Today would have been the famed aviator Amelia Earhart's 115th birthday, a date Google celebrated by making her the company's logo for the day. The "Google Doodle" depicts Earhart climbing aboard a Lockheed Vega 5B monoplane, the same model she flew in 1932 when she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
The birthday follows less than a month after the 75th anniversary of Earhart's disappearance. Earhart vanished over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937, during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) had hoped to mark the occasion with new evidence that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, crash-landed on the tiny, remote Pacific island of Nikumaroro. Recent analysis of a photo taken at Nikumaroro in 1937 shows what TIGHAR says appears to be the wheel of a plane sticking out of the water next to the island.
Unfortunately, TIGHAR had to call off its $2.2 million expedition to Nikumaroro half-way through the planned 10-day investigation. As the organization explained on its website, "Due to equipment problems directly attributable to the severity of the underwater environment at Nikumaroro, we only had five days on site. In that time we saw no objects that we 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."
TIGHAR officials said they were coming back from the island with "more questions than answers. We are, of course, disappointed that we did not make a dramatic and conclusive discovery, but we are undaunted in our commitment to keep searching out and assembling the pieces of the Earhart puzzle."
Pat Thrasher, the organization's president, said the group intends to go back to the island next year to continue the search.
Several factors lead TIGHAR to believe that Earhart and Noonan survived on Nikumaroro for at least several days after their disappearance and likely crash-landing. Several bone fragments were found on Nikumaroro in 1940 but have since been lost. Additional bone fragments were found on island in 2010. Last month, during a three-day conference devoted to Earhart, TIGHAR presented fragments from a broken glass jar, said to be similar to the jars of anti-freckle cream the aviator was known to use, which they found on the island.
The U.S. State Department lent some logistical support to TIGHAR's quest. "Amelia Earhart may have been a unlikely heroine for a nation down on its luck," Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said in March, "but she embodies the spirit of an America coming of age and increasingly confident, ready to lead in a quite uncertain and dangerous world. She gave people hope and she inspired them to dream bigger and bolder."
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