Discovery News reports that a fragment of Amelia Earhart’s lost aircraft has been identified for the first time ever. The aviatrix was amid her ill-fated feat to fly around the world at the equator when her plane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean more than 70 years ago.
A study done by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery looked at a small piece of aluminum aircraft debris that was found on the Pacific atoll of Nikumaroro in 1991. The researchers discovered that details of the piece of metal line up with a repair patch that was put on Earhart’s plane during her fateful flight’s eight-day stop in Miami, thereby strongly suggesting that the metal sheet found over 20 years ago does indeed belong to Earhart’s twin-engined Lockheed Electra.
“This is the first time an artifact found on Nikumaroro has been shown to have a direct link to Amelia Earhart,” Ric Gillespie, executive director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, said in a statement to Discovery News.
What’s more, a Miami Herald photo depicts the Electra departing for San Juan, Puerto Rico on the morning of Tuesday, June 1, 1937 with a shiny patch of metal in place of the navigational window, further hinting that the metal sheet found on the island is the same as the one in the image.
“The Miami Patch was an expedient field repair,” Gillespie told Discovery. “Its complex fingerprint of dimensions, proportions, materials and rivet patterns was as unique to Earhart’s Electra as a fingerprint is to an individual.”
Photo Courtesy of news.discovery.com
If further proven, the breakthrough would alter what was generally believed to have happened to Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, during the critical mission.
Instead of both dying in a crash in the Pacific Ocean, due to lack of fuel on course to their end destination of Howland Island, the two would have made a forced landing on Nikumaroro, which is a leveled coral reef. Assumingly, the two would have become castaways on the atoll, located some 350 miles southeast of Howland Island, and eventually died.
Throughout 10 archaeological expeditions to Nikumaroro, Gillespie and his team found several clues that when combined with archival research provides solid circumstantial evidence for castaways being there.
“Earhart sent radio distress calls for at least five nights before the Electra was washed into the ocean by rising tides and surf,” Discovery quoted Gillespie as to saying.
In June of 2015, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery will return to Nikumaroro with Remote Operated Vehicle technology to further investigate. The crew will be there for a total of 24 days.
Of the expedition, Gillespie told Discovery, “Funding is being sought, in part, from individuals who will make a substantial contribution in return for a place on the expedition team.”