Search for Amelia Earhart′s plane | News | DW | 03.07.2012
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Search for Amelia Earhart's plane

Researchers plan to embark on a voyage to find clues to Amelia Earhart's fate, one of the great mystery's of the 20th century. Earhart's plane went down over the Pacific in the 1930s as she tried to circle the globe.

A research team is set to launch an expedition on Tuesday to find clues to the fate of the famed American aviator Amelia Earhart, 75 years after her plane mysteriously disappeared over the Pacific Ocean.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) plans to set sail for the tiny uninhabited island of Nikumaroro, part of the archipelago Republic of Kiribati, where researchers theorize Earhart's plane may have gone down.

"The public wants evidence of a smoking gun, that this is the place where Amelia Earhart's journey ended," said Richard Gillespie, the executive director of TIGHAR. "That smoking gun is Earhart's plane."

Tantalizing clues

The TIGHAR research team hopes that their expedition will shed light on Earhart's fate, after previous missions to Nikumaroro unearthed tantalizing clues.

Die amerikanische Pilotin Amelia Earhart Putnam (undatiert). Sie war die erste Frau, die im Alleinflug den Atlantik überquerte. Amelia Earhart Putnam startete am 20. Mai 1932 nachmittags in Habour Grace (Neufundland) und landete 13 Stunden später in der Nähe von Londonderry in Nordirland. Vier Jahre vorher, vom 17. bis 18. Juni 1928, überquerte sie bereits als erster weiblicher Flugpassagier den großen Teich. Seit dem 2. Juni 1937 sind die Pilotin und ihr Navigator Fred Noonan im Pazifik verschollen.

Researcher's have found traces of a female castaway from the 1930s

Researchers have found a cosmetic bottle from the 1930s that appeared to be the jar of a once popular anti-freckle cream. They also found several other human traces: a clothing zipper from the 30s, piece's of a woman's compact, a bottle of hand lotion, parts of a woman and a man's shoe, a bone-handled knife of the type Earhart carried, and human bone fragments.

"We've found artifacts of an American woman castaway from the 1930s, but we haven't found anything with her name on it," Gillespie said. "We've tried to get contact DNA from things that were touched, and it didn't work. The environment was too destructive. The recovered bone samples were too small. The logical thing is the airplane."

High-tech investigators

Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were last seen taking off from Papua New Guinea on July 2, 1937 in their twin-engine Lockeed Electra. They were en route to Howard Island as they sought to make history by circling the globe around the equator.

The US president at the time, Franklin Roosevelt, ordered the most extensive air and sea search of the era, but to no avail. The TIGHAR researchers hypothesize that Earhart and Noonan made an emergency landing on Nikumaroro, about 400 miles southeast of Howard Island.

The TIGHAR team hopes to find remains of Earhart's plane by using robotic submarines equipped with sonar to map the sea floor.

The group was originally scheduled to begin the 1,800 kilometer voyage from Hawaii on Monday, but postponed the trip due to the late delayed arrival of a Kiribati customs official.

slk/ccp (AP, AFP)