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. bobcat (in a hat)©

    While attending a Marriage Weekend, Walter and his wife, Ann, listened to the instructor declare, "It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other."

    He then addressed the men. "Can you name and describe your wife's favorite flower?"

    Walter leaned over, touched Ann's arm gently, and whispered, "Gold Medal-All-Purpose, isn't it?"

    And thus began Walter's life of celibacy...

    August 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    Good joke, bciah.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. JoseVHK

    Not sure if anyone had noticed, but right smack in the middle of the image, just a tad off-center to the upper right, 2 O'Clock, there is a seamingly un-natural formed image of a hub or a wheel-like object, with at least 4 petals and insinuating a 5th?

    August 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      Right. Could that be a cooling fan propeller?

      August 20, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. Russ

    Very interesting that this news comes out on the same day that Discovery is airing a show about finding Amelia. Looks like they have a lot invested in the show, and want to make sure someone watches it. The media reported that the results of the recent expedition were disappointing, and inconclusive.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. paulronco

    You don't know what you're talking about. There are more UFO sightings that have no explanation than there are ones that do. As far as I know, the silent white disc I saw flying above Annandale last November in a straight line at about 800 feet doesn't have any explanation so far given by Popular Science.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • south4evr

      Amelia flew a Lockheed Electra, not a UFO, you boob!! Shheeesh!

      And Popular Science cant explain you either!!

      August 19, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Judas Priest

      But it has a lot of explanation in Jack Daniels and Maui Wowee.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Unexplained does not mean unexplainable.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Your UFO

      is called a Frisbee

      August 20, 2012 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      UFO or Unidentified Flying Object. So anything that can't be identified in the air counts including plastic bags. Which yes have been proven to be the cause of UFO sightings. The whole idea that aliens have come from other planets and not been widely seen is insane. Do you go on vacations and hide in your car the whole time. So many reasons that they are discredited that its not worth going into them. UFOs make good stories but that is all they are.

      August 20, 2012 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Breed7

      One very plausible explanation is that you don't know the difference between a frisbee and a UFO.

      Low IQ and drug/alcohol use make for approximate 99% of "unexplainable" UFO sightings. But you've probably never wondered why none of them folks with book-learnin' are ever the ones to spot the UFOs...

      August 20, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      amelia erhart the lost female pioneer aviator may have been found or not but the search is still interesting to many of us. Your statement about seeing a floating disk in the sky and not having enough information to identify it yourself is not part of this story. Please save the ET stuff for a story on ET stuff. Just for you though I will point out the "Hyper balloon" loosed by it's creator to test then lost as it flew beyond the 1 mile radio range of his model aircraft remote control. The thing lived up to it's name and progressed across a multi county area leaving many true sightings of a fast silent object moving erratically. This is not the first balloon to be sighted as if it were a UFO and no doubt it will not be the last. I can only guess what you saw but I can say it makes more sense to try looking for local objects to explain what you see in a late night sky first before jump to ET and start discrediting yourself claiming wild aliens abducted Amelia.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zombie Iron Chef America

      Drone. You're welcome.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • w5cdt

      And what about all those vapor trails in the sky?

      August 24, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jkiu

    TIGHAR forensic imaging specialist Jeff Glickman also went to bat for the infamous "Patterson" Bigfoot movie. He came out with a report on the film that says it's the real deal. These people are a real joke.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. stevensb

    rocks .....................
    pr for another inane , speculative , and groundless rehash by the discovery channel of a previous inane , speculative , groundless discovery channel program ........
    Hey Mike , get back to gettin' dirty .......... or hangin' out with real(fisher)men ............

    August 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. GianCarlo

    Same old story, all theories. How about reporting this when they actually find the plane. It's always the same story, "they might have finally found AE's Plane" enough of this BS. Let us know when you actually find it.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. PVinWV

    You keep saying "we" over and over. Do you have a mouse in your pocket or someone else in your head?

    August 19, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rachel

      ROFL, PVinWV!

      August 19, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sean

    And what exactly about all the cleft palates in the world, including the continent of Africa, from pregnant mothers who haven't taken any pharmaceuticals?

    You are an idiot, sorry.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bill Duke

    Just another scam attempt "Give us lots of money so we can go film more rock formations and call them a debris field.."

    August 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tom Corbett

    That foto reveals all! The 4 large, bright yellow arrows lying on the ocean floor are proof enough for me! Thanks, TIGHAR!

    August 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigfoot

      I diot.

      August 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoJO

      Yes, that is what I was thinking too. The yellow arrows give it away everytime. I didn't know she had them on the plane with her, but it makes the job of finding the downed plane easier.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DIng Dong

    That's why they are working on it and not you or me John. 🙂

    August 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Philip

    Who would want to be on that list of non-news bloggers? You "regs" yak about each other and crack jokes. Sure, you initially post your condolences or your regurgited TV talking head oponions, and then yer Off! to gossip and yak of nothing but each other are someone like me.
    @Paul 2:31. Hogwash. Years ago that "UFO" photographed crashed near Area 51 was identified as a Nazi BMW J38 powered by 12 jet engines.
    goto and see dozens of previously UFOs now identified along with the men who designed and built them.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • @Philip

      You have maybe ten subjects that you barf up on a regular basis: five are the regulars here. Give it a rest already. No one wants to answer or talk when THIS ^^^^ is the kind of answer you post .

      August 19, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bigfoot

    Unbelievable! How long did they survive? Years?

    August 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
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