Research Crew and Documentary Team to Use Robots in Deep-Water Search for Earhart's Aircraft in the Waters Surrounding Nikumaroro
Monday, July 2, 2012, marks the 75th anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and start to one of aviation's greatest mysteries. TIGHAR (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery), is marking this historic milestone with the departure of its 10th expedition searching for evidence of Earhart's long-lost Lockheed Electra aircraft. The 18-person research ship crew aims to locate, identify, and photograph any and all surviving aircraft wreckage that they believe may be in the deep waters surrounding Nikumaroro (formerly Gardner Island), an uninhabited coral atoll in the southwestern-Pacific Republic of Kiribati. The 26-day expedition and its findings will be captured by a film crew from Discovery Channel and aired as a documentary in August 2012.
The underwater search will focus on the reef slope off the west end of Nikumaroro, where waters can reach depths of up to 1,500 meters (4,921 feet). This deep-water search is made possible by the use of specialized robotic equipment brought in from the continental U.S. courtesy of FedEx Corp., itself an aviation history-maker as the pioneer of overnight delivery.
"The search for answers in the Earhart mystery has been a decades-long passion for all the members of TIGHAR," said Richard Gillespie, TIGHAR Executive Director & Expedition Leader. "The exhaustive research leading up to today's departure gives us great hope that the Niku VII expedition will provide conclusive answers in the search for Earhart's final landing place."
Robotic Search Equipment on the Move
The sensitive nature and oversized scale of the robotic equipment set for use in the search required a specialized FedEx delivery solution. Covering more than 22,000 miles roundtrip over land, air and sea, three FedEx operating companies came together to create a seamless end-to-end delivery solution for TIGHAR.
The transportation began June 15, 2012, with FedEx Truckload Brokerage, an offering of FedEx Custom Critical, and the pick-up of three containers weighing 25,890 pounds consisting of the expedition's underwater Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV), winch and control unit. Departing from Patterson, La., the containers arrived in Los Angeles on June 18. With more than 2,200 nautical miles between Los Angeles and Honolulu, FedEx Trade Networks and its ocean freight forwarding expertise stepped in to arrange for the three containers to travel by ocean freighter, arriving in Honolulu on June 24. FedEx Express, the world's first express delivery cargo airline, flew in nearly 6,000 pounds of additional equipment from Massachusetts, including the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) that will utilize sonar to continuously search the deep waters for signs of the aircraft.
"Every box, package and pallet we deliver at FedEx holds meaning for the recipient, but the deliveries we made to TIGHAR hold the promise to be meaningful on a grander scale -- potentially providing answers for millions of history buffs, aviation aficionados and Earhart fans worldwide," said Laurie Kimura, a senior manager at FedEx Express based in Hawaii. "We're proud to put our delivery networks and logistical expertise to use in support of the search for history, and wish the TIGHAR team the best of luck in their expedition."
Capturing the Search for History
The on-board activities and underwater findings of the Niku VII expedition will be captured exclusively by a Discovery Channel video team and broadcast as a documentary in August 2012.
"This is when Discovery truly embodies its namesake. We are excited and proud to be working with TIGHAR, paying tribute to an American icon and hero while developing new technologies to reach back into the past and solve one of the last great mysteries of the 20th century," said Eileen O'Neill, president of Discovery Channel and TLC Networks.