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Amelia Earhart search: A new clue pulls in Hillary Rodham Clinton

March 20, 2012|By Amy Hubbard
  • In January 1935, Amelia Earhart studies maps and charts at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu.
In January 1935, Amelia Earhart studies maps and charts at the Royal Hawaiian… (Matson Navigation Company…)

A finger bone fragment, DNA samples, a photo showing a wheel protruding from water. Amelia Earhart disappeared 75 years ago, but the clues continue to surface.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is set to meet with historians and scientists as a new hunt is launched for the wreckage of Earhart's Lockheed Electra plane.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery will begin the search in June, according to the Associated Press, off the remote island of South Pacific island of Nikumaroro, in the nation of Kiribati.

PHOTOS: Amelia Earhart

Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared July 2, 1937, as they attempted to circumnavigate the globe at the equator.

The trip began a month earlier, on June 1, from Miami. Earhart and Noonan flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Before takeoff there, Earhart made a statement that has become well-known: "I have a feeling there is just about one more good flight left in my system and I hope this trip is it. Anyway, when I have finished this job, I mean to give up long-distance 'stunt' flying."

Along her journey, the 39-year-old pilot sent reports of the land, cultures and people she encountered, according to CentennialOfFlight.gov.  She and Noonan landed on June 30, 1937, in Lae, New Guinea, having flown 22,000 miles, with 7,000 yet to go.

Earhart and Noonan next headed to tiny Howland Island, but they never reached their destination. After the pair vanished, President Franklin Roosevelt sent nine Navy ships and 66 aircraft to search; the cost was more than $4 million. No trace was found.

Over the decades, theories as to Earhart's fate have multiplied -- some people have speculated that Earhart and Noonan were U.S. agents captured by the Japanese before World War II.  Some even said she lived on an island in the South Pacific with a native fisherman.

Numerous attempts were made to find the wreckage. As recently as last year, divers in Papua New Guinea said they had found the plane. An ABC report at the time quoted one expert as saying the claim was "silly beyond description."

In 2010, there was a flurry of excitement over a possible finger bone fragment. But tests proved inconclusive.

Now the Associated Press reports that a senior U.S. official has said a new analysis of a contemporary photo of a portion of the island of Nikumaroro shows what some people believe could be a strut and wheel of Earhart's plane protruding from the water.

The upcoming search for the wreckage of Earhart's plane is reportedly a public and private effort with a price tag of $500,000. Clinton will use the opportunity, according to the AP, to praise Earhart and her legacy.

Earhart, who has been called the most famous female aviator in history, was a nurse's aide in Toronto in 1918 when she attended a flying exhibition and became enamored with the idea of becoming a pilot.

Earhart took her first flight, as a passenger, in California in 1920. According to the National Air and Space Museum, that clinched it.  Earhart said of the flight: "As soon as I left the ground, I knew I myself had to fly."

Among her aviation records, she was the first woman to fly nonstop and solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She made the trip in May 1932. In August of that same year, she made the first solo, nonstop trip by a female pilot across the U.S., from Los Angeles to Newark, N.J. The flight took 19 hours and five minutes.

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