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 S

    It *must* be other plane crashed in the Pacific between 1939 and 1945.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • wrongwaypeachfuzz

      I crashed there too, but I never saw her. She might have been with some of the native girls, if you catch my drift.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bigfoot

    That is why you are here John. And not THERE.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. heliocracy

    Ha Philip, replying to your own posts again? By the way, is it really too much to ask that insane people at least stick to the subject at hand?

    August 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. stevensrmiller

    Part of the reason the picture seems so boring is that CNN cropped it (for no reason I can see). Follow the links in the story and you can drill down the full version, which is somewhat more compelling.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • vivi

      More compellimg than what???
      Old boring story. Give it a rest already.
      Must be a slow news day!

      August 20, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. us_1776

    These images definitely look promising.

    I would expect that the Electra was completely shredded going down the side of the underwater slope which is about 45 degrees.


    August 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. heliocracy

    Yeah Jeff, I want to join your group of idiots. What is this, grass-roots organizing, or just communism (and from a Republican too..who would have guessed?)? Tell me this, if you're a political blogger, would you mind telling us all about your extensive education in political and economic philosophy? Surely you're not just a blowhard who talks a lot about the subject but never bothered to study it (beyond reading opinions on the internet).

    August 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Paul PPP

    What's a BMW J 38? BMW didn't build planes in WWII– they built engines and motorcycles. I'm not aware of any German aircraft that was powered by 12 engines– 6 yes, 12 no.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Timmah

    There's a lot of negative comments about this story. Personally, I rather read about this that the Kardashians.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • ccw

      You got that right!

      August 19, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOhnnyBoyJoJO

      Did the Kardashins go down in a plane too?

      August 19, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. AmeliaaE

    I think I can also see both Gilligan and the Skipper in that photo. You have to look closely on the bottom left.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jim

    Speculation only fuels hopelessness...we need to focus more on current missing cases such as Isabel Mercedes Celis, the young girl who "allegedly disappeared" from her home in Tucson Arizona...or do you think we'll speculate on little Isabel 75 years from now??? will that bring hope??? ask her parents, or even better, ask Isabel when (or if) she is found...

    August 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @Jim,if you know anything about Isabel, the entire community with the help of The FBI has been constantly focused on her safe return home. If you are a member of the community, everyone has banded together to do this.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      So you think The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery ought to be searching for missing persons instead? Do people moan about everything these days or is it just me?

      August 19, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob Norvell

      Oh Poor Jim, Boo Hoo, did you want some cheese with your whine? Oh boo hoo!!!!!!!

      August 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aezel

      So......somehow an aviation investigation is upsetting you because you think it somehow affects a law enforcement investigation into a missing child......

      Do you just sit around and think about ways to come up with stupid s**t to say or does it come naturally?

      August 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • RightOn

      Wrong comment section.

      August 19, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Skipper

      Ahhh Jim? These guys aren't police officers, they're researchers / historians. It would be pretty silly to expect a team equipped for marine archaeology to bring their boat, sonar, and ROV to Tucson to search for a missing child... Dontcha think?

      August 19, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • lroy

      Personally, I have always believe the plane was in the ocean, not on some island. I will reserve evidence as proof until I read it in National Geographic.

      August 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • LDubz

      I think her parents will be dead in 75 years soooo you don't have to worry about them.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. stephanurus

    Can't somebody go back and look? Unlike a UFO, it's probably still there.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Eddie

    Yes there are many pressing issues around the world to focus our attention on but the value of exploration and discovery with all its fits, starts, failures and eventual triumphs buoy the mind, spirit and emotions to a degree that if we take time to understand what is happening, we have the ability to be enriched ourselves and perhaps become motivated in some small way to do something big right in our own sphere of influence....

    August 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      VERY well stated, Eddie!
      I totally agree!

      August 19, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • MI6

      Well said!

      August 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • ArchieDeBunker

      Huh? Buoyed? Enriched? I only hope there's none of my tax money being used for this! Next to the National Endowment for the Arts and National Public Radio, I can't think of a bigger wast of public money!

      August 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liz


      You're too well-spoken to be on this thread.

      August 20, 2012 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  13. MarshLand

    Is the island they think they landed on un-inhabited? Seems like there would be some knowledge of a plane coming down and being swept away.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcia

      Yes, Nikumororu is quite uninhabited, it's the proverbial tiny deserted island with nothing near it. During the war someone had an observation post there for a short while, but I pity them. It has no elevation, very little vegetation, is hotter than H, and more humid than the water it sits in. Not Hawaii by any stretch.

      August 19, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fallen Angel

      Why didn't Amelia pull out her cell phone and call 911? She probably ran out of minutes

      August 19, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      It's eerie to realize that someone's observation post might have been right next to the wreckage of her plane.

      August 20, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  14. eroteme

    Will it never end? It might be nice if we don't hear any more about Earhart mystery findings? Seems they must surface at least once, sometimes several, new 'findings' each year, for the past 50 or so years. There are obviously people who have desire to get their names in the papers regarding their 'new' findings. Let's forget her, it is over, finished.

    August 19, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • M I Snow

      I think you are sniffing in the right direction, but I would take it one step further, and say that this "society" finds just enough "compelling" information to go bavk to their donors and ask for another eound of donations... sounds to me its like just to mantain the purses open...

      August 19, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • chris87654

      Am I mistaken or is there an image of the Virgin Mary between the two uppermost arrows.

      August 19, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      Then why are you still involved by posting here???

      August 20, 2012 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. SixDegrees

    Interesting, but this groups is developing a history of making rabid announcements, followed by pleas for money, followed by more announcements, followed by more pleas, in what is beginning to look like a perpetual cycle that never actually yields anything. It might be useful to have the rather ambiguous images displayed examined by independent sources before proceeding with the next round of fund raising, which I'm certain will be required before anything else gets done.

    August 19, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcia

      I agree. TIGHAR just wants you to send money, because they are obsessed with this search and can't make a living any other way. In the end, Noonan and Earhart are dead. Does it matter at this point where they died? Why would anyone really care? I like the romance of the mystery and intrigue, the guessing, the speculation.... It's more fun.

      August 19, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
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