The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has been trying to solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart’s 1937 disappearance during an attempted circumnavigation of the globe for years to no avail. If they are to be believed, today they are closer than ever to finding the answers needed to settle the famous case.
More than a decade ago, TIGHAR located the site where Earhart’s plane likely went down: the Pacific island of Nikumaroro, formerly Gardner Island. Today they say that new underwater sonar images they took during a visit to the island in 2012 are shedding new light on Earhart’s case. The photographs reveal something 600 feet below the surface of the ocean. TIGHAR calls it an “anomaly.”
The longest portion of the “anomaly” is less than 32 feet long; Earhart’s plane was 38 feet, 7 inches long. The “anomaly” lines up well with another field of debris. TIGHAR theorizes that Earhart’s plane landed on the reefs of Nikumaroro, but was washed into the sea. The executive director of TIGHAR explained: “If our theory about what happened is correct, this is exactly what we would expect to see in just the place we would expect to see it.”
TIGHAR’s 2012 visit to the island of Nikumaroro (part of the Republic of Kiribati) cost around $2.2 million and came up with nothing tied to Amelia Earhart’s crash. TIGHAR explored the bases of underwater cliffs, where sinking objects often come to rest. All the possible targets that the team checked turned out to be just coral formations or wreckage of a ship called the SS Norwich City. They quickly ran through half of their search time because of equipment problems, and so were not able to search all the cliff bases.
In March of 2013, Richard Conroy, a member of TIGHAR’s online forum, found the anomaly in a sonar map posted on the TIGHAR website. He noted an object that looked as if it struck the base of the second cliff, and then skidded south before stopping.
Wolfgang Burnside, president of Submersible Systems, Inc. and inventor and pilot of the TRV-M Remote Operated Vehicle used during the 2012 expedition reacted to Conroy’s observation as follows: “Bloody Hell … well, we did look across the first 'catchment' ledge, but, for some reason we cut our excursion/survey short when we tried to follow the next 'catchment' ledge ... if only we had continued just that little bit further! This target looks very promising, 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. Question is, how long will the target remain in that location before it gets the final nudge that will send it over the edge of the “catchment” area and disappear down the 70 degree incline into the depths?”
The scientists hope to get back out to Nikumaroro, but will need to pay off the debts from their last expedition and raise money for their new one. They admit that the object may turn out to be coral or a wrecked fishing boat, but say on their website that “the harder we’ve looked at this anomaly, the better it looks.” If the object really is Earhart’s Lockheed Model 10 Electra, then the mystery of the famous pilot’s disappearance may finally be put to rest.