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A New Search for Amelia Earhart

Wikimedia Commons

A New Search for Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart has achieved legendary status in American history. Ever since her mysterious disappearance 75 years ago, generations have been inspired by her intrepid life… and enjoyed speculating about her fate. Some insist that her plane crashed and sank into the ocean, never to be recovered; others are just as adamant that she lived for many years after her 1937 disappearance, serving as a spy or living on a remote island or even changing her name and returning to the U.S. to live a long and anonymous life.

Just as popular as the speculation has been the hands-on search for any evidence of Earhart’s plane or her remains. After her disappearance, President Roosevelt mounted a $4 million search that turned up not a shred of evidence. The search has continued in private hands in the years since, with the pieces of the puzzle still scattered – but moving closer together with each expedition.

Today, on the 75th anniversary of Earhart’s disappearance, the search intensifies with new technology.

Amelia Earhart (Wikimedia Commons)

The Hawaiian research vessel Ka’Imikai-o-Kanaloa begins its journey from Honolulu to Nikumaroro Island (formerly Gardner Island) today, bringing with it underwater robots that will search the seabed around the island. Nikumaroro has long been thought to be the strongest candidate for where Earhart crashed, and previous searches have turned up tantalizing – but inconclusive – evidence. Cosmetics containers from the 1930s, a knife like one owned by Earhart, airplane parts and more – all suggest that she may have spent time on Nikumaroro. But searchers won’t feel confident about the location of her crash site until they can find more definitive evidence – like the wreckage of her plane.

The underwater robots have a better shot at finding that evidence than any past technology has. They can dive deep into the ocean, deeper than any previous searches have ventured, and create high-quality images of what they see there. If there is wreckage, steps can be taken to preserve and examine it in hopes of an answer to the 75-year-old mystery.

Will finding Amelia Earhart’s remains change the world? No, probably not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the continued search. There’s something very satisfying in solving a mystery, particularly one that has eluded us for so long. And maybe even more important, there’s comfort in putting a body to rest. Earhart’s immediate family didn’t have that comfort, but maybe a new generation will.