In the ongoing quest to solve the nearly nine-decade-old mystery of Amelia Earhart’s vanished plane, a recent discovery may hold a crucial clue. Amelia Earhart, the pioneering aviator, disappeared during her ambitious attempt to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in 1937. The breakthrough emerged from a photograph captured during a 2009 expedition in the Pacific Ocean near Nikumaroro Island, a remote atoll located between New Zealand and Hawaii. In this image, an engine cover appears to be submerged underwater, suggesting a possible connection to the renowned pilot’s aircraft, as reported by the Daily Mail.
Ric Gillespie, the executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), remarked on this intriguing find, saying, “There is an object in the photo that appears to be a Lockheed Electra engine cowling.” TIGHAR has been at the forefront of The Earhart Project, an initiative launched in 1988 to investigate the baffling disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, in 1937.
Gillespie also noted that the resemblance to an engine cowling and prop shaft was only recognized years after the photo was taken, and its exact location was not documented at the time, leading to unsuccessful attempts to relocate the object.
If subsequent analysis indeed confirms that the engine cover belongs to Earhart’s twin-engined Lockheed Model 10E Special Electra, it would mark a significant revelation. However, it would not provide an explanation for the plane’s crash into the ocean. Such an outcome would, however, challenge Gillespie’s theory that Earhart and Noonan might have landed and eventually perished on Nikumaroro.
To support their hypothesis, Gillespie’s group points to transmission locations they believe could only have been sent by Earhart and a 1937 photograph of the shoreline that they speculate might include Electra’s landing gear.
Intriguingly, a year after the tragic disappearance, the island was colonized by Britain, and newcomers reported encountering aircraft parts, 1930s-era glass bottles, and bones near the remains of a campfire. Researchers surmised that these findings might be associated with a person of Earhart’s physique, as reported by National Geographic. Yet, definitive evidence confirming the duo’s landing on the uninhabited atoll has remained elusive.
The most recent major development occurred late the previous year when scientists from Penn State’s Radiation Science and Engineering Center discovered previously unseen markings on a metal plate retrieved on the island in 1991. Although the panel exhibited rivet punctures resembling those found on Earhart’s plane, experts later concluded that it was “not a precise match” and likely remnants of a World War II aircraft that crashed several years later.
According to National Geographic, the official U.S. position maintains that Earhart’s plane ran out of fuel en route to Howland Island and subsequently crashed into the ocean. Howland Island, situated approximately 400 miles from Nikumaroro Island, was to be Earhart’s final refueling stop before concluding her historic 29,000-mile journey in California.
Numerous large-scale expeditions combed the waters surrounding the diminutive island but yielded no definitive evidence of her plane’s wreckage.
A third theory speculates that Earhart and Noonan landed on the Marshall Islands and were possibly held captive by the Japanese. Some proponents of this conspiracy theory even contend that the pair eventually returned to the United States under assumed identities.
Amelia Earhart, celebrated for her groundbreaking achievements as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and for setting a world altitude record of 18,415 feet in 1931, continues to captivate the world’s imagination, as the mystery of her final flight endures.