Amelia Earhart Sonar: Mystery Solved? Plane Found, Reports Say; Exciting New Image Reveals Wreckage [PHOTOS & REPORT]

By Elle Fure May 30, 2013 6:03 PM EDT
Amelia Earhart Sonar: A new sonar image suggests that Amelia Earhart's lost plane has been found. (Photo: Reuters)
Amelia Earhart Sonar: A new sonar image suggests that Amelia Earhart's lost plane has been found. (Photo: Reuters)

The age-old mystery of Amelia Earhart's disappearance may be solved with the emergence of an exciting new sonar image captured off an uninhabited island in Kiribati. The sonar image, which appears to depict the wreckage of Amelia Earhart's lost plane, could be the end of the 76-year-old mystery.

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Amelia Earhart, who famously attempted to circumnavigate the Earth by air, went missing somewhere over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. Earhart and her Lockheed Model 10 Electra airplane were never found. Throughout the years that followed, the mysterious disappearance of Earhart and her plane fueled both film and fiction. Expeditions were launched to find the lost plane and conspiracy theories were concocted to explain Earhart's inexplicable fate. Now, with a shocking new sonar image, technology seems to have solved the Earhart enigma once and for all.

The Amelia Earhart sonar image was released by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which has been looking for the adventuress' lost plane for quite some time. The sonar image depicts an "anomaly", which is assumed to be the wreckage of Earhart's Electra airplane, resting in the waters off Nikumaroro Island, at about 600 feet deep. The alleged airplane was found 350 miles southeast of Earhart's desired destination, Howland Island. According to TIGHAR researchers, the object shown in the sonar image matches the size and shape of Earhart's airplane, and was found in a spot where the renowned aviator may have crashed.

Amelia Earhart Sonar: Legendary aviator Amelia Earhart is believed to have crashed somewhere over the island of Nikumaroro in the Pacific. (Photo: Reuters)
Amelia Earhart Sonar: Legendary aviator Amelia Earhart is believed to have crashed somewhere over the island of Nikumaroro in the Pacific. (Photo: Reuters)

The sonar image, which was taken using an underwater vehicle designed to scan the coastline of Nikumaroro, has scientists and Earhart investigators excited. "It is truly an anomaly," Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, told Discovery News. "And when you're looking for man-made objects against a natural background, anomalies are good," he explained. Wolfgang Burnside, who conducted the sonar research, agreed. [It's] very promising, definitely not a rock, and it's in the correct location on the reef," the Earhart expert said. The sonar image also reveals that the object, thought to be the wreck of Earhart's plane, exhibits "drag" marks, which suggest that the aircraft landed on the water and was subsequently moved by storms or strong tides.

Although TIGHAR has not yet been able to confirm that the sonar image does indeed show Amelia Earhart's lost plane, the organization intends to raise money in order to mount another underwater expedition, which will, hopefully, solidify the details of Earhart's fateful last flight.

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