Archive for Saturday, September 8, 2001

Team disappointed by search for pilot Earhart’s remains

September 8, 2001

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— Researchers have discovered that a rusty splotch visible on a satellite photo of the South Pacific is red algae, not part of Amelia Earhart's missing plane, The Kansas City Star reported Friday.

Divers began their search this week at the coral reef at Nikumaroro, the island where some believe Earhart died more than 64 years ago during an attempted around-the-world flight.

What the Delaware-based International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery discovered more than 30 feet below the surface was a large blotch of red algae, the Star said.

The group is one of three unrelated teams searching separate locations for the Kansas native's plane.

A Maryland company is planning a winter expedition of about 600 miles of the Pacific Ocean floor. And a third team is investigating a north Pacific island.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery is making its sixth try since 1989. They hoped to find an engine or perhaps landing gear from Earhart's missing Lockheed Electra embedded in the reef. The splotch researchers found on the satellite photo matched a spot where witnesses decades ago described seeing airplane wreckage.

"No one was surprised," says a summary posted on the Internet by the Delaware group. "It has always seemed incredible to us that something metallic could survive and be visible from 300 miles up in that environment."

Richard Gillespie, executive director of the recovery group, believes that Earhart could not find her intended destination, Howland Island, and landed at Nikumaroro about 350 miles away.

The 12-member team is continuing its search, exploring possible grave sites and a spot where a 1930s castaway may have dined on turtles and fish.

Remains from a castaway were reported to the British in 1940, before the island was inhabited. The British decided the bones were not Earhart's, but Gillespie thinks they were wrong.

Earlier expeditions to the island turned up a shoe heel, airplane metal and other artifacts. But Gillespie has been unable to link the items to Earhart.

Gillespie's group has found additional artifacts on this trip, including shards from a dinner plate.

The group remained hopeful in its Thursday Web posting, ending it with: "Stay tuned.

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