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02nd Jul 2012

Will a New Expedition Solve the Mystery of Amelia Earhart’s Final Flight?

It's been 75 years since Amelia Earhart disappeared. Will a new expedition finally solve the mystery of what happened to her on her final flight?

An expedition to find out what happened to celebrated pilot Amelia Earhart is underway today, 75 years after she took off on her final flight.

If the name is ringing a bell but you can’t quite place it, here is a brief history lesson. Amelia was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

On July 2, 1937 Amelia Earhart and  Fred Noonan, her navigator, took off from Papua New Guinea. The pair were headed towards Howland Island but strangely enough, they were never seen again after they took off.

According to experts, a navigational error may have caused them to run out of fuel over the sea. Either way, the mystery of what happened to Amelia and Frank was never solved.

However the 75th anniversary of Amelia’s disappearance has inspired a new search to try and figure out just what happened to her.

The expedition, which is expected to cost more than $2million, is being led by Ric Gillespie. Mr Gillespie is the executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR). He believes that Earhart and Noonan made a crash-landing on an uninhabited island in the Pacific called Nikumaroro. According to Mr Gillespie, the pair may have survived here for a while.

“What we’re hoping for is to come back with good imagery, photographs, of wreckage that’s conclusively, unquestionably pieces, at least, of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra aircraft; that’s the goal,” said Mr Gillespie, speaking to the BBC.

This isn’t the first time that TIGHAR has explored the island of Nikumaroro. In recent years, they actually found bones on the island, but lab tests were inconclusive when it came to proving whether or not the bones were of human origin.

This is TIGHAR’s 10th expedition to the island and over the next three weeks, they will deploy robots equipped with cameras and sonar technology to search the waters off the island for clues. Human divers will also be searching.

“We have continued the investigation because we have been successful in finding evidence that supports the hypothesis we are testing,” said Mr Gillespie.

Will TIGHAR solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart’s final flight? Only time will tell…