A random purchase off the Internet has sparked interest in another search for Amelia Earhart.
Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the South Pacific during a round-the-world flight in 1937. On the morning of July 3 they were en route to Howland Island, a specially created refueling stop, but never arrived. The Coast Guard Cutter Itasca was stationed at the island but never saw the Lockheed Electra. It did, however, pick up several radio transmissions, which were dutifully noted in the diary of James Carey, an Associated Press reporter who was covering the event.
Carey’s descendants recently put his diary up for auction on eBay. In it there are previously unreleased details of the events surrounding Earhart’s disappearance, including previously dismissed notes taken of a short-wave radio distress call beginning, “This is Amelia Earhart…”
The Itasca had been waiting at Howland Island for eight days. Earhart’s departure from Lae, New Guinea, had been delayed, and in his diary Carey noted that the crew was getting restless.
When it became clear that Earhart was in trouble, the crew became more concerned and the atmosphere aboard ship grew somber.
The newsman’s diary was unknown until last September when a typewritten copy turned up on eBay. A member of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) who makes a habit of surfing the Internet auction site for Earhart items found it and bid successfully.
The diary and the notes it contains were enough to get people from TIGHAR to plan another expedition to the South Pacific. TIGHAR believes that the aircraft landed on a coral reef at an uninhabited atoll called Gardner Island, and Earhart and Noonan lived for some time as castaways.
TIGHAR is a not-for-profit group that has mounted eight expeditions to search for Earhart since 1989, including several to Gardner Island. There they found the remains of a campfire, part of a woman’s shoe in a style and size frequently worn by Earhart, and pieces of metal and what appears to be a piece of Plexiglas that may be aircraft wreckage.
But as TIGHAR’s Executive Director Ric Gillespie notes, without serial numbers on the parts corresponding with those on the Electra, all evidence is circumstantial.
The organization is in the process of raising the money to launch another expedition in July.
There are several other theories about the disappearance. The most prevalent is that the Lockheed Electra simply ran out of fuel and crashed in the sea. As the Earhart disappearance occurred during the build up before World War II, one of the more enduring legends is that Earhart and Noonan were on a spy mission for the United States government and were captured by the Japanese and executed.
Among the more farfetched theories is that Earhart survived the crash and went to live undercover as a housewife in New Jersey. Another is that she and Noonan were abducted by aliens.
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