Search for Earhart's plane heats up

2013-05-31 18:54
Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. (AP)

Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. (AP)

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Washington - Aviation buffs are wondering if they have detected the long-sought wreckage of Amelia Earhart's plane at the bottom of the Pacific.

Earhart in 1932 became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, going from Canada to England.

In 1937, she disappeared while flying with navigator Fred Noonan on a Lockheed Electra going from Papua New Guinea to California. It was the final stage of a journey to fly around the globe along an equatorial route.

Now, a sonar image found near a remote Pacific island called Nikumaroro during a new expedition known as Niku VII is getting intense attention.

"It's exciting. It's frustrating. It's maddening. There is a sonar image in the data collected during last summer's Niku VII expedition that could be the wreckage of Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Electra," says the website of Tighar, or The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery.

Right size, shape

"It looks unlike anything else in the sonar data, it's the right size, it's the right shape, and it's in the right place," it added.

The expedition was the tenth of its kind in 23 years. The image was captured on the Pacific sea bed near Nikumaroro in the Kiribati archipelago.

The image was detected at a depth of 183m, and seems to be less than 10m. The fuselage of Earhart's Electra was 11.76m, the website says.

"So far, the harder we've looked at this anomaly, the better it looks," it added.

"Maybe the anomaly is a coral feature that just happens to give a sonar return unlike any other coral feature on the entire reef slope. Maybe it's a sunken fishing boat that isn't mentioned in any of the historical literature."

The team said it would have to go back and have another look.

When she took off in 1937, Earhart planned to land on Howland island to refuel. While flying, however, she radioed that she could not find the island and was low on fuel.

That was the last anyone heard from her. No trace of her plane was ever found.

Tighar members say Earhart may have made an emergency landing and survived for some time at Nikumaroro, which is 480km from Howland.

Read more on:    amelia earhart

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