National Geographic and deep-sea explorer Dr. Robert Ballard has announced an expedition to solve the mystery of famed aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. The project, which will result in a two-hour special to air on Nat Geo this fall, was announced today during TCA.
In a scientific expedition jointly funded by National Geographic Partners and National Geographic Society, Ballard, best known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic shipwreck, is setting out in August to solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance and end decades of speculation about what actually happened to her. National Geographic Society’s archeologist-in-residence, Fredrik Hiebert, joins Ballard and will lead a team to search for signs of Earhart on land following clues that may lead to the location of her bones.
The ocean search will be conducted aboard EV Nautilus, owned by the Ocean Exploration Trust under the direction of Chief Operating Officer and Expedition Leader Allison Fundis. Ballard has assembled a group of Earhart experts, scientists and technicians for the monthlong journey that departs from Samoa to a remote Pacific atoll called Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati on Aug. 7, 2019.
The expedition will be featured in a two-hour special titled Expedition Amelia that will premiere Sunday, Oct. 20, on National Geographic. The special also follows clues gathered over the past 30 years by Ric Gillespie and The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery — clues that have led Ballard to Nikumaroro. And perhaps most importantly, the film delves into Earhart herself and how she became one of the most intriguing and inspirational figures in history. The documentary will premiere globally in 172 countries and 43 languages.
“I have always been intrigued by the story of Amelia Earhart because she shocked the world doing what everyone thought was impossible, much like what I have attempted to do my entire career as a deep-sea explorer. Also, like Amelia, I was born in Kansas, so it is only appropriate that a Kansan solves this riddle,” says Ballard. “We have an incredible team in place of experts, scientists and explorers who are working diligently to map out this ambitious expedition. Using state-of-the-art technology and decades of evidence collected in regard to her disappearance, I would say we have a real shot at rewriting history by solving one of the greatest mysteries of our time.”
Nikumaroro is part of the Phoenix Island Protected Area, the largest and deepest mid-ocean World Heritage site. Ballard and his team, equipped with the latest in technology and scientific expertise, will explore the waters surrounding the island using remotely operated underwater vehicles and autonomous surface vessels. The archaeological team will investigate Earhart’s potential campsite using bone-sniffing dogs, DNA sampling and good, old-fashioned digging.
Earhart, who was the first woman to receive National Geographic Society’s prestigious “Special Gold Medal” in 1932, is a true woman of impact whose loss was so profound it has been felt for decades, spawning countless theories about how and where she disappeared.
Expedition Amelia is produced by National Geographic. Producer is Chad Cohen, executive producer is Christine Weber and executive vice president of global unscripted entertainment is Geoff Daniels.