Like the identity of Jack the Ripper or the whereabouts of D.B. Cooper, many consider the disappearance of Amelia Earhart an unsolvable mystery. However, one man, Robert Ballard, disagrees. And he knows about missing vehicles. After all, Ballard found the Titanic!
The Mystery of Amelia Earhart
Since her disappearance in 1937, many explorers, historians, and scientists have searched for Amelia Earhart or her plane. The pilot was not only the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic, but she also helped form The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of female pilots. The organization still operates today, assisting female aviators in every aspect of flying, whether a hobby or profession.
On May 20, 1937, Earhart embarked on an attempt to become the first female pilot ever to circumnavigate the globe, alongside navigator Fred Noonan. After months of flying, Earhart and Noonan departed Lae, New Guinea on July 2, planning to arrive at Howland Island, in the Pacific. Just days away from finishing the trip, Earhart’s plane vanished on the leg. Their last known position was about 800 miles into the 2556-mile leg.
Rescue crews searched for over two weeks, with unofficial searched lasting for months. Still, nothing ever came up. While many have tried over the years to find Earhart’s missing plane, it remains a mystery. However, a recently discovered clue sparked a new search, funded by the National Geographic Society.
The New Clue
In 1988, one of many private searches occurred, this one funded by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR). When the search produced no plane or remains, the hunters thought of themselves as failures. However, they had no idea that one photo they would lead to a breakthrough in the Earhart case, over two decades later.
In 2012, TIGHAR decided to enhance some of the photos from the 1988 expedition to see if they had missed anything. It turns out, they had! In one photo, they noticed sticking out of the water that “is consistent with a strut and wheel of a Lockheed Electra landing gear,” the type of plane Earhart flew. Afterward, the association returned to the island in the photo, Gardner Island (nearby Howland Island), and looked for more clues. Since starting to look for more evidence in 2013, TIGHAR has discovered glass that matches the glass from the plane and a sextant box from the 20’s/30’s. This would suggest that Earhart or Noonan survived on Gardner Island for some time.
Now, with these new clues, some believe they have a real chance at finding Earhart’s plane…
The Search Begins
If you don’t know, Robert Ballard, a National Geographic Society explorer, found the Titanic in 1985. Since then, he’s uncovered over a dozen other lost ships. Now, Ballard’s setting his eyes on Earhart’s missing plane. “It’s not the Loch Ness Monster; it’s not Big Foot,” he told National Geographic. “That plane exists, which means I’m gonna find it.”
Ballard is quite convinced that the TIGHAR photo does, in fact, show a plane landing gear, giving them a general area to search. Plus, with new technology, they’ll be able to analyze the ocean floor and any more evidence they find with far more accuracy. However, Ballard admits that, even with more exceptional tools, the search will still be incredibly difficult.
The search will also include a search on the island led by archeologist Fredrik Hiebert. Only time will tell if this search will produce the answers everyone wants, but only time will tell. “Maybe some things shouldn’t be found,” Ballard remarked. “We’ll see if Amelia is one of them.”