In search of Amelia Earhart: National Geographic aims to solve mystery

The deep-sea explorer who discovered the wrecked Titanic is tackling an aviation mystery: Amelia Earhart’s disappearance.

Robert Ballard and a National Geographic expedition will search for her plane next month near a Pacific Ocean atoll that’s part of the Phoenix Islands.

Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas. She grew up to make headlines more than seven decades ago. She became the first woman to cross the Atlantic as a passenger, to fly solo across the Atlantic, to fly nonstop across the United States, to fly an autogyro — a forerunner of the helicopter — across the United States, to fly from Hawaii to the West Coast and to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross.

On June 1, 1937, she left on a 29,000-mile journey, hoping to become the first pilot to fly around the world at the equator.

But on July 2, as she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were beginning the final portion of their flight, the Coast Guard cutter Itasca heard Earhart’s faint radio signal saying she needed a position because skies over the ocean were overcast.

She was never heard from again — and never found, despite massive and numerous searches.

Ballard and his team will use remotely operated underwater vehicles in their search, the National Geographic channel said Tuesday. An archaeological team will investigate a potential Earhart campsite with search dogs and DNA sampling.

The channel will air a two-hour special on Oct. 20. “Expedition Amelia” will include clues gathered by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery that led Ballard to the atoll, named Nikumaroro.

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