Entries in International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (2)


Amelia Earhart Plane Wreckage Possibly Spotted in Sonar Image

Photo by New York Times Co./Getty Images(WILMINGTON, Del.) -- A team of historical sleuths believe they have found a clue to what happened to famed aviator Amelia Earhart, claiming sonar may have picked up an image of her wrecked plane off an underwater cliff in the Pacific.

The sonar image is the right shape, size and in the right place in relationship to where some researchers believe the wreckage of Earhart’s doomed flight went down in 1937.

The image, taken during an expedition on July 15, 2012 by a company contracted by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), depicts a narrow object, similar to the shape of an airplane wing, nearly 22 feet long lodged in the side of a steep underwater cliff off the coast of Nikularoro Island. The island, in what is today the Republic of Kiribati, is believed by some to be the site of Earhart’s crash.

“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,” says Richard Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR.

Gillespie and his team uploaded the images taken from the July 2012 expedition onto their online forum in March 2013 for the public to see. “It was somebody online who noticed the object and directed our attention to it,” says Gillespie.

“The object makes for the best target to check out with an underwater vehicle,” he said.

TIGHAR cannot confirm that this is a piece of Earhart’s wreckage, but the sonar image fits with what  Gillespie believes happened to Earhart.

“She landed the plane safely on a reef off Nikularoro Island,” says Gillespie. “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.”

Gillespie is hopeful that a future expedition to investigate the finding will be fruitful, but some are unconvinced.

Lou Foudray is the caretaker and historian of the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchinson, Kans., and is familiar with Gillespie’s work.

“This has been going on for years, it probably doesn’t mean anything. I’ve been to the Marshall Islands, I live in the museum, and I’ve heard testimony from Amelia Earhart’s family members, researchers, and historians and these things rarely become anything,” Foudray says.

Foudray believes Earhart survived the crash and lived the rest of her life secretly.

“There are testimonials from her friends that Earhart said before she took off for her final flight that when she came back she wanted to live a life away from the public eye. Of course, we will never know,” Foudray says.

Earhart was the first female to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and famously disappeared in the early morning of July 3, 1937 en route to Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Researchers May Have Found Amelia Earhart's Plane Debris

New York Times Co./Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Forensic imaging specialists have found what looks like a wheel and other landing gear off the coast of Nikumaroro Island in the Pacific Ocean, right where analysts and archeologists think Amelia Earhart's plane went down in 1937.

"We don't know whether it's her plane, but what we have is a debris field in a place where there should be a debris field if what we had put together based on the evidence that we had is correct," said Ric Gillespie, executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which led the $2.2 million expedition last month.

During the trip, Gillespie said he was "bummed" because they didn't see much in the coral reef from their standard video camera. The high definition camera footage couldn't be viewed in real time, so they had to process it and send it over to forensic analyst Jeff Glickman before they could get any answers.

"On Tuesday afternoon, he calls me and says, 'You know, there's stuff here. It looks like manmade debris," Gillespie said.

So Gillespie compared the logs to his maps and said, "Whoa. What he's seeing is right where we reasoned things should be."

Based on the last thing Earhart ever said over the radio, she was on a navigational line called 157337, which has two other islands along it other than Howard Island, which was where Earhart was aiming to land. Although the Navy began looking for her along the route initially, the idea was forgotten until two retired Navy officers approached Gillespie in 1988.

Gillespie said he and TIGHAR began looking for Earhart's plane "reluctantly," but this is its 10th expedition to date. Earlier this year, the State Department confirmed analysis of what's become known as the "Bevington Photo," which TIGHAR says depicts landing gear floating off Nikumaroro.

TIGHAR's analyst identified manmade debris that resembled a wheel, a fender and other landing gear, all of which is consistent with what is depicted in the Bevington photo, Gillespie said.

"At first blush here, it appears that in this debris field, it may be a component of that same object we saw in that 1937 photo," he said.

But it's not realistic for researchers to expect to find a whole plane in the waters around Nikumaroro, Gillespie said, because the underwater topography is hostile and plagued by mudslides.

TIGHAR isn't releasing information about exactly where they found debris for security reasons.

In past expeditions, archeologists found and chemically analyzed a few other clues, including freckle cream and hand lotion women in America would have bought in the 1930s that Earhart may have had with her when she disappeared.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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