Has Amelia Earhart's airplane finally been discovered? This weekend The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) released stills from a video that it claims show fragments of a plane like Earhart's Lockheed Electra underwater on the reefs along Nikumaroro Island, the site where the group theorizes she and navigator Fred Noonan crashed in 1937. TIGHAR recently mounted a $2.2 million expedition to find clues into the famed aviator's disappearance.
The video footage was acquired this summer during an underwater search conducted via two remote-controlled underwater vehicles. TIGHAR had to call off its search half-way through its planned 10-day investigation due to a difficult underwater environment. As the time, TIGHAR announced that "we saw no objects that we recognized as aircraft debris, but we have volumes of sonar data and many hours of high-definition video to review before we'll know the results of this expedition definitively."
Now about a third of that video has been analyzed and, according to forensic imaging specialize Jeff Glickman, it shows several fragments of a plane like the one Earhart was flying in her failed attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Glickman has matched the fragments to an aerial photograph taken above Nikumaroro in October 1937 — three months after Earhart's disappearance — that TIGHAR says shows an airplane wheel, fender, strut and gear component sticking out of the water next to the coral atoll. Glickman told Discovery News that his analysis of the underwater debris field show what appears to be the same fender as well as "possibly the wheel and possibly some portions of the strut."
TIGHAR Executive Director Ric Gillespie told Discovery News that they originally expected to find larger segments of the plane, but their realization that the underwater environment along Nikumaroro was so severe led them to understand that "we would be looking for debris from an airplane that had been torn to pieces 75 years ago."
The group will continue to analyze the rest of the underwater footage in hopes of further revelations.
Meanwhile, TIGHAR has continued examinations into a shattered glass jar the group found during an earlier expedition to the coral atoll. The jar, which had been broken into five pieces and was reassembled by TIGHAR researchers, resembles the packaging from a container of Dr. C.H. Berry's Freckle Ointment, a concoction from the early 20th century that was used to reduce the appearance of freckles. "It's well-documented Amelia had freckles and disliked having them," researcher Joe Cerniglia told Discovery News in June.
New analysis of the jar reveals that it has traces of mercury on its inner surface. Mercury was used in the ointment as a skin-bleaching ingredient, and Cerniglia told Discovery News that he has unearthed no evidence of any other products using the same type of ointment jar that also used mercury. The group has not conclusively tied the jar to Earhart, but members have said they're stumped about how any other woman carrying anti-freckle cream could have become a castaway on the remote Pacific island.
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