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Amelia Earhart’s disappearance: can a blurry sonar image solve ‘the greatest mystery of all time’?

A fuzzy yellow-on-orange sonar image has sparked frenzied speculation that a deep-sea exploration company has located the plane flown by Amelia Earhart when she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. But after 35 years of chasing arguably the most famous female aviator in history, Ric Gillespie believes South Carolina-based Deep Sea Vision (DSV) is going to be disappointed.

The most likely explanation for the contact, he believes, is “something that fell off a ship,” possibly during the chaotic years in which war raged across the Pacific, or a ditched swept-wing US fighter, the kind that operated from US Navy aircraft carriers in the region in the 1950s and 1960s.

Gillespie’s assessment will only be confirmed when DSV returns to the site with a follow-up expedition to obtain higher-quality images, but the founder of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) knows something about disappointment in hunting for Earhart’s elusive aircraft.

Still, there’s no doubt DSV’s announcement last month, has captured the imagination of all those fascinated with what actually became of Earhart in July 1937.

In a statement, the company said its side scan sonar revealed “contours that mirror the unique dual tails and scale of her storied aircraft.”

Tony Romeo, the company’s chief executive and a former US Air Force intelligence officer, said, “We always felt that she would have made every attempt to land the aircraft gently on the water and the aircraft signature that we see in the sonar images suggests that may be the case.”

Romeo believes the disappearance of Earhart is “the greatest mystery of all time,” adding that DSV now has “an opportunity to bring closure to one of the greatest American stories ever.”