Members of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) set out on Tuesday on a renewed search for Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra, almost exactly 75 years after the historic aviator disappeared somewhere in the Pacific while attempting to circumnavigate the globe.
The expedition team is headed to the island of Nikumaroro, where TIGHAR members say they have uncovered a variety of artifacts that point to the presence of an American female castaway from the 1930s.
Members of the group believe Earhart, along with navigator Fred Noonan, made an emergency landing on the island at the end of their ill-fated 1937 flight, instead of running out of fuel and crash landing about 300 miles to the north while looking for Howland Island, which is the most widespread theory surrounding their disappearance.
Included among the artifacts found on the island are skeletal remains, remnants of a campsite and what appears to be a cosmetic jar that resembles one used to contain anti-freckle cream during the early 1900s.
TIGHAR members say they have also unearthed a photo taken three months after Earhart’s disappearance that shows what could be the landing gear of her Lockheed Electra lying in the waters off of Nikumaroro’s western shoreline. According to Discovery News, the could-be landing gear in the 1937 wallet-sized photo appears about the size of a grain of rice and was not noticed until 2010.
During TIGHAR’s current 26-day mission, the group hopes to find whatever may remain of the Electra by employing robots with sonar and high-definition video cameras in the coral-reef filled waters – which extend to depths of 5,000 feet in some areas – near the island.
Much skepticism remains, however, about the group’s likelihood of finding any conclusive evidence of Earhart’s presence on the island. Previous searches of the area shown in the photo have not uncovered any wreckage.
The group, which departed for the island Tuesday on an oceanographic research ship operated by the University of Hawaii, is expected to arrive on site to start the search expedition in about a week.