by Kraig Becker
On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart and her co-pilot Fred Noonan, were attempting to circumnavigate the globe in their Lockheed Electra aircraft when they went missing somewhere over the South Pacific. At the time, Earhart was a celebrated aviator and her disappearance made headlines across the globe. What actually became of her and Noonan would become one of the most enduring and puzzling mysteries of the 20th century, baffling historians and sparking speculation for decades. Now, researchers think they may have solved that mystery at last as they believe they may have discovered the final resting place of Earhart’s plane.
Last summer, members of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) made an expedition to a remote island in the South Pacific named Nikumaroro. The island is isolated and uninhabited, but on a previous visit a search team discovered a jar of anti-freckle cream that dated back to the 1930′s and was consistent with a brand that Earhart had used. This time out, researchers from TIGHAR had hoped to find wreckage from the Electra in the waters just off shore and they brought a host of sophisticated equipment to help explore those ocean depths. They spent two weeks searching for evidence to support their theory that Nikumaroro was the place where Earhart and Noonan’s journey came to an end but ultimately they came up empty, returning home disappointed.
Upon their return, the team began pouring over the data that they had collected including countless sonar readings. They discovered that one of those readings, which had been overlooked while they were actually on the island, showed a large object sitting on the ocean floor just off the coast of Nikumaroro. Analysis of the find indicated that whatever it was, it wasn’t a natural formation. Better still, it was large enough to be the fuselage of a Lockhed Electra airplane.
But the TIGHAR data was incomplete and didn’t provide a full picture. The remotely piloted vehicle used to capture the sonar readings had suffered “ping drops” which means that it failed to detect all of the returning sonar waves. That means it provided an outline of what was there, but it lacked details. So, the information was turned over to Honolulu based Oceanic Imaging Consultants, Inc. who ran the sonar data through a process that would attempt to fill in the gaps. The results were even more enlightening than they had hoped. The enhanced data now shows an object that is definitely man-made and is roughly the same shape and size as the body of the Electra.
As you can imagine, this information has excited the researchers at TIGHAR, who are hoping to return to the South Pacific once more with the intention of identifying the object that is sitting in the water just off the shore of Nikumaroro. They are now more confident than ever that they’ll find Earhart’s plane and solve a mystery that persevered for more than seven and a half decades.