An Underwater Drone Might Have Captured an Image of Amelia Earhart’s Plane

Amelia Earhart
The sonar image, right, captured by an underwater drone that might belong to Amelia Earhart, left.

A commercial real estate investor who sold his properties to fund a mission to find out what happened to Amelia Earhart believes he may have a picture of the aviator’s plane.

Tony Romeo returned from his expedition to the spot in the Pacific Ocean where Earhart disappeared in 1937 with an intriguing aircraft-shaped sonar image on the ocean floor which he believes is Earhart’s Lockheed 10-E Electra.

“This is maybe the most exciting thing I’ll ever do in my life,” says Romeo, who is planning to return in a bid to get better images. “I feel like a 10-year-old going on a treasure hunt.”

Romeo, a pilot himself, tells The Wall Street Journal he sold his commercial properties to buy the high-tech gear which includes an underwater Hugin drone made by Kongsberg which scanned 5,200 square miles of ocean floor during outings that could last up to 36 hours.

Sonar image of plane
The sonar image with varying levels of brightness. | Deep Sea Vision

30 days into the mission that began in September from Tarawa, Kiribati — an atoll in Micronesia — the underwater drone captured an object about the size and shape of an airplane resting 16,000 feet underwater. The autonomous Hugin drone can provide “high-resolution high-speed seabed mapping and imaging.”

The image was captured within 100 miles of Howland Island where Earhart was headed to when she disappeared. Romeo had a 16-person crew with him onboard a research vessel but they discovered the image 90 days into the trip — by then, it was too late to investigate further.

What Happened to Amelia Earhart?

It’s a question people have been asking since the 1930s. Arguably the most famous woman in the world when she disappeared, Earhart was attempting to become the first female to complete a circumnavigational flight of the globe.

On July 2, 1937, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan were nearing the end of their historic trip. After taking off from Lae, Papua New Guinea, the pair planned to refuel on the uninhabited Howland Island where a runway and fuel rig had been built especially for them.

There was a strong headwind but operators listened to Earhart’s radio messages as she flew toward Howland with the last message coming in so strong that a radio operator looked to the skies expecting to see her plane.

But she was never seen or heard from again and was declared dead on January 5, 1939.

Image credits: Deep Sea Vision.