Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Search for Earhart

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With a new movie about aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart coming out, there have some interesting stories in the press about the effort to find her final resting place. When she went missing over the pacific on July 2, 1937, my grandfather was a young carrier pilot flying off a carrier (not sure which one--Perhaps the USS Lexington (CV-2)). His squadron participated in the search, and he maintained an interest in her fate ever since.

The most likely scenario currently proposed is that she ran out of fuel near Howland Island and made an emergency landing on a small, uninhabited island known as Nikumaroro Atoll. It had a smooth, flat reef that would have been possible to land on, however the waves and strong wind would have likely eventually have pulled her plane into the water. Radio transmissions were heard from Earhart after her landing, which would have required the plane to be able to run its engines (dry ground), which is further evidence for this theory.

Days later, one of the search planes piloted by at Lt Lambrecht flew over Nikumaroro Atol and saw signs of habitation, but couldn't spot the plane or Earhart. Recently researches tested how visible a person on the island would be to an observer in an aircraft (the answer--not very). It is very sad to think that Earhart may have been so close to rescue.

In 1940 British Colonial Service Officer Gerald Gallagher found a partial skeleton on the island of European descent and consistent with Earhart's build. Crabs had taken away the rest. He also found a woman's shoe. Unfortunately, the shoe and the remains were lost.

An expedition to Nikumaroro next summer will look for more evidence to help determine what happened to the famous aviator.


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