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Expedition Amelia (05:18)


Dr. Bob Ballard sets out to find out what happened to Amelia Earhart after her plane disappeared on July 2, 1937. The mystery has gripped American society ever since. Ballard is determined to find her plane's engines in the Pacific Ocean.

Amelia Earhart (04:52)

By 1937, Earhart was a well-known aviator. She decided to fly 27,000 miles around the world as her next great feat. Ballard and his crew begin their search for the engines in the ocean near Nikumaroro.

Earhart's Flight Changes (07:30)

Damage to Earhart's plane early in the voyage caused a delay. Weather conditions on the last leg to Howland Island made it difficult for navigator Fred Noonan to pinpoint their location. They flew on the navigation line that included Howland Island and Nikumaroro, where Ballard will begin his search.

1940 Discovery (03:49)

Archeologists will search Nikumaroro to see if Earhart could have lived on the island. In 1940, a British colonial expedition found bones, but most of the records were lost. A new team reevaluates the report to see if the bones could be Earhart's.

Bones from Nikumaroro (03:39)

A research team examines the old colonial archives in Kiribati in search of the bones found on Nikumaroro. They relay evidence of Earhart's sinus surgery and diastema. They find skull fragments that could be Earhart's.

Earhart's Early Life (02:45)

Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas in 1897 and always had a rebellious spirit. Her parents did not discourage her tomboyishness or interest in adventure. She learned self-reliance when her father struggled to keep a job because of alcoholism.

Earhart's Plane Location (02:16)

Ballard's crew scans the atoll and the reef. They focus on the most likely locations of the plane. Ballard believes the tides pulled the plane over an underwater cliff near the reef.

Earhart's Radio Transmissions (05:34)

Ballard believes the plane was on land and did not immediately sink. Distress signals occurred on channels only Earhart was supposed to be using and numerous ham radio operators reported hearing her voice. The timing of the message matches low tide on Nikumaroro.

Sea Floor Search (04:08)

Ballard deploys ROV Hercules to search for pieces of Earhart's plane on the sea floor beneath the cliff. They search the most likely locations, deeper than previously explorations. Earhart's first exposure to aviation occurred while working as a World War I nurse.

Archeological Search (03:00)

The archeological team searches Nikumaroro for any connection with the bones found in the archives. Only 13 bones were found in 1940, and the team hopes to find more near a tree mentioned in the British colonial reports. Coconut crabs could have carried off any human remains.

Evidence on Nikumaroro (06:22)

Previous expeditions found items that came from the United States in the 1930s. A piece of aluminum sheeting, possibly from an airplane, was also found in the island.

Earhart's Determination (03:39)

Forensic dogs identify possible remains at a tree where Earhart could have spent her last moments alive. Earhart was the 16th women to get a pilot license. She was determined to prove she was equal to a male pilot.

Earhart's Landing Gear (05:02)

Ballard pushes the limits while searching the sea floor near the wreck of the SS Norwich City. A photo of the wreck from just months after Earhart's disappearance shows possible landing gear sticking out of the water. Ballard's team searches for the gear.

SS Norwich City (04:12)

The ship wrecked near Nikumaroro a year after Earhart became famous for being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Ballard and his team find many parts of the ship and use its' debris path to search for something from Earhart's plane.

Metal Findings (05:09)

Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932, skyrocketing her to fame. Ballard's team finds pieces of metal that are not from Norwich City and possible aluminum on the sea floor.

Earhart's Stardom (02:49)

Thrust into the spotlight after her solo Atlantic flight, Earhart used her fame to support women's rights. She also created a public persona so that she did not appear too threatening or unfeminine.

Continued Search (04:38)

The archeology team digs at the base of the tree. Ballard and his crew keep searching the sea floor. He reconfigures the search to look for the plane as if it drifted into the water without breaking apart.

Earhart's Around the World Flight (02:57)

Earhart had a special plane built for her attempted flight around the world. Hundreds of photos and telegrams of the journey span two months and include 29 stopping points. Lea, New Guinea was her last stopping point before the planned stop on Howland Island.

Last Days at Nikumaroro (04:51)

Ballard's team searches areas of the cliff they might have missed. They collect soil samples for later DNA analysis. The skull fragments found in the 1940s have been reassembled, but DNA testing remains necessary.

Earhart's Disappearance (04:37)

Earhart veered off course and could not find Howland Island in the bad weather conditions. The search for Earhart was the largest in naval history. A week after the disappearance, a Naval pilot took a photo of Nikumaroro that did not show a plane.

End of Search (06:50)

After two weeks and hundreds of hours searching the sea floor, Ballard and his crew uncover no evidence of Earhart's plane. He has not given up on the Nikumaroro theory because of the radio transmissions. The DNA results are inconclusive, but the team is optimistic about the future.

Credits: Expedition Amelia (00:09)

Credits: Expedition Amelia

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Expedition Amelia

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National Geographic Explorer-at-Large Dr. Robert Ballard is planning an expedition to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Expedition Amelia follows the clues that have led Ballard to a remote island in the Pacific and delves into Earhart herself, especially how she became one of the most intriguing and inspirational figures in history.

Length: 95 minutes

Item#: FPT283798

Copyright date: ©2019

Closed Captioned

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