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.”

Post by:
Filed under: Aviation • History
soundoff (731 Responses)
  1. huhburger

    Jan, baby... its a privately funded expedition. relax!

    March 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SteveOfTx

    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."
    Wow, so who really was D.B. Cooper anyway?

    March 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Leprakawn

    In response to some of the troll remarks and commentary to those mssgs that I have seen...

    "Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."
    -Dilbert

    March 21, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MIJohn

    I must admit to being impressed by the arguments of the far-right here. I believe they have discovered a new level of ignorance that defies all comprehension when the absolute limit had been reached. Now can the moderators here actually do their damn job and ban the IPs?

    March 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ed

    Did she exit the plane before landing or crashing is the real question.. They may find it but will the remains of Amelia & her navigator be in it? The theory of them being held as prisoners still looms very large.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jimbo

    I'm in the crowd who think that's a poodle with a bonnet swimming toward the photographer...

    March 21, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. missmusic98

    This is what our tax dollars are going?!

    March 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christina

      If you read the quote below it says it is privately funded. No where does it say that the government nor the taxpayers are involved in anyway. I guess this should be read by all of you commenters who seem to believe that the funding is coming from the taxpayers. I swear you automatically think that when you see that bigwhigs like Hillary Clinton made a comment about it. Seriously like Treq21 and others stated READING COMPREHENSION IS A WONDERFUL THING. YOU SHOULD TRY IT SOMETIME.

      "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."

      March 21, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheek

      "The privately funded effort..."

      March 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • brandirenae

      Our tax dollars aren't being spent. TIGHAR is footing the bill and if I had $20,000 to blow, I'd be there with them.

      March 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just Sayin'

      No, eejit, your tax dollars are being safely wasted by Congress for other things.
      Try READING

      "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."

      March 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • sue kawczynski

      Ummm, it says right in the article that it is being privatly funded>

      March 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • EricSF

      Lighten up

      March 22, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • god

      what part of "privately funded" did you not understand?

      March 22, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Valparadise

      "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."

      The tax dollars spent in your education didn't really work out. LEARN how to READ!

      March 22, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • B4Cons

      What part of "Privately Funded" are you confused about?

      March 22, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dobro

      Obviusly they didn't go to your education.

      March 22, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Did you even read the article... It states in the article that it is a privately funded effort... as in our tax dollars are not going towards it. Moron.

      March 23, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Grammar

      Did you even bother to read the article, missmusic? Eighth paragraph down "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 23, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Where does it say anything in here about tax dollars? Besides asking State Department officials to look at a photo (seriously, how much time do you think they spent looking at photo?) there is nothing in here about public dollars. In fact, the article specifically says the effort to recove the plan is privately funded. Reading comprehension people!

      March 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • mobetta

      No – they are going to build mosques in the MidEast. Yes, our politicians are stupid... the head one most of all.

      March 24, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matthew

      "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."

      So...no. RIF.

      March 25, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. CommonSense

    Landing gear? It looks more like the Loch Ness Monster to me.

    Wait! Did Amelia Earhart go down over Scotland?

    March 21, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Electroguy

      I have seen that photo 3 times and based on my expert knowledge of having seen photo's of possible landing gear 3 times, I conclude that this definately is one of those.

      March 21, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • All That Matters

      Lol Nice to see that I'm not the only one willing to joke around here! .D.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike

    As Treq and John have said, this is being funded privately. Not via tax dollars. Most likely, it is a billionaire who sees this as an opportunity to get some recognition and extra cash. The value of artefacts from this crash would be sky high. There is definately money to be made. But please, please people. We have public education for a reason. They teach you how to read before first grade. Use that gift. Read. When you see the word private funding, don't immediately think "the government is wasting my tax dollars" or "what is Obama up to now?" This is NOT the government.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ma & pa

    @Cay in NC at 1:35p.m....If your lady aunt had been navigating, they,d have had a better chance of landing alive where they should have been, and Amalia would'nt have died of infection that was aggrivated by insufficient good water. Maybe that will show in her bones if there are any left on the NNW side of the island about 2/5 of the way up from shore. It's the correct island. The plane was low on fuel, water depth hard to judge over the reef and they'd have been ok if the reef hadn't had pits that caught the wheel and broke the strut. Plane washed into sea by storm while she alive. The sun was harsh on her skin and she Needed more help. That's what's printable on this blog and what do we know anyway?

    March 22, 2012 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Antoine

      Thank you, Julie! Yes, that would be wonderful. It ralley should be so simple, if each who is helped returns the favor in any small way. Someone else I know actually arranged a networking party at his home. Brought in a mix of those working and those not. The conversation flew, information was exchanged, and NOT ONE job seeker went away without at least 3 contacts. It's a goose bumps thing! Thanks for adding to the vibe! Hope it spreads!

      April 22, 2012 at 4:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. Steve in Virginia

    Gillespie is a con man. Whenever you read a story about inding remains of Earhart, he is ALWAYS there. He's never found a single shread of credible evidence in all his years of so called "research". If he gave up his silly work, or if his silly donors stopped donating, he'd have to go out and get a real job like the rest of us. There is a sucker born every minute. Oh, and this picture.......puh-leeze. Anyone who sees a landing gear there probably sees landing gear in their bowl of cereal in the morning.

    March 22, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  12. CHKY

    That's just Obama's Dad fishing off the coast of Africa.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JustJim

    If Obama had approved the keystone pipeline, none of this would have happened. We would cheaper oil, thousands of new jobs, and a perfectly dry Lockheed Electra. Go Newt!

    March 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob w

      to JUSTJIM

      keystone pipeline oil will never be put in any gas tank of any car here in the U.S. oil will be sold overseas, much like the oil from alaska, try reading articles on this, that is if you can read

      March 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mary

    Ahh AGREED, as much as I dislike Obama, no place within this article does it come close to indicating this a government funded project. Jeez. Read! Besides, as to whoever is funding this, there is certainly something to be made if they in fact find the plane. Plus, it is being filmed by Nat'l Geo for tv, and I will certainly watch.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. The Anonymous One

    Geez, people, don't just assume that the government is paying for this, the article says nothing about the government whatsoever! No offence to the people who aren't.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24