After an extensive deep-water search, a group of underwater archaeologists and marine robotics experts have unveiled a sonar image that may answer the greatest modern mystery - the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.
Captured westward of Earhart's projected landing point, in a swath of the Pacific untouched by known wrecks, the image reveals contours that mirror the unique dual tails and scale of her storied aircraft.
Deep Sea Vision (DSV), a Charleston, South Carolina-based marine robotics company led by CEO Tony Romeo, was pursuing the missing aircraft using the "Date Line theory" of her disappearance nearly 87 years ago.
Originally theorized in 2010 by Liz Smith, a former NASA employee and amateur pilot, the Date Line theory attributes Earhart's disappearance to simply forgetting to turn the calendar back one day as she flew over the International Date Line.
Smith suggested that Amelia's navigator, Fred Noonan, miscalculated his celestial star navigation by simply forgetting to turn back the date from July 3 to July 2 as they flew across the Date Line, creating a westward navigational error of 60 miles.
As a private pilot, DSV's CEO Tony Romeo and his brother, Lloyd Romeo, believed the idea had merit and began digging deeper into the celestial math Smith had laid out.
The Romeos came to believe that after 17 hours of exhausting flying it was quite plausible that Earhart's navigator Fred Noonan could have made such an error. The theory and area described by Smith had never been searched – until now.
For 90 days, the DSV team searched across 5,200 square miles of the Pacific Ocean floor, more than all previous searches combined.
Their secret weapon, the HUGIN 6000, is an autonomous underwater craft, modified to outperform any underwater submersible used before.
DSV further improved the equipment by modifying the side scan sonar to search nearly 1,600-meter-wide swaths instead of the normal 450 meters.
The changes were made possible by DSV President of Operations Craig Wallace, who Romeo recruited directly from the sonar manufacturer to help put the expedition together.
The team launched the expedition out of a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean about a four-day cruise from where the discovery was made.
Each dive of the sonar equipment lasted nearly two days and collected several terabytes of data scanning the sea floor.
The international team worked around the clock, analyzing the imagery using cutting edge software that was being written as the mission went along.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, the blurred object is far from definitive proof, but Dorothy Cochrane, an aeronautics curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, tells the magazine it’s “an intriguing image” that warrants a second look.
Earhart's fate has been the source of speculation and conspiracy theories since her mysterious disappearance in 1937. She remains a defining icon of her generation, women's rights and a pioneering spirit of early aviation.