Even though a month-long voyage for Amelia Earhart’s plane wreckage turned up nothing definitive, the searchers devoted to the hunt say they have a trove of evidence to examine that will help shed light on what happened to the famed aviator 75 years ago.
The expedition to a remote atoll roughly 2,000 miles (3,200km) south west of Hawaii was on its way back to Honolulu on Tuesday as Earhart’s family and others marked what would have been the American icon’s 115th birthday.
Pat Thrasher, president of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (Tighar), said plans are already in the works for a land-based expedition to the Kiribati atoll of Nikumaroro next year.
The voyagers looked at footage as it initially came in from a tethered underwater vehicle rigged with cameras and lights.
But the group expects to learn more through repeat viewings, picking up new insights on the underwater landscape where they believe the plane went down. The group has countless hours of high-definition video and sonar data.
“It’s unbelievably difficult as an environment and your eyeballs fall out after a while” watching the video, Ms Thrasher said.
“The only way you can be sure you know what you found is to go back through the data very carefully.”
The expedition cost $2.2m (£1.4m). The group was short nearly $500,000 at the start of the voyage and will need to raise more funds for any future trips.
But the group still believes Earhart and her navigator crashed onto a reef off the remote island, Ms Thrasher said.
Remnants of the plane, the group believes, could be in hard-to-see caves within a reef.