After 42 days at sea, Nauticos has concluded search operations and is headed home, having failed for the third time to find any trace of the Earhart Electra. The technology deployed by scientists and technicians from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution seems to have functioned well, and the 1,800 square-mile target area was presumably examined. There is, undoubtedly, some value in mapping that relatively tiny segment of the vast Pacific, and the daily educational postings on the expedition’s website were well-received, but the point of the reportedly three million dollar effort was to find the aircraft – and it didn’t.
Nauticos’ failure to find the Lockheed on the ocean bottom near Howland Island doesn’t prove it isn’t there. What proves it isn’t there are the many radio distress calls that were sent from the aircraft for six nights following its disappearance. As was known at the time, those signals could only have come from the aircraft if it was on its wheels and able to run an engine to recharge the battery upon which the transmitter relied for power. When the Navy’s aerial search failed to see an aircraft on land, it was assumed – but never proved – that the messages were somehow bogus. The subsequent open-ocean search turned up nothing. If only one of the 57 credible receptions was genuine, the airplane did not go down at sea.
Adherents of the Crashed & Sank theory are quick to disregard the artifacts TIGHAR has found on Nikumaroro as being attributable to later activity – always a possibility with archaeological discoveries. Bones and objects found in 1940, before the island was subject to much in the way of human presence, are more difficult to dismiss. Electromagnetic phenomena, documented in contemporary sources, are not subject to the “it could be anything” wave of the hand. Those signals came from a radio that was transmitting on frequencies that were reserved for U.S. registered aircraft, and they originated from the vicinity of Gardner Island.
There are two possibilities:
1. There was a hoaxer who had a transmitter that could broadcast on Earhart’s two primary frequencies; knew that neither Earhart nor Noonan was adept at Morse code; was able to mimic Earhart’s voice; and was pre-positioned on or near Gardner Island and therefore knew several days in advance that the flight would not reach Howland Island —
2. The signals were sent from the Electra on Gardner Island.
Take your pick.