Amelia Earhart’s Long-Lost Plane May Have Just Been Discovered 16,000 Feet Below The Surface Of The Pacific Ocean

Published January 30, 2024
Updated March 12, 2024

New sonar images from Deep Sea Vision show a plane-shaped object on the floor of the Pacific Ocean — and it could be Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Electra.

Amelia Earhart Plane Discovery

Science History Images / Alamy Stock PhotoAmelia Earhart disappeared during a flight over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937.

When pilot Amelia Earhart went missing during a flight over the central Pacific Ocean 87 years ago, it led to one of the greatest enduring mysteries of the modern era. Numerous theories about Earhart’s disappearance — ranging from Earhart being captured by the Japanese to her being eaten by large crabs — have tried to explain what happened to the pilot, but so far, all have been inconclusive.

However, a new report from a team of explorers could finally provide some answers. Deep Sea Vision, an ocean exploration company based out of Charleston, South Carolina, set about trying to find the wreckage of Earhart’s plane — and they may have been successful.

Deep Sea Vision Discovers A Plane-Shaped Object In The Pacific

“On 2 July 1937, Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan took off from Papua New Guinea, nearing the end of their record-setting journey around the world never to be seen again,” the group wrote in an Instagram post. “Until today.”

The accompanying images are a series of yellow sonar photographs that show a plane-shaped object resting at a depth of 16,400 feet on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

“This is maybe the most exciting thing I’ll ever do in my life,” Tony Romeo, the pilot and former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer who funded the search, told The Wall Street Journal. “I feel like a 10-year-old going on a treasure hunt.”

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Earhart was a pioneer of her time, the first woman to fly solo across the continental United States nonstop and the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland over the Pacific Ocean. She was, undoubtedly, a national celebrity.

So, when she suddenly vanished one day, no one was quite sure what to make of it. Romeo offered a modern comparison: “Imagine Taylor Swift just disappearing today.”

Romeo’s expedition was not the first to attempt to find Earhart or her plane, but for one reason or another, past efforts have all ended in failure. Several of those searches even included Tom Dettweiler, who was part of the team who helped to find the Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland.

Dettweiler told The Wall Street Journal that Earhart’s plane is “the only thing in my career that I’ve ever looked for and not found.”

But Romeo and two of his brothers had something other searchers did not: flying experience.

“We always felt that a group of pilots were the ones that are going to solve this, and not the mariners,” Romeo said.

Deep Sea Vision Team

PRNewsfoto/Deep Sea VisionThe Deep Sea Vision team taking a swim at the very spot where the International Date Line crosses the Pacific Ocean, near the location of the discovery. (Left to right starting in back: Harald Aagedal, Tony Romeo, Mahesh Pichandi, Craig Wallace)

Using their own piloting experience as a basis, the Romeo brothers examined historical records and radio messages to estimate Earhart’s flight pattern. Then, based on their calculations, they plotted a search area to determine the most likely location of Earhart’s plane crash.

Of course, this endeavor wasn’t cheap. To fund the expedition, Romeo sold all of his commercial property in 2021 and spent a grand total of $11 million to buy high-tech gear that would allow him to more effectively search for the plane.

The Search For Amelia Earhart’s Plane

In September 2023, Romeo and a 16-person crew boarded a research vessel and started their search, beginning in the waters near Tarawa, Kiribati.

For 36 hours at a time, the crew operated an underwater HUGIN drone manufactured by Kongsberg, a Norwegian company, that allowed them to scan the ocean floor. In all, they searched around 5,200 square miles.

Thirty days into the venture, the drone captured the first fuzzy sonar images of what appeared to be an airplane.

Amelia Earhart Plane Sonar Images

Deep Sea VisionSonar images of a plane-shaped object on the floor of the Pacific.

However, they didn’t realize what they’d found until they were reviewing images near the end of their journey.

Experts have been somewhat hesitant to say with any certainty that this was indeed Earhart’s plane, though. Some have requested clearer sonar images or photographs that show the plane’s serial number so it can be compared to Earhart’s.

Others are much more skeptical. Richard Gillespie, founder and executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), tells All That’s Interesting via email, “It cannot possibly be Earhart’s plane.”

“The image shows an airplane with swept-back wings. Earhart’s plane had straight wings and, due to the aircraft’s structure, it was physically impossible for the wings to fold back like that even in a crash,” Gillespie, who has also authored several books on Earhart’s disappearance, explains. “The airplane in the image (if it’s an airplane at all) looks very much like a 1950s-era aircraft carrier-based jet fighter, many of which were lost in accidents.”

Gillespie’s observations cast some doubt on whether the Deep Sea Vision team truly has discovered Amelia Earhart’s long-lost plane, and only time and further research will tell if the mystery of the pilot’s disappearance is any closer to being solved.

After reading about the potential discovery of Amelia Earhart’s long-lost plane, learn about 11 famous unsolved disappearances and the baffling stories behind them. Or, dive into the stories behind nine of history’s most mysterious cruise ship disappearances.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Harvey, Austin. "Amelia Earhart’s Long-Lost Plane May Have Just Been Discovered 16,000 Feet Below The Surface Of The Pacific Ocean.", January 30, 2024, Accessed June 16, 2024.