A sonar anomaly that researchers suspect might possibly be the wreckage of Amelia Earhart's aircraft is a straight, unbroken feature uncannily consistent with the fuselage of a Lockheed Electra, new analysis of the sonar imagery captured off a remote Pacific island has revealed.
Examined by Oceanic Imaging Consultants, Inc. (OIC) of Honolulu, Hawaii, the new data processing showed that the imagery released last month by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), was incomplete and somewhat misleading because of "ping drops."
Basically, sonar pings that were not continuously recorded by the intake system, due to a number of technical deficiencies, created the illusion of a break in the linear nature of the anomaly.
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“The good news is that, when corrected, the imagery of the anomaly -- although less complete -- looks even more interesting than it did in the initial distorted version,” Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, said in a statement.
“It's looking more and more like it might be the Electra,” he told Discovery News.
Last month TIGHAR, which has long been investigating Earhart's last, fateful flight, released a grainy image of an "anomaly" resting at a depth of about 600 feet in the waters off Nikumaroro island, an uninhabited tropical atoll in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati which was the target of TIGHAR's underwater search in 2012.
Located distinctly apart from the debris field of the SS Norwich City, a British steamer that went aground on the island's reef in 1929, the anomaly appeared to fit TIGHAR’s theory about where the Electra may have come to rest.
The legendary aviator was piloting this two-engine aircraft when she vanished on July 2, 1937 in a record attempt to fly around the world at the equator.
A number of artifacts recovered by TIGHAR during 10 expeditions have suggested that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, made a forced landing on the island's smooth, flat coral reef.
Gillespie and his team believe the two became castaways and eventually died on the island, which is some 350 miles southeast of Earhart's target destination, Howland Island.
The anomaly is made up of two features -- an object that is high enough to be casting a shadow, and a "tail" of what might be either skid marks or scattered debris.
In the corrected sonar imagery, the object that is casting a shadow is estimated to be at least 34 feet long and arrow-straight.
“Long straight lines are rare in nature and especially in coral. The probability that we have a man-made object has gone up significantly,” Gillespie said.