Oceanographer Robert Ballard is searching for lost aviator Amelia Earhart

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Oceanographer Robert Ballard is searching for lost aviator Amelia Earhart

August 21, 2019 - 17:25
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Members of a National Geographic-sponsored expedition is currently searching the island of Nikumaroro, Kiribati, for traces of the pioneer aviator Amelia Earhart who disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean in 1937.

Amelia Mary Earhart was an American aviation pioneer and author and the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Amelia Earhart was attempting to become the first woman to fly around the world  in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10-E Electra, when Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.  There has been considerable speculation on what happened to Earhart and Noonan after they disappeared 2 July, 1937.

According to one theory their plane made it to Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro), one of the Phoenix Islands, and made an emergency landing on the surrounding reef that could serve as a rough runway after which high surf eventually washed their crashed aircraft into deeper waters. According to Tom King, former chief archaeologist the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), it’s likely that Earhart perished on the island as a castaway.  TIGHAR made several expeditions to Nikumaroro during the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s

One part of the current expedition team is searching outward from a spot on the atoll’s reef that looks to the untutored eye like nothing more than a smudge on a British officer’s landscape photo taken three months after Earhart vanished but could be a piece of a Lockheed airplane’s landing gear.   Robert Ballard, 2008

Robert Ballard, the oceanographer who located the Titanic and German battleship Bismarck, expresses supreme confidence that his team will develop a complete picture of what lies beneath the waves around the atoll of Nikumaroro.  In a recent phone interview from aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus Ballard stated that he “absolutely expect to find this plane - I’m not in the business of failing.”

National Geographic plans a TV special, premiering Oct. 20, to reveal what the current search led by Robert Ballard found.

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