Amelia Earhart's Plane Finally Found? Pilot Might Have Died On Island After Sonar Image Shows Possible Wreckage

on May 31 2013 1:53 AM

The mystery of where Amelia Earhart’s plane landed has puzzled history buffs for years, but thanks to a grainy sonar image, researchers might have discovered the location.

One of the theories surrounding the pilot’s demise is that her plane crashed in the Pacific. Another is that she might have been captured and executed by the Japanese, PBS reported. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) thinks they found evidence that shows Earhart’s plane landed 76 years ago on a remote reef in the Pacific and then sunk into the ocean, according to the nonprofit’s website.

The sonar image shows a 22-foot long object that signifies an "anomaly" in TIGHAR's finding, said Ric Gillespie, executive director of the group, to Discovery News. The finding, which could be a part of Earhart's Lockheed Electra, was discovered 600 feet under the Pacific Ocean and near the remote Nikumaroro Island.

According to ABC News, the object was found during a $2.2 million TIGHAR mission last July and was the group’s 10th expedition. TIGHAR discovered 1930s freckles cream on the island, along with other American women’s items, which makes researchers believe that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan might have made an emergency landing on the island as opposed to crashing into the water, the news site added.

This doesn’t suggest that the case is even close to being solved, however. "The better a piece of evidence looks, the harder you have to try to disqualify it," TIGHAR wrote on its  website. “So far, the harder we’ve looked at this anomaly, the better it looks. ... Maybe it’s pure coincidence that it‘s the right size and shape to be the Electra wreckage -- the Electra that so much other evidence suggests should be in that location."

TIGHAR is planning an 11th expedition, which it will raise fund for. "We currently project that it will take nearly $3,000,000 to put together an expedition that can do what needs to be done," Gillespie told Discovery. "It's a lot of money, but it's a small price to pay for finding Amelia."

The 39-year-old pilot disappeared without a trace on July 2, 1937, when she attempted to become the first woman to fly around the world with only a navigator as company. She lost contact during one of the most difficult parts of the trip, when they were headed from Lae, New Guinea, to Howland Island in the Pacific, Time said.