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. jumper

    Unless she was flying a giant rock, I highly doubt that they found anything.

    August 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. wildone

    Alone on a deserted island with nothing to eat except coconuts and crabs. God.....If only they had a volley ball to talk to.

    August 19, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Amelia

    Leave it be already.

    August 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Earhart

      Because I'm not done with it.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. smokinbluebear

    please don't rush to judgement–her plane was a flintsones model.

    August 19, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • BaltoPaul

      It was a Lockheed Electra. A beautiful aircraft.

      August 23, 2012 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  5. martin

    She's Dead... Find something better to do.

    August 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. spring break

    These guys have made numerous expeditions to find Earharts plane. Every trip is done with donations. Here...let me quess. They will need more trips to verify what they think is wreckage. Im sorry but the people who are making the donations are idiots. These expedition folks are getting dummies to pay for their summer vacation in the tropics.

    August 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fallen Angel

      Spring break you hit the nail dead on the head.They have millions to look for traces of long ago dead people but god forbid any of this money should go to starving people,animals etc.And we call ourselfs civilized and human "what a sad world we live in"

      August 19, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mrlewish

    I don't actually care.

    August 19, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. LDubz

    I feel like they are never really going to find that plane. Think about it logically- it was made from ULTRA light weight metals that would be practically eroded by now. It is nice to read a story that primes the pump of imagination regardless of the motives behind writing it.

    August 19, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Maynard

    Can't someone just simply place a call to Spongebob to find out if those are really airplane parts? I bet Spongebob is willing to help !!

    August 19, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Greenspam

    What's more mysterious – Amelia Earhart's disappearance or Rmoney's tax returns?

    August 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • WhackyWaco

      Amelia's wreckage, by far.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • T. Lee

      Actually the most "mysterious thing" of all – is why partisan trolls can't pass ANY site without depositing their political excrement there.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • BigBoyBC

      Obama's college transcripts...

      August 19, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Romney12

      Your spelling is the greatest mystery.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sharp

    Amelia was one of the best woman pilots of her day. That drunk Noonan is who got them killed.

    August 19, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • BaltoPaul

      Perhaps planning the flight so as to try to spot a low island with little elevation while flying east into a rising sun was not the best idea. Perhaps leaving behind the trailing wire antennae was not smart either. Perhaps flying around the world in a plane crewed by two people, neither of whom could use Morse code wasn't very smart. Perhaps not being familiar with radio protocol was a bad idea as well.

      This was the riskiest leg of her trip, and she was looking for a speck in the middle of nothing but water, flying into a morning sun. She reportedly was so load and clear to the Itasca at one point that some of the crew in the radio room ran on deck, expecting to see her right over the rigging ... but she never found the island, and nobody's found her.

      In hindsight, a lot went wrong ... and Noonan was considered a very capable navigator.

      August 23, 2012 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
  12. Sharp

    Greenspam; No real mystery there. We can't see them but we can smell them all over the country.

    August 19, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dave

    Well, now we can rescue her. Also, maybe now they can find NObama's birth certificate and not the one that he made himself and says "I was born here"

    August 19, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Imvotingforobama

    BLAH BLAH BLAH!!! Until they actually go find this plane and bring it to the surface this story is meaningless

    August 19, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. HuPhartNgau

    And if you squint, you can see Snoopy...

    August 19, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • This guy

      That made my day! haha

      August 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
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