Attention, Amelia Earhart buffs. The Miami Herald has an intriguing report about how a long-forgotten photo snapped before takeoff could prove that she crash-landed on a Pacific island. The photo, taken on a runway in Miami in 1937, shows a shiny rectangular patch on the side of the plane that suggests a recent repair—a potential clue not visible in any other photos taken of her plane that day. Earhart investigator and TIGHAR Director Ric Gillespie hopes that computer analysis of the image will reveal a rivet pattern that matches up with a piece of aluminum found on the island of Nikumaroro in 1991.
In fact, it was Gillespie's search team that found the 23-inch-long piece, which it dubbed Artifact 2-2-V-1, years ago, and he viewed it as a major breakthrough in solving the mystery of where the plane went down. (TIGHAR released a research bulletin on the artifact in May.) But critics soon pounced, pointing out that its rivet patterns didn't match those on Earhart's Lockheed plane. If, however, the scrap had been added in a last-minute, unrecorded repair, that could explain it. The Herald report also notes that Earhart had a rough landing in Miami, and she apparently had to patch a broken rear window as a result. The window can be seen in photos from an earlier leg of the trip, but in its place in the newly surfaced photo is that shiny aluminum patch. Click to see the image, or to read other stories on developments in the search. (Read more Amelia Earhart stories.)