There’s a new lead in the almost nine-decade search for Amelia Earhart’s plane, which disappeared as she attempted to fly around the world in 1937.
American aviatrix Amelia Earhart poses for photos as she arrives in Southampton, England, after her transatlantic flight on the “Friendship” from Burry Point, Wales, June 26, 1928 | Image: AP
In a remarkable development in the ongoing quest to solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, a photograph from a 2009 expedition in the Pacific Ocean near Nikumaroro Island has surfaced, potentially shedding light on the fate of the pioneering aviator. The photo appears to reveal an engine cover submerged underwater, which experts believe could have been a part of Earhart’s plane, as reported by the Daily Mail on Saturday.
Ric Gillespie, the executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), commented on the discovery, stating, “There is an object in the photo that appears to be a Lockheed Electra engine cowling.”
Forensic Analysis Underway
Gillespie revealed that a forensic imaging specialist is currently analysing the photograph. TIGHAR, the organisation behind The Earhart Project, has been investigating the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan since 1988. Gillespie added, “The similarity to an engine cowling and prop shaft was not noticed until years later, and the exact location was not noted at the time, which meant attempts to re-locate the object were unsuccessful.”
The Potential Implications
Should the analysis confirm that the engine cover belongs to Earhart’s twin-engined Lockheed Model 10E Special Electra, it would mark a significant breakthrough in the case. However, it would also challenge Gillespie’s theory that Earhart and Noonan landed on Nikumaroro and eventually perished there.
Gillespie’s group supports their theory by pointing to transmissions they believe could only have been sent by Earhart, as well as a 1937 shoreline photo that they argue may include Electra’s landing gear. Despite this, no concrete evidence has ever been found to confirm their landing on the uninhabited atoll.
Past Discoveries and the Official Account
In recent years, researchers discovered never-before-seen letters on a metal plate recovered on Nikumaroro Island in 1991. Although the panel had rivet punctures resembling Earhart’s plane, experts determined it was not a precise match and likely part of a World War II plane. The official US position remains that Earhart’s plane ran out of fuel en route to Howland Island and crashed into the ocean, a theory supported by National Geographic.
Howland Island, located approximately 400 miles from Nikumaroro, was to be Earhart’s final refueling stop before completing her historic 29,000-mile journey.
Aside from the island crash theory, some speculate that Earhart and Noonan landed in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean and were held hostage by the Japanese, with some even believing they returned to the US under assumed identities.
Amelia Earhart, a trailblazing aviator, made history by becoming the first woman to complete a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean and set a world altitude record of 18,415 feet in 1931. The latest discovery offers renewed hope of unraveling the enduring mystery surrounding her final flight.