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Originally appeared on E! Online
Former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer and CEO of Deep Sea Vision Tony Romeo detected what he believes to be the trailblazing pilot's plane while on an $11 million expedition of the Pacific Ocean.
Romeo, who sold commercial real estate to fund his voyage, collected sonar images during his trip by using an underwater drone. In some of the photos, the pilot appeared to capture a blurry object shaped like Earhart's twin engine Lockheed 10-E Electra—the plane she flew on her unsuccessful bid to become the first woman to circumnavigate the world in 1937.
"You'd be hard pressed to convince me that's anything but an aircraft, for one," he told the TODAY show in an interview that aired Jan. 29, "and two, that it's not Amelia's aircraft."
Earhart, alongside her navigator Fred Noonan, set off on her risky expedition on July 2, 1937. A few days later, the pair were expected to refuel on Howland Island—halfway between Australia and Hawaii—but never arrived. Earhart and Noonan were declared dead in January 1939, and their plane was never recovered.
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Romeo, who captured his sonar images about 100 miles away from Howland Island and about 5,000 meters underwater, is confident the location is only further proof of his discovery.
"There's no other known crashes in the area," the explorer explained, "and certainly not of that era in that kind of design with the tail that you see clearly in the image."
That's not to say there isn't more work to be done to confirm his findings. For one, Romeo and his team plan to revisit the site in late 2024 or early 2025 to take more photos of what they suspect is Earhart's wreckage.
"The next step is confirmation and there's a lot we need to know about it," Romeo said. "And it looks like there's some damage. I mean, it's been sitting there for 87 years at this point."
Ultimately, Romeo is excited by the prospect of helping to solve the decades-long mystery of Earhart, who, despite her life being cut short, was still the first woman aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
"[For] myself, that it is the great mystery of all time," Romeo said. "Certainly the most enduring aviation mystery of all time."
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