Amelia Earhart Mystery: Sonar Image a New Clue to Missing Plane?

By Brown, Ryan Lenora | The Christian Science Monitor, May 31, 2013 | Go to article overview

Amelia Earhart Mystery: Sonar Image a New Clue to Missing Plane?


Brown, Ryan Lenora, The Christian Science Monitor


The blocky sonar image of the Pacific Ocean floor isn't much to look at, just a mosaic of yellow and black pixels streaked with white.

But this fuzzy image could hold the key to solving one of the most enduring mysteries of modern history: What happened to Amelia Earhart?

According to a nonprofit organization called The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which has been hunting for the aviator's downed plane for at least two decades, the image shows an "anomaly" on the sea floor near the tiny South Pacific island of Nikumaroro. And there's reason to believe, the group says, that that anomaly could be the wreckage of Earhart's iconic Lockheed Electra, which lost contact with the US Coast Guard on a slightly overcast July morning in 1937, never to be heard from again.

"It's exciting. It's frustrating. It's maddening," the organization wrote of the image, which it found while combing through data collected on a trip to Nikumaroro last summer - the group's ninth since it began its hunt for the Electra in 1989.

"Listen, we're realistic: This could be coral, this could be a sunken fishing boat, but it looks promising," says Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR's executive director. "It's a great clue."

Now Mr. Gillespie is asking supporters for $3 million to chart a new expedition to the island to take peek at the "anomaly" up close.

While that's not exactly small change, he has easily raised similar sums in the past. All in all, he says, his group has spent about $6 million on Earhart searches in the past 25 years, the majority of it raised from individual donors who want to be a part of solving aviation's greatest whodunit.

Earhart was at the apex of a glamorous flying career when she and navigator Fred Noonan decided to attempt a circumnavigation of the globe in the summer of 1937. They were 18 hours into their flight when a Coast Guard ship stationed near the Pacific island of Howland received a message asking for help guiding the plane to shore.

That was the last the duo were ever heard from. Despite an exhaustive search, no traces of their plane or their bodies were ever found.

As the search ground on, a new brand of Earhart fixation began, says Susan Ware, author of "Still Missing: Amelia Earhart and the Search for Modern Feminism."

"There are really two Amelias, the Amelia of history and the Amelia locked in this mystery of the missing plane," she says. …

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Amelia Earhart Mystery: Sonar Image a New Clue to Missing Plane?
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