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. Chief Mongo

    I'll solve the "mystery." They (I use "they" because there were two people on the plane) crashed, and subsequently died; either from the crash or sometime later. Now, stop spending millions of dollars trying to find evidence to the contrary, because there is none – these are the facts. They crashed. They're dead. Let them remain so (in peace). That is all.

    August 20, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. Confused

    Thank goodness, I hope she's OK.

    August 20, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. Whome

    Yep, photos of what could be man made objects, what else could it be, it's not like we throw anything in the oceans? Seals the deal for me not lets solve the current day problems.

    August 20, 2012 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. skeleton_pilot

    So if this does confirm the plane, then the skeleton that was found all those years ago with all of the pilot items around it and then lost sometime after was indeed Earhart? That sucks. They could confirm the plane but they would immediately know that they could never find her body. They would have to search for Noonan. In a way, I was hoping this wasn't the spot and there was always a chance that they would find Amelia, not just her plane.

    August 20, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
    • w5cdt

      It may NOT be the spot. Another less well-funded but credible group suggests that Earhart was closer to Howland island.

      August 20, 2012 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. average dude

    She crashed, there mystery solved!

    August 20, 2012 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. w5cdt

    This is a publicity stunt to get more funding. This is very weak evidence. Radio forensics suggest Earhart was closer to Howland island.

    August 20, 2012 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. John

    I hope there is something left of their bodies so they can be buried back home.

    August 20, 2012 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Russ

      Are you kidding? The body, which is organic, and decomposes, would have been completely gone before one year in an ocean environment. The bones would have been scattered all over the place and ground down on the reef by wave action.

      August 20, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. Russ

    I see 7 Waldos in it too.

    August 20, 2012 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  9. loriey

    This has been a great mystery for decades, hopefully there will be closure/resolution. Another great mystery is the disappearance & no trace of Flight 19. In case you're not familiar with Flight 19 it was the designation of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers that disappeared on December 5, 1945 during a United States Navy overwater navigation training flight from Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, Florida. All 14 airmen on the flight were lost, as were all 13 crew members of a PBM Mariner flying boat assumed by professional investigators to have exploded in mid-air while searching for the flight. Navy investigators could not determine the cause for the loss of Flight 19 but said the aircraft may have become disoriented and ditched in rough seas after running out of fuel.

    August 20, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  10. archchuzzlewit

    Puddin...first, turn off the caps lock, and there really is no need for multiple question marks. Second, this is a private group spending privately raised money, not tax dollars. So, in short, they can do whatever they want with their own money.

    August 20, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. jrh

    More TIGHAR propaganda. Until they come up with an engine that still has its serial number on it, this is just more ocean debris. It proves nothing whatsoever..

    August 20, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • deathwombat

      They're not saying that it's proof of anything. They're saying that it's EVIDENCE. Every case that has ever been proven started with the collection of evidence.

      August 20, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Jesus Christ Superstar

      Propaganda??? And what exactly are they trying to push onto us? That they investigated a mystery and they found evidence that may lead to more evidence? I think your tin foil hat is a bit too tight.

      August 20, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Uh......Why did CNN run this story....cause I found something that looks just like that in my back yard......Good job CNN giving them free advertising... good job on their part knowing you'd fall right into the Do Do trap they set.

      August 20, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  12. Marty

    She's gone, she's dead-–let her go

    August 20, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  13. strategic bob

    Romney 2012,

    What the heck are you talking about? AH is a heroine to real Americans (that excludes you, by the way), not to America Haters. The incoherence of what passes for your thought is beyond belief.

    August 20, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  14. Aaron

    Maybe there is a possibility that there appears to be a possibility that this may prove something. All words used in this article.
    Like others have posted, let me know when you find something substantial, like an engine, with a serial number on it that proves that it is Earhart's aircraft.

    August 20, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  15. Joe

    You know your thinking is straight out of the middle ages, don't you? Burn witches at the stake, leeches to cure disease, and so on and so forth. Your comment is proof that evolution has skipped the human race, but you don't believe in evolution either, I'm sure.

    August 20, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
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