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. dave


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

    And blame Romney

    August 20, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  2. Walter

    I hope the "mystery" is soon solved so we can stop hearing about. I suspect many people reading the headling are saying "Amelia who?"

    August 20, 2012 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  3. LJ6

    On a totally different subject why dont they ever talk about anything interesting on cnn

    August 20, 2012 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
  4. Peter

    I think I see Bigfoot in the lower left and pieces of Atlantis in the lower right.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. Steve

    I think I see the face of Jesus in the rocks and my dog Spot.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. Heinz

    Debris from an airplane? Why? Simply because there are "no perfectly straight lines in nature?" How can a University project allow releases of such spurious information? Please announce speculative ideas only following a bit more of the precision of which your instruments and analytical skills are capable.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. sereny


    August 20, 2012 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. Kate

    Maybe........could be.........why don't you just refrain from saying anything until you know what you are talking about.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. musclecar61

    Definate maybe!

    August 20, 2012 at 3:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. SixDegrees

    This organization seems to have a history of announcing something that might be interesting, demanding money to go investigate it, coming up empty, announcing they've found something that might be interesting, demanding more money to go investigate...

    How about having an independent expert analyze the photos and giving their opinion? It might cut into the group's periodic vacation trips, but it could also actually move the project forward by providing objective analysis.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
    • LOLOL

      How about people do anything they want? If there are folks that want to send them on vacation, why do you have a problem with that?

      August 20, 2012 at 4:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Your are correct

      You are correct in your assumption. Treasure hunters do the same thing. Show some indistinguishable artifacts, ask for more money, then repeat the process. They've been doing this for twenty years now. A shoe, a perfume bottle, now coral formations. The initial reports and radio broadcasts were correct, she ran out of gas as she stated, was lost as she stated, and plummeted into the deep ocean and there is nothing left that isn't completely taken over by marine life.

      August 20, 2012 at 5:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Johan S

      Got any proof or evidence of that? What are some other examples of them doing it?

      August 20, 2012 at 5:54 am | Report abuse |
  11. Shane

    She was a horrible pilot and most people dont know that. When she first flew across the Atlantic she crash landed when she finaly got to land and her husband forced her into doing everything for fame and money. Not only that but he navigator that was with her when they went missing was know to be a very big alcholic

    August 20, 2012 at 3:44 am | Report abuse |
  12. Brian Hartman

    If you have to put a question mark at the end of the headline, then no, the mystery is not solved.

    August 20, 2012 at 5:48 am | Report abuse |
  13. travelingal808

    What a monumental waste of money! Why, why, why? This sounds so self-serving. Nothing is going to bring them back and the money they've thrown away could be put to such better use among the living.

    August 20, 2012 at 6:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Fred

      I could not have said it better. Who does this really matter to, Earhardts family, other than that I could not care less. They are dead and gone, move on.

      August 20, 2012 at 6:36 am | Report abuse |
    • hannah1

      Because these people still have families who might want some closure – to know what happened to their family member. Just because it isn't YOUR family.........

      August 20, 2012 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jt_flyer

    Last time their finders were actually a big rock and a portion of the ship that sink in the area. I doubt theyve actually found anything.

    August 20, 2012 at 6:36 am | Report abuse |
  15. Fred

    Can someone please tell me what is sooooooooooooo important about Ameila Earhardt that makes people continue to spend time and money on what happened to her. 1. What was her contribution to the world. 2. What did she accomplish that makes her so noteworthy. 3. What impact did she have on the lives of others to justify so much interest?
    I am just an inquiring mind and can't see to get it.

    August 20, 2012 at 6:41 am | Report abuse |
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