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Explorers Claim to Have Found Amelia Earhart's Crashed Plane in the Pacific Ocean

Did explorers find Amelia Earhart's plane? Did they find an airplane at all?

By Cassidy Ward
Amelia Earhart going into an airplane

In 1937, Amelia Earhart went missing somewhere in the Pacific Ocean during an around-the-world flight. Nearly a century later, we still don’t know what happened. The disappearance of Amelia Earhart is one of the world’s most enduring mysteries and for good reason. We can’t resist Unsolved Mysteries (streaming now on Peacock), especially if there’s someone famous involved.

By the time Earhart left on her around-the-world flight, she was already a household name and worldwide celebrity. She was a public advocate of Women’s Rights and had recently become the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic, a feat for which she received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Not satisfied with crossing an ocean, Earhart upped the ante and charted a flight path around the world.

Along with her navigator Fred Noonan, Earhart piloted most of the way around the planet, nearly completing her goal. The journey began in Oakland, California, on a southeast path to Miami, Florida. From there, she traced the coast of South America before cutting across the Atlantic to Africa. Heading East, Earhart cut across the African and Eurasian continents, then dropped down to Australia and then to Lae. From there, she and Noonan planned to stop at Howland Island and Honolulu before returning to their starting point in Oakland. They never made it to Howland Island.

What happened to Earhart and Noonan has been a mystery for decades, which countless people have attempted to solve. Over the years, a number of explanations and hypotheses have been put forward, and now we have a new one.

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Deep Sea Vision Found an Anomaly Near Howland Island, Could It Be Amelia Earhart's Crashed Plane?

Ocean wave crashing, overhead view

Deep Sea Vision, a commercial ocean exploration company, spent 100 days pinging a sonar instrument off the Pacific seafloor. They covered roughly 6,000 square kilometers over an area which included parts of Earhart’s intended flight plan. Recently, the company revealed evidence of what they believe to be Earhart’s plane.

During the expedition, the team detected an anomaly about 100 miles away from Howland Island and 16,000 feet (4,877 meters) beneath the Pacific. The potential discovery was announced in an Instagram post, which isn’t the usual format for confirmed, breakthrough discoveries. That doesn’t mean they didn’t find Earhart’s plane, but it does suggest we haven’t reached a level of confidence that warrants anything more concrete.

All we really know at the moment is that the sonar picked up an object which looks to be roughly the right size and shape and is in a location which would make sense for Earhart. That said, sonar is famously low definition. The detection might just as easily be a pile of rocks or straight up signal noise. Admittedly, if it is noise, it’s airplane-shaped noise. To find out for sure, someone will need to go back with instruments that can provide more detail, preferably an optical camera. Unfortunately, by the time Deep Sea Vision knew what they had, they had already left the area and couldn’t go back.

Even if they did find a plane, it might not be Earhart’s. Some experts analyzing the sonar image say the shape of the alleged aircraft doesn’t match Earhart’s 10-E Electra. The image, grainy as it might be, provides an interesting possibility and it’s definitely worth checking out. But the only thing we know right now is that we still don’t know.

Catch the Amelia Earhart episode of Unsolved Mysteries streaming right now on Peacock!

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