Amelia Earhart's airplane may have been found

Posted by Shane McGlaun

The fate of Amelia Earhart and her stalwart navigator Fred Noonan has been a haunting American mystery since the duo disappeared way back in 1937.

Amelia Earhart's airplane may have been found

Back in July, an Earhart expedition set sail for Gardner Island in the western Pacific Ocean. The expedition was launched shortly after researchers said they had discovered evidence that Earhart and Noonan could have possibly survived on the island for a short time after they disappeared in 1937.

The expedition was armed with a cool $2.2 million in funding and a pair of submersible vehicles designed to search for wreckage of Earhart's Lockheed Electra aircraft at the bottom of the reef off the island's coast.

"Everything has pointed to the airplane having gone over the edge of that reef in a particular spot and the wreckage ought to be right down there," said Ric Gillespie, the founder and executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, the group leading the search at the time the expedition was announced.

“We’re going to search where it - in quotes - should be... And maybe it’s there, maybe it’s not. And there’s no way to know unless you go and look."

Expedition researchers began the underwater mission on July 12 using Autonomous Underwater Vehicle and a Remote Operated Vehicle. Although the team recorded hours of high-definition video, wreckage of the aircraft was not immediately identified due to what the team termed a harsh marine environment and technical difficulties.

Additional material has since been reviewed, and the researchers believe they may have found a debris field from Earhart's aircraft approximately 75 years after the accident. The debris field in the photograph (see above) shows arrows pointing to objects that may be the remains of the crashed aircraft.

Most of the arrows point to components that are difficult to make out, the result of many decades of coral growth. However, one of the arrows on the far right of the photograph appears to show a wheel, while an arrow towards the top left points to what looks like an engine and a propeller. The researchers hypothesize that some of the objects identified by the arrows are a strut, a wheel, a worm gear, and fender.

The next step in the process? Attempt to recover some of the mysterious objects from the bottom of the ocean. Personally, I think the second arrow from the left is pointing to what remains of a radial engine from the aircraft with portions of the propeller still intact. The cylinders would've been arrayed in a circle and it seems as though at least one cylinder is missing. Look at the photograph below of Earhart in front of her Lockheed Electra aircraft - compare the engine on the left to the picture at the top of the story and see what you think.