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Remember Amelia Earhart's plane which was lost 87 years ago? US man claims to have found it

Amelia Earhart, a pioneer in American aviation, set out in 1937 to become the world's first woman to complete a flight of the world. The plane carrying her and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific Ocean, and became one of the world's greatest unsolved mysteries.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: January 31, 2024 15:02 IST
US, Amelia Earhart, Pacific Ocean
Image Source : REUTERS Romeo plans to solve the 87-year-old mystery by launching a mission later this year.

Washington: In a potentially major development that can end one of the world's greatest unsolved mysteries, a former US Air Force intelligence officer claims to have found the wreckage of Amelia Earhart's plane at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, the disappearance of which almost nine decades ago stunned the world. Explorer Tony Romeo says he believes he found the wreckage using sonar data from a deep-sea drone.

Romeo plans to solve the 87-year-old mystery by launching a mission to find the long-lost plane in the ocean later this year, which the US failed to do with a massive search operation in 1937. "She's America's most famous missing person, right? As long as she's missing, there's always going to be somebody out there searching. If we can help bring closure to this story and bring Amelia home, we'd be super excited," he said.

Earhart was a US aviation pioneer who became the first female aviator and second person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. She received the US Distinguished Flying Cross for this achievement and became a legendary figure in aviation. During an attempt to become the first woman to complete a flight of the globe in 1937, the plane carrying Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific Ocean.

Romeo's attempts to locate Earhart's plane

Romeo is the chief executive of the private exploration company Deep Sea Vision. He believes the wreckage of Earhart's plane lies on the ocean floor more than 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) beneath the surface, about 160 km (100 miles) from Howland Island, roughly halfway between Hawaii and Australia. He said blurry sonar images from the deep-sea drone show a shape resembling a plane on the sandy ocean bottom.

Deep Sea Vision's 16-member crew searched more than 13,400 square km (5,200 square miles) over 100 days at the end of last year. Romeo said the images showed what appeared to be a plane matching the size of Earhart's Lockheed Model 10-E Electra. He speculated that Earhart's plane ran out of fuel and landed the plane on the ocean surface, and the craft later sank to the bottom.

"The first step is to confirm it. The next step would be, if it's possible, to raise it to the surface and restore it," Romeo said, adding that the process could take years.

Numerous expeditions to locate Earhart's plane have turned up nothing, only confirming that swaths of ocean floor held no trace of her twin-tailed monoplane. However, Romeo's claims have reignited hopes among archeologists and explorers, even if the mission to find the plane is likely to be more challenging than expected.

Theories on Earhart's disappearance

The US government declared Earhart and Noonan dead in 1939 and its official vision is that they went down with their plane. Since then, theories have veered into the absurd, including abduction by aliens, or Earhart living in New Jersey under an alias. Others speculate that she and Noonan were executed by the Japanese or died as castaways on an island.

Some have even theorised that Earhart was a government agent who was set out to document Japanese island installations for the US when her plane was detected by the Japanese who either shot down the plane or forced it to land. 

Earhart was born in Kansas on July 24, 1897, and served as a Red Cross aid in Canada during World War I, where she spent time watching pilots train. She was a pre-med student at Columbia University after the war. Earhart rode her first airplane in 1920 and earned her National Aeronautics Association license in December 1921, breaking her first record only a year later.

Earhart also helped create the Ninety-Nines, an organisation for the advancement of women in aviation and became its first president. She would have become the first woman to fly around the world had her mission in 1937 succeeded. 

(with inputs from agencies)



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