Earhart researchers Dick Spink and Les Kinney, who led a search team sponsored by Parker Aerospace, returned from Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands Jan. 30 after spending five days combing the tiny Endriken Islands near Barre Island with high-tech equipment including ground-penetrating radar and metal detectors.
Although no one has made any more claims that “concrete proof” or a “Holy Grail” has been found, the pair didn’t return empty-handed either, and some of the artifacts appear to have serious potential.
“Wow, what a trip!” Spink wrote in an email Feb. 3. “Two of the pieces we found are very consistent with what I found on my first couple expeditions to Mili. One piece in particular is some type of identification plate that is consistent in size with that of a Lockheed airframe tag. There is no way of knowing this until we get it to the lab, but you can tell it was some type of ID tag.
“Something important to note,” Spink continued, “is that all of the aluminum pieces we found were in a direct line between where [I believe] the [Earhart] plane came to rest and the location of where the plane was loaded onto the shallow draft barge. Very interesting indeed, and the foundation of this story is becoming more solid.”
Readers unfamiliar with the full background on this story and the new search at Mili for parts of Amelia Earhart’s Electra can find details in my three earlier posts, Yahoo! News announces new search for Electra parts, “Recent find on Mili Atoll called “Concrete proof” and “Update to Recent find on Mili story.”
“We found six small artifacts that could or could not have come from the Electra,” Kinney wrote in a Jan. 29 email. “We also found a couple of small unidentified pieces of aluminum, and a round one inch diameter rusted magnet. Most of this stuff was buried — all except one piece were found by metal detectors.”
Kinney urged caution about making any premature announcements until thorough testing can be done. He will coordinate the tests, financed by Parker Aerospace and conducted as soon as possible. None of the tests will likely provide absolute proof that an artifact came from the Earhart plane, but Kinney, Spink and antique aircraft expert Jim Hayton all believe the aluminum plate and airwheel dust cover found by Spink in previous trips to the Endrikens were probably from the Electra.
Kinney also interviewed some native Marshallese he called “knowledgeable locals” in the Mili Atoll area, and says he “confirmed there were no aircraft wrecks on any of the nearby islands stretching out for at least ten miles” during or before the war years, with only one exception. This supports his earlier research, and makes the possibilities even stronger that one or more of the artifacts’ came from the Earhart plane.
“We also got some Japanese aircraft samples we picked up on Mili Island to compare the aluminum we got from our island,” Kinney wrote, adding that “everything has been cleared by the Marshallese government. I wrote up a release and the President signed it as well as the Historic Preservation Office Manager. Everything is legal.”
As has usually been the case when Earhart searches are undertaken by TIGHAR, Nauticos and others, the media has enthusiastically informed the public about the great adventure. These same news agencies have invariably failed to publish follow-ups when the searches fail to deliver. Much the same is the case here, though on a far smaller scale; nothing about the search has been published to date by Yahoo! News or any other media outlet, though Spink says he will be talking to a local newspaper soon, and other possible media exposure may be forthcoming.
Readers of this blog can be sure that this reporter will do all that he can to keep them informed about any news in what might be properly called “the postmodern” search for Amelia Earhart.