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. Will Jamison

    They should have put this much effort into finding her 75 years ago. It's a little late now.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. John Vance

    This doesn't look like impressive evidence. It could just as well be the oil drum Jimmy Hoffa was in.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. RSFan

    Amelia and her navigator were abducted by aliens. Reference on imdb the television series Star Trek: Voyager and read the plot synopsis for the 2nd season episode "THe 37s" for the factual account of their fate.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Carolyn

    Individuals and corporate sponsors are paying for the research...they can spend however much money they feel like on it. I think it's damn interesting. Not interested? Don't read it. Tada.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jerry

    Yeah right. I can see clearly what they are talking about. I also have a bridge in New York for sale. Anyone got beads?

    August 19, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Alex

    awesome

    I hope they do return and dive there, since now they have a specific target

    August 19, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. TopView20

    Where did all you "Doubting Thomas" types come from? The single photo included with this article is irrefutable evidence of the Earhart misfortune. Seventy-five years ago, only a Lockheed Electra plane could have left those hallmark little yellow arrows. Mystery solved!

    August 19, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mike Sotwin

    Why?

    August 19, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dev

    Can we say with certainty that Amelia is dead for sure?? One does wonder.....

    August 19, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. AJ

    Everybody else just sees rocks and water too right? Just checking.

    August 19, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • JMan

      It's not like they're providing a very high resolution image.

      The camera they used to photograph it probably can take massively sized photos, but they just don't release the high res image as it would cause a LOT of bandwidth to be used.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Megan

      Sometimes things should just left alone!

      August 20, 2012 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
    • SCT

      I see a landing gear assembly on the right side of that photo. I think the debris on the left is scrambled metal.

      I would love to join in on this search.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • max

      yup

      August 20, 2012 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Gawn

      uh, no...those look like the pieces of wreckage from something man made

      August 20, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Glad I am not the only one.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
    • nisroc00

      Check

      August 20, 2012 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Imjesayin

      Yep.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • JLH

      HA HA yes I see what you see

      August 20, 2012 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  11. Razorking

    Newsflash: Mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart solved? Or not, you decide.........huh??

    August 20, 2012 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  12. Boohincus

    Very impressive, indeed. Whatever it is...

    August 20, 2012 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. brit89

    alot of these comments dont make sense at all lol if jennifer lopez dissapeared over the ocean they would still be lookin. amelia was 1 of americas 1st celebs... just sayin

    August 20, 2012 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  14. brit89

    lmfao wow

    August 20, 2012 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
  15. William

    I thought Earnhardt died in a car crash at Daytona.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
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