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.
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Thrasher maintained touch throughout the search with the group's founder Ric Gillespie, her husband, and posted updates about the trip to the group's website. The updates tell of a search that was cut short because of treacherous underwater terrain and repeated, unexpected equipment mishaps that caused delays and left the group with only five days of search time rather than 10, as originally planned.Skip to next paragraph
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During one episode, an autonomous underwater vehicle the group was using in its search wedged itself into a narrow cave, a day after squashing its nose cone against the ocean floor. It needed to be rescued.
"The rescue mission was successful — but it was a real cliffhanger," Gillespie wrote in an email posted online last week. "Operating literally at the end of our tether, we searched for over an hour in nightmare terrain: a vertical cliff face pockmarked with caves and covered with fern-like marine growth."
Thrasher said the environment was tougher to navigate than searchers expected, and even images are difficult to distinguish.
"This was the first time any such work has been done there below scuba depth," she said.
The U.S. State Department had encouraged the privately-funded voyage, which launched earlier this month from Honolulu using 30,000 pounds (13,600 kilograms) in specialized equipment and a University of Hawaii ship normally used for ocean research.
The group's thesis is based on the idea that Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan landed on a reef near the Kiribati atoll of Nikumaroro, then survived a short time.
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.
The photo was enough for the State Department blessing, and led to the Kiribati government to sign a contract with the group to work together if anything is found, Gillespie said at the start of the voyage.
A separate group working under a different theory plans its third voyage later this year near Howland Island.
Earhart and Noonan were flying from New Guinea to Howland Island when they went missing July 2, 1937, during Earhart's bid to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.