28 Oct 2013

New attempt to find Amelia Earhart's plane in Kiribati

6:22 pm on 28 October 2013

Another search aiming to finally solve the mysterious disappearance of famed aviator Amelia Earhart is being planned for next year in the Pacific.

Ms Earhart attempted to circumnavigate the globe along the equator in 1937, but disappeared in July of that year.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, Tighar, has been involved in the search for Ms Earhart's plane for the last 24 years.

It is now preparing for a expedition in September 2014 near Kiribati's Nikumaroro island, which could cost up to US$3 million.

Its executive director, Ric Gillespie, told Amelia Langford about the group's latest attempt to find Ms Earhart's plane.

RIC GILLESPIE: We don't know what's left of the aircraft. We have good reason to believe that the aircraft was landed on the fringing reef at Nikumaroro in Kiribati and that it made a successful landing there, was there on its wheels for at least five nights while Amelia sent radio distress calls widely heard, believed - credible, before the aircraft was washed over the edge of the reef by rising tides and surf, probably broke up in the surf and the pieces tumbled down the craggy underwater mountainside that is the reef that surrounds the island. And it gets very deep very quickly. It's a very active, dynamic environment. So we could have a more or less intact airplane or we could have just a few pieces - the heavy parts that weren't broken up and carried off. We don't know. We've tried twice in 2010 and in 2012 to find bits of wreckage using remote-operated vehicles with video cameras moutned on them. So this time we're doing something we've never done before. We're using manned submersibles. These are two-person, three-person submersibles capable of going to depths of 2,000 metres, which is deeper than we realy need to go. And we'll have both subs in teh water searching the area. And we expect to be able to cover the entire search area thoroughly in the seven to ten days we plan to have onsite.

AMELIA LANGFORD: How confident are you that the aircraft is down there?

RIC GILLESPIE: I'm entirely confident that this island is where the Earhart flight ended and that Earhart and her navigator landed there, sent radio distress calls and then eventually ended up as, quite literally, castaways marooned on a desert island, where they eventually died. Whether anything of the aircraft, anything findable from the aircraft survives or not, logically there should be material there. So you can never make guarantees. All you can do is reason where wreckage should be, logically, and then do your best to find it.