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Amelia Earhart search to continue despite lack of hard evidence (+video)

Amelia Earhart, whose 115th birthday is celebrated on Google's home page Tuesday, disappeared with her navigator over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. A new search for her remains has returned nothing definitive.

By Oskar GarciaAssociated Press / July 24, 2012

Google honors Amelia Earhart with a doodle on her birthday. The aviatrix would be 115 years old today.




Even though a monthlong voyage for Amelia Earhart's plane wreckage turned up nothing definitive, the searchers devoted to the hunt say they have a trove of evidence to examine that will help shed light on what happened to the famed aviator 75 years ago.

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Seventy-five years ago, Americans learned that Amelia Earhart was missing. Now, the 10th expedition searching for that aircraft is about to take off. CBS's Lee Cowan reports.

The expedition to a remote atoll roughly 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) southwest of Hawaii was well on its way back to Honolulu on Tuesday as Earhart's family and others marked what would have been the American icon's 115th birthday.

Google honored Earhart by changing the logo on its homepage, while her family said on their website that Earhart's legacy remains relevant.

"The aviation pioneer, who was the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean, continues to make lasting impressions on people all over the world," the statement posted Tuesday said.

Pat Thrasher, president of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, said plans are already in the works for a land-based expedition to the Kiribati atoll of Nikumaroro next year.

The voyagers looked at footage as it initially came in from a tethered underwater vehicle rigged with cameras and lights. But the group expects to learn more through repeat viewings, picking up new insights on the underwater landscape where they believe the plane went down. The group has countless hours of high-definition video and sonar data.

"It's unbelievably difficult as an environment and your eyeballs fall out after a while" watching the video, Thrasher said. "The only way you can be sure you know what you found is to go back through the data very carefully."

The expedition cost $2.2 million. The group was short nearly $500,000 at the start of the voyage and will need to raise more funds for any future trips.

But the group still believes Earhart and her navigator crashed onto a reef off the remote island, Thrasher said.

Remnants of the plane, the group believes, could be in hard-to-see caves within a reef that drops like a cliff thousands of feet underwater. Or, it might have simply floated away to another area that's impossible to predict.

"This is just sort of the way things are in this world," TIGHAR president Pat Thrasher said. "It's not like an Indiana Jones flick where you go through a door and there it is. It's not like that — it's never like that."

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