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Sonar image appears to be Amelia Earhart's plane, expert says

  • New Earhart Scan.jpg

    This is the corrected imagery of the anomaly. The straight line against the sea floor suggests a manmade object, which has similar dimensions to Earhart's plane. (TIGHAR)

  • Earhart anomaly.jpg

    Is this the Electra? A grainy sonar image captured off an uninhabited tropical island in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati might represent the remains of Amelia Earhart's plane. (TIGHAR)

  • amelia earhart island location.jpg

    A red dot square in the middle of the Pacific Ocean locates the island of Nikumaroro, where Amelia Earhart's plane is believed to have crash landed. ( / Google)

  • Earhart Island nikumaroro.jpg

    Nikumaroro (formerly Gardner Island) looking southeastward at low tide. Note the broad, dry reef-flat which surrounds the atoll. The rusting remains of the steamer S.S. Norwich City can be seen on the reef edge at right center. This photo was taken in 1978. (TIGHAR / Geomarix)

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."


May 29, 2013: Sifting through data, group finds sonar image that may be Earhart's plane.

July 22, 2012: Underwater search for Earhart plane called off.

June 1, 2012: Dozens of previously dismissed radio signals may have been transmissions from Earhart, study says.

May 31, 2012: A small cosmetic jar offers more circumstantial evidence that Earhart died on uninhabited island.

Mar 20, 2012: Enhanced analysis of photo taken months after Earhart's plane vanished leads salvagers back to the island.

Dec. 17, 2010: Bone fragments and artifacts turn up on a deserted South Pacific island.

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.

PHOTOS: Sonar Possibly Reveals Earhart's Plane

“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.

NEWS: Amelia Earhart's Plane Revealed in Sonar?

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.

'It's looking more and more like it might be the Electra.'

- Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR

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.

NEWS: Credible Amelia Earhart Signals Were Ignored

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.