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New Underwater Photos Could Finally Solve The Amelia Earhart Mystery

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Aug. 20 2012, Published 2:30 p.m. ET

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By Debbie Emery - Reporter

Underwater images taken deep below the South Pacific could finally solve the question of Amelia Earhart's fate 75 years after she went off the during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

The debris at the depths of the ocean may well be from the most famous female aviator's doomed Lockheed Electra aircraft that was last heard from on July 2, 1937.

"The Bevington photo shows what appears to be four components of the plane: a strut, a wheel, a wom gear and a fender. In the debris field there appears to be the fender, possibly the wheel and possibly some portions of the strut," TIGHAR forensic imaging specialist Jeff Glickman told Discovery News.

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The first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, Earhart was attempting to circumnavigate the globe with crew member Fred Noonan when they lost radio contact and were never heard from again, sparking the most expansive search effort in aviation history.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (or TIGHAR, pronounced “tiger”) sent out an expedition last month to the underwater reef slope off the west end of Nikumaroro, formerly Gardner Island, an uninhabited coral atoll in the Pacific, working on a theory that Earhart and Noonan became stranded and ultimately met their deaths on the island after their plane was swept out to sea.

Despite a burst of excitement from history buffs and researchers hoping the mystery may finally be solved, the team came back empty-handed, but that does not mean it was a failure, claims the search leader.

"Early media reports rushed to judgment in saying that the expedition didn't find anything," Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR executive director, told Discovery News. "We had, of course, hoped to see large pieces of aircraft wreckage but as soon as we saw the severe underwater environment at Nikumaroro we knew that we would be looking for debris from an airplane that had been torn to pieces 75 years ago."

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Only 30 percent of the high-definition underwater video taken by the torpedo-shaped Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) last month has been analyzed so far and they hope the high-tech device reveals more evidence.

"What makes this the best expedition is the technology we've been able to assemble to search for the wreckage of that airplane," Gillespie told CNN last month. "We have an autonomous vehicle. We have multibeam sonar above the University of Hawaii ship we're on right now.

"We have a remote-operated vehicle to check out the targets (and a) high-definition camera. We're all set," he explained.


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