Another Hunt Is On For Amelia Earhart’s Electra


Explorer Robert Ballard, who discovered the remains of the Titanic in 1985, is going after another iconic piece of history that’s gone missing: Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra. Missing since July 7, 1937, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan were considered to be lost at sea by the U.S. Navy in a report published that summer.

As recently reported by The New York Times, Ballard is following the breadcrumb of a photo taken in October 1937 of a British freighter that had run aground on Nikumaroro (then called Gardner Island). At the edge of the frame is a visual artifact believed to be part of the Electra’s landing gear. This discovery lead to searches in Nikumaroro during 2010 and 2012 by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, or TIGHAR, where they reported finding what they thought was a piece of the Electra

The October 1937 image believed to show a fragment of Earhart’s Lockheed’s landing gear.

Dr. Ballard is being joined by a substantial crew on the island and brings to bear high technology for the sea portion of the search. According to National Geographic, “Ballard’s search strategy, honed over more than 150 deep-sea expeditions, calls for using sonar to map the ocean floor and deploying a variety of remotely operated vehicles, including one that can dive as deep as 13,000 feet.”

National Geographic will air the results of the search in a two-hour special on Oct. 20.

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. HUGE logic flaw:
    If the British expedition that was tasked with evaluating if the island was uninhabited, then they would have noted the wreckage of an airplane in the shallow water. The Brits are notorious for detailed observations and especially for writing everything down into log books.

    It’s not reasonable to assume that the 1937 expedition of Gardner Island would be both oblivious to the Earhart news and also not note if an airplane wheel what sticking out of the surf right in front of their bow.

  2. The notion is that Amelia and Fred Noonan landed safely on July 2, 1937 on the flat reef at low tide of Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro Island) 380 miles southeast of the destination, Howland Island, and for several days made HF radio transmissions at night heard by some in the States but not by the US Coast Guard or Navy who were searching for them. During the day she and Fred Noonan went ashore rather than sit inside the hot Electra.
    Fearing that higher tides would draw the airplane off the reef and into the abyss as people speculate, one would think that they would have removed the plane’s seats, engine cowling and so much more for survival purposes and to place on the beach as a signal. Instead, nothing was left or found in subsequent years save what might be an old bottle of anti-freckle cream. Amelia did not like her freckles.
    Yup, let’s bring anti-freckle cream ashore but not shiny aluminum airplane parts that could be seen by the Navy pilots who catapulted from the USS Colorado in their Vought O3U Corsair float planes and circled the island several days later.

  3. This is ridiculous. TIGHAR doesn’t operate on facts; they came up with a hypothesis in 1991 that Earhart landed on Gardner Island and they’ve been finding supposed evidence since then to back up this pre-conceived conclusion. Don’t forget that in 1992 the founder, Richard Gillespie, famously said, “There’s only one possible conclusion: We found a piece of Amelia Earhart’s aircraft.” Only the rivet holes didn’t line up with an Electra, so then he claimed that it was a patch that was later added. He’s also claimed that he found human bones from Amelia, which DNA analysis was inconclusive as to whether they were from a turtle or a human.

    This group has essentially settled on the theory that she landed on Nikumaroro and they’re going to great lengths to make findings fit their theory of events.

    Now, they’ve gotten Robert Ballard tangled up in this. Ballard has actually don’t something incredible; it’s a shame that he’s lending his name and, apparently, resources to this group’s unsubstantiated theories.

    I want to find out what happened to her as much as anyone, but the evidence for this theory is so flimsy that it doesn’t deserve this kind of attention.