August 19th, 2012
11:44 AM ET

75 years later, the mystery of Amelia Earhart solved?

Debris discovered in the depths of the South Pacific may be remnants of vanished aviator Amelia Earhart’s plane.

“A review of high-definition underwater video footage taken during the recently-completed Niku VII expedition has revealed a scattering of man-made objects on the reef slope off the west end of Nikumaroro,” The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery reported on its website.

The question researchers are now asking: Do these new images reveal parts of the same plane captured in a 1937 photo of Nikumaroro.

Discovery News reports that the 1937 photo of the island's western shoreline was taken three months after Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared. The shot by British Colonial Service officer Eric R. Bevington, “revealed an apparent man-made protruding object on the left side of the frame.” Forensic analysis of the image “found the mysterious object consistent with the shape and dimension of the upside-down landing gear of Earhart's plane.”

"The Bevington photo shows what appears to be four components of the plane: a strut, a wheel, a wom gear and a fender. In the debris field there appears to be the fender, possibly the wheel and possibly some portions of the strut," TIGHAR forensic imaging specialist Jeff Glickman told Discovery News.

TIGHAR launched the expedition last month, working on a theory that Earhart and Noonan became stranded and ultimately met their deaths on Nikumaroro Island after their Lockheed Electra plane was swept out to sea 75 years ago.

The group’s ninth expedition to the island kicked off with a chorus of excitement and criticism around the Internet. Researchers ultimately returned to the U.S. admitting they had found no obvious signs of the plane.

But new analysis of an underwater debris field may prove the researchers found exactly what they were looking for.

"Early media reports rushed to judgment in saying that the expedition didn't find anything," Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR executive director, told Discovery News. "We had, of course, hoped to see large pieces of aircraft wreckage but as soon as we saw the severe underwater environment at Nikumaroro we knew that we would be looking for debris from an airplane that had been torn to pieces 75 years ago."

Glickman told Discovery News the group has reviewed less than 30% of the high-definition underwater video taken on the recent expedition, which launched July 12 and concluded on July 24.

TIGHAR theorizes that Earhart and Noonan landed on Nikumaroro Island - then called Gardner’s Island - after failing to find a different South Pacific island where they were planning to land. The pair is believed to have landed safely and called for help using the Electra’s radio. And in a twist of fate, the plane was apparently swept out to sea, washing away Earhart and Noonan’s only source of communication. U.S. Navy search planes flew over the island, but not seeing the Electra, passed it by and continued the search elsewhere.

"What makes this the best expedition is the technology we've been able to assemble to search for the wreckage of that airplane," Gillespie told CNN last month. "We have an autonomous vehicle. We have multibeam sonar above the University of Hawaii ship we're on right now. We have a remote-operated vehicle to check out the targets (and a) high-definition camera. We're all set."

Gillespie told Discovery News that if further analysis of the Bevington photo continues to support TIGHAR's theory, the group will seek to recover the objects from the ocean’s depths.

Do clues to Amelia Earhart mystery lurk beneath the sea?

Finding Amelia Earhart: New clues revealed

Will mystery of Amelia Earhart be solved?

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Filed under: Aviation • History
soundoff (394 Responses)
  1. Trombonebiker

    Let us know when you actually have the physical evidence. You have proven there is something there, but you have proven what it is yet. Terrible science.

    August 20, 2012 at 6:59 am | Report abuse |
  2. Trombonebiker

    Let us know when you actually have the physical evidence. You have proven there is something there, but you haven't proven what it is yet. Terrible science.

    August 20, 2012 at 6:59 am | Report abuse |
  3. Conrad

    The Bevington photo appeared more to have an imperfection in the film than a "protruding man-made object." If you were searching for a downed plane and standing on the deck of ship snapping photos, wouldn't you maybe actually go to the spot where said object was supposedly sticking up out of the water and take a look? Using the 1937 photo as "evidence" suggests the folks at that time somehow totally missed the "wheel."

    August 20, 2012 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bongo™

    It's not her. It's.an alien spaceship. The government had too many to keep at Area 51 so stored some underwater.

    August 20, 2012 at 7:10 am | Report abuse |
  5. Big Man

    Justifying their donations by stretching things out. Enough already, start exploring the area were the wreckage is sighted. Let's put an end to all this nonesense and give Ms E and Mr N some closure and a rest and recognition they deserve.

    August 20, 2012 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
    • hannah1

      Travelingal808 needs to read your reply. She doesn't care about these people, so I guess no one else should. These people had FAMILIES who want to learn what happened to their loved ones. They deserve to know. And amelia and co-pilot deserve some kind of monument to their brave endeavors!

      August 20, 2012 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. stop the insanity

    What a scam. People donating to this so called "scientific expedition" to send them on a summer vacation in the tropics. This organazation is going to milk this as long as it possibly can.

    August 20, 2012 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. Hear Ye

    The bigger question would be 'who ate who on Nikumaroro Island?'

    August 20, 2012 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. hrpufnstuf

    Umm... so they claim to have some high resolution images of "man made debris" underwater, but the article shows us a photo from the surface, with some dark splotches and some arrows. Dark splotches! Yeah, that's the proof we're looking for! Tells me everything I wanted to know!

    What the heck is this photo of, and what is it supposed to depict? If they have high resolution images of man made objects underwater, SHOW THEM to us!

    August 20, 2012 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
  9. Mr. Bulky

    Sorry for being pedantic, but a wom gear? Too bad legitimate news outlets are firing all their copy editors. They might catch things like this. (By the way, CNN, it's worm gear.)

    August 20, 2012 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom Petty

      I was wondering what wom gear was. And yes, you're right.

      August 20, 2012 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Breed7

      Are you surprised at this? The author of the article isn't smart enough to know when to use question marks instead of periods. This article reads like it was written by a mentally-challenged child.

      August 20, 2012 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
    • DJL

      To be fair, with a small type size an "m" can look like an "r" and an "n" next to each other.

      August 20, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • shut-up

      I hope you can sleep tonight...

      August 20, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. BigdaddyUSA

    What a waste of millions of dollars! How about taking that money and helping family's that can't feed their kids or have no home?

    August 20, 2012 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • An alcoholic's mother

      The "The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery" is not in the business of helping familys feed their children or find a home.

      Different mission, different cause.

      August 20, 2012 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • sw6blues

      Because without research, we don't learn things. For instance, without research, w wouldn't have found a cure for Polio or discovered Penecillin. Which could have KILLED you or left you paralyzed in Amelia Earhart's day.

      August 20, 2012 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • bigpoppapump

      it is private funded. no tax dollars go to it.

      August 20, 2012 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Kerwyn

      Hum.... Nice idea except this is a private company spending it's own money.

      August 20, 2012 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Neko

      So how much money have you given to feed the poor? Why aren't you out helping them instead of responding to news stories???

      August 20, 2012 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • stop the insanity

      Yep...every couple of months this so called scientific expedition releases a photo or object and hits the media with their new finding. This is all staged to get more donations so the group can have another vacation in the beautiful south pacific

      August 20, 2012 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • pmclconc

      What BigdaddyUSA means is that, this is in no way research of any kind, he or she sees it as a simple waste of funds that could be spent in a more appropriate manner during trying economical times. We are still going after this much the same way we sent a rover to mars, we want answers to questions, the most intriguing they are, the more we try to answer that question, whatever the costs. I do go along BigdaddyUSA on that, we both wish that question was: why on earth, on a planet where so many millions die of hunger every year, we spend so much money in seemingly meaningless pursuits, instead of trying to resolve problems, through research or direct action, so daunting as worldwide hunger? We can try doing more research for varieties of plants that resist drought, for researching delivery of packaged goods that can withstand long periods of time without decomposition, foods that could deliver a "punch" of calories and proteins at a low cost, etc. Much has been done, much more can be done if we just unite...God willing...

      August 20, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Errr...

      I'm sorry...since when do you get to tell me how I can spend my money?

      August 20, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Engineer 2012

      Bigdaddy, A million dollars, a thousand dollars, one dollar... how you give your money that you spend on luxury? Your nice car for an older model.. Money spent on your vactions, money spent on your hobbies. These are *private* millionaires who spend *thier* money on what they see fit. The money you spent on your computer (a luxury) could have fed a lot of people.

      August 20, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • BermudaTriangle

      So they can multiply and create more families and kids that can't feed themselves...brilliant logic!

      August 20, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • KS

      BigDaddyUSA: How about you spend your time on something more constructive such as learning how to spell?

      August 20, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  11. ET

    I'm not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens.

    August 20, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. sw6blues

    Just you, Mitt

    August 20, 2012 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. ViperGuy

    I don't see anything in those pictures. Next they are going to say Amelia is right there waving back.

    August 20, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
    • John Stone

      No she's actually down on the beach tanning hereself and her copilot is out fishing for lunch.

      August 20, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. SonOfSteel

    Sounds as if someone were transcribing another person's words, who spoke with a British accent;
    "Wum gear" belonging to this famous 'gull's' airplane...
    Yeah, sounds like an inability to ennunciate "R" sounds in otherwise simple "Wuds".
    All the same, a junior high editor should have caught that and corrected.

    August 20, 2012 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. Liz

    Amazing - only in America....

    A fascinating article about a long-running mystery involving an incredible woman of history, perhaps solved by utilizing amazing technology and perseverance - and all posters can do is squabble and criticize and complain and nit-pick?????

    This demonstrates why we're falling so far behind every other country in educational prowess.

    I say "hurrah to this story" and the entire expedition.

    August 20, 2012 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • scruffydog999

      Well said Liz!

      August 20, 2012 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • S-Hug

      If this all turns out to be true, the real tragedy will be how heedless the military vessels in the area were 75 years ago. They had more than enough radio transmissions and other clues to find her. For that matter, how did nobody on the vessel from which the "Bevington photo" was taken notice the alleged landing gear protruding from the water? Wouldn't they say, "Hm Amelia Earhart disappeared in this area three months ago. Maybe we should check out that thingy that looks like a landing gear."

      August 20, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Easy E

      Liz: you'll notice said whinerheimers can't be bothered to do a dammed thing with their own lives. Who cares what the little losers say. I hope they do eventually solve the mystery of Earhart's disappearance...history is important for those with an IQ over 60.

      August 20, 2012 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • SonOfSteel

      I would guess Liz has never heard of a worm gear, either. (jab jab)

      Personally, I'm highly intersted in solving this mystery, but I would have perferred the article expound on the alleged 'man-made' objects in the photo. These must be very highly trained individuals to pick these things out from their background. Also – I find it amusing that the yellow arrow – upper left – attempts to point to something out of the picture frame. That's rather comical.

      Oh look ! There's Elvis!

      August 20, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
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