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Divers investigate find in 230 feet of water

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 28, 2011) - The discovery of an aircraft wreck at the depth of 70 meters north-west of Buka in Bougainville may hold some answers to the 74-year mystery of the disappearance of world-famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

[PIR editor’s note: Amelia Earhart was the first American woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Her plane was reported to have disappeared in 1937 somewhere in the Pacific Ocean after leaving Lae in Papua New Guinea on its way to Howland Island near Hawaii.]

There are strong indications that the aircraft is a Lockheed Model 10 Electra which took off from Lae on July 2nd 1937 destined for Howland Island. The crash site is in direct alignment with Earhart’s flight path out of Lae, past north of Buka Island in a straight northeast direction to Howland.

Information emerging from Buka says that certain interested parties were in the process of engaging the services of a professional diver with appropriate diving gear from overseas to help in the recovery process.

A mining company in the area is said to be helping with the exercise. Local authorities and the villagers do not wish to go public on the discovery because of reported bullion sitting in the aircraft which was difficult to pull out of the wreck.

The left side of the plane is covered in coral and divers have had difficulties clearing the coral from the plane. Divers also detail there is a six meter snake guarding the wreck.

A local group from Buka Islanders has been working with a local businessman to ascertain the remains and the confirmation of the wreckage since 2005. This is because some other "valuables" have been found in the wreck.

Initially, the wreckage was found in 2002 when fishermen from the region dived for beche de mer to sell. But local and old men and women from the island have their stories of this wreck since it crashed in strong lightning and bad weather which hit its left wing forcing it into the sea, nose first. The oldest man alive said he was 10 years old in 1937 when the plane with two people went down just off their reef.

The Post-Courier had known about the plane wreck since 2004 but has been collecting information and also because perhaps this was too true to believe, as the greatest mystery in aviation history was the disappearance of Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan in 1937. Numerous theories attempting to explain what happened to the flyers have emerged over the decades. Among these are crashing at sea, being marooned on a remote island, or becoming a Japanese prisoner. No conclusive evidence has ever been found to confirm or refute any of the leading theories or like the Howland Island theory the Japanese capture of Earhart and Noonan, the Kiribati story and the East New Britain theory. Bougainville’s theory has now emerged and will soon be known once the last piece of confirmation is collected.

There were two different groups of villagers investigating this wreckage after divers found an aluminum box allegedly containing valuables in the wreck. But the legal group has now taken the stance since it has been communicating directly with a group in Maryland, U.S.A since 2009. One group engaged several divers who failed to complete the task because of its difficulty. The other group has engaged another Pacific island diver (named) who has been investigating since 2006.

The theory remains a six meter snake guards the wreckage, there had been 10 professional dives so far since May 2010 but the setback has always been fast sea current, very strong tide, dust on the seabed and heavy rain.

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IF, the possibility exists that Amelia's plane crashed at Buka Island from a return path and flight from approximately Nauru Island, how could one account for a radio signal strength as reported by Leo Bellarts from the Itasca moored at Howland Island? Richard Washburn

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