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Expedition to Nikumaroro to find Earhart’s plane set to sail in June

A NON-PROFIT group is returning to Nikumaroro to conduct further research at the site where Amelia Earhart may have crash landed in 1937.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery is making preparations for its eighth expedition to the island of Nikumaroro in Kiribati this June.

Its senior archaeologist Dr. Thomas King told Variety that Ric Gillespie and about a dozen of his TIGHAR colleagues will be returning to Nikumaroro.

Amelia EarhartAmelia Earhart

“In early June Ric and about a dozen colleagues should embark for the island from Fiji to undertake a targeted robotic survey on the Nutiran (northwestern) reef, focusing on anomalies identified in previous sonar imaging and also doing an on-shore archaeological survey,” said Dr. King.

In TIGHAR’s last expedition, an anomaly in a sonar image fueled the suspicion that the image seen may be the fuselage of Earhart’s Electra that left a debris trail as it slid down the Nutiran Reef.

TIGHAR is returning with a remotely operated vehicle to plumb the depths of the sea and find out whether this anomaly is indeed what is left of Earhart’s plane.

Dr. King said he would follow the team sometime in the middle of June. “I’ll follow in mid-June guiding the first-ever tour group to the island, coordinating with Ric’s team and doing a little survey along the eroding shore of the colonial village.”

His daughter, he said, will be involved in a botanical survey focusing on what a castaway would have had to eat.

“Research on artifacts and historical data is continuing,” said Dr. King.

On TIGHAR’s website, it was announced that preparations for what they refer to as Niku VIII are in full swing.

“The airline tickets to Fiji have been purchased, the Remote Operated Vehicle or ROV and pilot have been selected, and the hundreds of logistical details are being sorted out. On May 1st the expedition team will assemble at TIGHAR HQ for final planning. We’re coming down to the wire,” the site said.

The group also stated their need to raise another $60,000 due to unforeseeable increases in airline and ROV costs.

TIGHAR also said that 27 years of rigorous research and 10 years of prior expeditions led to a “a compelling preponderance of evidence that Nikumaroro is where the Earhart saga ended.”

For TIGHAR, this trip could be their last opportunity “to find whatever more there is to find.”

The location where the sonar image captured what looked like a fuselage is where TIGHAR hypothesizes Earhart landed and where Eric Bevington photographed the object in 1937.

On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator Frederick Noonan departed Lae, New Guinea en route to Howland Island for their last leg of their around-the-world flight. They were never heard from again.

TIGHAR hypothesizes that Earhart and Noonan may have safely landed their plane on Nikumaroro reef and died on the island.