Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mystery Solved?

Who doesn't love a good mystery?

Whether it's a novel, a movie or a story lifted from a true crime magazine---we love a whodunnit, a "what happened to it," and a "where did it go?"

It's coming up on 75 years ago when one of America's---and indeed the world's---greatest mysteries was born.

Amelia Earhart, the beloved female aviator, went missing on July 2, 1937, somewhere in the South Pacific. Her plane crashed, and that's pretty much all we've known for three quarters of a century.

Now there may be some sort of closure on the horizon, though it would be wise not to get your hopes raised too high.

This summer, the U.S. Government, with the help of $500,000 provided by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, will focus on the remote island of Nikumaroro, in what is now the Pacific nation of Kiribati.

There, they hope to use state-of-the-art equipment and technology to locate the remains of Earhart, her navigator Fred Noonan, and/or her aircraft.

The group believes that Earhart and Noonan may have survived for days or even weeks on what was then known as Gardner Island.

The rejuvenation of the Earhart mystery isn't being driven solely by the 75-year anniversary of her disappearance.

There is a photographic "smoking gun," maybe, that has cropped up, and it has enough credibility, apparently, to mobilize the Obama Administration and the historic group.

"We can be as optimistic and even audacious as Amelia Earhart," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., to announce U.S. support for the expedition. "There is great honor and possibility in the search itself."

According to a story posted on MSNBC's website, new analysis of a photo taken at Nikumaroro three months after the disappearance shows what some people believe could be a strut and wheel of the plane protruding from the water, the group says. The photo was not immediately released to the media on Tuesday but the hypothesis is that the plane crashed on a reef before eventually being washed deeper into the sea.

It is because of this new evidence that the U.S. government will provide some logistical direction, while the historic group puts up the $500K.

The search comes about two years after bone fragments were found on the island that are believed to be those of either Earhart, Noonan, or both.


A young Amelia Earhart


Other items were found on the island that suggest the aviator and her navigator might have survived for a short time before perishing.

If this summer's search proves successful---to the point of being nearly irrefutable in its findings---then one of the greatest mysteries of all time will be, if not solved, certainly more clear.

There would be, to a degree, some closure.

The entire mystery won't ever be solved, of course. Questions about what ultimately happened to Earhart and Noonan, how long they survived, what caused their demise, etc., will never be answered.

But to find evidence of the aircraft, or the two lost souls themselves, would be huge.

The fact that a presidential administration is getting involved shows how excited officials are about finding something, and how little they fear being embarrassed by the search's results.

Amelia Earhart was an energetic, brave and attractive woman---a dreamer and a curious explorer. As fun as it's been to speculate about her disappearance---that whole "love a mystery" thing---how much better would it be to cross it off our list of cold cases?

We'll see, come this summer, whether we'll be able to do that or not.

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