Two Explorers continue the search for Amelia EarHart: Andrew McKenna, MN ’07 and Lonnie Schorer, MN ’98 carried Explorers Club Flag 46.
On June 6, 2015, a 15-member International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) Niku VIII team flew from LA to Nadi, Fiji, boarded a bus to Lautoka, loaded freight aboard the Nai’a, and sailed 1,000 miles NW to the equatorial island of Nikumaroro in the nation of Kiribati.
Land Team: search the area on the NW coast where Amelia might have bivouacked during the time her post-loss radio signals were received. Lockheed reported the plane’s right engine had to be turning over to operate the magneto for the radio. As time and tide studies confirm that her messages were sent at low tide, Amelia had to be going out to the plane on the reef at low tide and, therefore, must have camped nearby, bringing provisions ashore after each transmission. Using GPS, compasses, metal detectors, and drones, the Land Team conducted archaeological survey operations in places of interest as identified on old photography and on satellite imagery.
Dive Team: diving to a depth of 130’, set up, search, and metal detect lanes parallel to the shore NW of the Norwich City wreck to test the hypothesis that aircraft debris may have survived on reef slopes between 15’ and the first underwater cliff at 130’. Metal objects found were primarily bits of old fishing gear, encrusted in reef surfaces. Beyond 130’, reef cliffs drop off steeply.
ROV Team: investigate an anomaly at 600’, seen on 2012 side-scan sonar imagery NW of the Norwich City wreck. Unfortunately, the ROV, operable when shipped from the U.S., suffered multiple modes of failure in the field. The ROV team worked around the clock troubleshooting, replacing, and repairing many parts, but in the end without a redundant ROV, the deepwater search target could not be investigated. A makeshift ROV was lowered for a ‘Hail Mary’ pass over the area. The 170 high-definition images are currently being analyzed.
During the last onshore day of the expedition, TIGHARs coordinated with TIGHAR members and passengers aboard the Betchart Earhart expedition ship, Fiji Princess, who spent another four days on the island and carried out specific research activities (reference Dr. Tom King article).
The TIGHAR team arrived back in LA on 2 July. The investigation into the 1937 disappearance of aviators Earhart and Noonan during their around-the-world flight attempt is ongoing.
Text submitted by Lonnie Schorer, Vice Chair, ECWG