More than 70 years ago, Amelia Earhart and her plane vanished during a flight to circle the globe. Since then, people have always wondered what happened, and where her plane crashed.

A new investigation conducted by The International Group of Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) looked at a small piece of aluminum sheeting discovered on the Pacific atoll of Nikumaroro in 1991. The red mark is Nikumaroro in the image below.

Nikumaroro locaiton

Why the interest in this piece of metal? The feature shows striking similarity to a repair patch on Earhart’s stop in Miami in 1937. The yellow arrow in the image below shows the aluminum patch installed on her plane during repairs.

Amelia Earhart plane

“The patch was as unique to her particular aircraft as a fingerprint is to an individual. Research has now shown that a section of aircraft aluminum TIGHAR found on Nikumaroro in 1991 matches that fingerprint in many respects,” reads the abstract on TIGHAR’s website.

The patch in question was used to replace a custom-made, special window on her aircraft. This page shows the researchers testing their hypothesis.

The researchers also have to consider an alternative explanation. They write in their null hypothesis, “If the artifact is not the scab patch from NR16020, then it is a random piece of aircraft wreckage from some unknown type involved in an unknown accident that just happens to match the dozens of material and dimensional requirements of the patch. This incredibly specific, but random, piece of debris just happened to end up on Nikumaroro, the atoll where so much other evidence points to Earhart.”

TIGHAR’s team seems pretty convinced the piece is from Earhart’s plane.

TIGHAR concludes, “the hypothesis that Artifact 2-2-V-1 is the patch installed on NR16020 in Miami to be strongly supported.”

Additional research will be conducted to answer some of the lingering questions about the aluminum patch. Next year, TIGHAR will head back to Nikumaroro with a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) to scour the ocean floor near the atoll according to Discovery News.

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