HISTORY

Expedition may have found Amelia Earhart's plane off South Pacific island

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 June, 2013, 7:58am
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Air-crash investigators may have found the wreckage of the plane piloted by US aviator Amelia Earhart in her failed attempt to fly around the globe.

Expedition leaders from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (Tighar) said they had spotted an object that looked like the fuselage of a Lockheed Electra off an island in the South Pacific.

Earhart and her navigator vanished on July 2, 1937, after they took off from Papua New Guinea in a twin-engined Electra headed for Howland Island. They were more than halfway through an unprecedented bid to circle the globe along the equator.

Last July the group chartered a ship from the University of Hawaii to scour the seabed around an uninhabited atoll called Nikumaroro, where Earhart and her navigator may have crash-landed after losing their way. They used robotic underwater vehicles to map the seabed but found no sign of the plane.

That changed in March, when a member of the public noticed an object in a sonar picture that the expedition had made public.

It was no more than a golden streak on a grainy image taken in 180 metres of water, but the seven-metre-long object matched parts of fuselage from other Electra accidents, Tighar executive director Ric Gillespie said.

He believes Earhart survived for some time as a castaway after the plane was swept into the ocean by rising tides.

"Our minds tend to make things be what we want them to be, we know that. Maybe it's a fishing boat that nobody knew about. Maybe it's an unusual coral reef. But it's the right size, the right shape, and it's in the right place to be part of the Electra," Gillespie said.