E/V Nautilus Joins Expedition to Solve Mystery of Amelia Earhart’s Disappearance

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Bettman, Getty

This blog features excerpts from National Geographic's coverage of the upcoming mission aboard E/V Nautilus to the remote Pacific island of Nikumaroro from August 7-25, 2019. This expedition is a "closed set" while filming, and Nautilus Live streaming will return after August 25. Learn more about the expedition with National Geographic.

Amelia Earhart is a name synonymous with adventure, bravery and mystery. The famous aviator deftly traversed the world — and society — to pursue her passion for exploration … a passion that ultimately cost her her life. Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan were attempting an around-the-world flight when their aircraft disappeared in July 1937 over the remote Western Pacific Ocean. Earhart’s tragic end led to decades of speculation about how and where she disappeared. 

Now, National Geographic Explorer-at-Large and President of Ocean Exploration Trust Dr. Robert Ballard, known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic shipwreck, is setting out to solve the mystery of her disappearance. The scientific expedition is jointly funded by National Geographic Partners and National Geographic Society. National Geographic Society’s archeologist-in-residence, Fredrik Hiebert, joins Ballard and will lead a team to search for signs of Earhart on land following clues that may lead to the location of her bones. 

Allison Fundis and Dr. Robert Ballard
National Geographic/Stewart Volland

The ocean search will be conducted aboard Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus, owned by the Ocean Exploration Trust under the direction of Chief Operating Officer and Expedition Leader Allison Fundis. Ballard has assembled a group of Earhart experts, scientists and technicians for the month-long journey that departs from Samoa to a remote Pacific atoll called Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati from August 7-25, 2019. 

Nikumaroro is part of the Phoenix Island Protected Area, the largest and deepest mid-ocean World Heritage site. Ballard and his team, equipped with the latest in technology and scientific expertise, will explore the waters surrounding the island using remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) Hercules and Argus and autonomous surface vessels. The archaeological team will investigate Earhart’s potential campsite using bone-sniffing dogs, DNA sampling and old-fashioned digging. 

ROV Hercules
Ocean Exploration Trust

“I have always been intrigued by the story of Amelia Earhart because she shocked the world doing what everyone thought was impossible, much like what I have attempted to do my entire career as a deep-sea explorer. Also, like Amelia, I was born in Kansas, so it is only appropriate that a Kansan solves this riddle,” says Ballard. “We have an incredible team in place of experts, scientists and explorers who are working diligently to map out this ambitious expedition. Using state-of-the-art technology and decades of evidence collected in regard to her disappearance, I would say we have a real shot at rewriting history by solving one of the greatest mysteries of our time.”

The expedition will be featured in a two-hour special titled EXPEDITION AMELIA that will premiere Sunday, October 20, 2019 on National Geographic. The special also follows clues gathered over the past 30 years by Ric Gillespie and The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR)— clues that have led Ballard to Nikumaroro. And perhaps most importantly, the film delves into Earhart herself and how she became one of the most intriguing and inspirational figures in history. 

Learn more about the expedition with National Geographic and read the expedition wrap-up blog