Amelia Earhart, left, with navigator Fred Noonan
Earhart and her Lockheed Model 10 Electra
Image of possible wreckage on ocean floor
New Clue in 76-Year Search for Amelia Earhart

Posted: Jul 02, 2013 11:13 am EDT


(By Kyle Henning) The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery ( has wrapped up its 10th mission to solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance on July 2, 1937. Earhart was attempting to be the first woman to fly around the world. During a dangerous leg from the city of Lea (in present-day Papua New Guinea) to the uninhabited Howland Island in the central Pacific Ocean (approximately halfway between Australia and Hawaii), Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, lost radio contact and disappeared without a trace.


Several theories about the disappearance have been proposed over the years ranging from a crash into the ocean to the two-person crew being captured and executed by the Japanese. TIGHAR was investigating a new theory, in which Earhart landed her Lockheed Electra on a remote reef and survived. The plane was later washed away and sank, but Earhart and Noonan did not immediately die.


The new theory came from evidence of American-made cosmetics from the area washing ashore, including anti-freckle cream that Earhart was known to use, along with the zipper from a flight jacket. The items were discovered on the shores of Nikumaroro Island (in present-day Kiribati) in 2012, leading TIGHAR investigators to the currently uninhabited island.


A past clue offers further support to this theory. US naval officer Eric Bevington photographed a piece of landing gear stuck in the island’s coral in October 1937 during an investigation. It is possible that Earhart and Noonan were marooned on the island for five days while the Navy searched for them. The rising tides eventually caused the plane’s fuselage to float and separate from its stuck landing gear, eventually drifting out to sea and later sinking.


From Nikumaroro, TIGHAR led an expedition using sonar from ships to create images of the ocean floor. An anomaly in the images shows an apparently man-made object, 22-feet long, lying 613 feet down on the ocean floor. The size and location match that of a Lockheed Electra that had been carried by currents from Nikumaroro. A scar on the floor next to the object indicates the object was dragged by the current, or that debris spilled out of the damaged fuselage.


The images are inconclusive. TIGHAR states that another expedition is needed to confirm that the object is indeed Earhart’s plane. The non-profit organization estimates an expedition to investigate the object will cost $3 million USD. 




Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) was an American pilot and aviation pioneer. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and pioneered many first nonstop  flights between North American cities. 


Fred Noonan (1893-1937) was an American Merchant Mariner who switched careers to aviation navigation as the industry blossomed in the 1930's.


The Earhart Project is led by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR).