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Amelia Earhart mystery spans generations

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Some mysteries - Who shot JR? - define a generation.

Other mysteries span generations. My favorite real-life mystery is the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. It’s my favorite because my family lived it: My father, Paul L. Briand Jr., wrote one of the first biographies of Earhart that sought to explain not only why she disappeared but where and how she died.

Earhart in 1937 was attempting to do what no man - or woman - had done before: Fly around the world.

My dad’s “Daughter of the Sky” was published in 1960 and, based on his research, posited that Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan crash-landed off the island of Saipan and survived, but that they were captured by the Japanese military stationed there in violation of a League of Nations agreement, and that they were shot as spies.

He dedicated the book to my mother: “For Margaret, my wife, who allowed another woman - Amelia Earhart - into my life.”

As convinced as he was that he was correct in his conclusion, the mystery still intrigued him until his death in 1986 and still intrigues his wife and his eight children.

Now comes word that new effort has been launched to, at the very least, find Earhart’s plane.

It’s called the Stratus Project and its founder, Colin Cobb, claims there is new, previously overlooked, information that might pinpoint the location of the Electra Earhart was flying when she and Noonan disappeared. See a background story here.

The Stratus Project will use some high tech equipment, including underwater sonars and such, to try to find the plane. Just where, Cobb isn’t saying.He isn’t the first to launch a high-tech search for any remains of Earhart, Noonan and/or the Electra.

One I’ve followed closely over the years (and contributed some of my father’s research photos) is TIGHAR (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery).

Its director, Ric Gillespie, believes Earhart and Noonan crash landed, and eventually died, on Gardner Island, now Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati.

Gillespiea and his researchers will set off for another look at Nikumaroro on Sept. 15. This will be their eighth trip to the remote island, this time using two manned submersibles to scan what Gillespie describes as an underwater mountain where the Electra might be resting.

Why so much attention so many years after the fact? It’s the lure of solving a mystery, one that has endured now for generations, one that may be finally solved ... or maybe not.

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