A team of researchers who visited a remote island in the South Pacific last summer believe that they may have discovered the final resting place of Amelia Earhart’s plane. The team, which is part of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), say that one of their sonar readings taken during a visit to Nikumaroro, an island that is part of the Republic of Kiribati, reveals an object that is roughly the same size and shape of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra aircraft. The object is resting on a coral reef approximately 600 feet beneath the surface of the ocean.
The mystery of what happened to Earhart and her copilot Fred Noonan has been a matter of speculation since they went missing on July 2, 1937. The two aviators were attempting to circumnavigate the globe around the Equator when they apparently ran out of fuel and went down somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. They were en route to Howland Island at the time and radio broadcasts from Earhart seemed to indicate that she was lost and unable to find their destination, which was to have provided fuel to help complete their Pacific crossing.
Last year, TIGHAR sent a search team to Nikumaroro with the hopes of finding some clues as to what had become of Earhart and Noonan. Artifacts found on that island indicated that they may have crashed there and survived for some time as castaways. The team believed that Earhart had set her plane down on a coral reef and that they would find it submerged in a lagoon not far off shore. Their efforts to find the aircraft were hampered by rough seas, bad weather and rugged terrain, however, and the expedition actually ended early with the team thinking they had come up empty.But after returning home and analyzing the data from sonar readings obtained by remotely piloted underwater vehicles, they now believe they may have come across an important clue. From all of the readings that they gathered, only one shows anything of promise. Data from that reading indicates that there is a debris field that would be consistent with parts from an aircraft that extended for 130 feet across the reef. That debris ends at an object approximately 22 feet in length that is in the correct location for where the researchers expected the plane to be found. They say that it is “definitely not a rock,” indicating that whatever is down there is not of natural origins.
Whether or not the object they have found on radar is actually the missing Lockheed Electra remains a mystery. The TIGHAR team says they would like to go back out to search the area to determine just what it is that they’ve found. The expedition may have to wait, however, as it is estimated that it will cost $3 million to fund the search. For now, we’ll all just have to continue to speculate.