Earhart Project Research Bulletin
April 12, 2010

A New Clue in the Earhart Mystery

Hiding in Plain Sight

With little more than a month before the departure of TIGHAR’s largest, most technologically sophisticated Earhart Project expedition to date, new historical evidence has come to light which appears to add significant support to TIGHAR’s theory about the lost flight’s fate. A photograph taken three months after the Earhart Electra disappeared shows what may be part of the airplane.

TIGHAR is testing the hypothesis that the Earhart aircraft reached Nikumaroro, an uninhabited coral atoll 350 nautical miles southeast of Howland and landed safely on the island’s flat, dry reef. Earhart and navigator Noonan appear to have sent radio distress calls from the aircraft for several nights before rising tides washed the plane over the reef edge, leaving Earhart and Noonan stranded on the waterless island where they eventually died as castaways. The partial skeleton of a castaway believed to be Earhart was found three years later in 1940 by a British Colonial Service officer, but the bones were misidentified and subsequently lost.

The Bevington Photo
Eric Bevington The photograph that may show the plane was taken in October 1937 by Eric Bevington, then a Cadet Officer of the British Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony. The Earhart/Noonan flight had vanished three months earlier on July 2nd. Bevington was part of a small expedition sent to investigate the islands of the Phoenix Group for possible settlement. He took a number of personal photographs, one of which appears to have taken from a small boat just off the west end of Nikumaroro, then known as Gardner Island. The dominant object in the photo is the wreck of the British freighter SS Norwich City which ran aground in a storm and burned on the night of November 29, 1929. Near the extreme left side of the frame something appears to be sticking up out of the water near the reef edge.
Bevington Photo
The feature does not seem to be a flaw in the photo, there is no apparent natural explanation for it, and it appears to be almost exactly in the place where we had previously reasoned the Earhart Electra should be at that time. As explained in detail in “Where is the Electra?” the available evidence suggests that the plane initially went over the reef edge and got hung up in the “spur & groove” surf zone for some period of time before breaking up. Whatever is sticking out of the water in October 1937 is not apparent in the next photo we have of that location, taken in December 1938, or in any later photos, so the object seems to be transitory. That too fits the TIGHAR hypothesis.
Hiding in Plain Sight
The photo is not new to TIGHAR. We took a photo of the original print in Eric Bevington’s photo album when we visited him at his home in England in 1991. Our interest at that time was the condition of the shipwreck in 1937 so, when we had prints made of the copy-photo, we cropped out the left-hand side of the frame. Recently, our forensic imaging specialist, Jeff Glickman of Photek, Inc., scanned the original copy-negative and noticed the anomaly.

NessieOur 1991 copy negative does not have sufficient resolution to identify the object. For now, with tongue firmly in cheek, we call the anomaly “Nessie.” Naturally, we’re eager to learn whether a hi-resolution scan of the original print would provide more detail. A few years after we visited him, Eric Bevington donated his papers and photographs to the Oxford University Rhodes House Library. We have ordered a hi-res scan from the library.


To Good To Be True?

Often, when something seems too good to be true – it is. All we know at this point is that there appears to be something in the water that shouldn’t be there unless it’s what we predicted should be there. Perhaps the hi-res scan will tell us more. In any event, we’ll be at Nikumaroro soon with technology that will enable us search the deep water off the west end of the island for whatever remains of the Electra.

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