POSTED: 6:08 a.m. HST, Jul 3, 2012
A $2.2 million expedition is hoping to finally solve one of America's most enduring mysteries: What exactly happened to famed aviator Amelia Earhart when she went missing over the South Pacific 75 years ago?
A group of scientists, historians and salvagers think they have a good idea, and are trekking from Honolulu to a remote island in the Pacific nation of Kiribati starting today in hopes of finding wreckage of Earhart's Lockheed Electra plane in nearby waters.
Their working theory is that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan landed on a reef near the Kiribati atoll of Nikumaroro, then survived a short time.
"Everything has pointed to the airplane having gone over the edge of that reef in a particular spot and the wreckage ought to be right down there," said Ric Gillespie, the founder and executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, the group leading the search.
"We're going to search where it in quotes should be," he said. "And maybe it's there, maybe it's not. And there's no way to know unless you go and look."
Previous visits to the island have recovered artifacts that could have belonged to Earhart and Noonan, and experts say an October 1937 photo of the shoreline of the island could include a blurry image of the strut and wheel of a Lockheed Electra landing gear.
"That was the icing on the cake," said Gillespie, who said the picture added to 24 years of evidence gathering used to form the group's working theory.