Evidence of Earhart's plane in right spot

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LOS ANGELES -- In July, a team searching for the wreckage of Amelia Earhart's plane was wrapping up an expedition and feeling downhearted. The members had come away with apparently little to show for their $2.2 million efforts.

But now, those searchers say high-definition video from that trip shows promising evidence.

"We have man-made objects in a debris field," Ric Gillespie said in an interview Monday morning. And those objects are "in a location where we had previously reasoned where airplane wreckage should be."

Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan were lost on their July 2, 1937, flight from New Guinea to Howland Island in the central Pacific Ocean. Earhart was trying to become the first woman to fly around the planet.

"We don't want to oversell this," Mr. Gillespie cautioned. "We have lots of clues. ... It looks like it might be the right stuff, but we need a lot more work done, and ultimately, we're going to have to go back and recover it."

Mr. Gillespie is executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, or TIGHAR. It has an exclusive agreement with the island nation of Kiribati to seek and recover any artifacts from the plane wreck, which Mr. Gillespie and his wife- search partner Pat Thrasher are sure occurred there.

The team made its most recent journey to the remote location in July.

Due to technical problems, their planned 10-day trip was trimmed back, with only five spent searching the waters.

Among those on board was Tim Mellon, a railroad magnate who had donated $1 million to the voyage and accompanied the crew.

Also providing backing, according to Mr. Gillespie: Lockheed Martin and the Discovery Channel, which bought the rights to make a documentary about the expedition (it aired Sunday). Then there was FedEx, which moved 30,000 pounds of cargo over 17,000 miles -- for free.

When the July expedition ended, TIGHAR said in a statement that it had seen no objects recognized as aircraft debris, "but we have volumes of sonar data and many hours of high-definition video to review before we'll know the results of this expedition definitively."

After returning home, that video went to a forensic imaging specialist, Mr. Gillespie said, who pored through 5 1/2 hours of footage and highlighted two spots, saying, "We have man-made stuff here." Using the footage's time code, Mr. Gillespie pinpointed the man-made objects' location.

Mr. Gillespie's hope is to raise more money and return to recover what was found.

Another expedition would require as much as $1 million, so his immediate search will be for more funding.

science


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