The search for Amelia Earhart is continuing through more downs than ups in Nikumaroro, an uninhabited South Pacific atoll in the republic of Kiribati.
Researchers of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) who began scouring the ground of Nutiran, an area at the northwestern end of the island, have come to the conclusion that Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan did not possibly use that particular site as their base after their alleged forced landing on Nikumaroro's flat coral reef.
Contrary to the common belief that Earhart's twin-engined Lockheed "Electra" had run out of fuel and crashed in the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937 during a record attempt to fly around the world at the equator, TIGHAR believes Earhart made an emergency landing on Nikumaroro and there she survived for weeks as a castaway. TIGHAR's team is now searching the spot where they might have stayed before the plane was washed away.
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Covered by a buka (Pisonia grandis) forest, Nutiran was the first target of interest for the researchers as a recently found 1938 image showed what appeared to be an impact scar.
The site would have been very hot and humid, however, and does not seem a very likely place for castaways to camp.
"It's a difficult five- to seven-minute walk from the beach. You can't see the beach or the reef from the forest, and you could not, therefore, keep an eye on your airplane, which is your life-line, nor on the horizon from which you expect rescue," TIGHAR President Pat Thrasher said.
TIGHAR's team now believes it is more likely Earhart and Noonan would have chosen a place by the beach, under one of the many ren (Tournefortia argentea) trees which provide great shade.
"If that's where they were, anything they left is long gone or buried under tons of coral rubble," Thrasher said.
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On another disappointing note, the ROV on which TIGHAR relies to investigate an underwater "anomaly" uncannily consistent with the fuselage of a Lockheed Electra, is still not operational.
"It should be by this afternoon. It's the story of high technology at Niku. It's a terrible environment, even for machinery that is designed to operate there," Thrasher said.