UH research ship ready for Amelia Earhart expedition

Published: Jul. 1, 2012 at 11:02 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 2, 2012 at 7:42 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Monday marks the 75th anniversary of famed aviator Amelia Earhart's disappearance. Now a University of Hawaii research ship could soon help to solve the enduring mystery.

"We think the Earhart plane is there. We've got the right people. We have the right technology we have the right support," said Richard Gillespie of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR).

IN 1937, Earhart was trying to become the first woman to fly around the world. She radioed that her plane's gas was running low and vanished somewhere in the South Pacific. An extensive air and sea search failed to find her, but now this privately-funded expedition hopes to provide answers about Earhart's final adventure.

"She said you must decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved and if it is, stop worrying," said Colonel Pat Webb, USAF (Ret).

"There are no guarantees out here. The only guarantee we can make is that we will do the best job we can to find whatever there is to find," said Gillespie.

On Tuesday, the UH ship will head to a coral atoll called Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati. The researchers plan to search the deep water off the west end of the island that Navy search planes flew over decades ago.

"Over the ensuing days, the airplane was apparently washed over the edge of the reef by rising tides and surf so by the time the Navy got there, the plane was gone, but we think she was there and we have good reason to think that," Gillespie said.

Armed with lots of evidence and high-tech equipment, the researchers hope to find the wreckage of the plane in a month. They also want to bring closure to Earhart's remarkable story.

"If in fact there is a final chapter to Earhart's life, a chapter that involved being a castaway struggling to survive, that needs to be known, if that's what happened," said Gillespie.

The Discovery Channel plans to air a special on the 26-day voyage sometime next month.

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