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. sneaux_whyte

    $2 Million to look for a plane that crashed in 1937? Seriously, who invests in this project, instead of fighting hunger, poverty, malaria....

    August 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • F

      Who cares, It's not your money. So don't worry about it.

      August 22, 2012 at 3:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      Two million dollars to solve the Amelia mystery is worth it....the government already spends lots on disease and hunger, why don't u donate your own money to a helpless cause...face facts ..the world is much too populated and too little is life n let god...

      August 23, 2012 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. hunter

    75 years later, and nobody gives a crap.

    August 21, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • w5cdt

      Not so. You are just too young.

      August 24, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tim

    She is an American icon for women back in the early thirties and still today. It's important to solve this great wonder and maybe if the plane is recovered and reconstructed with what is pieced to gather the NTSC can define what happened to Amelia and Fred's Electra. It's interesting and will continue to follow as this great mystery is finally solved after 75 years....

    August 23, 2012 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
    • w5cdt

      You mean the NTSB.

      August 24, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gerbie

    The biggest problem today in this country besides greed is curiosity. That's why kids experiment with drugs and why we think spending all that money is worth while. Some people have more money than they know what to do with. Sounds crazy when people are losing their jobs every day.

    August 28, 2012 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
    • JosephS

      Curiosity is not a "problem". It's because of curiosity that you, me, and the majority of the planet don't still live in the stone age.

      August 29, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ottawa Mens Centre

    This is a non-story, no real evidence, a phony looking picture that has
    all the markings of a scam to get further funding.

    Why CNN still has the garbage on its site defies logic.

    August 28, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. andy haddan

    amelia,hughes,linburg,wright bros,and all the pioneers of that golden age of aviation risked it all to discover and push the boundries that average folks didnt dare. she deserves to be found and her story sang out. she risked it all, so should we that have the ability and resources. I salute her sacrifice with humble honor and pray that she is found. a little patriotism fellow aviators. no man left behind.

    September 1, 2012 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Thank you for a real reply. I think this is very scary and fascinating. To be in that spot in those days...It is really an amazing adventure. To be stranded. Did they land in the water? Did they make it to an island? There's so much to wonder. Like in the movie Cast Away. Just intrigues me, as well as frightens. Anyway, hope there can be real solutions to this mystery.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. alice

    this is all stupid i cuse wat if it were u would u really want peaple looking for u after one thousand years i would not mean i would love to just rest in peace if i were her and i no u sure would to like u would u like to be disterbed after 75 year i mean really and for 2.2 million dollars thats stupid if u really want that much money u will get a real job andwork for it duh! rest in peace Amelia Earhart

    September 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JM

    Photos aren't just good enough. Don't do a halfway job: go back, bring it up, identify a serial number and then it will be done properly.

    September 8, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Atto

    This is the line of search that has eluded every one till now.It is sad that human being left to die like this.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mart

    And once again TIGHAR fleeces money out of the gullible and governmental agencies on nothing. The most plausible evidence so far from interviews of servicemen stationed there, they landed were shot as spies and the aircraft disposed of. There will be another expedition soon with more money fleeced out of people and still.................nothing.

    October 7, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Henderson


    October 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Henderson

    Bro I live in Irael

    October 22, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Name*Gabbie

    I think Amelia E. landed on that island with her partner and tryed to conntackt the U.S gov't but their plane was washed away into sea.

    October 28, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Starla

    I thought That She Flew Over The Atlanic oceant why would the plane be in The Pacific Ocean Common Sense Really

    November 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. k

    her life's a mystery..

    November 6, 2012 at 3:44 am | Report abuse |
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