A team of deep sea explorers has stumbled upon what they believe to be the wreck of aviation and women’s rights pioneer Amelia Earhart. The group of underwater archaeologists and marine robotics experts unveiled a sonar image of their discovery on 29 January.
Captured westward of her projected landing point, in a swath of the Pacific untouched by known wrecks, the image reveals contours that mirror the unique dual tails and scale of Earhart’s storied aircraft, Lockheed Electra. Moreover, the sonar image shows the alleged wreck as intact. “We always felt that she would have made every attempt to land the aircraft gently on the water, and the aircraft signature that we see in the sonar image suggests that may be the case”, said Deep Sea Vision CEO, Tony Romeo.
We’re thrilled to have made this discovery at the tail end of our expedition, and we plan to bring closure to a great American story.Tony Romeo, Deep Sea Vision CEO
“We are intrigued with DSV’s initial imagery and believe it merits another expedition in the continuing search for Amelia Earhart’s aircraft near Howland Island”, said Dorothy Cochrane, Aeronautics Curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, who is working with other experts in the field to validate DSV’s findings.
Deep Sea Vision (DSV), a South Carolina-based marine robotics company, was pursuing the missing aircraft using the “Date Line theory” of Earhart’s disappearance nearly 87 years ago. Originally theorized in 2010 by Liz Smith, a former NASA employee and amateur pilot, the Date Line theory attributes the disappearance to her navigator, Fred Noonan, miscalculating his celestial star navigation by simply forgetting to turn back the date from 3 July 3 to 2 July as they flew across the International Date Line, creating a westward navigational error of 60 miles (about 96 km). Tony Romeo, who is a private pilot himself, and his brother, Lloyd Romeo, believed that after 17 hours of exhausting flying it was quite plausible that Noonan could have made such an error, so they began digging deeper into the celestial math Smith had laid out.
Launching the 90-day expedition out of a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean about a four-day cruise from where the discovery was made, the team searched across 5,200 square miles (13,400 square km) of the Pacific Ocean floor, more than all previous searches combined. Each dive lasted nearly two days and was made with the HUGIN 6000, an autonomous submersible modified by the team to outperform similar available devices. DSV also modified the side scan sonar to search nearly 1,600-metre-wide swaths instead of the normal 450 metres.