Earhart search returns 'with more questions than answers'

July 24, 2012

On what would have been Amelia Earhart’s 115th birthday, the expedition launched earlier this month to investigate possible new evidence of her missing Lockheed Model 10 Electra is on its way back to Hawaii without conclusive evidence.

The nonprofit International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) announced in March that it planned to conduct extensive deep-water search operations near an uninhabited atoll called Nikumaroro. The aviatrix and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared in July 1937 while trying to locate Howland Island on Earhart’s now-infamous attempt to circumnavigate the globe. TIGHAR has spent 24 years investigating Earhart’s disappearance.

“As is usually the case with field work, we’re coming home with more questions than answers,” TIGHAR said in a statement posted on its website. “We are, of course, disappointed that we did not make a dramatic and conclusive discovery, but we are undaunted in our commitment to keep searching out and assembling the pieces of the Earhart puzzle.”

A briefing dated July 23 said the group has volumes of sonar data and many hours of high-definition video to review and analyze before it can be known whether evidence was found. “Due to the limitations of the technology, we were only able to see standard-definition video images during actual search operations,” TIGHAR said. “Now that we’re examining the recorded high-definition video, we’re already seeing objects we want our forensic imaging specialist, Jeff Glickman, to look at.”

In March, TIGHAR Executive Director Ric Gillespie said the new effort stemmed from a clue spotted in an original negative of a photo of the western shoreline of Nikumaroro (formerly Gardner Island). The negative showed a protrusion from a reef resembling the landing gear of an aircraft.

In its July 23 update, TIGHAR said “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.”

TIGHAR said it expected to have some results from its findings by Aug. 19, when the Discovery Channel will air a show on the expedition.