The Liberty Gazette
December 29, 2009
December 29, 2009
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: We got the inside scoop on an upcoming mission to search for Amelia Earhart’s airplane, so you’re reading it here first. We promised to keep it quiet until the TIGHAR organization (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery) was ready to release its list of chosen participants. Now we can tell all. Our friend, Megan Lickliter-Mundon has been chosen to join an elite group of archeologists and other specialists on a trip to what was known as Gardner Island, now Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati, where it is believed the airplane and personal effects of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan will be found. TIGHAR isn’t some fly-by-night group. The science-based investigation company says, “Archival research and nine expeditions have uncovered a compelling body of supporting evidence. Archaeological excavations during the next expedition, scheduled for May/June 2010, will aim to recover artifacts from which Earhart’s DNA can be extracted. The expedition will also include a deep water search off the atoll’s fringing reef for the wreckage of the airplane.” This is the same group that located a missing P-38 Lightning off a beach in Wales two years ago. The aerial photo of a rusted twin-engine fighter emerging from white sand in the clear beach waters captivated people around the world.
Linda: Megan has a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and a Master of Science degree in Archaeology from the University of Edinburgh. She says a Ph.D. is in her future, but for now she’s enjoying her job as Administrator of the 1940 Air Terminal Museum at Hobby. She first learned of TIGHAR from seeing a field school during her aviation archaeology studies. That’s what they pride themselves on, not just the paper research, but going out and doing the recovery work, which stems from wreck-chasing, rebuilding, and flying old, wartime aircraft. They survey a wreck site, and find out what’s happened since the wreck. Sometimes the aircraft is all gone but a few pieces, sometimes much of it remains. Megan says, “It’s about historical preservation. They do a lot more than just the search for Amelia.” 55-60 core members have varied roles in the search, from photographers, to historians, scientists, and divers.
Mike: Here’s some of the background: A British freight boat wrecked on Gardner Island in November 1929, so there’s a school of thought that Amelia may have been able to see that boat. If you see a boat on an island it might be a place you’d be willing to land. TIGHAR has searched for historical records and photos of the boat, to see how it has deteriorated over the years; to see what it would have looked like when Amelia was there. Megan explains it this way: “The assumption is that she landed–not crashed or ditched in the water,” (The idea she crashed in the Pacific is not well explored because it would be such a massive undertaking. Then there’s the idea that she was captured by Japanese and taken to Sai Pan and murdered there. But there is less proof for either of those two theories than there is for TIGHAR’s). “By understanding how the boat deteriorated and washed away, we can find a pattern caused by the movement of the water and conduct a search based on that pattern.”
Come back next week to find out what they’ve discovered and what they are about to do. Till then, blue skies.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.