HISTORY FOUND? – AT 11:14 A.M. ET: We don't know, but we do love history here, and occasionally we delve into it. We've been following, for years actually, the efforts of a group called TIGHAR (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery) to find Amelia Earhart's plane.
Earhart disappeared on a round-the-world flight in 1937. The assumption has generally been that she ran out of fuel and crashed at sea near Howland Island in the Pacific. But the TIGHAR group has a theory that she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, actually survived and lived for a time on an uninhabited island, before succumbing. TIGHAR has made a number of trips to the island. Here is a very tentative report on their latest, just concluded, from Fox:
Man-made debris seen in underwater video filmed off the coast of a Pacific Island may reportedly be from Amelia Earhart’s plane, which researchers believe disappeared somewhere over the Pacific in 1937.
Reuters reported that The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) conducted a $2.2 million expedition to Nikumaroro, a remote island. When the group returned to Honolulu and inspected the video, they noticed a trail of man-made debris they say may be wreckage of Earhart’s plane.
"It's still very early days, but we have man-made objects in a debris field in the place where we'd expect to find it if our theory on the airplane is correct," Ric Gillespie, the director for TIGHAR, told Reuters. The group reportedly examined 30 percent of the video collected.
The original, widely-accepted theory was that the pioneering flier's plane ran out of fuel over the Pacific Ocean, where she and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared. The two were three-quarters of the way toward successfully circumnavigating the globe around the equator, and were en route to Howland Island when the plane went down in the ocean, according to longstanding theories.
Researchers are now challenging that theory, saying that Earhart crashed on Nikumaroro, where the two survived for days before dying of injuries, hunger or thirst.
The research team submerged robots around the island of Nikumaroro, where researchers recently found a freckle ointment jar, believed to have belonged to Earhart. The team will focus on the waters around the tiny island, and will be equipped with sonar and high-definition video cameras, in search of clues.
"We don't want to oversell this. It's more evidence. It is where it should be, and that is encouraging," Gillespie told the news agency. "If it does appear to be airplane wreckage, it becomes figuring out how to go back and look at it."
COMMENT: These guys have worked for years on this. They work carefully, they don't make claims they can't back up. It would be terrific if they turned out to be right, and a tribute to the human spirit of inquiry. It would also sound a cautionary note about "settled history," which is like "settled science." There is always something new to learn, and historic assumptions often turn out to be wrong, exaggerated, or driven by personal agendas.
We'll continue following this intriguing story.
August 18, 2012