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Is Nikumaroro Amelia Earhart’s Island? A New Search for the Pilot’s Aircraft Begins in South Pacific

A new expedition will set out to search for new evidence of Amelia Earhart's landing in Nikumaroro, an atoll in the South Pacific.
Amelia Earhart and the Lockheed Electra in which she disappeared in July 1937. NASA/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A new expedition heads to an atoll located in the South Pacific in an effort to solve one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history - the disappearance of female pilot Amelia Earhart.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) will start traveling to an uninhabited atoll called Nikumaroro, which is part of the republic of Kiribati. The island used to be known as Gardner Island.

In the past 27 years, TIGHAR has made 10 expeditions to search for Amelia Earhart. However, this time, TIGHAR's expedition will be unlike the others because it will be accompanied by a 68-passenger cruise ship. Each passenger will pay $11,000 for the possibility to witness what could be a historic moment of finding the legendary pilot's missing aircraft. The cruise ship will also set off from Fiji together with TIGHAR's vessel, TIME reports.

TIGHAR believes there is a high probability that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan ended up in Nikumaroro. Previous expeditions gave birth to the "Gardner Island Hypothesis" after discoveries of artifacts including an Oxford shoe from the 1930s, the kind that Earhart used to wear. It dispelled previous beliefs that Earhart's plane crashed into the Pacific.

The search expedition will be participated in by 14 volunteers who will do a thorough search of the island and search for clues in the surrounding waters.

"The object is to see if we can add to the preponderance of evidence that we have assembled in the course of 27 years and 10 expeditions to the island," said TIGHAR executive director Ric Gillespie.

"If we make a dramatic discovery, that would be great, but I'm not going to predict that that is what we are going to do," he added, according to MSN.

TIGHAR's hypothesis is that the pilot and her navigator were forced to land in Nikumaroro after running out of gas. They probably sent radio distress signals from there until the plane was washed into the ocean. The team believes that Earhart and Noonan probably stayed alive for a few weeks, according to Discovery News.

Nikumaroro is located 360 miles southeast of Howland Island, which was to be Earhart's next stop.

In 1991, a piece of aircraft metal in the atoll was identified as the patch used for Earhart's window when she stopped at Miami during her attempt to fly around the globe. The piece of aluminum "is a true Amelia Earhart artifact," Gillespie said to Discovery News.

The blonde and brave legendary pilot disappeared in July 1937 while she was attempting to circumnavigate the globe at the equator aboard her Lockheed Electra. 

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