Her plane vanished 75 years ago whilst Amelia Earhart
and navigator Fred Noonan were flying across the Pacific Ocean as they attempted to fly around the world. The US Coast Guard cutter Itasca
acted as their radio contact and was stationed just of Howland Island, a tiny speck in the Pacific. They received intermittent messages from Earhart on July 2 1937 as she attempted to reach the island after taking off from Lae, New Guinea. Her radio transmissions were constantly interrupted by static and although the Itasca
sent her a steady stream of transmissions to help her locate them, she appeared not to be able to hear them. Her final transmission was
"We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet. We are running north and south."
Rescue efforts were immediately put into place in what became the most wide-ranging air-sea rescue effort in naval history. No plane wreckage or any other sign of the brave woman or her navigator have ever been found, apart from some bone fragments which were believed to be her fingers. The fragments were too small, however, to make any kind of DNA identification possible.
Now, however, investigators have used ultra-modern technology to spot what may be a vital clue in the search for Amelia, her navigator and her plane. According to a report in CNN
at a news conference on Tuesday March 20, Ric Gillespie, director of IGHAR (International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery ) announced that a photograph taken by a British survey team in 1937 of the pacific atoll now called Nikamaroro may show the landing gear of her Lockheed Electra sticking out from a reef. He said:
"We found some really fascinating and compelling evidence.Finding the airplane would be the thing that would make it conclusive."
Investigators had seen the photo many times but in 2010 they had the photo checked by the US State Department's experts. Their enhancing equipment was able to make the image clearer, showing what appears to be the landing gear and possibly a wheel.
Gillespie and a team will now travel to the area in July to look for the plane. His expedition will be filmed by the Discovery Channel. More importantly, he has the backing of people such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who has announced her support for the half a million dollar search. Clinton said:
“Her legacy resonates today for anyone girls and boys who dreams about the stars. She gave people hope and she inspired them to dream bigger and bolder.”
As with any mystery, conspiracy theories
abound which range from the obvious such as they ran out of fuel to the more bizarre such as she was spying on Japan and was captured or even that she faked her own death and is still alive.
It would be a great triumph for Gillespie and his team if they could find Amelia and her plane, solving the mystery and finally allow her story to have an ending. She was a woman who inspired many others to follow in her footsteps and its thanks to adventurers such as her that international flight is now so easy.