Has Amelia Earhart’s Plane Been Found? Researchers Claim Video Shows Debris On Ocean Floor

By Amir Khan on August 18, 2012 1:07 PM EDT

Earhart
Has Amelia Earhart's plane been found? Researchers from the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) claim to have video that shows a field of manmade debris on the ocean floor near a Pacific island that they say is the remains of the aviator's plane. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Has Amelia Earhart's plane been found? Researchers from the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) claim to have video that shows a field of manmade debris on the ocean floor near a Pacific island that they say is the remains of the aviator's plane.

Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, left Papua New Guinea on July 2, 1937 while on their quest to circumnavigate the globe. However, soon after takeoff, they disappeared -- and no wreckage or remains have ever been found.

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TIGHAR researchers decided to look near the coast of Nikumaroro, an island in the Pacific, where they believe the plane crashed and was swept into the sea. While the ocean conditions stopped them from seeing anything with their naked eyes, they took "hours and hours" of underwater video.

While reviewing the video, they came across a field of man-made debris that the group says could have come from Earhart's plane.  However, the group was unable to estimate the size of the debris, as there was nothing to compare it to.

"It's still very early days, but we have man-made objects in a debris field in the place where we'd expect to find it if our theory on the airplane is correct," Ric Gillespie, director of TIGHAR, told Reuters.

The announcement comes just two days before a Discovery Channel special on TIGHAR's expedition is set to air.

"We were rushing to get at least some video reviewed so we could show something," Gillespie said.

Hans Van Tilburg, coordinator of the maritime heritage program for the Pacific region of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the odds of making a positive identification of Earhart's plane would be very difficult.

"The Pacific Ocean is a high-energy environment and the aircraft they are looking for is quite fragile," he told Reuters. "Therefore finding something and making identification is very difficult. You are looking for broken pieces."

But Gillespie isn't claiming to have found the plane -- just more evidence.

"We don't want to oversell this. It's more evidence. It is where it should be, and that is encouraging," Gillespie said. "If it does appear to be airplane wreckage, it becomes figuring out how to go back and look at it."

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