Team to search for elusive earhart plane
SALINA JOURNAL T MYSTERY Team to search for elusive Earhart plane Explorer thinks famous Kansan's plane nfiay be intact By STEPHEN MANNING The Associated Press At 17,000 feet below the surface, the temperature of ocean water hovers just above freezing. It is an eerie black void, too deep for sunlight sunlight to penetrate. Sparse oxygen and relatively calm currents help entomb objects objects that may plunge down from above. In other words, ideal conditions conditions for finding a preserved preserved airplane, according to marine explorer David Jourdan. In deep water off a tiny Pacific Island, Jourdan Jourdan hopes to answer one of aviation's greatest mysteries mysteries — the fate of famed pilot Amelia Earhart, a native of Atchison. Jourdan and his Maine- based company, Nauticos, plan to launch an expedition expedition next spring to sweep the ocean floor in a 1,000- square-mile swath of water with sonar It is the latest in a string of missions to answer answer what happened to Earhart when she, her navigator navigator and their Lockheed Electra plane disappeared nearly 70 years ago. "Things tend to last a time" in the deep ocean, said Jourdan. "Our expectation expectation is the plane will be largely, if not completely intact." intact." That is, if the plane is even in the ocean in the first place. Theories abound There are a host of theories theories about what befell Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan as they made one of the final legs of a widely heralded flight around the world. Some, like Jourdan, have searched the sea, believing the plane ran out of gas. Others think she survived a crash landing, landing, only to die on a deserted deserted island. island. The Japanese captured and executed her, according to one theory. The conspiracy-minded claim Earhart survived, living out her life under an assumed name as a New Jersey housewife. The race to close out the Earhart legend has many elements elements and characters of a B-movie treasure hunt — eccentric eccentric millionaires searching searching for sunken relics and fame, academic types slashing slashing through jungles in search of artifacts, and others others who have devoted their lives and fortunes to solving a decades-old mystery They squabble over records of wind speed and the fuel stores of the Electra, Electra, pore over British colonial colonial records and nautical charts, and try to divine JOURDAN The Associated Press Famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, pose in front of their Lockheed Electra in Los Angeles in 1937. On the net • Amelia Earhart Website: www.ameliaearhart.com • The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery: www.tighar.org meaning from old radio transmissions. They are passionate passionate about the hunt and are a competitive bunch. This much is agreed on — Earhart and Noonan vanished vanished July 2,1937, as they approached an air strip on Rowland Island. The pair had taken off from Papua New Guinea, just 7,000 miles short of their goal to make Earhart the first woman to fiy around the world. Second search Jourdan has plotted a section section of the ocean to the west of Howland Island to search using a sonar system to make images of the ocean floor and any objects that may rest there. This is his second search of the area — a 2002 mission mission was aborted part way through because of technical technical problems. The general area was searched in 1999 by another mission that found nothing conclusive. Jourdan said his latest search will use better sonar technology and more accurate accurate information on where the plane may have crashed. The shortage of oxygen and the fairly still waters means it is likely a metal airplane would not have completely corroded over the past 70 years, he said. Any human remains would have long vanished, but Jourdan hopes to fmd clues that would show Earhart and Noonan went down with the plane. Jewelry in the pilot's seat, or perhaps even Earhart's leather jacket. "It is certainly possible we will find evidence of her in the seat," he said. "That would be eerie." If found, Nauticos plans to return on another mission mission to raise the plane. It would be restored and become become the centerpiece of a traveling exhibit on Earhart's life, Jourdan said.