HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The head of a 26-day expedition says it has video that may show the wreckage of the plane of Amelia Earhart, who vanished 75 years ago.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) used a University of Hawaii research vessel to visit a coral atoll called Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati in the western South Pacific Ocean last month. It initially was thought that nothing was found during what turned out to be an expedition plagued with technical problems. One of those problems prevented the group from immediately seeing high-definition images from two underwater vehicles.
"We had hoped to have that, but the camera we ended up with couldn't send imagery up the pipe, as its called, of the color so that we could see it in high-definition in real time," said TIGHAR Executive Director Ric Gillespie.
So it wasn't until the vessel returned at the end of the July that experts could finally see the high-def images. And a specialist has determined that those images may have revealed a debris field, possibly from Earhart's plane.
"He has identified several objects that are clearly man-made objects, and some of them appear to be consistent with elements of the landing gear in the 1937 photo," said Gillespie. That photo showed what appeared to be a part of the aircraft's landing gear sticking out of the water when Navy search planes arrived to look for Earhart. Gillespie believes that by that time, much of the plane had already washed off the reef into deeper and more dangerous water -- a fact confirmed by the underwater expedition.
"It became apparent that it really wasn't very reasonable to expect that something as delicate as an airplane like hers would survive in big pieces for 75 years in that place," said Gillespie.
The researchers have only been able to look at 30 percent of the expedition's video so far, so there's the chance more possible pieces could be identified, and the 75-year-old mystery surrounding Earhart finally solved.
"If the analysis continues to support the hypothesis that it's airplane parts, we will absolutely go back and recover it," said Gillespie.
The Discovery Channel will air a documentary on the expedition, entitled "Finding Amelia Earhart: Mystery Solved?," this coming Sunday night.