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. bob

    JPX
    You asked the correct question.....the answer is, it is a politically motivated move to get people focussing on anything other then the shape of this country and what Obama is doing.........the press is working overtime to distract the public, this is a great example of it.

    March 20, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Campaign to Re-elect

      Agreed. Ray LaHood is a purely political animal and this is way outside his job description.

      March 20, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Votto

      So is there a place you can buy your tin foil hats or do you have to make them yourself? You should get santorum to sign it with the blood of all the non christians he wants dead at the next tea party rally, i am sure you wont be the only one with a tin foil hat there.

      March 20, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Come on...

      Really....? You're gonna spin this into a political diversion? I'm not a fan of the current administration but to say this is somehow a tactic to get Americans to focus on any issue but the political ones in insulting to most Americans with a brain. So, what's your opinion of the US lunar landing?

      March 20, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Luigi

      How is the nature of this story significantly different than other "human interest" stories published during the last few decades?

      What many people, including many freshmen at "news schools" is that (generally speaking) "newspapers" aren't in the news business. They are in the ADVERTISING business.

      Another example. Google isn't in the technology business. Google is in the advertising business. Facebook is also in the advertising business. Big bucks there.

      Stories like this sell ads. It's really simple.

      Frankly, "political gain" is the sort of attack I'd expect from fringe Liberals. I would have thought, incorrectly, that Conservative advocates, such as yourself, would have a f'in clue about how business works. I stand corrected.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      You know it....Because everything is a conspiracy

      March 20, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Patriot

      What country do you live in? Certainly not the USA that is rebounding better and faster than anyone expected under Obama's leadership. You have no imagination or sense of adventure; a rather dim and dull person I would imagine.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • xjdavid

      I'm am so tired of hearing this. Every news story that's not politics is some plan to get attention away from Obama. You...are...nuts. Obama is going to win by a landslide in November, Congress will continue to be the reason nothing gets done in this country, and no matter how much better things are than they were 4 years ago, uninformed conspiracy theorists like yourself will still drown out any possibility of rational, informed political dialogue, in favor of crazy noise from people like you who blame their own pathetic, meaningless lives on the supposed downfall of America.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • jj

      Of course it is. Like churches having to pay for birth control – to deflect the legitimacy of legal abortions, and women's rights. Like 'taxing the job creators', instead of talking about how little the super-rich pay, and how jobs are created by middle class people buying products and services. Like how they are locking up the OWS people, yet the crooks that bankrupted the country still live free, in palaces. So when you put it that way, I can't disagree!

      March 20, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • GBG

      The man has been searching for the plane for TWENTY years. I do not believe you can suggest this a political attempt to distract people.

      But then again if Rush says it's so, you'd believe anything wouldn't you.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Conrad Murray

      you are a classic dope....

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

      Yeah, in reality the world has stood still for the past 3 years and no progress is being made on any front. Not science, or exploration, or medicine or the economy. Anything you've heard about is just theater designed to distract us.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  2. JustabunchofMorons

    Whata bunch of morons. how many times to people have to be told this is privately funded. By the way, Howland Island is in the NORTH Pacific, not SOUTh. Media knuckleheads.

    March 20, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • William

      How many times do you need to read that the Clinton said the the US Government would assist. The US Government can't use private money to pay their expenses. Who's the moron now???????

      March 20, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  3. BOMBO ©

    I hope she is found safe and returned to her loved ones.

    March 20, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike B

      That's not very likely. If she survived the landing, she would have likely died from lack of drinking water.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      Not to mention Mike, she'd be 114 by now.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. loverspoint

    This is what rich people with to much time and money do? Maybe that money should be used to help build the future.

    March 20, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      Exploration creates the future.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  5. T

    It would be interesting to find out what happened to Ms. Earhart and since it's privately funded, I say go for it !
    The Earhart story reminds me of the Star Trek: Voyager episode "The '37's" w/ Sharon Lawrence as Ms. Earhart. A fun yarn to watch....

    March 20, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. Sofa King

    Oh, I'm sure she's just fine.

    March 20, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  7. Brian Smith

    hmm...the key clue is – her plane had a limited amount of fuel, so it has probably crashed by now and we should stop looking for it in the air!

    March 20, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  8. bob

    MonkieByte
    too stupid for air you are......the searching company is privately funded.....you think for one minute the govt would release info one what it is spending on this 'privately funded' ordeal......have you forgotten that we have a lawyer in the whitehouse....if the law doesn't specifically say he can't do it, he does it.....the artcle specifically DOESN"T say that the help from the govt will come at no cost to the tax payers....... set down your koolaid and think about that for a minute before you responds

    March 20, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      Put on your aluminum hat and go out to the shed and think this one out. You have said your piece and nobody gives a damn. This whole expedition is supposed to cost less than a friggin bomb. You want to donate? Go to Earhart project and give a couple of bucks.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. Calcommuter

    She most likely had to ditch in the ocean. With no survival gear, they went down with the plane. Just as much evidence for that theory as the island theory. Get Ballard on it. He'll find it with a submersible.

    March 20, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. Brian Smith

    “Finding the airplane would be the thing that would make it conclusive,” he said
    I doubt that very much – finding the airplane would prove absolutely NOTHING!

    March 20, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  11. hi

    Oh, you made a mistake, I see... You really meant: "the answer is, it is a politically motivated move to get people focusing on anything other than the shape of this country and what THE REPUBLICANS are doing TO DESTROY THE COUNTRY..." Glad to be of help!!

    March 20, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  12. bob

    quiz....by a show of hands.......who is aware that Obama signed an executive order this past friday.....not going to tell you what's in it.....just want to see how many of you know it.........mind you CNN, ABC,NBC, MSNBC, C-BS, have not really said a word..... one has to wonder why? anyways show of hands.....who knows it!

    March 20, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • EastCoastMike

      Is it me or can you hear the sound of a cuckoo clock in the background of your post....."cuckoo....cuckoo" There it is again.....

      March 20, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  13. Pandi

    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.

    What is so hard about this?
    The government is not PAYING FOR IT!!!

    March 20, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • jj

      Hey Pandi – this is the internet. Quit using facts and logic, or you will be asked to leave. Good god, man – at least throw us a Kardashian comment...

      March 20, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • In My Own Private Idaho

      Aren't the University of Hawaii (and its research vehilcles) publicly funded?

      March 21, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  14. EastCoastMike

    Wow....so any story not related to the state of the country or the economy is just a ruse by the liberal media?
    I guess we should stop watching sports too.....and the arts, and entertainment. All just ruses.

    March 20, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  15. Draac

    I think they should use some the money that goes to these slugs who sit home and play video games all day with our hard earned tax dollars to find her. Spending a little to find an American hero, I'm all for it.

    March 20, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Phearis

      I'm guessing that English is not your first language.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Beezbo

      The article says this is a, "privately funded effort".

      March 20, 2012 at 11:26 am | 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