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. norma

    Does anyone REALLY care?

    August 20, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. gwolfpack

    I think she is dead

    August 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ~~~

    watch out for the banksters trying to privatize all of the water on the planet. watch The Ascent of Money and National Geographics Collapse. and Blue Gold: World Water Wars, Flow: For the Love of Water, The Unforeseen. and note that Romney worked for the same companies mentioned in King of Bain. And note that they were trying to get the water in Wisconsin. Probably why Michigan has problems. They said no to letting world bank privatize their water.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Steve

    I know where AE. She's alive and well with Elvis!

    August 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rod

    There are plenty of jobs out there if you have the right skill set. If you want to make $100,000/years working at a coffee stand, well, those days are over. Go to school and get an engineering degree. There are plenty of jobs open for those that want to put forth the effort. Anyway, the search for Earhart is privately funded and is probably providing quite a few jobs.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Steve

    It's obviously the Republicans fault that the plane crashed for cutting the funding to all of her safety equipment. Except that there are photographs that prove that Obama loaded four tons of hard earned tax payer dollars into the plane just before she took off. Clearly the plane used too much fuel becuase it weighed too much and didn't have enough fuel to make it to the runway.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. that guy

    if they found something down there why didnt they just grab it while they were there? they want you to think that so they can get more funding to go out again and get payed

    August 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Zombie Iron Chef America

    Meh. Leave her to history.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dan

    Why would anyone name a brand of luggage after a woman who disappeared in an airplane?

    August 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fairplay99

      Opportunism. It si macabre, but it generates sales.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. SkeptikWatch

    Whatever, it stil fills me with deep feeling of emptyness, of despair, to think of the pair gazing hopefully at the horizon for the rescue that would never come. The slowly dawning realization that their last few hunger and thirst filled days would be spent scrabbling for the last shards of life on that miserable speck of an island.

    Watch the movie "Open Water" for a feel of the despair.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. cutedog2

    Is it just me or was searching for the plane to attempt to figure out what happened to Amelia seem like a colossal waste of resources?

    August 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fairplay99

      I don't think you are alone in that opinion.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • PushingBack

      And yet here you are sitting around wasting your time and ours.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. snowdogg

    Why is it all the "evidence" – past and present – is about pictures of the plane crash site, yet there are NONE with this article.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. MikeF

    Look at all the ignorance here. American Republicans I assume. "Who cares, they are dead." "Move on" "What a scam". Surprised America has lasted this long with all the ignorance.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • jake

      Along with the idiots of the world who say "Oh, look, an opportunity to twist some arbitrary strangers ignorance into a partisan slam that has not real intellectual value."

      August 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dennis

    I'll read this article when the final punctuation is a period. As long as it ends with a question mark, it is purely bs.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mel

    I hope it's her plane. I haven't been able to sleep for all these years. I'm glad those scientists got grants to go to this Island and search for her 9 times. And work on their tans......................They just feed off people looking for a writeoff.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
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