Tags: amelia | earhart | plane | found

Researchers: We May Have Found Amelia Earhart's Plane

Image: Researchers: We May Have Found Amelia Earhart's Plane Amelia Earhart stands next to a Lockheed Electra 10E before her last flight in 1937 from Oakland, Calif.

Thursday, 30 May 2013 03:36 PM

By Courtney Coren

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Researchers think they may have found Amelia Earhart's airplane Electra near a tiny uninhabited island in the southwestern Pacific, more than 75 years after the legendary aviator disappeared.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which has been investigating the disappearance of Earhart and her airplane for decades, found an "anomaly" via sonar image at the depth of about 600 feet off Nikumaroro Island in the small South Seas republic of Kiribati.

The island is about 350 miles southeast of Howland Island, which was Earhart's target destination when she disappeared in July 1937, Fox News reports.

The sonar image TIGHAR researchers have taken of the area shows a strong return of a narrow object about 22 feet long near the base of a cliff under the ocean.

"What initially got our attention is that there is no other sonar return like it in the entire body of data collected," said Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR. "It is truly an anomaly, and when you're looking for man-made objects against a natural background, anomalies are good."

Based on previously discovered artifacts, TIGHAR researchers believe Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, made an emergency landing on the island. They believe the two survived the landing and became castaways on the uninhabited atoll, which lacked fresh water, until they died. The atoll is an unwelcoming place, a blistering hot coral reef surrounding a salt-water lagoon, according to researchers.

The image was collected when Gillespie's crew attempted to search for the plane using an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle and a Remote Operated Vehicle in July 2012. It was not discovered until they reviewed the collected material after returning from that trip.

The only way to know for sure if it is indeed Earhart's plane is send out another expedition to the island, which is an expensive project for the nonprofit organization.

"We currently project that it will take nearly $3 million to put together an expedition that can do what needs to be done. It's a lot of money, but it's a small price to pay for finding Amelia," Gillespie said.

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