Fragment of Amelia Earhart's Plane Identified

The new finding seems to dovetail with other research conducted in the same area

Photo: Fotosearch/Getty

For the first time since her plane vanished over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937, scientists think they’ve identified a piece of the twin-engined Lockheed Electra that carried Amelia Earhart on her last flight.

New research seems to back up the claim that a piece of aluminum debris recovered in 1991 from an uninhabited atoll in the southwest Pacific belongs to Earhart’s plane.

“This is the first time an artifact found on Nikumaroro has been shown to have a direct link to Amelia Earhart,” Ric Gillespie, executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), told Discovery News.

TIGHAR researchers compared the 19″ by 23″ piece of sheet metal with the structural components of the Lockheed Electra, and came up with a match.

The find contradicts the long-held assumption that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, crashed in the Pacific Ocean, and suggests that they crash-landed on the island of Nikumaroro (where the fragment was found) and became castaways, eventually dying on the atoll.

Previous research around the island turned up supporting evidence of this narrative: A photograph taken three months after Earhart’s disappearance revealed an unexplained object in the water on the surrounding reef. Sonar data reveals that the object – roughly the same size and shape of the Electra – now rests 600 feet deep at the base of an offshore cliff. Also, in 2010, bone fragments found on the island were tested to see if they were a match for Earhart.

TIGHAR aims to return to the area in 2015 to further examine the sunken object, provided they can get funding.

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