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. gracko

    Great cropping job on the photograph...

    August 20, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  2. Logic

    Watched the program last night. They spent half their time rescuing the malfunctioning underwater probe. The only difference I can tell between this expedition and the guys out looking for Sasquatch, is Amelia Earhart WAS real, and they have a lot more money to blow on toys. Their big 'find'., thinking it was an airplane wing, was the keel of wrecked ship. The other item, one tech said was man-made or he would eat it, turned out to be a big rock.

    While it is interesting TV, and may prove profitable by that alone, I think the Bigfoot guys have a better profit margin. If they do 'proove' it is AE's airplane, it is only bragging rights for the head of the expedition. BFD, ok so you maybe learned how to operate your probe without losing it, which may be some benefit, but finding AE is only a headline.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. darrenhankins

    this does not solve anything.....that could be any number of 1920 to 1950 era be when you have her DNA and a photo.....or just all the birthers may be she is in Kenya...

    August 20, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. olivia101

    So it could be or it not its a mystery that people have to solve it. Like another mystery of things

    August 20, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • svscnn

      Mmmm... drugs are bad, m'kay.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cloudchasersakonige

    Is there anything that finding what happened to Amelia Earhart achieve other than to satisfy curiosity? If so, what? If not, why waste time and money that could have been put to better use on a quest to reveal information that won't have any real benefit?

    August 20, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • tm1960

      It's their money, they can spend it however they like.

      August 20, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. stevensb

    Her and Bigfoot went on a picknic and are skinny dipping with the Loch Ness monster .........
    I watched the program last night .......... jeezzzzz , what bunch garbage ..............

    August 20, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  7. ME


    August 20, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. luvlar

    Seems like about every ten years or so they think they've solved this. Wonder where they'll think they found her plane ten years from now.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. JPD

    Does anyone have the feeling that Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR executive just a con man?

    He ALWAYS seems to come up with the smallest shred of "A.E." evidence to support him yet getting another $5,000,000 in funding to go yet again back to the South Pacific and keep him in the limelight?

    He has been dragging this on for years and years and years. And watch, next year after he gets the funding and goes back, they will find nothing...until a month later, he magically finds another shred of evidence to justify why he has to go back AGAIN.

    WHO believes this guy anymore?

    August 20, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Q

      With this standard, I have solved all kinds of mysteries " almost"

      August 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jason

    This is better than a treasure hunt!! I'm into people and their adventures and when u find something new about something so old is exciting. 75 years and no answers and we finally might have some =)

    August 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ismet

    The Mystery of Amelia Erhart solved? .......NO!!!!!!

    August 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. praline

    CNN, please stop paying lazy reporters. With the smallest amount of homework any reporter would see that this is far from solved. Most aviators and the Smithsonian believe AE crashed into the ocean because she did not have enough fuel to fly the extra two and half hours to this little island. Of course crash into the ocean doesn't make for a good story.... there were also 16 British women living on that island (and 24 children) during the same time period ..only a year later. Do you really believe those 16 women didn't have make up, face cream or a few heels from a pair of boots?
    Learn to do your homework CNN...

    August 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard J.

      Read the headline. It has a question mark at the end of it, which means what? Come on, I know you can answer this.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Po Boy

    Why are they wasting so much time and effort on this? No one gives a flip where Amelia Earhart and her airplane are at this pointin time! We need jobs.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • pandoramn

      If you're not interested, fine. DON'T CLICK ON THE STORY! I get so sick of these negative, self-absorbed, whiney posts that have nothing to do with the story being discussed. Amelia Earhardt was someone a lot of people looked up to – a pioneer, a strong, fearless woman in a time when that was virtually unheard of. If you can't respect that, then crawl back under your rock and shut up! No wonder you don't have a job...who could stand to be around you?

      August 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elphaba

      Perhaps you should be out looking for one instead of sitting in front of your computer reading stories that don't interest you.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Obviously, since apparently all you do is post on here and troll. Try getting off your can and look for one. (And yes, I have one and I am posting from work!).

      August 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rod

      There are plenty of jobs out there if you want one. There are plenty of jobs open for engineers if you want to work. Not so much if you want to make $100,000/year working at a coffee stand. Put forth the re

      August 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Elphaba

    There is something romantic about the Emelia Earhart story; the adventuress, the bold attempt to be the first woman to fly around the world, and her disappearence. Please don't destroy this bigger-than-life legend by finding her wreckage. Let the legend live on unsolved!

    August 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Phil Fink

    If and when they do find AE I hope they will answer the question . Did her luggage survive the crash?

    August 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
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