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. Yay!!!

    I have spent countless hours fapping it to Amelia's old photos, when I lose blood in my erectile tissue because of the mystery of whence Amelia's remains lie. But now, I can fap it in peace.

    August 19, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bondo

    i see amelias face in the lower left portion, freaky

    August 19, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ObamaUnitl2016

    Finally, we are one step closer to solving this Mystery.

    The next mystery: what is a Mormon and Planet Kelob?

    August 19, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. achepotle

    Just when no one gives a sith anymore.

    August 19, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tilmeismoney

    So they made a good landing after all. But Lindberg was the better pilot, he landed on the runway.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Brian P

    They are wrong. The Curiosity Rover clearly had the better picture of that plane. Just sayin'.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. wrongwaypeachfuzz

    the moderator on this site has no sense of humor.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lolz

    As an atheist, I was was hoping she was on the island in the carribbean where Tupac and Biggie have been hiding.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Hehe

    Better story (and funny scenario): the wreckage is pulled up and instead they find Jimmy Hoffa's remains

    August 19, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. alan_turing

    Certainly hope they can put this one to rest after all these years.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Vick©™

      TIGHAR's theory is sound and once they confirm the wreckage this case would be closed. We can focus on the Jack the Ripper mystery and see if we can solve that one.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tcaros

    They are going to have to pull that stuff up and prove it. Looks like rocks to me.

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

      Valuable contribution. I'm sure the researchers are anxious for your endorsement. Forgive me, what was your field of expertise, again?

      August 19, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cambride Ray

    How do they train these people? By watching elephants in the clouds????

    Those yellow arrows show ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

    August 19, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cambride Ray

      The top yellow arrow points to my compatriot Felix Hernandez, who just pitched a perfect game.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Judas Priest

      You are so right. We should leave ALL our decision-making to untrained nitwits gawping at low-resolution images on a website.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • SightSeer

      And what exactly are you trained in, I wonder? Not much, I'll bet. You sound rather flummoxed and agitated. That is a low-rez image posted here. They have machines that can enhance and magnify pictures and aviation experts to help identify objects. Hope that helps and calms you enough to return to your hidden word puzzle now.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bob Knippel

    Maybe she simply went into the drink and so long Amelia. The ocean is quite vast and any mechanical failure or navigation error means nothing but water.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kris

    Quick, let's pay the team another $500,000,000,000 to find out.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Scratchee

    I don't suppose it would have made sense to dive on the site to confirm the video footage WHILE THE EXPEDITION WAS STILL UNDERWAY?! I'm getting tired of the bi-annual teasers. For God's sake, you took a ship and a submersible out there, and you didn't even check the footage until you got home?

    August 19, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • amc

      you wish it was biannual; more like twice a month.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carlos

      @Scratchee-when you are on someone else's time and they are paying the bills, you gather everything you can, and review everything that you collect LATER. You maximize your time on scene, and leisurely review the data you collect later. I do agree on one thing. To review interest, reports of possible findings pop up every so often. She's dead. he's dead. He's gone. She's gone.. Leave it alone.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
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