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The image above shows Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E (source: Wikipedia Commons) layered over a Google Earth view of part of the Pacific. The piece below is by Justin Myers. He contacted me recently about some Google Earth images he had saved in 2022. Justin needed somewhere to tell his story and I was happy to help. Ian DB, March 2023
One evening in mid-September 2022 I watched a programme on TV about Nikumaroro Island, which was once called Gardner Island, and the possibility that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan had crash landed somewhere on the island and maybe survived a period of time, no doubt waiting for a rescue.
Despite working in aviation all my life and having flown planes of many sizes worldwide, I didn’t really know the full story of how the mystery unfolded. I was aware of Amelia Earhart but it was far from a big interest. I have however, had an interest in vintage aircraft all my life and have spent much time looking at wreckage and reading stories about them. I also like shipwrecks too and the stories they can tell.
I got up the morning after watching the documentary, dressing gown on, yawning away as my 4 year old at the time had got me up. I made a cup of coffee and sat down at the unit in my kitchen. I suddenly thought I will have a look at this Nikumaroro Island on Google Maps.
Image above shows the entrance to Nikumaroro’s lagoon, source Wikipedia
Image above source NW News Network
It is a tiny atoll as you will see in the South Pacific, very isolated and a long way off Howland Island where Amelia and Fred were destined for. There will be a handful of reasons as to why they did not make Howland island and it probably started the night before their journey in Lae. Poor sleep, upper wind predictions not being accurate, probably fatigue and some anxiety would likely have played a part in the disappearance.
As a pilot, I thought to myself, if I was in Amelia’s position trying to find a needle in a hay stack low on fuel and to be honest if we were in her position no doubt using some choice language, where would I force land my Lockheed Electra 10E?
Below: Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Electra 10E, source Wikipedia commons.
I picked an area which would probably have been what I thought to be best considering the circumstances. I zoomed in and there was a long sandy looking shape. I was not looking for the plane because that would be ridiculous, I thought. Anyway, I measured the sandy section which was over 50ft long, looked up the specifications of the Electra and that measured 39ft. I laughed and thought ‘What do you think you are doing?’
However, to the left of the sandy section that had been eroded by the weather over many years was a dark coloured perfectly straight object. I used the measuring tool on Google Earth and to my surprise and mild little shiver it measured approximately 39 ft.
Last year you could move around the subject and it was absolutely clear to me this was a man-made object, not naturally occurring coral. I used to dive some years back and have seen lots of coral and the wrecks of man-made objects. It was clear that it had been there a long time and likely that passing weather systems had revealed it.
Well, being a realist and a practical person, I thought it can’t be what was a beautiful aircraft. So I tried to disprove the notion myself. I struggled to do so. It looked man-made, it looked like a section of aircraft fuselage, that was remarkable by itself, let alone the possibility it was Electra 10E NR16020, even though the measurements looked the same.
A day or so later I had another look, just like that Bang!! 110ft to the west of the metal section was what appeared to be a perfect half exposed radial engine measuring 4-4.5ft in diameter, clearly had growth around the diameter and on the spinner in the middle, probably coral as the engine is made of different metals to the fuselage.
Just under the engine is a wheel, again half exposed, the wheel is perfect and is in absolute proportion in size; I was struggling to see this was anything other than the debris of a lost vintage aircraft that has been hidden away for years.
Image sources above unknown
Later, and after much looking and discussion with a few of my pilot friends from when I was flying for a major carrier in the Middle East, I noticed what looked like part of the exhaust system. Perfectly sized exactly between the engine and what looked like a fuselage.
Image below is from a cutaway diagram of an Electra Model 12 Junior
I didn’t know really where to go with this, so I wrote to the NTSB in the US and they emailed me back saying it was not there jurisdiction it was the ATSB, Australian Transport Safety Bureau. So, I filed an official report with the air crash investigation team in Brisbane.
At the end of the day, Nikumaroro is an isolated position and very expensive to go to. Over the years there have been expeditions and as you can see from reading the National Geographic article (link below) evidence that has been found to suggest it is likely that this is where Amelia and Fred sadly ended their lives.
It would be very bold of me to say the objects in these Google Earth images are the remains of Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E. All I am saying is that these objects look like unfound plane wreckage, which strangely looks and measures the same as her aircraft.
The colour is perfect for an old plane that has been in the salt water for all them years. The type of corrosion you would expect from old aluminium. The sun is shining revealing its clear shape.
The plane is facing towards the east and the sequence of parts that has come off says the plane approached from the west, probably from the north-west.
For those who are interested in looking on Google Maps, here are the positions of the debris:
Fuselage (-4.6708008, -174.5412182)
Engine/Wheel (-4.6710688, -174.5413395)
Exhaust (-4.6709545, -174.5412963)
A weather system has since passed through Nikumaroro Island and covered I would say about 95% of the debris field. However, you can just see a tiny bit of the fuselage if you look.
This aircraft has a story to tell.
Thank you for reading.