I wrote about this a few days ago at Gadling.com, where it has garnered quite a bit of interest, so I thought I’d share it here as well.
A few weeks back I posted a story about how Amelia Earhart’s plane may have been found at long last. Last summer a of group of researchers with The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) went to the remote island of Nikumaroro in the South Pacific, where they believe Amelia Earhart and her co-pilot Fred Noonan crashed while attempting to cross the Pacific Ocean in 1937. A few years ago, a jar of anti-freckle cream dating back to that era, that was also consistent with a brand that Earhart used, was found on the uninhabited island, which led to the expedition to explore the waters off its shores for signs of Earhart’s missing Lockheed Electra aircraft. The team found nothing however and they returned home early and dejected.
But once they had a chance to begin examining the sonar data their remote vehicles used to map the waters off Nikumaroro, they discovered an odd anomaly in one of the readings. Upon further examination, it became clear that whatever it was that they had detected, it wasn’t a rock or other natural formation. They came to the conclusion that there was something large and manmade in those waters that looked an awful lot like the fuselage of an airplane. The team was cautiously optimistic that they may have discovered the Electra and possibly bringing to an end one of the great mysteries of the 20th century.
There were problems with the data however as the image was incomplete. The sonar reading had what are known as “ping drops” during which not all of the sound waves from the device are picked up upon their return. This can happen due to environmental issues or equipment malfunctions, but it results in an incomplete image of whatever is out in the water.
To fill in some of those gaps, the TIGHAR team turned over their data to a company called Oceanic Imaging Consultants, Inc., which is headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii. OIC then ran the readings through their own computers in an attempt to get a more complete picture of whatever the object is that is resting on the ocean floor just off the coast of Nikumaroro. The company was able to restore some of the dropped pings and get a clearer image of the anomaly then was possible with the original data.
And what did they find? You might expect that after further analysis, the object doesn’t appear to be a plane at all. But in this case, you would be wrong. The enhanced data from OIC only further supports the theory that this could be Earhart’s plane. Whatever the object is that the TIGHAR team discovered, it is the same size and shape of a Lockheed Electra aircraft.
Of course, the team would like to go back and examine the object first hand, but putting an expedition together to do just that is expensive and time consuming. Their last journey to Nikumaroro cost $3 million, which was partially financed by the Discovery Channel to create a documentary on the team’s findings. There is no word yet if Discovery is game for another go, but there is certainly a lot of interest in the outcome of this story.
The disappearance of Amelia Earhart has been one of those stories that has fascinated me my entire life. To think that we might actually learn about her ultimate fate at long last is exciting. For those that wonder, if Earhart and Noonan did crash on Nikumaroro, their story probably didn’t end well. The island doesn’t have any kind of fresh water and there are few things to eat as well. Their existence on the island was probably rather brief and not especially comfortable.
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