Search for Earhart’s Remains Continue

A group of high level scientists from the United States set sail to a neighbouring island in search of the remains of American aviation pioneer, Amelia Earhart, last month. They
30 Jul 2017 11:00
Search for Earhart’s Remains Continue
About Nikumaroro: Nikumaroro and the other Phoenix Islands comprise a very sensitive environment, which can be visited only with the permission and oversight of the Kiribati government. Kiribati and TIGHAR have a formal agreement covering the conduct of archaeological work on the island.

A group of high level scientists from the United States set sail to a neighbouring island in search of the remains of American aviation pioneer, Amelia Earhart, last month.

They had arrived into the country and from June 24 they set sail on a local cruise owned by Captain Cook Cruises, Reef Endeavour along with Fijians on board to the Nikumaroro atoll, Kiribati.

This is where the first female pilot to fly across Atlantic Ocean, Ms Earhart was believed to have spent her final days.

Nearly 80 years ago, on July 2, 1937, Ms Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan took off from Lae, New Guinea, in a Lockheed Electra 10E on their journey to around-the-world flight.

However, her journey was short lived and she was never found despite several attempts made by US Coast Guard and Navy.

Nikumaroro an atoll of Kiribati has a reef flat where late Earhart could have landed the Electra during low tide.

It is understood that when the island was colonised in 1940 for a while, during the last reign of the British Empire, 13 bones were discovered, shipped to Fiji, measured but later lost.

The colonial administrator suspected there might be late Ms Earhart’s, and the TIGHAR researchers suspect they know the site where the bones were found.

The visit to the island was conducted in cooperation with Betchart Expeditions, the National Geographic Society, the Institute for Canine Forensics, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

The search which ended on July 11 was headed by a senior American archeologist and author, Tom King from The International Group of Historic Aircraft Recovery.

Mr King was contacted by Fiji Sun who revealed more on Project Earhart.

He said it had been the focus of research by TIGHAR since 1989 as Nikumaroro was the most likely place where the aviation pioneers Ms Earhart and Mr Noonan may have wound up after their disappearance over the Pacific in 1937.

“About fifty Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders were involved, traveling to the island aboard the MV Reef Endeavour under Captain Ken Ballentine,” Mr King said.

He also thanked Fijians who volunteered from the ship’s crew.

“Our research has pinpointed a particular spot on the island, part of what we call “the Seven Site,” as the location where Ms Earhart likely expired, and where bones were discovered by I Kiribati and Tuvaluan colonists in 1940.

The part of this year’s project sponsored by the National Geographic Society focused mostly on this site, where the Institute for Canine Forensics deployed four forensic dogs (border collies named Kaylee, Marcie, Berkeley and Piper) trained specifically in the detection of human remains.”

The dogs confirmed that a human body almost certainly did decompose on the spot that been had identified.

So the soil samples from the location have been taken for laboratory analysis in hopes of extracting human DNA.

Mr King said there were however locations that remained to be explored — both underwater and on land — and additional research to be done.

“We are discussing — in a very preliminary way — another trip to the island in 2019,” he said.

But for now the team is working with the data brought recently from the atoll, as well as with the results of previous work on the island and elsewhere.

Feedback: arishma.narayan@fijisun.com.fj

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