Sometimes the most interesting mysteries are the ones that exist in the real world. And those mysteries entice adventurers who want to see them solved.

Seventy-seven years ago, in 1937, navigation pioneer Amelia Earhart set off to become the first woman to fly solo and circumnavigate the globe. It was an amazing feat for a woman to even attempt in those days. She and her navigator, Fred Noonan, flew from Oakland, California, on May 20 to Australia. Then, on June 29, they left for New Guinea, landing on July 2. After that, they began a difficult leg of the trip to Howland Island in the central Pacific. Howland Island lies between Australia and the Southwestern United States. She’d planned to refuel at Howland Island before going on. But short of that destination, she radioed that her plane was low on fuel. After that, nothing.

Her plan was to circumnavigate the globe using the equator. Back then, the navigational maps were not always clear, and Earhart’s radio communication was sketchy at best. When her Lockheed Electra did not arrive at Howland Island, the U.S. Navy began a great search but turned up nothing.

Over the years, other expeditions have attempted to find the remains of the plane but have been unsuccessful. In 2012, I wrote about an expedition by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery that searched for the remains of Earhart’s aircraft carrying her and her navigator, Fred Noonan, across the Pacific. This enterprise was one of seven that have attempted to solve the mystery of what happened to Ms. Earhart and her plane. They centered on an island called Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati but were unsuccessful.

Many items of interest have been found on Nikumaroro. Searchers have discovered fish and bird bones, eaten as if Westerners were dining. Bottles with wires that someone might have used to boil water to make it safe are also part of the discoveries. A 1930’s U.S. makeup compact, a flight jacket zipper from that time, and a jar of freckle cream (Earhart was known to have freckles) are all artifacts found on the island.

Recently, another expedition by Deep Sea Vision, a company in South Carolina, has used sonar scanners to search for Earhart’s plane. They found a blurry image that may be Earhart’s Lockheed 10-E Electra on the sea floor one hundred miles from Howland Island. It is 16,400 feet below the surface. I’ve seen their photo in various articles, and the company is planning a return to the area. Wouldn’t it be amazing if this turned out to be the remains of Earhart’s plane?

Earhart’s life and her disappearance have been celebrated in books, movies, and even on the website, Pinterest. If you are a Pinterest.com member and put her name in the search box, you will find pages of photos of Ms. Earhart. Her navigational feats remain a story for the record books and her untimely disappearance may forever remain a mystery—unless the newest expedition’s theory turns out to be true. That happened with the discovery of the Titanic; perhaps it will be one less mystery for the record books soon.

 

 

 

 

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