In the 1930s, famed pilot Amelia Earhart captured the imagination of the American people. Her determined spirit and outspoken personality helped her become one of the world’s best known fliers. In 1937, Earhart set out on her most ambitious adventure yet, a trip around the equator. But after flying over 22,000 miles, the plane she was flying lost radio contact and was never seen again.
The mystery of her disappearance has fascinated generations of people from academics to armchair sleuths. Michigan State Rep. Larry Inman is one of those Earhart sleuths, but he’s not doing his research from an armchair. He just got back from a trip to the South Pacific where he helped conduct a search for Earhart’s lost plane.
Current State speaks with Rep. Inman about his interest in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.
What did you find?
Well we're in the evaluation process right now. There were two teams. I was on the ground team looking at various sites where they had found bones on a campsite back in 1938 that the people from Fiji took, examined, and determined it was a woman from a European descent of about 5' 8”. That leads us to a really strong impression that whoever was on that island in 1937 was a female, was of European descent, was 5'8”, that fits Earhart very closely. So we went to various sites where we had found various evidence of a woman's makeup kit, those kinds of things from the 1930s that just don’t make sense to have on an island way out in the South Pacific.
Has Inman and his team advanced what we know?
We didn’t find anything conclusive on land other than some additional items that look like they came from a female, make-up equipment and freckle cream jars… But the biggest thing we went back to look for is, the team that that did the review off the reef of the island going down 200 feet with metal detectors to see if the plane, if it had been washed up down the reef, whether it had broke up. We had a team of divers down with metal detectors. They couldn’t find any metal. The plane was made of aluminum so it wouldn’t rust but there would be a lot of coral around it.
Then we have the remote vehicles with camera equipment that could go down as low as 600 feet. We are now evaluating those images. It will probably take 30 to 60 days to see if we can get something that looks like a plane or a part of a plane that might be covered with coral and that would lead to the next expedition.
What attracted Inman to Earhart's story and influenced his future plans?
The intrigue of Amelia Earhart and what she accomplished back then, the doors that she opened up for women and careers, and the intrigue of whatever happened to this woman that fascinated us back in the early 20s and early 30s. The search continues. A lot of schools have Amelia Earhart Day, the women from NASA now have Amelia Earhart Day.
So my goal is to accumulate everything I can find on Amelia Earhart of originality and create the first ever traveling museum exhibit on the life of Amelia Earhart. I'm working with a number of museums, having discussions with National Geographic, and I hope to have it put together this year.