American oceanographer Robert Ballard earned worldwide fame when he led a team that discovered the RMS Titanic wreckage in 1985, and now he hopes to crack another mystery that's puzzled historians and scientists for 82 years.
In 1932, Earhart made history when she became the first woman that flew solo across the Atlantic. However, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan both disappeared somewhere in the Pacific Ocean region during a flight in July 1937.
Researchers have spent decades looking for the remains of their plane, but they've come up empty time and time again. Now, we wait and see if Ballard will be able to make another historic discovery.
On Sunday, a National Geographic of Ballard's expedition was aired. Per George Dickie of The Journal Gazette, Ballard and his group were focusing on Nikumaroro, a part of the Phoenix Islands.
"There's really two possibilities," Ballard said, per Dickie. "She landed on that island and we have no idea where she is. But there's no credible place to land than that island. Otherwise she ran out of gas and went clunk. But there is so much compelling evidence that points to this island."
Ballard theorizes that Earhart and Noonan attempted to land at Nikumaroro, which was unsuccessful. He suggests that Noonan may have died from injuries, while Earhart succumbed "starvation and/or exposure," per Dickie.
Earhart and Noonan were supposed to land at Howland Island - located in the central area of the Pacific Ocean. After communication was lost, search parties went to the Phoenix Islands and tried to locate Earhart and Noonan. The US Coast Guard was part of the search group, but nothing came up. The search was eventually called off, and she was declared legally dead in Jan. 1939.
Many theories have been brought to light ever since Earhart and Noonan disappeared. The simple belief among many is that they crashed into the ocean and died, while others believe like Ballard suggested, that they landed the plane but eventually died from exposure/starvation. Another theory suggested that Earhart and Noonan were discovered and taken away by Japanese soldiers.
Right now, everything is simply speculation. But after Ballard managed to crack the mystery of the Titanic shipwreck, one can only hope that he'll be able to provide more answers as to what happened to Earhart and Noonan.