Sonar Image May Show Earhart's Plane

Off island of Nikumaroro

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 30, 2013 7:49 AM CDT

(Newser) – A team of experts that has been chasing Amelia Earhart's elusive trail for years may be closer than ever to solving the mystery of her 1937 disappearance. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) had more than a decade ago pinpointed the Pacific island of Nikumaroro as the location where her plane likely went down; now, they say newly analyzed underwater sonar images taken during a 2012 island visit support their theory. What's described by Deutsche Welle as a "grainy" photo reveals something about 600 feet below the water's surface, says TIGHAR: an "anomaly."

"The most prominent part of the anomaly appears to be less than 32 feet long," explains TIGHAR on its website; it notes the plane was 38 feet 7 inches long. Discovery reports that the anomaly "lines up nicely" with another possible debris field. "If our theory about what happened is correct"—that theory being that Earhart's plane landed on reef flats but soon washed into the sea—"this is exactly what we would expect to see in just the place we would expect to see it," the group's executive director tells Deutsche Welle. Now TIGHAR is hoping to secure funding for an "independent comprehensive analysis of all the sonar data" obtained last year and a trip back to the island. In the meantime, a quasi-independent assessment from the inventor of the submersible vehicle used in last year's search lends credence: "This target looks very promising. Definitely not a rock, it's in the correct location on the reef."

In a March 10, 1937 file photo, Amelia Earhart waves from the Electra before taking off from Los Angeles, Ca., on March 10, 1937.
In a March 10, 1937 file photo, Amelia Earhart waves from the Electra before taking off from Los Angeles, Ca., on March 10, 1937.   (AP Photo, file)
An undated file photo shows Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
An undated file photo shows Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.   (AP Photo)
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