, Amelia Earhart, and her navigator Fred Noonan are stranded on an isolated, uninhabited island in the South Pacific, clinging to life.
They build a camp, perhaps wait for rescue. But in truth, no one knows where they are. One day, they watch as Earhart’s famous Lockheed Electra is swallowed by the Pacific. Eventually, both perish, their disappearance a mystery that lasts for decades.
Finally, those dying to know what happened to Earhart in 1937, when she vanished 7,000 miles away from completing the first flight around the world along the equator, may soon have their answer, Agence France-Presse reported.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) is making the historic expedition to the island where evidence suggests Amelia crashed, lived as a castaway, and died 78 years ago, Time reported.
For 27 years, the group has undertaken 10 such journeys to the area where Amelia disappeared in the Pacific Ocean. They recently latched onto the theory that she and Noonan crashed and for weeks survived on Nikumaroro, now part of Kiribati.
The journey will begin on June 8, launching from Fiji, and spend five days at sea. TIGHAR Executive Director Ric Gillespie will be joined by 14 volunteers, who will scour the island for two weeks, Discovery News added. TIGHAR will also be tailed by a cruise ship carrying 68 people who paid $11,000 apiece to watch history unfold.
They plan to be back on July 1. And Gillespie makes no promises about solving the mystery of Earhart’s disappearance.
“The object is to see if we can add to the preponderance of evidence that we have assembled in the course of 27 years and 10 expeditions to the island … I’m not going to predict that that is what we are going to do.”
But there are a lot of clues to suggest Nikumaroro is Earhart’s final resting place: In 1991, a 1930s-era, Oxford shoe of the kind Amelia wore was found there. Evidence of radio distress calls a week after the crash and signals boats nearby received around the same time. A fragment of aluminum, which could be the same one installed on Earhart’s plane to replace a window during a stop in Miami. A jar of Dr. Berry’s Freckle Ointment, used to fade freckles; Amelia had, and hated, hers. Thirteen bones and the remains of a fire. The skeleton, found in 1940, has been lost, and possibly belonged to a white woman, at most five foot nine inches tall.
Volunteers will search this forest for her camp. Divers will probe the shallow waters. But the target is a “sonar anomaly,” found in 2012, which could be the fuselage of Amelia’s plane. The expedition will pay particular attention to this area with a “remote-operated underwater vehicle equipped with high-definition video and sonar,” AFP added.
It may be the “smoking gun” researchers are looking for.
[Photos Courtesy Getty Images]