Researchers think they’ve finally found a piece of Amelia Earhart’s lost plane. An aluminum sheet, found in 1991 on Nikumaroro Island, might be the patch that once covered a window on Earhart’s plane, reports Discovery News. The finding, the researchers say, supports the idea that Earhart died from starvation on the island, 77 years ago.
Earhart may have died from starvation on an island
Earhart was a record-setting American pilot, and the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. But her life was cut short when her plane went down over the Pacific Ocean on July 2nd, 1937, during an attempt to fly around the world along the equator. Since the crash, Earhart researchers and fans have spent countless hours trying to determine what happened to her. But her plane, Electra, was never found, and so the mystery remained.
Fortunately, an old picture of Earhart from her eight-day stop in Miami has led to a breakthrough. According to researchers at The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, a nonprofit, the picture shows that a navigational window near the tail of Earhart's plane was patched during her stay. It was an improvised repair, the researchers say, so it didn’t match the rest of the plane. And that detail is the very reason the patch was dismissed after its discovery.
"We decided that it couldn’t be from Earhart’s plane," Richard Gillespie, a researcher at The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery who has spent 26 years investigating Earhart’s crash, told Wired. But that all changed when the Miami picture resurfaced. Today, Gillespie says the aluminum sheet is "as unique to Earhart’s Electra as a fingerprint is to an individual."
The aluminum sheet is "as unique to Earhart’s Electra as a fingerprint is to an individual."
The reason the sheet is so convincing, Gillespie says, has to do with with its dimensions, the material its made of, and the rivet patterns it contains. They match those depicted in the picture, he says. And the fact that the aluminum sheet was found on Nikumaroro Island provides evidence for Gillespie's theory that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, landed safely on the island, but eventually starved to death. There are many other theories, however. Some suggest that the plane ran out of gas mid-flight, sending Earhart straight into the Pacific Ocean, while others think her plane was forced down by the Japanese around the Marshall Islands.
Now, Gillespie wants to return to Nikumaroro Island to look for the rest of the plane. A fellow researcher has spotted something unusual in the sonar imagery of the island, he says, and it’s worth another look. "The new research on [the metal fragment] may reinforce the possibility that the anomaly is the rest of the aircraft," he wrote this week. "The artifact is not, as previously suspected, a random fragment from an aircraft."