By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
With 2012 marking 75 years since aviator Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan vanished over the Pacific Ocean, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) this week announced a new effort to search for evidence that would solve the mystery of their disappearance. The TIGHAR crew plans to launch from Honolulu on July 2 -- the date of Earhart's last radio calls -- and return to Nikumaroro, the remote Pacific atoll where the group has found artifacts they say could have belonged to a stranded airplane crew. They will bring underwater robots to help search deep waters near a reef off the island. Recent analysis of a 1937 photo shows a blurry item protruding from the ocean offshore from the atoll, which TIGHAR says could be the landing gear of Earhart's Lockheed Electra.
The effort kicked off on Tuesday with an event at the State Department in Washington, D.C., where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about Earhart's impact on the women of her generation and lent her encouragement to those who are working to discover the rest of her story. Oceanographer Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic wreckage, is acting as adviser to TIGHAR's underwater recovery effort. The expedition will be filmed by the Discovery Channel. Earhart also will be the subject of a year-long exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington, D.C., which opens June 29. The one-room exhibition, "One Life: Amelia Earhart," will focus on her commitment to women's rights. Her biography will be told through photographs, paintings, drawings, and objects such as her pilot certificate and her leather flying helmet.