SATELLITE IMAGERY MAY SHOW AMELIA EARHART PLANE BELOW KIRIBATI SEA

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 15, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---High-resolution satellite imagery may have found the long lost wreckage of Amelia Earhart's aircraft in the sea off a Kiribati island.

It has detected what may be remains of the plane resting in water off Nikumaroro Island, according to a report on the http://SPACE.com website.

Nikumaroro, southeast of Tarawa in the Phoenix group, has been the center of recent investigations into the 1937 disappearance of the famous American aviator.

Earhart and her navigator, Frederick Noonan, disappeared during an attempt to fly around the world. It set off a massive sea and air search, personally ordered by then U.S. President Roosevelt.

Despite this neither the flyers nor their plane were found.

Most researchers contend that the airplane, out of fuel and off course, crashed in the sea. Both Earhart and Noonan were assumed to have perished in ocean waters.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) in Wilmington, Delaware, is mounting an expedition next month to help solve the 64-year old mystery and find Earhart's plane.

This time, the team is armed with imagery taken by Space Imaging's Ikonos 2 satellite, SPACE.com reported.

TIGHAR's 12-year investigation, dubbed The Earhart Project, offers evidence which suggests that the ill-fated flight reached Nikumaroro.

Five earlier expeditions to the remote island have recovered artifacts, suspected of being from the lost flight.

The upcoming sixth trek is set to depart Los Angeles on August 24, returning on September 24, Richard Gillespie, TIGHAR's executive director, told SPACE.com

"There does appear to be an object on the edge of the reef, off the western end of the island. It's in a particularly suspicious location," Gillespie said.

There is a rust-colored tint in satellite imagery pixels at nearly the spot where fishermen visiting that area long ago reported seeing a wrecked airplane, he said.

"What we've got now is imagery that supports an anecdote. And that's the pattern that, in the past, had led to the discovery of things," Gillespie said. "I'll have divers in the water by early September in that location and we'll see what's there."

On the taking of the photo, Gillespie told SPACE.com: "Everything just clicked. We got lucky is what it amounted to. We got a beautiful day with minimal cloud cover and a perfect lookdown angle. The imagery just knocks your socks off."

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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