Robert Ballard, the man who found the Titanic, is now searching for Amelia Earhart’s missing plane.
The New York Times reported that Ballard has always wanted to find the plane, but he knew there just weren’t enough clues to make a search any more than a futile dive into a haystack hunting for a needle. But then, in 2012, somebody showed Ballard a picture taken in 1937 off Nikumaroro Island, one of the longstanding contenders for a likely Earhart crash site, that seems to show a piece of Lockheed Model 10-E Electra landing gear sticking up out of the water.
That was enough of a clue that Ballard is turning his attention to the island, now that he’s wrapped up other projects, and he’s bringing a lot of very fancy gear. But this is no Sunday morning stroll, even for Ballard:
Viewed from above, Nikumaroro is small and flat. But the island is only the plateau of a steep underwater mountain rising 10,000 feet from the ocean floor. Earhart landed on the very edge of the island, Dr. Ballard believes. As tides rose, her plane may have slipped down the underwater slope.
The ridges of the mountain are rugged — full of troughs and valleys that can hinder sonar. After using onboard technology to create a 3-D map of its sides, the team will have to search the mountain visually, monitoring video feeds from the ROV’s in 12-hour shifts.
If Ballard and his team do manage to find the plane, it won’t change the fact that the mystery of Amelia Earhart is essentially solved, but it would be very impressive, and it would also rescue the world from the endless cycle of speculative reports about whether somebody finally has a good clue. And if anybody can, it’s Ballard, who found the Titanic in like two weeks after completing the real mission, which was to find a couple of sunken nuclear submarines from the 1960s. The Navy needed a cover story, so they agreed to fund Ballard’s expedition—he just had to find their boats first.
Maybe Ballard could take a look around for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 while he’s at it.