Oct 30, 2014 03:34 PM EDT
Amelia Earhart was the first female of her kind; in fact, she set records for it. As the first female aviator to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean alone, she made the headlines of the 1920's. And now, almost a century later, she's still making news as the mystery of her disappearance comes more into light. After decades of searching across the Pacific Ocean, nearest the equator, researchers revealed this week that they may have found a bit of Earhart's wreckage from the plane she disappeared in.
Almost as famous as her early career, Earhart's disappearance has caused much research over the mystery of how, why and where the experienced aviator happened to go down. The mishap occurred as she attempted to circumnavigate the globe in 1937, flying a Lockheed Model 10 Electra plane, and Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean. Some researchers believe that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, lived as castaways on an island in the South Pacific after the plane went down, and new evidence may in fact support that urban legend. Researchers now believe that an aluminum fragment recovered in 1991 on the Nikumaroro island, 2,000 miles southwest of Hawaii, belonged to Earhart's Lockheed Electra aircraft and hope that further evidence may reveal more about the long-standing mystery.
"This is the first time an artifact found on Nikumaroro has been shown to have a direct link to Amelia Earhart" executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), the non-profit that identified the piece, Ric Gillespie says.
While the aluminum patch didn't garner much attention when it was originally found in 1991, because its size and shape didn't appear to match Earhart's aircraft's original components, a new photograph discovered earlier this year brought its true value to light. Gillespie and his fellow researchers identified an odd shiny patch near the tail of Earhart's aircraft in a photo taken in Miami just before she set off to circumnavigate the globe on July 1, 1937. Apparently, just two days before her disappearance over the Pacific Ocean, on July 2, the patch was added as an "expedient field modification", and it was this last minute addition that has revealed Earhart's tragic disappearance to the world eight decades later.
"The patch was as unique to her particular aircraft as a fingerprint is to an individual" TIGHAR researchers said in a recent press release. "Research has now shown that a section of aircraft aluminum TIGHAR found on Nikumaroro in 1991 matches that fingerprint in many respects."
Subsequently, the TIGHAR researchers have conducted a series of expeditions to Nikumaroro island, and have found what they believe to be the landing site for Earhart's last mission. To date, the team has found anti-freckle cream, hardware from a flight jacket, and a woman's compact which they believe all belonged to Earhart. But the team is eager to return in June to investigate other sonar anomalies found near the remote island, which they believe may lead them to Earhart's long lost plane.
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