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. Bob

    I guarantee you this is not her plane. Her plane is in 17000 feet of water off of Howland Island. The Navy ship that was near that island (400 miles away from the island in this story) was communicating with her by radio as she sent her final transmissions, meaning she was in the vicinity of that ship. Running out of gas and no time to go 400 miles to this place.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. darrenhankins

    were the beef....or the body

    August 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Yep

    @Dennis – Yes, you are a much more reliable source of information, than professionals. LMAO

    August 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SRSwain

    Where is the report? The searchers went to the site with tons of gear. They stayed there looking. What process did they actually use to find or not find anything. This is bait-and-switch "journalism" of a kind that is becoming more and more intrusive today. If you have some facts, CNN, state them. If not, why bother?

    August 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bill

    Looks like a picture of rocks to me.

    August 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ed

    Didn't you guys learn that the Aliens took her from that Star Trek Episode

    August 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Curious as all heck

    So if they think they've found the plane, great. But shouldn't they be looking for skeletons on the island itself so they can do DNA tests? The place is only 5 sq miles and has been uninhabited for almost 50 years.

    August 20, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ian

      They did fine skeletons on the island actually....

      August 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ed

    Good point Curious

    August 20, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ed

    Nobody said she was flying a spaceship. Read more carefully next time

    August 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Meat

    Do you think that they'll have her skeleton in a display at the Smithsonian if her remains are discovered? I would definitely pat to see them bones.

    August 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Len Seidel

    If I'm going to buy luggage named after somebody it will be a person who actually got to where they were going.

    August 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. truthhawk

    So when is CNN going to post my blog of a few mins. ago about AE s Spy Flight? I hope you are not spiking it ...censoring it? Would CNN ever do such a thing like that?

    August 20, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • mendrys

      As a private organizatin they are under no obligation to post anything you write.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. beechwood1

    i saw a supposed actual film clip of her plane , overloaded with fuel bouncing down a muddy bumpy runway in New Zealand ? and right before it took off and one last big bump, it looks like a round metal hoop underneath the airplane BROKE OFF. Was that her receiving antenea, is that why all messages to her where never answered accordingly. She gave instructions about changing frequencies, but never seemed to repond to US navy instructions accurately?
    I don't think the've foundcanything...

    August 20, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • w5cdt

      Loop antenna is a receiving direction finder. Used for homing-in on transmitters.

      August 24, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. acrocosm

    This guy looks exactly like Carrot Top HAHAHAHA

    August 21, 2012 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  15. The Pathetic Republic of Democrats

    No, the mystery is not solved. The real mystery is why a Famed Pilot like herself ran out of fuel and crashed in the Pacific??? Think about this, would a normal human being risk so much as to forfeit not only her life, but the life of her Navigator?? I personally think she went for the gold at all costs without really thinking of the possible reality of being drowned, shark bait, or marooned until death. She made a fatal error, she allowed her arrogance to over shadow her skills. This is a typical problem with today's modern woman. LOLLLLLLLL

    August 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rumble Rally

      I would venture to say this is a problem of today's modern man also. Your misogyny is showing. The arrogance you speak of is certainly existant in the world today, but seems more a cultural feature of the wealthy.

      As to the fuel running out. being an experienced pilot she would have known the potential problems. We don't know what really happened. Could have been a leak in the fuel line. Quit jumping to conclusions to support your personal agenda.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
    • w5cdt

      Well actually her navigator was an alcoholic.

      August 24, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
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