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Amelia Earhart's long-lost plane possibly spotted in the Pacific by exploration team

The object spotted in the Pacific Ocean by deep water equipment aligns with the size and shape of Earhart's aircraft.
Deep Sea Vision
The object spotted in the Pacific Ocean by deep water equipment aligns with the size and shape of Earhart's aircraft.

New clues have emerged in what is one of the greatest mysteries of all time: the disappearance of legendary American aviator Amelia Earhart.

Deep Sea Vision, an ocean exploration company based in South Carolina, announced Saturday that it captured compelling sonar images of what could be Earhart's aircraft at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

The discovery was made possible by a high-tech unmanned underwater drone and a 16-member crew, which surveyed more than 5,200 square miles of ocean floor between September and December.

The team spotted the plane-shaped object between Australia and Hawaii, about 100 miles off Howland Island, which is where Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were supposed to refuel but never arrived.

The shape of the object in the sonar images closely resembles Earhart's aircraft, a Lockheed Electra, both in size and tail. Deep Sea Vision founder, Tony Romeo, said he was optimistic in what they found.

"All that combined, you'd be hard-pressed to convince me that this is not an airplane and not Amelia's plane," he said.

The Deep Sea Vision team plans to investigate the area where the images were taken some time this year, Romeo added.

Earhart and Noonan vanished in 1937 while on a quest to circumnavigate the globe. The trip would have made Earhart the first female pilot to fly around the world.

Nearly a century later, neither of their bodies nor their plane have been definitively recovered — becoming one of the greatest mysteries of all time and generating countless theories as to what may have happened.

Romeo, a pilot and former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer, sold his real estate company's assets in 2022 to start an ocean exploration business and, in large part, join the long line of oceanic detectives hoping to find answers to Earhart's disappearance.

His team had captured the sonar images a month into their expedition, but did not realize what they had discovered until the last day of their trip.

"It was really a surreal moment," Romeo said.

The prospect of Earhart's plane lodged in the ocean floor backs up the popular theory that the aircraft ran out of fuel and sank into the water. But others have suggested that she and Noonan landed on an island and starved to death. Some believe the two crashed and were taken by Japanese forces, who were expanding their presence in the region leading up to World War II.

"I like everything that everybody's contributed to the story, I think it's great. It's added to the legacy of Amelia Earhart," Romeo said. "But in the end, I think what's important is that she was a really good pilot."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.