ATCHISON, Kansas — Well-known oceanographer Robert Ballard is expected to present findings in September on his quest for the lost plane of Amelia Earhart, and Atchison will have a special part in that.

Principal Matt Renk of Atchison High School said on that Ballard, a Kansas native and retired U.S. Navy officer who found the wreck of the RMS Titanic in 1985, is expected to speak to area students on Tuesday, Sept. 3, either via video conference or in person.

The presentation is being coordinated with the office of U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. A spokeswoman for Moran’s office confirmed on Friday that Moran will be in Atchison on Sept. 3, but had no specific information on Ballard’s intentions. A message requesting comment with Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust didn’t obtain a response as of Friday afternoon.

Renk said Atchison High School officials are cooperating with Maur Hill-Mount Academy and other educational institutions to allow students throughout the region to learn about the history of Earhart’s disappearance and Ballard’s search.

Work continues in the region surrounding the Phoenix Islands, an archipelago in the Republic of Kiribati, a nation covering dozens of islands and atolls in the South Pacific Ocean. Ballard is said to be using remotely operated underwater vehicles in cooperation with the National Geographic Society.

The region is believed to be the most likely final resting place of Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan, who disappeared in July 1937 aboard a Lockheed Model 10-E Electra twin-engine aircraft. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery theorizes that Earhart, lost and out of fuel, crash-landed the plane on Nikumaroro Island in the Phoenix chain, rendering her and Noonan castaways for the rest of their lives. Others suspect she crashed in the ocean, dying immediately or soon after, and that the plane will be found on the sea floor.

According to the Associated Press, archaeologists are to explore uninhabited Nikumaroro Island and other atolls for signs of the aircraft and human remains using search dogs and DNA sampling, among other methods, in addition to the sea floor studies conducted by Ballard’s team. In areas surrounding Nikumaroro, depths commonly exceed 10,000 feet in the Pacific, the largest and deepest ocean in the world. By comparison, the wreck of the Titanic rests at 12,500 feet in the north Atlantic.

The spokeswoman for Moran said that significant developments relating to the expedition are expected before Sept. 3, at which point exact time and location information will be announced by Moran’s office.

Marcus Clem can be reached


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