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. Bikrchk

    They say they have a photo???? Baloney. Show me an aircraft part with a serial number. Until then, shut up. They're publicity hounds barking at the lens.

    August 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      So you expect a lot of planes from 75 years ago crashed in this area along with women's personal items?

      August 20, 2012 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  2. Daniel

    So, we have the word of a representative for TIGHAR, which has spent a great deal of money in its investigations, and a blurry underwater picture with big yellow arrows that point at...what, exactly? Someone at TIGHAR must have great media connections, because they are mentioned on CNN an awful lot for a group of amateur pseudo-scientists whose absurd, counter-intuitive solution to a decades-long mystery has, after nine expeditions, turned up no solid evidence. Why does CNN keep reporting this?

    August 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Calcommuter

    I do not see anything that resembles an airplane or anything man made. But I do see Waldo... The expedition was a failure, get over it and move on. Nothing to see here, especially in that picture.

    August 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. michele helton

    I've been hearing stories about ms. earhart's diappearance most of my life. My grandmother talked about it when i was young n i've been fascinated ever since. I look forward to finding out any new details.

    August 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John

    Good god why is CNN's reporting so viciously terrible? "Are new images of Earhart wreckage? " are you kidding me? Plus the photo provided?! Absolutely nothing visible and unable to enlarge the photo.........why do I keep visiting this site??

    August 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mikes

    If you look closely, you can see bigfoot and the tooth fairy in that photo, too!

    August 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. fernace

    Any mystery is exciting & waiting for a historian "sleuth" to solve it! Earharts "final destination" was apparently this island, which she was able to communicate, but now there's no trace of her, or her expedition! What happened!? Typhoon? UFO's? Monsters from the sea? I think we want to know because it's just not right that a human should go missing w/out a clue & if dead, not be buried properly! These are humane concerns, but there's also the "being the discoveror" factor! I'm certain the team that solves the riddle goes to the "head of the class"! Anyway it turns, hope we get a definitive answer soon! That would put the issue to bed 1'ce & for all!!

    August 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Hank

    Obama will find it. He does everything.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • south4evr

      Obama may not find the plane, but he'll apologize for it going down!!

      August 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike

    If they really think Earhart and Noonan landed on Nikumaroro, why not search the island itself for human remains?

    August 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bobcat (in a hat)©

    During a recent password audit, it was found that a blonde was using the following password:


    When asked why such a big password, she said that she was told it had to be at least 8 characters long.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rascal Rabble


    August 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. chazzz

    ....May the aircraft in pieces

    August 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bobcat (in a hat)©

    After being married for 44 years, I took a careful look at my wife one day and said, "Love, 44 years ago we had a cheap apartment, a cheap car, slept on a sofa bed and watched a 10-inch black and white TV, but I got to sleep every night with a hot 25-year-old girl. Now I have a $1,000,000 home, a $70,000 car, a nice big bed and plasma screen TV, but I'm sleeping with a 69 year-old woman. It seems to me that you're not holding up your side of the bargain."

    My wife is a very reasonable woman. She told me to go out and find a hot 25-year-old girl, and she would make sure that I would once again be living in a cheap apartment, driving a cheap car, sleeping on a sofa bed and watching a 10-inch black and white TV.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barney

      LOL!! Very, very funny! Hats off to you hat!

      August 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kenny

    They are to late. The crew of Voyager found A. Earhart and revived her an left her in the Delta Quadrant where she wanted to remain. She and her navigator were taken by aliens to the Delta Quadrant in a deep sleep where they remained until Cap. Janeway found she and several others about 5 years ago. You would have known this had you been watching TV LOL.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Willy Brown

    Is this a "it's Bush's fault" story?

    August 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • jsl


      August 19, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • GaryO

      All tragic stories are. No, really!

      August 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
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