A few weeks back a team of researchers shared interesting new evidence that they believe reveals the location of Amelia Earhart’s missing plane. The team, who are all members of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), showed sonar readings that indicate a man-made object had been found off the coast of a remote island in the South Pacific that is believed to be a possible final resting place for the famous aviator and her co-pilot. Since then, the sonar readings have been examined in greater detail and the results are even more compelling than previously thought.
While the early sonar readings seemed promising the data was incomplete due to what are known as “ping drops.” Ping drops occur when the sonar receiver fails to pick up all of the returned signals due to environmental issues or equipment error. This results in missing data that can be lacking in detail. To get a more complete look at the object they had found, the TIGHAR team turned over their data to Honolulu-based Oceanic Imaging Consultants. OIC took that information and processed it on their own specialized systems, filling in the missing “pings” where they could. When the data was further analyzed they discovered that the object in question looks surprisingly like the fuselage of a Lockheed Electra aircraft, the very plane that Earhart was piloting when she went missing.The mystery of what happened to Earhart and her co-pilot Fred Noonan has been the subject of speculation for decades. Back in 1937, flying around the world was still a dangerous endeavor and crossing the Pacific Ocean was no small hurdle to pass. When they went missing, Earhart was in radio contact with Howland Island where she had hoped to take on fuel. The plane never arrived at that tiny outpost, however, and the search for Amelia and Fred has been on pretty much ever since.
Over the years, members of TIGHAR formed a theory that Earhart was off course when she made radio contact with Howland and wasn’t anywhere near her intended destination. They believe that she was much closer to the island of Nikumaroro, which is part of the Republic of Kiribati. Those theories proved to have some merit when a jar of anti-freckle cream was discovered on Nikumaroro a few years back. The cream was a brand that Erhart was known to use and was consistent with the era in which she lived.
That discovery prompted an expedition to the island last summer to search for further clues. At the time, the team was confident they would find the Electra aircraft sitting in a lagoon just off shore. Bad weather and poor sea conditions hampered their efforts, however, and they came away with no new evidence to support their claims.
It wasn’t until they returned home and began to pour through all of the data they had collected that the sonar image finally revealed itself. The discovery of this strange and unexplained object on the ocean floor has given them hope that they are on the right track to discovering Erhart’s final destination. With that in mind, the team is hoping to raise funds to return to Nikumaroro once more with the intention of solving this 76-year-old mystery once and for all.
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.
Kiribati (pronounced kirr-i-bas) is an island nation spread across a chunk of the Pacific Ocean as big as Alaska two times over. But for all of the room Kiribati covers in distance, it accumulates virtually no space vertically. The average height of Kiribati land is just six and a half feet above sea level. Composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral, most of the nation’s 100,000 inhabitants cluster in near the nation’s capital, Tarawa. But space is running out. A single storm effortlessly vanishes houses into the sea and unfortunately, this is the fate most scientists and citizens believe belongs to Kiribati: the sea. According to this video produced by NPR, the island nation is especially vulnerable and in danger. Kiribati President Anote Tong has voiced concern over the rising seas, stating that it could ultimately lead to the demise of island countries like Kiribati. These statements have been loosely countered by findings published in the New Scientist magazine stating that the island is actually expanding due to coral debris. However hopeful land accumulation via coral debris may seem to some, the heart of the matter is that the core of Kiribati may soon be washed away and even newly risen land will likely face the same fate in this low-lying nation.
A much vaunted and highly publicized search for the remains of Amelia Earhart has apparently turned up little in the way of new evidence to help solve the puzzle of the famous aviator’s ultimate fate. A team of researchers, armed with an array of high-tech gear, spent the past week searching a remote island in the South Pacific, but appear to have come up short in their quest to solve one of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century.
We first told you about the expedition, which was spurred on by intriguing new evidence, at the beginning of the month. At that time the research team was just setting out for Nikumaroro, the tiny island that some believe may have been the final resting place for Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan. The duo went missing back in 1937 while attempting to fly around the world, leaving many to ponder their fate for the next 75 years.
This most recent search for their whereabouts cost $2.2 million and employed the use of high-definition underwater cameras and sensitive sonar in an attempt to locate Earhart’s Lockheed Electra aircraft. According to Reuters, those efforts were stymied by equipment failures and steep, rocky terrain just off the coast of Nikumaroro. The coral reefs that surround the atoll feature craggy outcroppings and severe drops, with depths ranging from 110 to 250 feet. Those natural obstructions slowed down the search process and ultimately led the search team to cut short the expedition and return to Hawaii.
The researchers say that the expedition wasn’t for nothing, however, and that they are returning home with hours of video and sonar data to pore over. While they weren’t able to identify the wreckage from what they’ve seen so far, they hope that when they get the opportunity to analyze it later they’ll be able to find some hidden clues. They’ll have to search quickly, however, as a television show about the expedition is set to air on the Discovery Channel on August 19.
Earhart and Noonan went missing on July 2, 1937, while attempting to circumnavigate the planet by airplane. When they last made radio contact they were searching for Howland Island where they were planning on refueling for their flight across the Pacific. They never arrived at Howland and what exactly became of them remains a mystery to this day.
Historians and scientists have theorized that Earhart’s Lockheed Electra actually went down on a tiny atoll known as Nikumaroro, where she and Noonan proceeded to send radio messages for several days before the ocean claimed their aircraft. It is that small island, which is part of the nation of Kiribati, that this most recent search party is now en route.
When they arrive the team will use a robotic submersible to search for the missing airplane in the waters just off Nikumaroro and they’ll comb the island itself for more clues to Earhart and Noonan’s ultimate fate. A recent excursion to the atoll discovered an old jar of freckle cream that was consistent with the brand that Earhart used and researchers are hoping to discover similar clues this time out. They feel that if they find definitive evidence that the island was Earhart and Noonan’s last resting place it can help solve one of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century.
The expedition is expected to last approximately 26 days, with ten of those days dedicated to the search itself. The team departed from Honolulu on Tuesday and should arrive on site some time next week. After that, we’ll all have to wait to see if they discover anything of interest.