As is usually the case with field work, we’re coming home with more questions than answers. We are, of course, disappointed that we did not make a dramatic and conclusive discovery, but we are undaunted in our commitment to keep searching out and assembling the pieces of the Earhart puzzle.
We anticipated ten days of search operations. Due to equipment problems directly attributable to the severity of the underwater environment at Nikumaroro, we only had five days on site. In that time we saw no objects that we recognized as aircraft debris, but we have volumes of sonar data and many hours of high-definition video to review before we’ll know the results of this expedition definitively.
Dateline: At sea, 21 July 2012
Seas are a bit rough but we’re still averaging 9 knots pounding our way homeward. We crossed the equator at 22:05Z (12:05 KOK). In this location, the equator is also the boundary of Kiribati and, therefore, an east/west dogleg in the International Dateline. Although we have stayed on Hawaii time for convenience, officially today was the 22nd before we crossed the equator. July 22 is team member Tim Mellon’s birthday so he has now had one birthday this year and he’ll get another one tomorrow.
In addition to catching up on sleep, everyone is compiling and organizing data, video imagery, and still photos. The Discovery guys are reviewing and editing their footage and, in some cases, shooting additional material to fill gaps.
We won’t actually know what we might have on either the sonar data or on the HD video until some time after we get back to the States. There is a mountain of material to get through, and real time isn’t anything like sufficient to see and understand all the images and information we’ve collected. So the results of the expedition are truly not known. No big shiny silver airplane, obvious to all, but the data on the various storage devices may hold treasures.