|When the tide is out "a 747 could land here" said one expert.|
Sponsored by Parker Hannifin Aerospace Company, which had airplane parts on the original Electra, this expedition will gather new evidence as to whether or not Amelia Earhart's Electra came down on Mili.
|Courtesy Purdue University|
Mike Harris visited the Marshall Islands in the 1980's while investigating the Earhart saga. While he was there, he gathered accounts from a number of eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen her and Fred Noonan after the Electra came down.
|Dick Spink, Jim Hayton, Rich Martini and Mike Harris|
|Amaron being interviewed by Harris in the 1980s. From Harris' footage shot in 1980.|
|Oscar DeBrum saw the plane on the Japanese ship. From Harris' interview in 1980.|
Andrew Bryce, WWII veteran said that he was stationed on Majuro, Marshall Islands during the war and that a stevedore had told him that he had transported the Electra aboard a Japanese barge to a Japanese ship from Mili. (Andrew's brother Douglas saw the Electra on Saipan, but that's another part of the story.)
|Andrew Bryce from "Earhart's Electra" spoke to a man who transported the Electra.|
Oliver Knaggs went to the Marshalls in the 1980's with a film crew and filmed islanders, including the Queen of Mili, who claimed they saw Earhart's Electra land at Mili. Other islanders said they had heard the stories, and knew where the plane came down.
|Lotan Jack and others were told to keep quiet about the female pilot/American spy the Japanese captured. |
From Mike Harris' 16mm footage shot in the 1980s.
Dick Spink, a school teacher from Seattle, who works frequently in the Marshall Islands, helped organize a trip to the exact spot where the islanders said they saw her plane came down. And as reported here and in other newspapers, the pieces that he brought back from Mili have been identified - "beyond a reasonable doubt" by NTSB forensic aviation expert Jim Hayton (who has testified before Congress) that they are likely from her Electra.
|APU cover with paint that resembles the trim from the Electra. Courtesy Dick Spink.|
That dust shield is listed in the Electra's manual, and is pictured belonging between the brake and the Good Year air wheel.
|Jim Hayton demonstrating how the piece fit on his Good Year air wheel, which is identical the the one on the Electra.|
Aviation expert Hayton owns one of those air wheels, and has demonstrated that it fits on the same air wheel that was on her plane. In his professional opinion, the dust shield could only have come from her Electra.
So Mike Harris, intrepid explorer, the man who hired Bob Ballard to help him look for the Titanic (and Ballard went back to the location with a new team where they had searched before, and actually found the ship) has mounted a new expedition to Mili Atoll, bringing along a team of experts.
|These were used to transport the Electra to the barge, according to locals. They're the same gauge as other Japanese rail cars used for sugar cane transport on Saipan and other islands. Photo courtesy Dick Spink.|
Mike is leading the following team:
Jared Abraham does surveys for the US Geological Survey Department using ground penetrating radar. (He was found by pilot Paul Cooper during our Saipan expedition). Les Kinney is a retired Federal agent who has 27 years of hard evidence that he's gathered about the government's knowledge of her disappearance, and is writing a book about his research, Jim Hayton is an expert in forensic aviation, called to many crash sites in the Pacific Northwest where he lives, and is friends with Dick Spink, the school teacher who has made four trips to this exact location on this atoll. The team is traveling with Martin Daly, who runs tours from these islands, as well as the son of Jerry Kramer, who was Bilimon Amaron's business partner for 40 years, and has vouched for Bilimon's "unassailable honesty." Also some folks from Parker Hannifin Aerospace Industries are on the trip as well.
Circumstances prevented yours truly from accompanying them on this epic leg of the Earhart saga, but I'm rooting for them from cyberspace.
They're going to be searching for more pieces of the Electra, as there have been eyewitness accounts of more pieces of the plane, as well as eyewitness testimony of people who are related to those who saw her plane come down.
For those concerned these might be airplane parts from "other Electras" or other airplanes - there were no recorded battles fought over these particular islands during WWII, and no other artifacts have been found from any other planes, despite four expeditions led by Dick Spink. The location of these pieces dovetails with the evidence, both local eyewitnesses and other evidence that will prove beyond a shadow of any doubt that she came down in Mili atoll in 1937.
The rest of the story will be told soon enough, but for now, where she came down will have to be rewritten by those who care about the historical record. Theoretical models exist of how and why the Electra should not have been able to make this same island chain where Louis Zamperini washed up ("Unbroken") after 47 days at sea (In Wotje), but theoretical models should not trump physical evidence that is backed up by eyewitness accounts.
The fact is that it appears now that Amelia flew the Electra all the way to Mili, and landed it on a runway of rough coral. When the tide is low, one eyewitness said "You could land a 747 on this atoll." It would have been low tide when her Electra arrived, when a number of islanders saw her bring the metal plane to the ground. Her amazing flying feat saved her life and that of her navigator Fred Noonan by making it this far, and the evidence will eventually prove what the rest of their journey was, as difficult as the evidence shows it to be.
So there now exists physical evidence of her amazing feat of skill, and exactly where her plane came down. Knock on wood, these explorers will bring back more.
|Lest we forget why we're doing this research. To honor the sacrifice of these two explorers; Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart. Courtesy Purdue University|
Thanks to Parker Hannifin Corporation, Aerospace Industries, who not only had original plane parts in the Electra, but their generous sponsorship for this expedition which may actually locate exactly where the Electra came down and provide more evidence for the solution of the Earhart puzzle.