Amelia Earhart Sonar: Plane Wreckage Caught On Sonar Could Be Doomed Aircraft From Legendary Aviator’s Final Flight [PHOTO]

By iScienceTimes Staff on May 31, 2013 9:06 AM EDT

AMelia Earhart Sonar
This is the sonar image that TIGHAR believes could be the wreckage of the legendary aviator's plane. (Photo: TIGHAR)

An Amelia Earhart sonar discovery could provide clues as to what happened to the legendary aviator who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and then disappeared on a round-the-world attempt in 1937. Ever since Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared researchers have scoured the Pacific for any clues. And a possible Amelia Earhart sonar image from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) may have located the final resting place of the Model 10-E Electra Amelia Earhart used on her final flight.

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"It's the right size, it's the right shape, and it's in the right place," TIGHAR said on its website.

The place where the Amelia Earhart sonar image was taken is the ocean floor near Nikumaroro Island in the Pacific Ocean, where some researchers believe Amelia Earhart managed to crash land her plane on a reef before taking refuge with Noonan on the island. A previous research team looking for signs of Amelia Earhart discovered some clues on the island, including remnants of an anti-freckle cream jar popular in the early 20th century, a clothing zipper from the 1930s, and a bone-handled pocket knife resembling the one Earhart carried.

Piles of fish and bird bones were also discovered on the island, signs that someone had survived there for a brief period of time. Whether or not it was Amelia Earhart has yet to proven conclusively, but Richard Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, told ABC News that the possible Amelia Earhart sonar image falls in line with where the wreckage should be.

"The wreckage washed into the ocean with the high tide and broke up in the surf. There is archaeological evidence on that island that we believe indicates that Earhart was marooned there until her death several days later," said Gillespie.

The purported Amelia Earhart sonar image believed to be her plane measures 22-feet long and is almost certainly a manmade object. Wolfgang Burnside, president of Submersible Systems, Inc. and the inventor and pilot of the TRV-M Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) used during the expedition that found the Amelia Earhart sonar anomaly said on the TIGHAR website that the object looks almost too good to be true, but might not be there much longer.

"This target looks very promising, definitely not a rock, it's in the correct location on the reef and also shows what I interpret as 'drag' markings on the reef above and to the north behind the target as it obviously hasn't quite settled into its final resting place yet, this movement is probably due to the occasional storms or exceptional tides that'll move the target a few inches every time one blows through," he said. "Question is, how long will the target remain in that location before it gets the final nudge that will send it over the edge of the "Catchment" area and disappear down the 70 degree incline into the depths?"

If researchers want to investigate the Amelia Earhart sonar clue they must first get permissions to do so. According to TIGHAR, no one is authorized to undertake Earhart related search, recovery of artifacts or research within the boundaries of Kiribati (including Nikumaroro) without authorization from both the government of Kiribati and TIGHAR.  It is likely that those permissions will be granted over time, as TIGHAR strongly believes that the sonar image is likely to be evidence of Amelia Earhart's final journey.

"When you are looking for man-made objects in a natural environment, it is important to look for things that are different, and this is different. It is an anomaly unlike anything else in that underwater environment," said Gillespie.

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