By Lauren Burgess
When Amelia Earhart announced in March of 1937 that she would fly around the world, many were shocked by the ambitious flight plan. When she lost radio contact with the U.S. Coast Guard, many thought Amelia Earhart and her plane were lost forever. Robert Ballard is seeking to change that.
After taking off from Oakland, California on June 1, 1937, to begin the flight, Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan first flew to Miami, then to South America, where they landed in Venezuela. They left South America from Brazil, crossing the Atlantic and landing in Senegal. Making stops in Mali, Chad, Sudan, and Eritrea, they then headed to India, then Southeast Asia. Earhart and Noonan landed in Lae, New Guinea on June 29.
After fueling up, they headed to Howard Island, off the coast of Australia. They would never make it to the island, disappearing about 800 miles into the flight.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized a massive search. After two weeks of searching, Earhart and Noonan were declared lost at sea. Their bodies and Earhart’s twin-engine Lockheed 10E Electra were never found.
But it may not stay that way for very much longer. Robert Ballard, the retired Navy officer who found the Titanic, believes he may be able to find the wreckage of Amelia Earhart’s last flight.
On August 7, Ballard will begin his expedition by heading to Nikumaroro, an island part of the nation of Kiribati. He will have access to National Geographic’s state of the art research vessel, the E/V Nautilus to aid in the search.
National Geographic will be airing the expedition on October 20, in a two-hour documentary.
Countless theories about Earhart and Noonan’s disappearance have sprung up over the years. Some believe that they were captured and executed by the Japanese, or even that came back to the states using aliases.
A prevalent theory by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) suggests that Earhart and Noonan landed on Nikumaroro, 350 miles southeast of Howard Island. During low tide, a flat reef is visible, which leads TIGHAR to believe she could have landed the plane there.
Ballard’s expedition next month to put an end to all the theories will be one of the most sophisticated expeditions yet. Fredrik Hiebert, an archaeologist with the National Geographic Society will lead the hunt on land, combing specific areas of Nikumaroro. Ballard and Allison Fundis will lead the search underwater, using remote diving vehicles and sonar to comb the ocean floor.
However, even with such technology, the odds of finding any conclusive evidence are more than slim. The area Ballard intends to search is, as he describes, “a very high energy encounter of the ocean with a living reef”-meaning that the chances of a plane surviving such tumultuous conditions is almost zero.
And yet, the same argument was made when Ballard began to search for the Titanic. When asked about the possibility of finding the remains of Earhart’s last flight, Ballard responded “Maybe some things shouldn’t be found. We’ll see if Amelia is one of them.”
SOURCE: Image courtesy History.com