There have been several headlines over the weekend regarding Amelia Earhart’s lost plane. Divers perusing the coasts off Papua New Guinea have found shards they claim show consistencies with the plane’s landing lights close to Buka Island, some 30 meters (100 feet) below the ocean surface.
The expedition that found the shards was an offshoot of Project Blue Angel, an investigation studying and researching a reported air crash site off Buka Island. William Snavely, who launched the project, is looking into a theory that Earhart flew for 12 hours from Lae, Papua New Guinea, before running out of fuel, turning around, and, ultimately, crashing.
They say these pieces of glass share certain consistencies with the landing lights on the Lockheed 10E Electra (the model Earhart flew), including modifications that had been made for what turned out to be her final journey. The researchers involved have been careful to stress the fact that it is just a possibility.
This is only the latest remnant of Earhart or her Electra to have been "found", from bone fragments to aluminum debris to bottles of ointment – all of which have been met with some degree of skepticism from experts. These artifacts were discovered by a group called The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), a non-profit founded by Richard Gillespie in 1985, and not by those involved in Project Blue Angel. TIGHAR is one of the leading proponents of the theory that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, crashed on Gardner Island where she lived as a castaway until she died, as opposed to the official line, which is that Earhart and Noonan crashed into the Pacific Ocean where they died at sea.
It seems the fate of Amelia Earhart remains one of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century – at least, for now.
Amelia Earhart, born on July 24, 1897, broke her first record in 1922, when she became the first woman to fly solo above 4,270 meters (14,000 feet). Over the next 16 years, she broke several more flying records, including the first woman to travel solo across the Atlantic Ocean, the first person to fly solo between Hawaii and the US mainland, and the first woman to fly solo from one side of the US to the other.
In 1932, a decade on from her first record-breaking achievement, Earhart was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight", becoming the first woman ever to receive the military distinction.
Her final trip, which, sadly, was never completed, was an attempt to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. While she was unsuccessful, that feat was realized 77 years later – by another Amelia Earhart.