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Amelia Earhart: Sonar Image Raises Hope of Finding Plane Wreckage

Image: Amelia Earhart: Sonar Image Raises Hope of Finding Plane Wreckage 1937 photo of aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan in front of their Lockheed Electra in Los Angeles, prior to their fateful flight.

By Clyde Hughes   |   Friday, 31 May 2013 08:39 AM

There is new hope in solving a mystery that has vexed aviation experts and researchers since 1937 – what happened to Amelia Earhart and where is her plane?

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) said on its website Tuesday that a sonar image recorded a year ago near Nikumaroro Island in the South Pacific picked up an anomaly while scanning the ocean floor. It was not until March when one analyst, Richard Conroy, pointed it out in an online forum that interest began to pick up.

The anomaly was found below the base of an underwater cliff some 600 feet beneath the sea, according to the website.

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"It’s exciting. It’s frustrating. It’s maddening," stated the website. "There is a sonar image in the data collected during last summer’s Niku VII expedition that could be the wreckage of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra. It looks unlike anything else in the sonar data. It’s the right size, it’s the right shape, and it’s in the right place."

Wolfgang Burnside, president of Submersible Systems, Inc., who is familiar with the search site, told the website that the site deserved a better look.

"This target looks very promising," Burnside is quoted. "(It is) definitely not a rock. It’s in the correct location on the reef and also shows what I interpret as ‘drag’ markings on the reef above and to the north behind the target as it obviously hasn’t quite settled into its final resting place yet, this movement is probably due to the occasional storms or exceptional tides that’ll move the target a few inches every time one blows through."

There has been promising leads to Earhart's whereabouts before. The group sent the sonar results off to various sources.

"Opinions range from 'almost certainly a man-made object' to 'probably geology,' the website said of response from other experts that viewed the information. "But everyone who has reviewed the data agrees that the target is worthy of further investigation."

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The search has not come cheaply. Last year's expedition at Nikumaroro cost $2.2 million.

Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, departed Papua New Guinea on July 2, 1937, during her quest to circumnavigate the globe along an equatorial route. But they disappeared that day and emergency searches did not locate them.

Related stories:

Team to Hunt for Amelia Earhart's Plane Off Remote Pacific Islet

Hillary Clinton Helps Propel Renewed Amelia Earhart Search

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