Investigators say they've found key clue to fate of Amelia Earhart
March 20th, 2012
10:50 AM ET

Investigators say they've found key clue to fate of Amelia Earhart

Investigators think they've uncovered a key clue that will lead them to solve the mystery of what happened to legendary aviator Amelia Earhart, who disappeared on a trans-Pacific flight 75 years ago.

Ric Gillespie, executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), said a new enhanced analysis of a photo taken on the Pacific atoll of Nikumaroro, formerly Gardner Island, three months after Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared, may show the landing gear of her Lockheed Electra protruding from a reef.

“We found some really fascinating and compelling evidence," Gillespie said at a news conference in Washington on Tuesday.

“Finding the airplane would be the thing that would make it conclusive,” he said.

Gillespie said the photo was taken by a British survey team in October 1937 and had been seen by Earhart researchers many times. But investigators took a new look at it in 2010 and, when their suspicions were triggered, had the photo checked by U.S. State Department experts. In a blind review, they determined the component in the picture is the landing gear of a Lockheed Electra.

"This is where the airplane went into the drink," Gillespie said.

On July 2, 75 years to the day after Earhart was last heard from, Gillespie will depart Honolulu on a University of Hawaii research vessel to try to find that plane in the deep waters off a flat reef on Nikumaroro.

The privately funded effort will use robotic submarines from Phoenix International, the U.S. Navy's primary contractor for deep ocean search and recovery, to comb the area. The Discovery Channel will film the exploration for a TV presentation, Gillespie said.

Gillespie acknowledged there would be skeptics after his 23 years of searching for Earhart had yet to yield an answer.

“There are some very smart people who think we’re wrong about this, but there are some very smart people who think we’re right about this,” he said.

One Gillespie supporter is Robert Ballard, the explorer who found the Titanic and other deep sea wrecks, who called himself  "a ringer" brought in to vet Gillespie's case.

Ballard said he had rejected offers to look for Earhart's plane, thinking the task too difficult.

“If you ever wanted a case of finding a needle in a haystack, this is at the top of the list in deep sea exploration,” he said at the Washington press conference.

Ballard said he did a strict analysis of  Gillespie's research and signed off on the science.

"Every time he passed the test," Ballard said. "Clearly the smoking gun was the analysis of that enhanced image."

Earhart and Noonan disappeared while on a flight from New Guinea to Howland Island that summer of 1937. The flat reef off Gardner Island, 300 miles off their course, had been a suspected landing spot. But those suspicions were largely based on speculation.

At Tuesday's press conference, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell called the disappearance of Earhart "the last great unsolved mystery of the 20th century."

If the mystery is solved this summer, Earhart's aviation trailblazing will have played a part, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said.

"In no small part because of Amelia Earhart our world is smaller," LaHood said. "This very voyage to recover her remains in some ways is doable because of Earhart herself."

“We take a special measure of pride in an expedition that is as enterprising and inspiring as the woman with which it will unite us,” he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saluted Earhart's memory, too.

“Her legacy resonates today for anyone girls and boys who dreams about the stars,” Clinton said. “She gave people hope and she inspired them to dream bigger and bolder.”

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Filed under: Aviation • History
soundoff (731 Responses)
  1. tom brown

    Is this an early April Fools Day joke by The Onion?

    March 20, 2012 at 7:09 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • maniacmudd

      naw...you are...

      March 20, 2012 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mary

    Another waste of my tax dollars> With everything else this money could do, GOvernment has to be joking about this search ans it's need for the search.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:13 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • elowe

      "that Clinton will announce that the U.S. government will help in a privately funded search for Earhart's lost plane"

      Do the words "privately funded" mean anything to you people?
      Read the article.

      March 20, 2012 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
    • maniacmudd

      do the poor widdle baby girl got a koch jammed up it's azs?

      March 20, 2012 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Salty Bob

      Read the article "privately funded" means for those of you Repugs and non readers. It means an organization that operates without the benefit of being funded by ANY of our tax dollars. this is a missing person case at the least, an I for one would not mind in the least bit if our tax dollar`s were used to for it. kinda like they are being used everyday to find missing people, the only diff being time.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • tree

      not your money–the project is privately funded as the article states.

      March 21, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Treq21

      Did you even READ THE ARTICLE????? Unbelievable.

      THE PRIVATELY FUNDED EFFORT will use robotic submarines from Phoenix International, the U.S. Navy's primary contractor for deep ocean search and recovery, to comb the area. The Discovery Channel will film the exploration for a TV presentation, Gillespie said.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Alfred Eaker

      Proof that not only are the bulk of people illiterate, but, additionally, they do not have attention span to even listen. "privately funded."

      March 22, 2012 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
    • BigRed

      Extraordinary that people no longer read but insist on blogging anyway. The article states; "The privately funded effort will use robotic submarines from Phoenix International, the U.S. Navy's primary contractor for deep ocean search and recovery, to comb the area. The Discovery Channel will film the exploration for a TV presentation..." Privately means that funding comes from corporations and private donors. It has nothing to do with tax money. Try reading and listening!

      April 16, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mary

    oopsy Sorry folks. But "geez loiuse"!

    March 20, 2012 at 7:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jonathan Rodriguez

    Where is there mention of Tax money? All I see is "The Discovery Channel is supporting the venture" and "The Us Government will help with a PRIVATELY funded search" all that means is probably the US Government will help by getting them permission from other governments to search and some other non money related help. You guys really need to use the English language before freaking out.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • maniacmudd

      Thanks, Jonathan, the freaky right is crying like little girls this A.M. ...heck, all the time

      March 20, 2012 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mike

    How is this supposed to create jobs again?

    March 20, 2012 at 7:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • maniacmudd

      by sending you to Faux Snews bot school, you wern't rude enough

      March 20, 2012 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
    • bczu

      Actually, it is creating jobs. But this isn't a federal program backed by tax payer money. I guess if someone like Rush or Glenn isn't telling you what to think you don't know how to react.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • BigRed

      It creates jobs by allowing scientists, academics, and explorers along with boat crews, technicians, and videographers to ply their trade.

      April 16, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joe in Pittsburgh

    Well, I called it. 5 seconds after I started reading this article, I knew the "Why are you wasting MY tax dollars" zealots would come out of the woodwork.

    Those are MY tax dollars, too, for the record and I support any venture that expands our slowly sinking horizons. It's bad enough that NASA funding has been steadily cut over the years.

    How about we save some tax dollars by reducing the budge required to occupy other countries that don't even want us there?

    March 20, 2012 at 7:32 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pat

      Did you vote for Ron Paul? No? Then shut up.

      March 20, 2012 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
    • maniacmudd

      thank you!

      March 20, 2012 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      What part of "The privately funded effort" do you read as meaning tax dollars?

      March 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John

    There aren't that many words in this article but four of them are " a privately funded search". Take a deep breath and try that reading thing again.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:33 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • John Schwendler

      Yet, other news outlets are reporting it as a combined public-private funded expedition. Just what we need, a boondoggle excuse to go to the Pacific and look for evidence 75 years after the fact. What do they hope to find? I do not approve of my tax dollars being spent on this. What a waste.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Janica B

      I do not approve of my tax dollars going towards stupid wars and driving the price of gas up, but there you go.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Silly Janica

      learn to read friend, it's a privately funded dive. no taxes spent on this one.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Janica B

      I KNOW that. I was making fun of John Schwendler.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      What part of "The privately funded effort" do you interpret to mean tax dollars?

      March 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • DNA

      PPFfffbbbttt... why read when you can just troll and complain?!

      March 21, 2012 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      "The privately funded effort will use robotic submarines from Phoenix International", here's is an quote from the article..People should really read this article before getting upset about them using "your tax dollars"....

      March 20, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Janica, and all the others whining about "your tax dollars:" IT'S PRIVATELY FUNDED. What part of that do you not understand? And if you're so upset about your tax dollars being wasted, where were you during the Bush presidency when he was sending our soldiers to Iraq to be slaughtered and maimed by IEDs? Where was your financial outrage then?

      March 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      You don't approve? This is a republic. The government doesn't need your approval. They got your approval of every future decision they make when you voted for them.

      March 21, 2012 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      Read the article–it is a privately funded research project–NOT a government funded taxpayer project!!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @janica b: agreed. i'm still waiting for my refund for the wars..

      March 25, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • A

      My feelings exactly.

      March 26, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Shannon

      Amen.

      April 17, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark S.

      I doubt there are any private funds. I'm sure the vessel from the University of Hawaii is NIH funded which means our tax dollars.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikey

      there are private funds including money from the Discovery Channel. As for tax dollars, that can come from many sources. Sometimes the Navy will get involved because instead of doing practice drills, the real thing serves the same purpose and allows them to use techniques learned in real world terms. Without knowing the full details of the quest, it's very difficult to make a rational decision. To many people here are myopic. Btw, there is a lot of private money that has been spent looking for Ms Erherdt's plane. It would not surprise me if Richard Branson hasn't donated a bunch.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doc

      NIH?!? What are you smoking? NIH funds some equipment, but seagoing vessels aren't among them.

      March 21, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suz

      Which then, in turn, provides jobs for a bunch of people who pay taxes, too:)

      April 1, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeremy

      Well John, you can be rest assured the governments money, will not be used for this expedition. If you need any more assurance please see your first sentence of your comment.

      March 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • lroy

      I believe, if I remember my reading correctly, the doomed flight was for the US Government mission (remember this was war time in Europe...know your US History people!) so therefore using tax dollars for the research and discovery of the plane and/or remains of the flight is most appropriate.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marc

      It's not your tax dollars, it's my tax dollars and I'l okay with it. YOUR tax dollars are funding my daughter's welfare check and food stamps. (Sensing an apoplectic fit coming from John's direction at that thought)

      March 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • jimcrow

      i.l ok with it 2

      April 9, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      John, I like your tax dollars being spent on this. Mine, too. What the hell.

      March 20, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • oldecactus

      John, there is a 47% chance that you pay no taxes.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
    • tcinaz

      Quit quoting that dumb statistic. It is federal income taxes that 47% do not make enough money to to meet minimum standards. Most of that 47% don't pay federal income tax because of the amount of payroll and state taxes they pay, not to mention sales and property taxes. Please study an issue, and know what you are talking about before you spout of such inane canards.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Treq21

      "The privately funded effort will use robotic submarines from Phoenix International, the U.S. Navy's primary contractor for deep ocean search and recovery, to comb the area. The Discovery Channel will film the exploration for a TV presentation, Gillespie said."

      Reading comprehension is a wonderful thing. You should try it sometime.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • informed

      The public part is just for analysis. No tax dollars involved. If you bothered to read the other outlets carefully, you would have read that.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      Sort of like what a waste the Bush Administration was.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      I'd rather have my tax money spent on this than that Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.

      March 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      I heard an interview with lead team member on this project and he repeatedly stated that no tax dollars are used for funding. He seem to know well ahead of time that the left and right would catagorically use this issue to bash one another.

      March 21, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Willow

      Which news outlets? Please provide links.

      If that is the case, then CNN has to answer for their poor journalism.

      March 22, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • kc

      John- to back up your claim that other news agencies are stating that public funds are also going into this would you please post links to those articles (or at least let us know which agencies you are referring to)? I read about this on FoxNews.com and nothing in that article states that public funds are going into the expedition- only states that the State Dept is supportive of of the mission in hopes to find the truth to one of history's biggest mysteries.

      So I am just curious where you have seen that the expedition has public funds involved? I just want to be every bit as informed as you!

      March 23, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • renegadeiceberg

      closer? wow, you guys are nuts. everyone must think like you or they're wrong. liberal central here.

      March 26, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      They are not using your tax dollars, they are using mine. I approve of this search.

      March 28, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      They can have my war tax dollars to look for Amelia.

      April 9, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martin_VanBuren

      John: I don't approve of my tax dollars paying hugely profitable corporations in corrupt subsidies and no-bid war contracts.... but this...... oh wait..... it says... PRIVATELY FUNDED.....

      April 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • BigRed

      The video and the article both clearly say this is a privately funded venture. Next thing you know you'll somehow vilify the President and the Dems and call Earhart a champion of Planned Parenthood. Go ahead we're waiting.

      April 16, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cynthia

      My thoughts exactly. The current Administration whether one is a supporter or not, must be responsible for everything, I'm surprised they aren't blaming Obama for the failed flight attempt; but give them time, they will find a way to place fault @ his doorstep.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris R

      Blaming Obama for everything is simply extending the liberal policy of blaming Bush for everything that occurred in his 8 years as President. You reap what you sow, and the rules you apply to your enemy can easily be applied to you.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      No Cynthia, its George Bush's fault. We have much more and important things to blame the currrent Pres. He is destroying out country. Believe it or not.

      March 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      so quick to forget, this is a Lib rag so its all Bush's fault, its always been Bush's fault it will always be Bush's fault. If this was Fox then it would be Mr O's fault.

      March 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      Hah.. You are confused.. Obama admin will place this blame on Bush. Saying.. Why hasn't he done this on his watch"?

      March 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Obama as a child was playing on the beach of that atoll (I know it was well before his time, but fact don't matter to birthers anyways) and he ran in front of the plane as it was attempting an emergency landing and Amelia swerved to miss him and flipped the plane. Santorum supporters probably claim Noonan was actually flying amd Amelia was just on the plane as a stewardess anyways.

      Anyways, if that is the enhanced photo the experts are looking at also, they have betters eyes than me.

      March 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • geebs

      Just like that lousy creep blames everything on GW or anyone else, other than himself. seems to be a pattern in DC.

      March 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • KCPat

      Cynthia, wake up. Whining about Obama being blamed for everything? Were you awake during the W administration? He was blamed for everything that has happened and will happen in history. It doesn't matter which party has the White House, the other will be infantile in its opposition. It's time to tune out the extremists (of which you, in all your sensitivity, seem to be one) and let the moderates have the country back.

      March 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Climbr880

      ...from which he will immediately pick it up with a 10 foot pole and place it directly on Bush's doorstep

      March 22, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • fb

      Not to worry. He'll just blame Bush.

      March 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Obama crashed Earhart's plane AND our country?? That's enough for me. No second term.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ol' Yeller

      How about these words, John? "Gillespie said the photo was taken by a British survey team in October 1937 and had been seen by Earhart researchers many times" It doesn't say these are private photos and these photos have been seen by many people since 1937. The lead in to the article IS misleading, so quit being a know-it-all jerk.

      March 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Public Funded does not mean Government Funded. Public funding comes from fundraisers where people donate money to help support a project and has nothing to do with tax payers money.

      Most people understand this, but then you have those people below here who can't grasp the larger picture and want to scream their taxes are going to things they don't approve (when nothing of the sort is actually happening at all) simply because they are incapable of thinking reasonably and logically for themselves w/o some talking head telling them their position.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck56

      well said.

      April 17, 2012 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  8. NamVet67

    It's privately funded

    March 20, 2012 at 7:34 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Darren

    You are all morons.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:46 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Byrd

      All of us? Well, how does it feel to be standing all alone in the dazzling brilliance of your own sparkling intellect?

      March 20, 2012 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  10. Byrd

    Not to worry republicans, because all your tax money goes to wars and subsidizing oil companies. Most of the really cool stuff like this search is done with donations from liberals and other good people who happen to like things like education and solving old mysteries like this one.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:48 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • maniacmudd

      thank you sir!!

      March 20, 2012 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
    • bczu

      Good post byrd

      March 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • NowIC

      Which explains the vast cuts in NASA and other scientific agencies by this administration. After all, they are at WAR on ignorance! Those villianous heatherns!

      March 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Treq21

      Tbis may come as a shock to you, but liberals arent the only ones who give money to science. Moron. Its people like you that contribute to the great divide in this country,

      March 21, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • geebs

      libs dont donate even a portion of what repubs donate. loser.

      March 21, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. wildone

    Next up: The search for Jimmy Hoffa is renewed due to the recent finding of a Teamsters ring imbedded in the dash of a Chrysler Imperial. With funding by the US Justice Department and the Teamsters Union, it is hoped that the mystery of Hoffa's disappearance will be solved.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:48 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Byrd

      Well, you're a little late because the MythBusters already did that with ground penetrating radar in Giants Stadium. You'd know that if you watched anything other than FOX.

      March 20, 2012 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
    • wildone

      So that's where they found Earhart's plane. Under Giants Stadium. Hmmmm, I never would have thought to look there. That's what I get for watching FOX.

      March 20, 2012 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • maniacmudd

      fringe freak

      March 20, 2012 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
    • A

      The search for Jimmy Hoffa has never stopped. A few years ago they were digging around a barn in southeastern Michigan.

      March 26, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  12. Pat

    What a waste, even of private funds. Who gives a rats a$$ about finding it.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:48 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • LJ

      The private donors who have more disposable income than you (and me) obviously didn't think it was a waste of their money.

      March 20, 2012 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
    • bmerbob

      Probably a lot of people. Just because you don't doesn't make it irrelevant to everyone else. Where do you people come from? Why is this even a matter for debate? Read all the articles. There are many more besides this one. It is PRIVATELY FUNDED. Something the right should be applauding.

      March 21, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • BigRed

      Most of us who appreciate science and history appreciate this sort of venture. Beer guzzling unemployed NRA supporters who live in trailers with a constantly pregnant wife don't care about this sort of research.

      April 17, 2012 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  13. Name*Usceducator

    Discovery channels does.

    And when they turn it into a tv special and turn a profit u should kiss their a$$ ( as u put it).

    March 20, 2012 at 7:56 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pandi

      Lol. Hence, the word "Discovery".

      March 20, 2012 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
  14. Pandi

    One of the mysteries of the last century may be answered; good.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:57 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Reading comprehension is an acquired skill... try it.

    John, let's read even a little further than your 4 words before you give up and make an inaccurate judgement,, to wit: "the U.S. government will help in a privately funded search for Earhart's lost.. " keyword = HELP. I guess you think that doesn't mean funding. It does. Now YOU take a deep breath... tool.

    March 20, 2012 at 8:04 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • maniacmudd

      reading....jercough

      March 20, 2012 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Pandi

      "The Discovery Channel is supporting the venture, the report said." I guess you don't think that means Discovery is paying for it. It does. Tool.

      March 20, 2012 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
    • bczu

      Key words, privately funded. Idiot...

      March 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • bmerbob

      Highly disagree with you. Logistical support means getting permits, clearances from other governments and other such activities. Whoever can read can also look this up and see where there are other articles that clearly state no government funds will be added to this endeavor.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
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