In the 70th anniversary year of the mysterious disappearance of pioneering pilot Amelia Earhart, a nonprofit group dedicated to recovering historic aircraft will send its eighth team of explorers to search for the wreckage.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has spent $2 million over the last 18 years to send search parties to scour Gardner Island, now called Nikumororo, an uninhabited coral reef in the South Pacific.
On Saturday, Jan. 13, area residents can hear firsthand about the first woman of flight so shrouded in mystery, at the annual Amelia Earhart luncheon sponsored by the Zonta Club of Schenectady. The event, to be held at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum, will feature keynote speaker Ric Gillespie, an internationally recognized authority on the Earhart disappearance.
This past September, Gillespie released a book called Finding Amelia: The True Story of the Earhart Disappearance. Gillespie has led the eight archeological search expeditions and serves as executive director of TIGHAR. His factual account draws from letters, logs and telegrams that recorded events as they unfolded between June 29, 1937, and July 2, 1937, when Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan departed from Miami to begin the 29,000 mile journey that would make Earhart the first woman to fly around the world.
The Zonta Club has held the luncheon every year to feed the area's fascination with finding clues to the mystery.
There's an enormous amount of interest and speculation in the Earhart story, said Mardy Moore, service chair for Zonta of Schenectady. "She was a woman beyond her times, an entrepreneur who was very outspoken. She knew a lot of famous people, but she stayed friendly and accessible."
In fact, Earhart spoke from WGY in Schenectady to admirals in Antarctica before her doomed flight.
"The fact that she has a local connection is very important to us," said Moore. "We're a part of that slice of history."