Fear not, Amelia Earhart fans: The search for America's long-lost female pilot will resume again in 2014, and the expedition may finally prove whether or not Earhart crash landed on an island in the South Pacific and died a castaway.
The investigation will be led by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), an organization that has spent many years and millions of dollars attempting to solve the mystery of Earhart's disappearance during a flight 76 years ago.
According to TIGHAR's website, the group plans to organize a 30-day expedition in September to Gardner Island, now Nikumaroro Island, in the Republic of Kiribati. The group will be borrowing a University of Hawai‘i oceanographic research ship, from which it will be able to deploy two submersibles, Pisces IV and Pisces V, each carrying a pilot and two TIGHAR observers.
The submersibles will be used to get a "detailed 'eyeball' and photographic examination of the entire mile-long underwater search area," according to TIGHAR. Meanwhile an onshore team will be performing a "detailed survey of the beachfront and forest area in search of evidence of an initial Earhart/Noonan campsite."
The team will be building off previous expeditions in order to decide where to search. One of the most important underwater clues to date may be a 22-foot long object picked up TIGHAR-funded sonar imaging just west of Nikumaroro Island. The object bears a resemblance to the fuselage of Earhart's Lockheed Electra.
“We have reason to believe it might be something of interest,” Gillespie told Discovery News.
TIGHAR also uncovered rare aerial photographs, one taken a few months after the crash and more taken in 1938, which appear to show traces of the aviator and her plane, Discovery notes.
Researchers have also found intriguing evidence on the island, including remnants of a glass jar they suggest once held 1930s freckle-bleaching cream.
“We found mercury in the interior of the jar, not the exterior, and no mercury on nearby glass. Jars in this style were sold as cosmetic creams for the face,” Joe Cerniglia, a co-author of a TIGHAR study confirming the freckle ointment, told Discovery News.
The 39-year-old Earhart disappeared without a trace on July 2, 1937, while attempting to become the first woman to fly around the world. Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, lost radio contact during what many considered the most treacherous leg of their trip, from Lae, New Guinea, to Howland Island in the Pacific, Time notes.
Other possible theories for the heroine's demise include an unsurvivable crash into the Pacific, as well as capture and subsequent execution by the Japanese, PBS notes.