Has the mystery of what happened to Amelia Earhart finally been solved?
A new report says a fragment of the lost aviator’s aircraft “has been identified to a high degree of certainty for the first time ever” since her plane vanished over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937.
Earhart had been attempting a record-setting flight around the world at the equator.
According to Discovery News, new research strongly suggests a piece of aluminum aircraft debris recovered in 1991 from Nikumaroro, an uninhabited atoll in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati, does belong to Earhart’s twin-engined Lockheed Electra.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, or TIGHAR, believes the aluminum sheet is a patch of metal installed on the Electra during Earhart’s eight-day stay in Miami, Florida, the fourth stop on her attempt to circumnavigate the globe 77 years ago.
It says the patch replaced a navigational window on the plane. A photograph in the Miami Herald shows the Electra departing for San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday, June 1, 1937, with a shiny patch of metal where the window had been.
“The Miami Patch was an expedient field repair,” Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, told Discovery News. “Its complex fingerprint of dimensions, proportions, materials and rivet patterns was as unique to Earhart’s Electra as a fingerprint is to an individual.”
Discovery reports researchers went to Wichita Air Services in Newton, Kansas, and compared the dimensions and features of the Artifact 2-2-V-1, as the metal sheet found on Nikumaroro was called, with the structural components of a Lockheed Electra being restored to airworthy condition.
“The rivet pattern and other features on the 19-inch-wide by 23-inch-long Nikumaroro artifact matched the patch and lined up with the structural components of the Lockheed Electra. TIGHAR detailed the finding in a report on its website,” Discovery noted.
“This is the first time an artifact found on Nikumaroro has been shown to have a direct link to Amelia Earhart,” Gillespie said.
Discovery News states: “The breakthrough would prove that, contrary to what was generally believed, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, did not crash in the Pacific Ocean, running out of fuel somewhere near their target destination of Howland Island.
“Instead, they made a forced landing on Nikumaroro’s smooth, flat coral reef. The two became castaways and eventually died on the atoll, which is some 350 miles southeast of Howland Island.”
Gillespie and his team have recovered numerous artifacts over the course of 10 archaeological expeditions to Nikumaroro. Those items, along with archival research, provide strong circumstantial evidence for a castaway presence.
“Earhart sent radio distress calls for at least five nights before the Electra was washed into the ocean by rising tides and surf,” Gillespie said.