Amelia Earhart: Hunt for missing aviator continues

March 22, 2012

It’s been an unsolved mystery for 75 years, but researchers are taking steps toward learning the fate of the groundbreaking female aviator Amelia Earhart after her disappearance over the South Pacific. Even Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is getting in on the hunt, meeting with historians and scientists from the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) to discuss her disappearance. BlogPost reports:

Informing their discussion is a contemporary analysis of an October 1937 photo that suggests Earhart, along with her navigator Fred Noonan, may have actually landed on a south Pacific island. The photo shows what some believe could be a strut and wheel of the plane protruding from the water around the island.

TIGHAR says Earhart may have even lived on the island for a short time. The U.S. administration takes no position on TIGHAR’s analyzed photo, but acknowledges the intense debate surrounding it, according to the AP.

In June, TIGHAR will launch a new search for the wreckage of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra plane near Gardner Island, to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Earhart’s departure, the AP reports.

Reliable Source talked to Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR founder, about his discovery:

Gillespie thinks he’s solved the “last great American mystery of the 20th century” — one that has inspired more than its share of complicated theories and searches over the years. But the former aviation accident investigator is feeling pretty confident about this one. He’s made nine trips to what was then called Gardner Island — the uninhabited atoll where he believes Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan made an emergency landing in July 1937 — and argues that they may have survived briefly as castaways, based on artifacts found at campsites.

The National Portrait Gallery has also coordinated an exhibition that will debut around the time of the anniversary and hunt. The show, which opens June 29, will be on display for a year. Writes Jacqueline Trescott:

The museum’s show will illustrate how Earhart also belongs in the annals of those who fought for women’s rights. She started a women’s pilot program, joined the National Women’s Party, supported the Equal Rights Amendment of that time and campaigned for other causes through her speaking tours and writings. And some of her photographs prove she was quite a fashionista.

“Amelia Earhart’s impact on American culture extends beyond her record-setting aviation feats,” said the museum director, Martin Sullivan. “She was also an advocate for aviation and women, and championed the first commercial airlines. Now we take for granted the convenience of air travel and equal rights for all, but in the 1920s and ’30s, these positions reflected the ideals of a bold visionary.”

In addition to photographs and paintings, the exhibit will include her pilot’s license, leather flying helmet and smelling salts. Her marriage contract with George Putnam will also be displayed, as well as vintage film. The National Air and Space Museum is also lending some objects.

Whether or not TIGHAR finds any evidence of Earhart’s survival, Clinton has advice for their mission:

“Even if you do not find what you seek, there is great honor and possibility in the search itself,” Clinton told the explorers Tuesday. “So, like our lost heroine, you will all carry our hopes.”

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